What is a Likert scale and how to use it

Everything you need to know about using a Likert scale, from advantages to best practices and examples.

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When you need to survey your customers, employees, or target market about their opinions, sometimes a simple yes or no answer will suffice. But if you want to go beyond those binary options and dig deeper into their thoughts and feelings, as well as get great data to inform your decisions, you need a different survey option. 

That’s where the Likert scale survey comes in. While you might not immediately recognize the technical-sounding name, odds are high that you’ve taken quite a few of these in your lifetime. In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about creating your own successful and effective Likert survey. 

What is a Likert scale question?

You’ve probably taken a survey at some point that asks you how much you agree or disagree with something. That kind of question is a Likert scale—they allow survey creators to ask questions that offer a wider range of options than a simple “yes/no” question. 

Many surveys use what’s called a survey scale: a predefined set of response options that cover a range of opinions on the survey topic. This can be the common 1-10 survey numeric scale, or a range of verbal options. These kinds of questions are closed-ended, meaning that respondents can only choose from pre-populated answers. 

The Likert scale is a popular type of survey scale that uses either a five or seven-point scale to gauge a range of opinions, from extremes on each end to a moderate or neutral option in the middle. It was created by the social psychologist Rensis Likert in 1932 and has been widely used ever since. 

5-point Likert scale 

The 5-point Likert scale uses five answer options to assess a respondent’s opinion on something. A typical 5-point Likert scale example looks like this: 

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the product you purchased? 

  • Very dissatisfied 

  • Somewhat dissatisfied 

  • Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 

  • Somewhat satisfied 

  • Very satisfied 

7-point Likert scale

The 7-point Likert scale offers more response options to your survey takers in order to get a more nuanced set of data. A sample 7-point Likert scale survey could look like this: 

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with our customer service?  

  • Very dissatisfied 

  • Dissatisfied

  • Somewhat dissatisfied 

  • Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 

  • Somewhat satisfied 

  • Satisfied

  • Very satisfied 

When to use a Likert scale

With so many different kinds of surveys out there, how do you know when it’s most effective to use a Likert scale survey? 

Likert scales are really effective for getting deep, nuanced opinions on one particular topic. If you’re looking to gather feedback that goes deeper than just whether someone liked or disliked something, a Likert rating scale survey is a good option. They’re especially great for measuring: 

  • How much attendees enjoyed your recent event 

  • What customers think about a product you just released 

  • How helpful your customer service team is to your clients 

  • What your employees think about the new office redesign  

Basically, if you want to measure sentiment about something specific and go into greater detail on how your respondents really feel, a Likert scale survey might be right for you. 

Advantages of a Likert scale

Why is the Likert scale so well-liked among survey designers? It has several advantages over other types of surveys that have helped make it so popular. 

Likert scale surveys help survey designers avoid common problems when creating surveys that frustrate respondents. Often, surveys ask questions that are too broad and confusing to respondents, who then start just answering as fast as they can without putting in much thought. The Likert scale, on the other hand, keeps respondents happy by keeping questions clear, focused, and easy to answer. 

Another advantage of Likert scale questions is that they allow you to tackle complex topics and get quantitative data back. For example, how customers feel about your company is not usually a simple question. Perhaps they love your products but find your marketing less appealing, or they like your services enough but think your customer service is what really sets you apart from the competition. Likert scale surveys can get at these points in a highly effective, easy-to-evaluate way so you get clear answers. 

How to write Likert scale survey questions

Now that you understand how useful Likert scale surveys can be, how can you create an effective one yourself? Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind while writing Likert scale survey questions. 

Use caution with your adjectives. Surveys of all kinds work best when your questions are very clear about what they’re asking your respondents. Your response options should include descriptive words that clearly delineate which grade is bigger or higher than the next—your Likert rating scale should go in an easily understandable order. Start from the extremes, like “strongly,” and then move into the more moderate or neutral options for the midpoint, like “very” or “slightly.”

Use accurate phrasing. Likert scale surveys are most effective when they’re phrased correctly. That means being very specific when you’re designing your survey. Asking about satisfaction with your company is too vague. Do you want to know about their satisfaction with your products, how helpful your customer service team is when they have problems, how easy your website is to navigate, or something else? Using highly accurate and specific questions will get you a better quality of responses. 

Use questions, not statements. It’s a funny quirk of human psychology: people tend to automatically agree with statements rather than disagree. We’re polite and agreeable at heart, which is a positive quality but not very useful when you want an honest survey response. To get around this bias, ask questions instead of posing statements for respondents to agree or disagree with. 

Likert scale questions and examples

Likert scale surveys can come in many forms. Here are a few of the most commonly used question types. 

Agreement: You simply show your respondents a variety of statements and ask them how much they agree or disagree with them. These questions are easy to write, pretty standard across most industries, and simple for your respondents to understand. 

Likelihood: How likely a respondent is to take a certain action, like signing up for a membership or purchasing a product. These questions are good if you’re trying to determine how likely someone is to actually do something, instead of just how much they like the idea of something. 

Satisfaction: How satisfied are your customers with something your company offers or does? Asking satisfaction questions is a great way to figure that out. 

Importance: To gauge how strongly people feel about a certain service, product, or experience, you can ask a Likert scale question that measures how important something is to a customer. 

So what do these Likert scale examples look like in real life? Here are a few common examples for your reference. 

Customer Satisfaction

Likert scale responses can be used to measure a whole variety of customer service sentiments.  They typically use an ordinal scale that lets your users rank their opinions on something. A customer satisfaction Likert scale question might look like this: 

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with our company’s services? 

  • Very satisfied 

  • Somewhat satisfied 

  • Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 

  • Somewhat dissatisfied 

  • Very dissatisfied 

Event feedback

After an event, you will want to gather feedback from your attendees to see how much they enjoyed and valued it. This is true whether it’s an in-person event or an online one. A Likert scale survey to ask attendees about their experience could look like this: 

How informative was the content presented at the event? 

  • Extremely informative 

  • Very informative

  • Somewhat informative 

  • Not so informative 

  • Not at all informative  

Employee engagement

Checking in with your employees to see how they appreciate and experience various aspects of working at your company is a good idea from time to time. You can stay informed about how employees feel about life at your company by using Likert scale surveys to ask them about issues like training, development, new policies, and more. A question designed to ask employees about their experience and measure engagement might look like this: 

I’m satisfied with the investment the company makes in my career growth. 

  • Strongly agree 

  • Agree

  • Neither agree nor disagree

  • Disagree 

  • Strongly disagree

Website feedback

Learning how easy to use and enjoyable your prospects and customers find your website is a great reason to create a survey. You want to be sure that you’re presenting your company and products in the best way possible and providing a great user experience. A Likert scale survey question to gather website feedback from your site visitors could look like this: 

How likely are you to return to our website to find information? 

  • Very likely 

  • Somewhat likely 

  • Neither likely nor unlikely 

  • Somewhat unlikely 

  • Very unlikely  

Customer information 

Knowing more about your customers and their habits is always helpful. It is vital for your marketing and product teams so they can tailor ads and new items to exactly what your customers want. Asking them Likert survey questions can help you get a deeper understanding of their opinions and preferences. A survey question to gather opinions from your customers might look like this: 

How important to you is attractive packaging? 

  • Extremely important 

  • Somewhat important 

  • Neither important nor unimportant 

  • Somewhat unimportant 

  • Extremely unimportant 

How to analyze Likert scale data

Once you’ve created your Likert scale survey, most of your hard work is done! But you still need to analyze the data you receive from the survey responses so you can measure how you’re doing in your survey target area. 

Likert scale analysis is best summarized using a median or a mode. Averages and standard deviations among your respondents will describe your data and give you answers to the questions you were looking to answer. 

Keep in mind while analyzing your Likert survey data that while it’s a very accurate way of gathering data, it’s still susceptible to social desirability bias. That means people are likely to give answers they think are socially acceptable instead of being honest, especially with difficult questions. They may choose to answer as undecided or neutral options instead of their real preferences. 

Is a Likert scale ordinal?

Yes, a Likert scale is in fact ordinal. The intervals between the values your respondents can choose are not actually equal, and so can’t be considered a set of quantitative intervals. 

Since a Likert scale is ordinal, using the mean to analyze your survey data will not be effective—use the median or mode instead. 

Unipolar Likert scales

Unipolar Likert scales offer a question where the range of possible answers falls from “none” to “the maximum”. For example, you might want to know how customers are finding new video content on your website. A unipolar Likert scale question would be: 

How engaging do you find our new video series? 

  • Extremely engaging 

  • Somewhat engaging 

  • Neither engaging nor disengaging  

  • Not very engaging 

  • Not at all engaging 

Unipolar scales are preferred in most cases for Likert surveys because they are, quite simply, easier for people to think about. And that simplicity makes it easier for them to give clear, accurate answers so your data is more useful. You can also be sure with a unipolar scale that one end is the exact opposite of the other, which makes your data more sound. 

Bipolar Likert scales

Bipolar Likert scales, on the other hand, offer two different sides of neutrality. This could be love vs. hate, enjoyment vs. disgust, happiness vs. disappointment, and so on. Bipolar scales require your respondents to balance two different qualities, which makes it more complex for them. And since it’s harder to pick two qualities that are exactly the opposite of each other, your data might be a little less clear as well. Use bipolar scales carefully, if you use them at all. 

5 extra tips on how to use Likert scales

Looking to really make your Likert scale surveys as effective as possible? Follow these additional tips for creating surveys that give your respondents a great user experience and give you more accurate data. 

  1. Use odd numbers. Why is this important? Because Likert scales with an odd number of response choices will have a midpoint, which can be your moderate or neutral choice. If you don’t give your respondents a midpoint, they may get confused about how to answer if they don’t have a strong opinion on the topic. But don’t use more than seven response choices, because too many options will overwhelm your respondents. It’s a survey best practice to use five scale points for a unipolar survey, and seven scale points for a bipolar survey to maximize response accuracy. 

  2. Use clear labels. If you’re just using numbers as points on your Likert scale survey, this can be pretty confusing for your respondents. How will they know definitively which end of the range is positive and which is negative? Instead, use very clear terms to describe each option, and even include a short explainer if necessary. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to provide you with answers. 

  3. Use continuous words. Don’t make it a huge jump from one option to the next. Instead, try to keep your response options as equally spaced from each other as possible. This can be challenging when you’re using words as your scale instead of numbers, but it’s important to try hard to achieve it to keep your data accurate. Make sure you know clearly what the words you use in your survey mean. 

  4. Use inclusive terms. It’s important to include a full range of responses so that your survey takers have real options. For example, if you simply ask how good your customer service team was and your answers range from “moderately good” to “extremely good,” respondents who didn’t find your team good at all won’t be able to answer properly. It can feel difficult to offer extremely negative response options about your business, but it’s the only way to get truly accurate results. 

  5. Use skip logic. If you’re only interested in digging deeper into the negative experiences and impressions of your survey respondents, you may want to let everyone who enjoyed their experiences skip further questions for a better survey experience. Using skip logic in your survey will let people who you don’t need further info from finish the survey fast and avoids asking them irrelevant questions. 

Setting up a successful Likert scale survey can help you develop a deeper understanding of the opinions of your customers, employees, and market. They’re very effective when used correctly. That’s why they’re one of the most popular survey options out there. You can really get to know your respondents and learn how they feel—and have the data to make decisions based on that information. 

If you’re looking for survey technology to help you get started creating your own Likert scale survey, GetFeedback can help. Get your free trial today to see what we can do together.

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