Ranking question

The Ranking question provides the respondent with a list of items, created by you, which they can rank according to their liking or knowledge. This allows survey respondents to compare different items to each other by placing them in order of how they score (or rank) at a specific aspect, such as design, cost, functionality, importance. Often with the most important or preferred item ranked first or on top of the list.



A ranking is a relationship between a set of items such that, for any two items, the first is either "ranked higher than", "ranked lower than" or "ranked equal to" the second. This scale is close-ended and allows respondents to evaluate multiple row items in relation to each other.

This guide will teach you:

  1. Ranking vs. Rating questions
  2. Ranking question example
  3. XY drag and drop question 
  4. Best-Practice tips

Check out the entire glossary list in a printable list.

1. Ranking vs. Rating questions

Example of a ranking question wording: 

Please rank the following options in order of importance, with the most important item on top.

Example of a rating question wording: 

To what extent do you agree with the following statement? (Strongly agree/agree/unsure/disagree/strongly disagree)

There two question types are different because one is asking the respondent to rate items or statements and the respondent can give the same rating to more than one item. In the other case the respondent has to compare all the answers and evaluate them based on their relative importance, priority, intensity, etc.

When deciding which one of them you will use, think about what data you will be trying to analyze. If you want to be able to compare between different items, using a ranking question will give useful insight into how respondents make comparisons. However, if you want to use actual values in analysis, it will be more helpful to use a rating question, and for example, ask the respondents to rate the importance of an item on a scale of 1 to 10.

2. Ranking question example

The example below asks the respondent to evaluate the items of the list from #1 to #4, with #1 being the most important object to #4 being the least important object.

ranking question-example

3. XY drag and drop question

Another variant is the XY drag and drop, that allows the user to rank items on two characteristics simultaneously.

ranking question-xy drag and drop example

4. Best-Practice tips

  • Make sure that the items you are asking the respondent to rank, are actually all part of the same scale, or can be evaluated using the same criteria.
  • The longer the list of items presented to the respondents is, the harder it becomes for them to accurately rank them. Think carefully about presenting more than five options. If you have a long list such as ten options that you definitely want to present, it may be more effective to request that the respondent chooses and ranks their top five priorities, concerns, etc. Note that this will result in more work at the data analysis stage.
  • Remember that you are forcing respondents to evaluate the items, and when they choose to rank one of them higher on the list, the other items will be automatically ranked lower. Make sure that the items you are asking your respondents to evaluate are actually fair to be compared in relation to each other.

What's next?

  • Smiley rating: A smiley rating question is a rating one, most often used to get a clear view of how someone likes your product, service, or business. It is a 5-point rating scale intended to represent a range of sentiments from negative to neutral to positive, making smiley ratings most useful when measuring emotions or feelings.
  • Rating scale questions: a rating scale is a method that requires the respondent to assign a value, sometimes numeric, to the rated object. Rating scales are popular in research because they offer the flexibility of response together with many possible types of quantitative analysis.
  • A radio button rating question allows the respondents to choose an answer between 0 and 10. Only a single answer can be chosen each time. You can use it if you want to get immediate post-purchase feedback, to ask employees to rate a training session or to check how well students feel they understood a lecture.
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