Forced choice scale

A forced-choice scale question (also known as an ipsative) is a rating system that does not allow for an Undecided, Neutral, Doesn't know, or No opinion response, so in other words allows you to collect more actionable data.



A forced-choice question is designed to force respondents to express an opinion or attitude. This question type forces the respondent to choose between two or more desirable options and pick the one that is most preferred and clearly indicates a definitive opinion.

This guide will teach you:

  1. Forced choice questions
  2. Forced choice scale examples
  3. Best-practice tips

1. Forced choice questions

Forced choice survey questions are usually written in the form of an agree/disagree statement or consist of statements where respondents select the one closest to their true feelings.

Ipsative measures may be more useful for evaluating traits within an individual, whereas Likert-type rating is more useful for evaluating traits across individuals.

Survey research studies generally indicate that excluding Don’t Know and Neutral options don't necessarily change the proportion of responses leaning toward certain sides of a Likert response rating. So these questions can add value, especially when you want to make business decisions based on customer preferences.

2. Forced choice scale examples

A 6-point rating system with three positive and three negative options, but without a neutral option is a classic example of a forced-choice rating question.

Forced choice scale - examples

3. Best-practice tips

Take the two suggestions below into account, if you’re considering forced-choice questions:

  1. It is still usually a good idea to include a Not Applicable response choice if there are segments of your survey sample to which the question does not apply. For example, respondents who haven’t used the type of product or service you’re asking about before.
  2.  Make sure that the respondent is familiar with the topic you are asking about. In addition, see if there isn’t a significant number of them who might honestly hold ambiguous opinions. If you think a don’t know/neutral option is necessary for your target market, it’s probably best to include one.

Keep in mind that your goal is to force customers to make a choice,  but not at the risk of losing valid, reliable survey data.


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What's next?

  • Continuous scale: respondents rate the objects by placing a mark at the appropriate position on a line that runs from one extreme of the variable to the other. The form of the continuous rating may vary considerably. 
  • Comparative scale: involves the direct comparison of stimulus objects. Most often, the respondent is asked to compare one brand, product or feature against another. Comparative rating data must be interpreted in relative terms and have only ordinal or rank order properties. 
  • Discrete scale: numeric data that have a finite number of possible values and can only be whole numbers. Discrete data arise from observations that can only take certain numerical values. Fractions are meaningless. In some situations, mathematical functions or calculations are not possible either. 
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