Levels of Measurement: "Nominal Ordinal Interval Ratio" Scales (2023)

Levels of Measurement: "Nominal Ordinal Interval Ratio" Scales (1)

The nominal, ordinal, interval & ratio levels of measurement are scales that allow us to measure and classify gathered data in well-defined variables to be used for different purposes.

These are the four scales used mainly for:

  • Nominal: Used to categorize data into mutually exclusive categories or groups.
  • Ordinal: Used to measure variables in a natural order, such as rating or ranking. They provide meaningful insights into attitudes, preferences, and behaviors by understanding the order of responses.
  • Interval: Used to measure variables with equal intervals between values. This type of measurement is often used for temperature and time, allowing for precise comparisons and calculations.
  • Ratio: Allows for comparisons and computations such as ratios, percentages, and averages. Great for research in fields like science, engineering, and finance, where you need to use ratios, percentages, and averages to understand the data.

Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about these measurement levels, characteristics, examples, and how to use them.

Levels of Measurement in Statistics

To perform statistical data analysis, it is important first to understand variables and what should be measured using them.

There are different levels of measurement in statistics, and data measured using them can be broadly classified into qualitative and quantitative data. Let’s discuss the Nominal, Ordinal, Interval & Ratio scales.

First, let’s understand what a variable is. A quantity whose value changes across the population and can be measured is called a variable. For instance, consider a sample of employed individuals.

The variables for this set of the population can be industry, location, gender, age, skills, job type, paid time off, etc. The value of the variables will differ with each employee spotlight.

For example, it is practically impossible to calculate the average hourly rate of a worker in the US. So, a sample audience is randomly selected such it represents the larger population appropriately.

Then the average hourly rate of this sample audience is calculated. Using statistical tests, you can conclude the average hourly rate of a larger population.

A variable’s measurement level decides the statistical test type to be used. The mathematical nature of a variable, or in other words, how a variable is measured, is considered the level of measurement.

What are Nominal, Ordinal, Interval & Ratio?

Nominal, Ordinal, Interval & Ratio are defined as the four fundamental measurement scales used to capture data in the form of surveys and questionnaires, each being a multiple-choice question.

Each scale is an incremental level of measurement, meaning each scale fulfills the function of the previous scale, and all survey question scales such as Likert, Semantic Differential, Dichotomous, etc, are the derivation of this these 4 fundamental levels of variable measurement.

Before we discuss all four levels of measurement scales in details, with examples, let’s have a quick brief look at what these scales represent.

Nominal scale is a naming scale, where variables are simply “named” or labeled, with no specific order. Ordinal scale has all its variables in a specific order, beyond just naming them. Interval scale offers labels, order, as well as, a specific interval between each of its variable options.

Ratio scale bears all the characteristics of an interval scale, in addition to that, it can also accommodate the value of “zero” on any of its variables.

Here’s more of the four levels of measurement in research and statistics: Nominal, Ordinal, Interval, Ratio.

Levels of Measurement: "Nominal Ordinal Interval Ratio" Scales (2)

Nominal Scale: 1st Level of Measurement

Nominal Scale, also called the categorical variable scale, is defined as a scale that labels variables into distinct classifications and doesn’t involve a quantitative value or order. This scale is the simplest of the four variable measurement scales. Calculations done on these variables will be futile as the options have no numerical value.

There are cases where this scale is used for the purpose of classification – the numbers associated with variables of this scale are only tags for categorization or division. Calculations done on these numbers will be futile as they have no quantitative significance.

For a question such as:

Where do you live?

  • 1- Suburbs
  • 2- City
  • 3- Town

Nominal scale is often used in research surveys and questionnaires where only variable labels hold significance.

For instance, a customer survey asking “Which brand of smartphones do you prefer?” Options : “Apple”- 1 , “Samsung”-2, “OnePlus”-3.

  • In this survey question, only the names of the brands are significant for the researcher conducting consumer research or netnography. There is no need for any specific order for these brands. However, while capturing nominal data, researchers conduct analysis based on the associated labels.
  • In the above example, when a survey respondent selects Apple as their preferred brand, the data entered and associated will be “1”. This helped in quantifying and answering the final question – How many respondents selected Apple, how many selected Samsung, and how many went for OnePlus – and which one is the highest.
  • This is the fundamental of quantitative research, and nominal scale is the most fundamental research scale.

Nominal Scale Data and Analysis

There are two primary ways in which nominal scale data can be collected:

  1. By asking an open-ended question, the answers of which can be coded to a respective number of label decided by the researcher.
  2. The other alternative to collect nominal data is to include a multiple choice question in which the answers will be labeled.

In both cases, the analysis of gathered data will happen using percentages or mode,i.e., the most common answer received for the question. It is possible for a single question to have more than one mode as it is possible for two common favorites can exist in a target population.

Nominal Scale Examples

  • Gender
  • Political preferences
  • Place of residence
What is your Gender?What is your Political preference?Where do you live?
  • M- Male
  • F- Female
  • 1- Independent
  • 2- Democrat
  • 3- Republican
  • 1- Suburbs
  • 2- City
  • 3- Town

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Nominal Scale SPSS

In SPSS, you can specify the level of measurement as scale (numeric data on an interval or ratio scale), ordinal, or nominal. Nominal and ordinal data can be either string alphanumeric or numeric.

Upon importing the data for any variable into the SPSS input file, it takes it as a scale variable by default since the data essentially contains numeric values. It is important to change it to either nominal or ordinal or keep it as scale depending on the variable the data represents.

Ordinal Scale: 2nd Level of Measurement

Ordinal Scale is defined as a variable measurement scale used to simply depict the order of variables and not the difference between each of the variables. These scales are generally used to depict non-mathematical ideas such as frequency, satisfaction, happiness, a degree of pain, etc. It is quite straightforward to remember the implementation of this scale as ‘Ordinal’ sounds similar to ‘Order’, which is exactly the purpose of this scale.

Ordinal Scale maintains descriptional qualities along with an intrinsic order but is void of an origin of scale and thus, the distance between variables can’t be calculated. Descriptional qualities indicate tagging properties similar to the nominal scale, in addition to which, the ordinal scale also has a relative position of variables. Origin of this scale is absent due to which there is no fixed start or “true zero”.

Ordinal Data and Analysis

Ordinal scale data can be presented in tabular or graphical formats for a researcher to conduct a convenient analysis of collected data. Also, methods such as Mann-Whitney U test and Kruskal–Wallis H test can also be used to analyze ordinal data. These methods are generally implemented to compare two or more ordinal groups.

In the Mann-Whitney U test, researchers can conclude which variable of one group is bigger or smaller than another variable of a randomly selected group. While in the Kruskal–Wallis H test, researchers can analyze whether two or more ordinal groups have the same median or not.

Learn about: Nominal vs. Ordinal Scale

Ordinal Scale Examples

Status at workplace, tournament team rankings, order of product quality, and order of agreement or satisfaction are some of the most common examples of the ordinal Scale. These scales are generally used in market research to gather and evaluate relative feedback about product satisfaction, changing perceptions with product upgrades, etc.

For example, a semantic differential scale question such as:

How satisfied are you with our services?

  • Very Unsatisfied – 1
  • Unsatisfied – 2
  • Neutral – 3
  • Satisfied – 4
  • Very Satisfied – 5
  1. Here, the order of variables is of prime importance and so is the labeling. Very unsatisfied will always be worse than unsatisfied and satisfied will be worse than very satisfied.
  2. This is where ordinal scale is a step above nominal scale – the order is relevant to the results and so is their naming.
  3. Analyzing results based on the order along with the name becomes a convenient process for the researcher.
  4. If they intend to obtain more information than what they would collect using a nominal scale, they can use the ordinal scale.

This scale not only assigns values to the variables but also measures the rank or order of the variables, such as:

  • Grades
  • Satisfaction
  • Happiness

How satisfied are you with our services?

  • 1- Very Unsatisfied
  • 2- Unsatisfied
  • 3- Neural
  • 4- Satisfied
  • 5- Very Satisfied

Interval Scale:3rd Level of Measurement

Interval Scale is defined as a numerical scale where the order of the variables is known as well as the difference between these variables. Variables that have familiar, constant, and computable differences are classified using the Interval scale. It is easy to remember the primary role of this scale too, ‘Interval’ indicates ‘distance between two entities’, which is what Interval scale helps in achieving.

These scales are effective as they open doors for the statistical analysis of provided data. Mean, median, or mode can be used to calculate the central tendency in this scale. The only drawback of this scale is that there no pre-decided starting point or a true zero value.

Interval scale contains all the properties of the ordinal scale, in addition to which, it offers a calculation of the difference between variables. The main characteristic of this scale is the equidistant difference between objects.

For instance, consider a Celsius/Fahrenheit temperature scale –

  • 80 degrees is always higher than 50 degrees and the difference between these two temperatures is the same as the difference between 70 degrees and 40 degrees.
  • Also, the value of 0 is arbitrary because negative values of temperature do exist – which makes the Celsius/Fahrenheit temperature scale a classic example of an interval scale.
  • Interval scale is often chosen in research cases where the difference between variables is a mandate – which can’t be achieved using a nominal or ordinal scale. The Interval scale quantifies the difference between two variables whereas the other two scales are solely capable of associating qualitative values with variables.
  • The mean and median values in an ordinal scale can be evaluated, unlike the previous two scales.
  • In statistics, interval scale is frequently used as a numerical value can not only be assigned to variables but calculation on the basis of those values can also be carried out.

Even if interval scales are amazing, they do not calculate the “true zero” value which is why the next scale comes into the picture.

Interval Data and Analysis

All the techniques applicable to nominal and ordinal data analysis are applicable to Interval Data as well. Apart from those techniques, there are a few analysis methods such as descriptive statistics, correlation regression analysis which is extensively for analyzing interval data.

Descriptive statistics is the term given to the analysis of numerical data which helps to describe, depict, or summarize data in a meaningful manner and it helps in calculation of mean, median, and mode.

Interval Scale Examples

  • There are situations where attitude scales are considered to be interval scales.
  • Apart from the temperature scale, time is also a very common example of an interval scale as the values are already established, constant, and measurable.
  • Calendar years and time also fall under this category of measurement scales.
  • Likert scale, Net Promoter Score, Semantic Differential Scale, Bipolar Matrix Table, etc. are the most-used interval scale examples.

The following questions fall under the Interval Scale category:

  • What is your family income?
  • What is the temperature in your city?

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Ratio Scale: 4th Level of Measurement

Ratio Scale is defined as a variable measurement scale that not only produces the order of variables but also makes the difference between variables known along with information on the value of true zero. It is calculated by assuming that the variables have an option for zero, the difference between the two variables is the same and there is a specific order between the options.

With the option of true zero, varied inferential, and descriptive analysis techniques can be applied to the variables. In addition to the fact that the ratio scale does everything that a nominal, ordinal, and interval scale can do, it can also establish the value of absolute zero. The best examples of ratio scales are weight and height. In market research, a ratio scale is used to calculate market share, annual sales, the price of an upcoming product, the number of consumers, etc.

  • Ratio scale provides the most detailed information as researchers and statisticians can calculate the central tendency using statistical techniques such as mean, median, mode, and methods such as geometric mean, the coefficient of variation, or harmonic mean can also be used on this scale.
  • Ratio scale accommodates the characteristic of three other variable measurement scales, i.e. labeling the variables, the significance of the order of variables, and a calculable difference between variables (which are usually equidistant).
  • Because of the existence of true zero value, the ratio scale doesn’t have negative values.
  • To decide when to use a ratio scale, the researcher must observe whether the variables have all the characteristics of an interval scale along with the presence of the absolute zero value.
  • Mean, mode and median can be calculated using the ratio scale.

Ratio Data and Analysis

At a fundamental level, Ratio scale data is quantitative in nature due to which all quantitative analysis techniques such as SWOT, TURF, Cross-tabulation, Conjoint, etc. can be used to calculate ratio data. While some techniques such as SWOT and TURF will analyze ratio data in such as manner that researchers can create roadmaps of how to improve products or services and Cross-tabulation will be useful in understanding whether new features will be helpful to the target market or not.

Ratio Scale Examples

The following questions fall under the Ratio Scale category:

  • What is your daughter’s current height?
    • Less than 5 feet.
    • 5 feet 1 inch – 5 feet 5 inches
    • 5 feet 6 inches- 6 feet
    • More than 6 feet
  • What is your weight in kilograms?
    • Less than 50 kilograms
    • 51- 70 kilograms
    • 71- 90 kilograms
    • 91-110 kilograms
    • More than 110 kilograms

Learn about: Interval vs. Ratio Scale

Levels of Measurement: Main Characteristics

The four data measurement scales – nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio – are quite often discussed in academic teaching. Below easy-to-remember chart might help you in your statistics test.

Offers: NominalOrdinal Interval Ratio
The sequence of variables is establishedYesYesYes
Mean YesYes
Difference between variables can be evaluated YesYes
Addition and Subtraction of variablesYesYes
Multiplication and Division of variablesYes
Absolute zero Yes


Understanding the levels of measurement is crucial in research, as it affects the type of analysis that can be performed and the conclusions that can be drawn from the data. By understanding the differences between nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio data, researchers can make more informed decisions about the appropriate statistical tests to use and how to interpret their results.

Remember that selecting the appropriate level of measurement is a critical step in designing a research study, so take the time to carefully consider the measurement level most appropriate for your research question and data.

QuestionPro offers various types of questions that will allow you to collect data for any variable, as well as powerful data analysis tools and data management platforms to harness the full potential of your studies.

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What are the four levels of measurement choose 4 answers? ›

There are 4 levels of measurement, which can be ranked from low to high:
  • Nominal: the data can only be categorized.
  • Ordinal: the data can be categorized and ranked.
  • Interval: the data can be categorized and ranked, and evenly spaced.
  • Ratio: the data can be categorized, ranked, evenly spaced and has a natural zero.
Jul 16, 2020

What are the 4 levels of measurement scales describe each? ›

There are four basic levels: nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio. A variable measured on a "nominal" scale is a variable that does not really have any evaluative distinction. One value is really not any greater than another.

What are examples of nominal scale questions? ›

Nominal scale is often used in research surveys and questionnaires where only variable labels hold significance. For instance, a customer survey asking “Which brand of smartphones do you prefer?” Options : “Apple”- 1 , “Samsung”-2, “OnePlus”-3.

Which scale is the simplest form of measurement ordinal interval ratio nominal? ›

Nominal Scale:

It is the simplest form of measurement i.e. it helps in just identifying. Categorical data are measured on nominal scales which merely assign labels to distinguish categories.

What are the types of measurements answer? ›

You can see there are four different types of measurement scales (nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio).

What level of the 4 levels of measurement is the least precise? ›

There are four levels of measurement – nominal, ordinal, and interval/ratio – with nominal being the least precise and informative and interval/ratio variable being most precise and informative.

What are the 4 types of scales with examples? ›

The four scales of measurement
  • Nominal scale of measurement.
  • Ordinal scale of measurement.
  • Interval scale of measurement.
  • Ratio scale of measurement.
Jan 30, 2020

What are the 4 types of measurement scales explain with examples? ›

Each of the four scales (i.e., nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio) provides a different type of information. Measurement refers to the assignment of numbers in a meaningful way, and understanding measurement scales is important to interpreting the numbers assigned to people, objects, and events.

What is interval scale examples? ›

An interval scale is one where there is order and the difference between two values is meaningful. Examples of interval variables include: temperature (Farenheit), temperature (Celcius), pH, SAT score (200-800), credit score (300-850).

What is an example of ordinal? ›

For example, first, second, and third places in a race are ordinal data. You can clearly understand the order of finishes. However, the time difference between first and second place might not be the same as between second and third place. Ordinal data are prevalent in social science and survey research.

What is example of ordinal scale? ›

Ordinal Scale: Ranks, customer satisfaction rating and degree, socio-economic status, education qualification, etc. are examples of the Ordinal Scale.

What is an example of a ratio scale? ›

Length, area, and population are examples of ratio scales.

Is age ordinal or interval or ratio? ›

The short answer: Age is considered a ratio variable because it has a “true zero” value. It's possible for an individual to be zero years old (a newborn) and we can say that the difference between 0 years and 10 years is the same as the difference between 10 years and 20 years.

Which is the most simplest form of measurement? ›

The nominal level of measurement is the simplest level. "Nominal" means "existing in name only." With the nominal level of measurement all we can do is to name or label things. Even when we use numbers, these numbers are only names. We cannot perform any arithmetic with nominal level data.

What are some everyday examples of nominal ordinal interval and ratio variables? ›

3. Nominal Ordinal Interval Ratio
  • Celsius Temperature.
  • Fahrenheit Temperature.
  • IQ (intelligence scale).
  • SAT scores.
  • Time on a clock with hands.

Is time an interval or ratio? ›

Time and duration are two examples of interval and ratio scale respectively. Time is the value of the interval scale because there is no zero. You cannot tell when time started. Duration is a case of ratio scale for the fact that duration has a starting point.

What is a measurement short answer? ›

Measurement is a comparison of an unknown quantity with a known fixed quantity of the same kind. The value obtained on measuring a quantity is called its magnitude. The magnitude of a quantity is expressed in numbers and in its unit.

What is an example of a nominal measure? ›

Examples of nominal scales include gender, marital status, college major, and blood type.

What is the weakest scale of measurement? ›

The four major forms of measurement have the following hierarchy, with the ratio scale being the highest or strongest level of measurement and nominal the lowest or weakest type of measurement.

What is the least precise level of measurement? ›

Nominal level of measurement is the least precise and informative, because it only names the 'characteristic' or 'identity' we are interested. In other words, in nominal variables, the numerical values just "name" the attribute uniquely.

Which is considered the most precise level of measurement? ›

As the highest of the four levels of measurement (i.e., nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio), ratio level of measurement is the most precise and therefore, desirable to use in social scientific research.

Is Age an ordinal variable? ›

Age can be both nominal and ordinal data depending on the question types. I.e “How old are you” is used to collect nominal data while “Are you the firstborn or What position are you in your family” is used to collect ordinal data. Age becomes ordinal data when there's some sort of order to it.

Is temperature a ratio or interval? ›

For example, temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit is at an interval scale because zero is not the lowest possible temperature. In the Kelvin scale, a ratio scale, zero represents a total lack of thermal energy.

What is the 4 scale? ›

Unweighted 4.0 GPA Scale

Essentially, the highest GPA you can earn is a 4.0, which indicates an A average in all of your classes. A 3.0 would indicate a B average, a 2.0 a C average, a 1.0 a D, and a 0.0 an F.

What are the 4 measurement scales PDF? ›

The four scales of measurement are nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio.

Is Age an interval scale? ›

Interval-level variables are continuous, meaning that each value of the variable is one increment larger than the previous and one smaller than the next value. Age, if measured in years, is a good example; each increment is one year.

What is ordinal scale data? ›

The Ordinal scale includes statistical data type where variables are in order or rank but without a degree of difference between categories. The ordinal scale contains qualitative data; 'ordinal' meaning 'order'. It places variables in order/rank, only permitting to measure the value as higher or lower in scale.

What is an example of interval and ratio scale? ›

Examples of interval level data include temperature and year. Examples of ratio level data include distance and area (e.g., acreage). The scales are similar in so far as units of measurement are arbitrary (Celsius versus Fahrenheit, Gregorian versus Islamic calendar, English versus metric units).

What is an interval measure? ›

The interval level is a numerical level of measurement which, like the ordinal scale, places variables in order. Unlike the ordinal scale, however, the interval scale has a known and equal distance between each value on the scale (imagine the points on a thermometer).

What is an interval question? ›

Interval rating scale questions are the most common type of survey question, and we use them to capture the level of feelings the respondent has about the topic of interest. The level of feelings is captured by presenting a multiple point scale to the respondent and asking them where they fall on the scale range.

What are nominal variables examples? ›

A nominal variable is one that describes a name, label or category without natural order. Sex and type of dwelling are examples of nominal variables.

What is interval data? ›

Interval data, also called an integer, is defined as a data type which is measured along a scale, in which each point is placed at equal distance from one another. Interval data always appears in the form of numbers or numerical values where the distance between the two points is standardized and equal.

Is speed an interval scale? ›

The ratio level of measurement is the same as the interval level, with the addition of a meaningful zero point. There is a meaningful and non-arbitrary zero point from which the equal intervals between categories originate. For example, weight, area, speed, and velocity are measured on a ratio level scale.

What is a interval variable? ›

An interval variable is a one where the difference between two values is meaningful. The difference between a temperature of 100 degrees and 90 degrees is the same difference as between 90 degrees and 80 degrees.

Is blood pressure an interval or ratio? ›

Answer and Explanation: Clearly, this variable makes use of two values, and the difference between them tells us if we have normal or high blood pressure. Because of this, systolic blood pressure can be classified as an interval variable.

Is years of education ordinal or interval? ›

Ordinal Data Levels of Measurement

For example, education level (with possible values of high school, undergraduate degree, and graduate degree) would be an ordinal variable.

Is type of music nominal or ordinal? ›

Here, in the given statement "A musical instrument played by a music student", the variables are music student and musical instrument and they can be categorized on the basis of gender, form, etc. Hence, the level of measurement is nominal.

What is the most used measurement? ›

The metric system is a decimalized system of measurement developed in France in late 18th century. Since the metric system is almost universally used, it is often referred to as the International System of Units and abbreviated SI.

What is the smallest use of measurement? ›

ml is the smallest metric unit to measure capacity.

What is the best example of ordinal data? ›

Examples of ordinal data are the level of education, the range of income, or the grades.
  • You can count, classify and categorize nominal data but cannot rank it. ...
  • Nominal data use pie charts.

What are the 4 measurements? ›

There are four main levels of measurement: nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio.

What are the four levels of measurement quizlet? ›

Levels of measurement: Nominal, Ordinal, Interval, Ratio Flashcards | Quizlet.

What are 4 things we can measure? ›

We can measure many different things, but mostly we measure Length, Area, Volume, Mass and Time.

What are the four parts of a measurement? ›

Levels of Measurement: Nominal, Ordinal, Interval and Ratio | Indeed.com.

What are the 4 levels of data? ›

The four data measurement levels, from lowest to highest, are nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio.

Is Age A nominal or interval? ›

Age is considered a ratio variable because it has a “true zero” value. It's possible for an individual to be zero years old (a newborn) and we can say that the difference between 0 years and 10 years is the same as the difference between 10 years and 20 years.

What are the different levels of measurement give 3 examples each? ›

Four Different Levels of Measurement
  • Nominal–Latin for name only (Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian)
  • Ordinal–Think ordered levels or ranks (small–8oz, medium–12oz, large–32oz)
  • Interval–Equal intervals among levels (1 dollar to 2 dollars is the same interval as 88 dollars to 89 dollars)

What is an example of interval level of measurement? ›

An interval scale is one where there is order and the difference between two values is meaningful. Examples of interval variables include: temperature (Farenheit), temperature (Celcius), pH, SAT score (200-800), credit score (300-850).

What is measurement 4 its importance? ›

Answer: The action of measuring anything, or a certain number of objects, is a measurement. Also measuring certain things correctly is very necessary including distance, time, and accuracy. We can really know the universe around us by measuring such occurrences or, in other words, by taking such measurements.

What are 4 things that we measure most? ›

The basic units of measurement are for length, mass, time and temperature.

What is a measurement answer? ›

Measurement is a comparison of an unknown quantity with a known fixed quantity of the same kind. The value obtained on measuring a quantity is called its magnitude. The magnitude of a quantity is expressed in numbers and in its unit.

What are the 4 units of measurements used by a ruler? ›

A ruler is used for measuring length. It usually has four units of measurement: millimeter, centimeter, inch and feet.

What are the 4 unit of measurement in metric? ›

In the metric system of measurement, the most common units of distance are millimeters, centimeters, meters, and kilometers.


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