What a numeric rating scale is and how to use it

Easily get data by using SurveyMonkey to create a numeric rating scale.

There are many types of questions you can use in your survey research. We recommend using a variety of types to keep your participants engaged and prevent survey fatigue. One of the most valuable question types is the numeric rating scale. Let’s explore what numerical rating scale questions are, the benefits of using them, and how to write them.

What is a numeric rating scale?

To understand numeric rating scales, or numerical rating scales, we should briefly touch upon rating scales in general. Survey questions with rating scales are closed-ended and ask respondents to answer from a range of choices. For example, a Likert scale question uses a five- or seven-point scale that ranges from one extreme to another with a neutral option at the center.

A numeric rating scale question asks survey participants to measure preferences, feelings, perceptions, and interests on a provided numerical scale. The scale is an ordered-number scale with a range determined by the researcher to represent the extremes of the value being measured. With this type of scale, survey respondents can assign a numerical value to quantify their responses. 

Numerical rating scales can be used for anything from measuring customer satisfaction to expressing the amount of pain a patient is experiencing.

Learn when and how to use a numeric rating scale

Numeric rating scales are useful when you want to assign a quantitative measure to an abstract concept. This type of scale helps researchers evaluate subjective sentiments and intangible concepts with data that is easier to analyze, present, and take action on. By providing a single, logical value set (e.g., 0-10) with your question, respondents can provide you with answers within the scale of your choosing. 

When formulating your value set, consider this information from a research study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The study looks at the use of a bipolar scale, using a range of values in which zero is the mid-value (e.g., -2, -1, 0, 1, 2) and a continuum scale, in which the scale contains all positive values (e.g., 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). The analysis of the research revealed that subjects tended to avoid the mid-value and negative end of the bipolar scale, but respondents were more willing to use the mid-value and lower numbers in ratings with the continuum scale.

Though these were general findings, consider using a continuum rating scale for the most accurate, usable data for your surveys.

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Benefits of numeric rating scales

The use of numeric rating scales simplifies data collection in a variety of ways, not the least of which is the ability to quantify feelings, opinions, and attitudes.

Simple to create

Linear numeric rating scale questions are one of the simplest types of questions to create in a survey. All answers are on one dimension, so you don’t need to formulate other question types. On SurveyMonkey, you can create a slider question with a numeric rating scale value set of your choice with just a few clicks.

Simple to analyze

In addition to being simple to make, your numeric rating scale questions result in data that is easy to use for statistical analysis. Word scale questions require more work to analyze the data. Numeric scale question data is already quantitative, making it easier to compare and analyze.

Quick to reproduce

Once you’ve chosen your rating scale in SurveyMonkey, it’s fast and easy to copy and reproduce the question format with your scale. You need only update the question. 

Easy to comprehend

Numeric rating scales are self-explanatory and can be understood across ages, languages, cultures, and education levels. Most people are familiar with the standard numbering system and have seen rating scales before. 

With small children, the numerical scale may be accompanied by smiley faces or emojis alongside the numbers. This allows the child to respond with the appropriate visual while providing a numerical value for analysis or reporting.  

More benefits of numerical rating scale questions

  • Data is standardized
  • Can be used for many types of assessments
  • Break up survey format to prevent survey fatigue
  • Easy to answer with just a click
  • Good user experience
  • Can be used in place of text options for Likert scale questions

Numeric rating scale use cases and examples

Numeric rating scales are used in a variety of ways. Most notably, they are used in healthcare for pain management, but they are also used in market research surveys to measure customer sentiment. 

Let’s look at a few of the ways we can use numeric rating scales:

Pain score

Numeric rating scores have been used for pain assessment since 1923 when it was first used by Max Freyd in a psychology setting. It has been adapted over the years, most notably in 1983 when Donna Wong and Connie Baker adapted a numeric pain rating scale for children. The Wong-Baker FACES® Pain Rating Scale is a familiar sight in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and emergency centers. It’s used for children and adults to report their pain levels and asks patients to rate their pain from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain).

Today, you may see variations of the scale in color, without the faces, or with emojis. In many cases, patients will simply be asked to verbally report the intensity of their pain on a scale of 0-10.

Numeric pain rating scales provide a quantitative value to a subjective feeling. It is, in general, the most effective measure to use in the assessment and treatment of pain.

If you intend to use a numeric rating scale for a healthcare survey with SurveyMonkey, you can rest assured that we offer HIPAA-compliant features to safeguard protected health information collected online.

Rating score

Numeric rating scales are also useful in market research. Customer or employee satisfaction surveys can measure levels of satisfaction with numerical values. Both customers and employees will appreciate how quickly they can answer questions, and you’ll obtain quantifiable results that can be used to inform action plans for improvement.

Rating scales can also be used to rate a product, customer service experience, or in the case of the Net Promoter Score®, customer loyalty.

In some cases, your numerical rating scale questions will require open-ended questions to complement the responses. If your assessment requires that you understand why a respondent chose a particular rating, a qualitative follow-up question will provide that information.

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How to write numeric rating scale survey questions

As we’ve said, creating numeric rating scale survey questions is a simple process. Use these tips as a guide for writing effective questions:

  1. Create your question 

Be very clear in articulating your question. There should be no confusion about what you’re asking your survey participants to rate. Also, make sure you formulate your questions with your value set in mind. The questions must be easily answerable with a numerical value on a scale. Before you send your survey out, have team members test it to ensure that your questions work with your scale.

  1. Clarify your numerical scale

Decide on what value range you wish to use. The most commonly used numeric rating scale uses a 0-10 value set. 0-5 can be too limiting and frustrate users who feel that they need a wider value set to make distinctions between the extremes. Some researchers prefer to choose their own value sets that align more closely with their research. Larger value sets may seem appealing but can dilute your data.

  1. Add an open text question

If the quantitative value answer to your question requires more information, add a question with an open text field answer box next. This allows you to collect qualitative data to complement and explain why the respondents chose the rating they did.

  1. Label end points

Avoid confusion by adding labels to your endpoints. For example, 0 =  worst experience, 10 = best experience. While it may seem obvious to you, your survey respondents may need the additional prompt for clarity. By explaining the scale for respondents, you ensure that you’ll receive more accurate data.

Examples of numeric rating scale questions

How likely are you to recommend our product to a friend or family member?

How severe is your pain?

How would you rate your recent experience with our customer support staff?

How satisfied are you with our company culture?

How important is it for you to have (workplace benefit)?

Collect useful data with a numeric rating scale

Numeric rating scales are incredibly useful in gathering quantitative information. Whether you’re measuring a patient’s pain or conducting a customer satisfaction survey, numerical rating scales are helpful tools for collecting valuable information. 

Creating numeric rating scale questions is easy with SurveyMonkey. Choose the plan that’s right for you, and sign up to create your first survey today!

Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score, and NPS are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc., and Fred Reichheld. 

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