Asking the right survey questions: 5 types of survey questions

03 March 2023

Surveys are one of the best ways to collect data from a large group of people, however, one of the most important factors in running a successful survey is understanding which types of questions to ask.

By asking the right questions, you can uncover valuable insights that can help you make better decisions for your business. But what types of survey questions should you be using?

To get the most out of your surveys, it helps to understand the different types of survey questions available and how each type will impact the answers you receive. Here are 5 types of survey questions to use in your surveys to help you get the most useful feedback.

Open-ended questions 

Open-ended questions allow respondents to answer with their own words and provide more detailed responses to survey questions.

These types of questions usually don’t have a definitive answer; instead, they offer an opportunity for respondents to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas on a topic. They can give you a deeper insight into your audience and help uncover any potential problems that you may not have previously known. For an employee survey this can be a useful question type, as it allows respondents to give detailed feedback on business culture or processes.

As open-ended questions can require more effort from the respondent you may want to mix these with other questions types. A survey with only open-ended questions, or too many of them, may result in your respondents getting fatigued and not giving as detailed information as you need.

Closed-ended questions 

Sometimes you may simply need a yes or no answer, and that’s where closed-ended questions come in handy.

This type of question is ideal when you need precise data that can easily be analysed and compared with other responses.

Close-ended questions are often used when seeking information that has specific answers such as demographic data (age, gender, etc.), or yes/no responses to simple questions. This type of question works well when you need data from a large group of people in a short amount of time since respondents don’t have to spend too much time thinking about their answers.

Multiple choice questions

Multiple choice questions offer multiple options for respondents to choose from, usually between two and five choices, instead of just one answer option.

This type of question allows for more detail than closed-ended but less than open-ended as it still provides some structure for respondents who may not feel comfortable providing detailed feedback. Multiple choice is best used when there is an established range of options.

With multiple choice questions it’s good practice to always include an “I don’t know” or “other” option. This means that if none of the options provided are applicable to the respondent they are not forced to give a wrong answer.

Ranking questions 

Ranking questions ask respondents to rank items according to their preferences or importance.

Ranking allows you to determine the relative popularity or importance among multiple items rather than simply understanding whether someone likes something (as with other types). For a customer survey, this is particularly useful for understanding the priority customers place on certain features or services so you know where to focus your resources in product development moving forward.

Understanding the priorities of your audience provides valuable insight to help grow your business in the right direction.

Rating scale questions 

Rating scale questions are commonly used when measuring the opinions of your audience rather than facts.

Respondents typically rate something on a scale from one point (strongly disagree) all the way up to five points (strongly agree). Whether for a customer survey, employee survey or government survey, scaled questions provide quantitative data that can be easily analysed which makes them useful for measuring employee satisfaction or gauging customer interest in new products or services.

In order to get the best results when using rating scale questions make sure to be very clear about the scale to ensure there is no confusion about which end of the scale is which, and there should always be an option to select “neutral” at the middle of the scale.

Get the most out of your survey

Surveys are an essential tool for gathering feedback from large groups so that businesses or institutions can make informed decisions about their products, services, and internal processes based on actual data rather than guesswork.

By incorporating different types of survey questions into your surveys, you'll be able to get the most comprehensive picture possible about how people feel and use those findings in making strategic decisions for your business.