Which Likert Scale Is Best?

Likert scales are commonly used in questionnaires and surveys to measure respondents’ attitudes, perceptions, and opinions. They allow respondents to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement with a statement or series of statements. But with different types of Likert scales to choose from, how do researchers determine which one is best for their particular study or survey?

What is a Likert Scale?

A Likert scale is a psychometric measurement tool that allows respondents to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement with a statement or series of statements. The scale is named after its inventor, Rensis Likert, who published his findings in 1932.

Likert scales typically present respondents with a declarative statement followed by response options that indicate varying degrees of agreement or disagreement. The response options generally range from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree” on a symmetric agree-disagree scale. However, variations like frequency scales and importance scales can also be used.

Key features of a Likert scale:

  • Contains a statement or series of statements that respondents react to
  • Offers response options that indicate level of agreement/disagreement
  • Is uni-dimensional, measuring a single latent variable
  • Uses symmetric, equidistant response options centered around a neutral option
  • Aggregates responses to compute an overall score

Likert scales are easy to construct, administer, and understand. They can efficiently measure attitudes, perceptions, and opinions in survey research. This makes them one of the most widely used scaling techniques in social sciences.

Types of Likert Scales

There are various types of Likert scales based on the number of response options provided. The most common ones are:

5-Point Likert Scale

A 5-point Likert scale offers five response options:

  • Strongly Disagree
  • Disagree
  • Neutral
  • Agree
  • Strongly Agree

The 5-point scale is the most commonly used Likert scale in research. Its response options allow for adequate variability of responses while still being easy for respondents to understand.

7-Point Likert Scale

A 7-point Likert scale has seven response options:

  • Strongly Disagree
  • Disagree
  • Somewhat Disagree
  • Neutral
  • Somewhat Agree
  • Agree
  • Strongly Agree

The 7-point scale provides more granularity of responses than the 5-point scale. However, some respondents may find the additional options confusing.

10-Point Likert Scale

A 10-point Likert scale offers respondents ten options to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement. For example:

  • 1 = Strongly Disagree
  • 2 = Disagree
  • 3 = Somewhat Disagree
  • 4 = Slightly Disagree
  • 5 = Neutral
  • 6 = Slightly Agree
  • 7 = Somewhat Agree
  • 8 = Agree
  • 9 = Strongly Agree
  • 10 = Very Strongly Agree

While the 10-point scale allows for finer distinctions between responses, some consider it too complex for practical use.

So Which Likert Scale Is Best?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to which Likert scale is best, as it depends on the specific research question and the context in which the survey is being conducted. However, most researchers agree that a minimum of a 5-point Likert scale should be used.

Why Use at Least a 5-Point Likert Scale?

Here are some of the key advantages of using a 5-point or higher Likert scale:

  • Allows for nuanced feedback: The 5-point scale provides respondents with enough options to give nuanced feedback. Anything lower would limit the variability of responses.
  • Easy for respondents: A 5-point scale strikes the right balance between providing variety in responses while still being simple and user-friendly for respondents.
  • Better reliability: Research shows that 5-point or higher Likert scales have better reliability and validity metrics compared to shorter scales.
  • Versatile: A 5-point Likert scale can easily measure satisfaction, importance, quality, frequency, likelihood, or agreement.
  • Actionable data: The granular data from 5+ point scales is more meaningful and actionable for analyzing results.

The Case for 5-Point Likert Scales

The 5-point Likert scale is the most commonly used scale in research involving questionnaires and surveys. Here are some of its notable benefits:


The 5-point scale is straightforward and easy for respondents to comprehend. Unlike 7 or 10-point scales, it does not overwhelm respondents with too many options. This simplicity in responding leads to higher quality data.

Measures Intensity

The “Strongly Agree” and “Strongly Disagree” endpoints allow respondents to indicate the intensity of their opinion. This provides richer insight into their true attitudes and perceptions.


Research has found 5-point scales to have higher reliability and validity over shorter scales. Cronbach’s alpha coefficient is higher for 5-point scales.


The 5-point scale provides clear, nuanced data that is highly actionable for researchers. The “Disagree-Agree” range delivers insightful feedback.


Since the 5-point scale is so widely used, results can be easily compared across studies. Respondents are also familiar with this format.


The 5-point Likert scale can be adapted to measure satisfaction, importance, quality, likelihood etc. Simply changing the scale anchors allows for customization.


The symmetric response structure centered around a neutral midpoint balances both positive and negative responses evenly. This reduces bias.

Overall, the 5-point Likert scale delivers an optimal balance between simplicity, nuance, reliability, and customizability. This versatility across contexts explains its immense popularity in survey research.

When Are 7-Point or 10-Point Scales Better?

While 5-point scales are suitable for most purposes, 7-point or 10-point scales have some advantages in certain scenarios:

Allows Greater Variability in Responses

The additional options allow respondents to give more nuanced feedback that better captures the full spectrum of their opinion. This is useful when you need very fine-grained data.

Measures Wider Range of Constructs

Scales with 7 or 10 points can better measure complex constructs like brand loyalty or consumer attitudes which have a wider range.

Uncovers Hidden Patterns

The broader range of responses can help uncover non-linear relationships between variables that may be hidden with 5-point scales.

Useful for Experts

When surveying experts or scholars who can make sophisticated judgements, 7 or 10-point scales allow them to give more granular assessments.

Leverages Segmentation Analysis

The additional scale points enable more sophisticated psychographic segmentation of respondents based on their responses.

Improves Scale Sensitivity

Some studies have found 7 and 10-point scales to have marginally higher sensitivity than 5-point scales.

However, the additional complexity of wider scales can lead to respondent fatigue and poor data quality if not used judiciously. The make the right choice, researchers must consider their specific research goals, target respondents, and survey length.

Best Practices for Choosing a Likert Scale

When determining the right Likert scale for a questionnaire or survey, here are some best practices to follow:

  • Match the scale to the target respondents – Consider cognitive abilities, education levels, age groups etc. of respondents.
  • Test different scales in piloting – Pilot surveys with different scales to directly compare their performance.
  • Ensure scale is uni-dimensional – Use factor analysis to check if the scale measures one single variable.
  • Check internal consistency – Scales should have Cronbach’s alpha > 0.7 to be reliable.
  • Use scale symmetry – Symmetric “Agree-Disagree” scales reduce acquiesence bias.
  • Provide a neutral option – The mid-point gives respondents an opt-out and improves data quality.
  • Randomize statement order – Random ordering breaks order effects bias and pattern responding.
  • Choose scale labels carefully – Avoid ambiguous descriptors. Use labels like “Strongly Agree” instead of just “Agree”.
  • Consider survey length and context – Long surveys may require shorter scales to reduce fatigue.

By following these best practices, researchers can design Likert scale questionnaires that efficiently elicit high-quality data tailored to their specific requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is using a minimum 5-point Likert scale recommended?

Research shows 5-point scales strike the right balance between offering enough variety in responses while remaining simple and reliable for respondents to understand. Shorter scales severely limit variability and interpretability of results.

Is a 5-point or 7-point scale better?

For most purposes, the 5-point scale provides sufficient nuance and is easier for respondents. But 7-point scales allow for greater variability which can be useful when surveying experts or measuring complex constructs.

Are 10-point scales better than 5-point scales?

Not necessarily. While allowing for finer distinctions, 10-point scales can be cumbersome and lead to respondent confusion. The additional precision may not provide value in many cases.

Should the scale include a “Neutral” midpoint?

Yes, the neutral option allows respondents to legitimately neither agree nor disagree. Forcing choice inflates responses at extremes. The mid-point also improves data quality.

How many scale points should a questionnaire use?

Aim for 5-point scales in most cases. Only use 7 or 10-point scales if you specifically need to uncover nuances,Else, keep the survey simple with 5-point scales to avoid respondent fatigue.


Determining the right Likert scale for a questionnaire or survey requires balancing simplicity for respondents with nuance of measurement. For most purposes, 5-point Likert scales hit the research sweet spot, which explains their immense popularity. Wider 7 and 10-point scales can provide value when greater variability in responses is needed. Researchers should carefully evaluate their research goals, target respondents, and survey context when picking a scale. By following best practices around design and testing, an optimal Likert scale can be chosen to produce high quality, actionable data


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