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GuidesSurveys5 types of forced-choice questions with examples

5 types of forced-choice questions with examples

Last updated

23 May 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Survey questions often include options that allow users to leave a neutral response. Neutral options in a survey are answers that do not express the opinion of the respondent either way, for example, “Don’t know” or “Undecided.”

While neutral responses allow users to continue with the survey, even if they can’t or won’t answer the question directly, they don’t provide usable data to the survey creator. Forced-choice questions allow you to eliminate neutral data from your survey responses, but they're not the best option for every situation.

This article explains what forced-choice questions are, the different types of forced-choice questions, and the pros and cons of using them.

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What is a forced-choice question?

A forced-choice question is a survey question with no option for a neutral response. Responses like “Undecided,” “No opinion,” “Can't say,” Don't know,” “Maybe,” and “Not applicable” are eliminated from the available responses. A forced-choice question ensures that the respondent gives an actionable answer.

By forcing survey-takers to submit an opinion, you'll have more data to analyze. Yet, if the survey isn't conducted under the right circumstances, you run the risk of collecting inaccurate data.

For example, a respondent who would choose "Don't know" if the option were available may be forced to guess or pick a response that doesn’t match their opinion. A neutral answer would be eliminated from survey results, but a guess will be included as accurate data when it might, in fact, be inaccurate.

When to use forced-choice questions

As we’ve seen, forced-choice questions can give you more data to inform decisions, but they can sometimes yield inaccurate data. So, how do you know when to use them?

Surveys that include forced-choice questions should meet certain criteria to ensure the questions are relevant to respondents. Questions should be either opinion based or only delivered to respondents who have been screened to guarantee the options will apply to them.

What is a forced-choice scale?

A forced-choice scale, also known as an ipsative scale, is a rating system that excludes a neutral answer from the submission choices.

Satisfaction surveys are one of the most common ways to use a forced-choice scale. With no neutral options available, respondents would choose from these answers:

  • Extremely satisfied

  • Very satisfied

  • Moderately satisfied

  • Moderately dissatisfied

  • Very dissatisfied

  • Extremely dissatisfied

5 examples of forced-choice questions

Like other types of survey questions, forced-choice questions can be used in a variety of situations. Asking the right type of question can increase the chances of your respondents choosing an accurate response.

The most common types of forced-choice questions include:

Dichotomous

These inquiries have only two options, like a classic yes or no question. Answers to dichotomous questions are usually limited to:

  • Yes or no

  • Agree or disagree

  • Fair or unfair

  • Satisfied or dissatisfied

Dichotomous questions may be used to inquire about satisfaction or to screen respondents for a rating question that follows.

For example, a questionnaire sent to a customer after interacting with customer service may simply ask, "How do you feel about your recent customer service call?" The respondent can then choose satisfied or dissatisfied.

Another example is, before asking a survey-taker to rate a product, a survey might inquire, "Have you ever purchased a product from our store?" Survey takers would then select yes or no before continuing the survey.

Rating questions

Also called scale questions or Likert scale ratings, rating questions are typically used to measure satisfaction or to determine how respondents feel about a specific situation. Answers may be presented as multiple choice, a numeric scale, a sliding scale, a star rating, etc. There are several ways you can form a forced-choice rating question:

  • Satisfaction scale: options indicate the level of satisfaction, ranging from extremely dissatisfied to extremely satisfied

  • Opinion-based scale: a scale that ranges from strongly disagree to strongly agree

  • Quality assessment scale: rate quality from very poor to very high

  • Likelihood scale: answers range from extremely unlikely to extremely likely

  • Frequency scale: options range from never to always

Image-choice questions

Image-choice questions are closed-ended questions that allow survey-takers to choose responses from a group of images. This option can increase engagement and enhance clarity. Image-choice questions are typically used for multiple-choice questions and can be used to share information or evoke emotion.

For example, a travel company conducting a survey about popular vacation choices might use pictures to help increase anticipation and help viewers choose the most attractive vacation spot.

When determining which clothes would be suitable for a new fashion line, a retailer might include pictures of similar items to clearly define the available options.

Multiple-choice questions

It's common for multiple-choice questions to be forced questions by default. Multiple-choice questions offer several options for respondents to choose from. They can be opinion- or fact-based, and respondents may have the option to choose more than one answer.

For example, a multiple-choice question may ask, "How often do you shop online?" Answer options could be:

  • More than once a week

  • Weekly

  • Monthly

  • Quarterly

  • Less than twice a year

Graphical-rating questions

This is an easy option that most respondents are familiar with. Graphical ratings are questions that use visual elements to ensure accurate answers. Options may include:

  • Star ratings

  • Emojis

  • Slider scales

Product or service reviews are the most common example of graphical-rating questions. Respondents choose from one to five stars to indicate their level of satisfaction.

Smiley faces or other emojis are commonly used in different types of surveys. For example, the 1–10 pain scale in a doctor's office or hospital is often accompanied by facial expressions to represent levels of discomfort.

Pros and cons of forced-choice questions

In the right situation, forced-choice questions improve data-collection efforts and provide a fruitful survey. When a survey is poorly designed, forced-choice questions can generate inaccurate information and alter the results of the survey.

It's important to consider the following advantages and disadvantages of forced-choice questions before using them in your surveys.

Pros

  • Useful data: By eliminating neutral answers, you can ensure all data collected from your survey will be useful for your research.

  • Eliminate guesswork: Forced ranking allows you to better understand your data by driving opinions one way or the other. Instead of a completely neutral response, users will choose either moderately satisfied or moderately dissatisfied, revealing insights into ways you can make changes.

  • The potential for higher success rates: When used correctly, forced-choice questions ensure respondents have the knowledge to answer. As a result, responses are more likely to be accurate than a data analyst guessing the meaning behind neutral answers.

Cons

  • Poor user experience: When respondents are forced to answer questions, they may feel irritated by the experience and connect that feeling with your brand.

  • Potentially false results: If the respondent needs more information to answer the question, the results may not reflect the truth.

In summary

While forced-choice questions aren't right for every survey, they can help researchers gather more data when used correctly. By asking screening questions or limiting the use of forced-choice questions to opinion-based topics, you can eliminate the conditions that lead to inaccurate answers from forced-choice questions.

Like all forms of research, forced-choice surveys are tools that work best with careful planning and responsible use.

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