The skillful grading determines the insights

The evaluation of tangible and intangible aspects concerning things, feelings, expectations, events and consequences, is determined by the choice of the scale. What reveals an evaluation, if you can only assign an upward thumb? This question has to be asked by everybody, who wants to make a survey, because the skillful grading determines the insights.


As soon as you prepare an inquiry, you have to worry about the scales. In the following examples you find basic variants.

  • The „Like “: good
    The “Likes” of Facebook provide users the possibility to positively mark a post, in the sense of „I like it “. They do not offer further alternatives, since there is actually only this value. Its meaning is not very clear, since on the one hand the “Like” is not always clear. If someone denounces a drawback and many people “Like” the contribution, do they mean the comment or the actual article? The reasons for only a few or no „Likes “are likewise diverse. Perhaps only a few people saw the post or their threshold for liking is not yet reached. For meaningful evaluations „Likes” are not suitable.
  • The binary inquiry: bad/ good
    The actual evaluation with the thumb needs additionally at least the thumb that shows downward. Thus the two poles at the end of a scale are defined. This format gets the question to the heart of the point. Unfortunately the reality mostly exists between the extreme poles (see The polarizing character of this question can be defused by speaking of rather good and rather bad. This format serves well for fast inquiries of the mental state by a show of hands.
  • The simple inquiry: bad/ neutral/ good
    The gray zone can be established most easily with an additional value between the poles – for example by using neutral. De Bono calls it PO. Thus gives people the possibility to select neither good nor bad. The disadvantage of this middle value is the fact that it offers a back door to the respondents, in order not being obligated to decide. This form of questioning is unfortunately not quite meaningful.
  • The pragmatic inquiry: bad/ rather bad/ rather good/ good
    The simple inquiry offers an alternative that covers the entire gray zone. In this case the neutral zone is as large as the two poles. Above all, the scorers are forced to decide for one or the other side. This format overcomes the disadvantages of the binary and the simple inquiry. It supplies fundamental valuations – good or bad.
  • Realistic inquiry: very bad/ bad/ rather bad/ rather good/ good/ very good
    In order to eventually also determine gradual differences, both sides should be further graded. Thus, the respondents have the possibility to select one side and to determine the degree at the same time. Very should be used in this context only for unusual good or bad. This form of inquiry will deliver in most cases suitable results.
  • The filigree inquiry: 1=very very very bad/ 100=very very very good
    In the planning the questioners are quickly carried away to develop detailed grading’s, in order to allow as much as possible differentiation for the responds – in extreme cases from 1 to 100. This classification offers sufficient room for the description the gray zone (from 2 to 99). However it creates two disadvantages. First of all, it will be more difficult for the respondents to deliver their evaluations, since they have to arrange the gray zone for themselves. Secondly, the evaluators will have difficulties to draw insights from the filigree grading. Therefore you should only provide so many ranges that you need for a meaningful evaluation. More produces noise that softens the meaning of the results.

Bottom line: The choice of the value ranges determines the quality and the significance of an evaluation. What counts is: less is more – however do not ask less than you need. Eventually the skillful grading determines the conclusions that one can draw from the survey.

P.S.: Do not use only Multiple Choice. Always add a field for comments, in order to better understand the comments.