Ordinal scale

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Ordinal scale
  • A measurement system where the values for a variable are in a set order, but there is no fixed distance between the values.
  • One of four levels of measurement.
  • Ordinal data which uses numerical values is discrete.
  • A variable measured on an ordinal scale is best classified as a qualitative variable, but may be used in practice as if it is quantitative, when the data is numerical in nature (e.g., IQ score, as the scores are only useful in comparison and differences between scores do not reflect a fixed amount of intelligence).

Although a variable coded using an ordinal scale may assign numerical values (e.g.,1 = "Very Poor", 2 = "Poor", 3 = "Average", etc.) there is no assurance that the difference between a score of 1 and 2 means the same thing as the difference between a score of 2 and 3.


The following are examples of ordinal scales:

  • 5-point Likert scale: strongly disagree (1), disagree (2), neutral (3), agree (4), strongly agree (5)
  • order of finish: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.
  • IQ score

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Web Resources

  • Online Statistics: An Interactive Multimedia Course of Study, Chapter: 1. Introduction, Section: Levels of Measurement.
  • Wikipedia's Level of measurement, Ordinal scale.


Portions of this entry were adapted from