At VIRTUATel we know that a good survey doesn’t just use the right questions, it uses the right scale to measure the response.  We probably spend 75% of our client setup time on the script and survey scales – it’s that important.  But with numerous choices out there, which survey scale is the right one for you?


  1. Graphic Rating Scale

This scale has been used by researchers since the early 20th century. This is arguably the most common rating format.

The graphic rating scale is defined as any scale that consists of points on a continuum. The ends of the continuum are typically labeled with opposite values. Respondents are asked to make a mark at any point on the scale that they find suitable.


  • simple
  • easily filled out
  • easy to construct for researchers
  • high level of understanding for users


  • Difficult to quantify in results data
  • Can only be used by eSurveys (not phone, SMS etc)
  • If using a “slider”, the default position can be mistakenly left in place to give a wrong score

Useful for: Fast completion where you don’t require complete numbers.


2. Likert Scale

“The Likert Scale is useful”

  • Strongly agree
  • Somewhat agree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Somewhat disagree
  • Strongly disagree

The Likert scale is another widely used rating scale. It was developed by Rensis Likert, a psychologist.  He developed this principle to measure attitudes by asking people to respond to a sequence of statements about a certain topic.

This scale has an odd number of options, often 5 or 7. One end is labeled as the most positive, while the other ends is labeled as the least positive. The middle of the scale has a ‘neutral’ label.


  • Simple
  • Easy to score
  • Extremely useful when evaluating a product or service
  • Allows for varying degrees of opinion, including no opinion


  • Participants can be prone to choose the ‘no opinion’ option
  • Scale gaps are unlikely to be equidistant
  • Extremes can intimidate respondents
  • Being an odd number, there is a fence to sit on

Useful for: Products or services or “mood” surveys


3. Semantic Differential Scale
This scale asks a respondent to rate a product, brand, or firm based upon a seven-point rating scale. It has two bi-polar adjectives at each end. Developed by Charles Osgood, the most common is a 7-point scale, but it is also acceptable to have fewer choices like 5 or 3 points scale.

For example, a survey conducted by a company about its new product would include polar adjectives like love/hate, attractive/unattractive, useful/useless, and satisfied/unsatisfied.


  • Useful in targeting different age groups and cultures
  • Easy to construct and understand
  • Provides reliable quantitative data


  • Doesn’t explain the reasoning behind the score
  • As with Likert, is an odd number with a fence to sit on

Useful for: Customer and employee satisfaction, operations measurement, personality measurement


4. Dichotomous Scales

“The Dichotomous scale is useful”


These are questions with only two responses, usually yes/no and true/false.


  • The most easy to score


  • Doesn’t provide nuanced data
  • No “unsure” option

Useful for: users of different ages and language levels


5. Rank Order Scale

Put these scales in order of preference:

  1. Graphic rating
  2. Likert
  3. Semantic Differential
  4. Dichotomous
  5. Rank order

In a rank order scale, respondents are given a set of items. They are to put the items in some order. The order may be based on preferences, liking or effectiveness, among others.


  • Allows for comparative data, particularly about competitors
  • Can get data about several different items within one question


  • Doesn’t explain why the rating has been given
  • Doesn’t show the relative difference between the items
  • Doesn’t allow people to rank things equally
  • Difficult to use on automated surveys

Useful for: Gathering data about a company or product’s place in the market



The survey scales you choose are extremely important and how you present the survey equally important.  Therefore, always use a reputable and knowledgeable company to help you develop your script – extremely important if considering the use of automated surveys.

As a specialist in the area of automated surveys, VIRTUATel have additional papers that will help you develop your scripts here.

CLICK HERE to contact us or complete the form on the right to subscribe to automatically receive new articles we add.

Click Here if the survey wiki subject you need is not here