Survey completion time (the amount of time it takes to complete a survey) can have a huge impact on your survey response rate. The level of patience respondents have for your questions can depend on their levels of engagement and how invested they are in your survey.
If your questions have been written for a specific target audience, you’ll find respondents are a lot happier to spend the time answering them.
You can also circumvent this by running periodical micro-surveys with fewer questions. But you can’t ensure every respondent will respond each time, so it can be difficult to benchmark results.
In this article, we’ll answer “how many questions should a survey have?” along with some other frequently asked questions about surveys.
How many questions should a survey have?
This is a question that often comes up when designing or conducting a survey. There is no universal answer, as the number of survey questions asked will vary depending on the purpose of the survey and the target population. However, generally speaking, surveys should include enough questions to provide you with enough data to achieve your goal.
You must first understand the purpose of a survey before you write questions and collect responses. Understanding this allows you to set specific goals, which you then orient your questions to help you achieve.
For instance, the aim of a customer satisfaction survey is to gauge how happy your customers are with your product, service, or business. All the questions you ask should be to help you learn what you’re doing right and where there are areas for improvement.
The best way to identify how many questions a survey should have is to ask yourself what information you need, and what would just be nice to have.
Create a survey with questions that collect just what you need, see how long it takes, then insert the nice-to-have-questions.
How many survey questions per page?
When using online survey software, it’s common that responses are only saved when a respondent goes to the next page or when they finish the survey. This means that if you have a lot of questions on one survey page and respondents drop out part-way through, you will lose all answers up until that point.
To work around this quirk, we’d recommend splitting your survey questions onto multiple pages. This not only ensures that responses are being saved periodically but also makes your survey appear more digestible to respondents. If they see all of your questions on one page, they’re more likely to suffer from survey fatigue (which is likely to increase your dropout rate).
There’s no standard for how many questions you should have per page, the most logical way to break them up would be based on how they relate to each other.
For example, if you’re running an employee satisfaction survey you could break up your questions into these sections (pages):
- Page 1: Workplace culture
- Page 2: Job role
- Page 3: Coworkers
- Page 4: Management
- Page 5: Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)
- Exit/ thank you page
In general, you’re able to ask more questions in these types of surveys. Respondents that are more likely to be engaged with surveys (as with any satisfaction survey) are less likely to experience survey fatigue as they genuinely want to share their feedback.
How long should a survey take to complete?
As above, this answer depends on the specific purpose of the survey and your target population. Generally speaking, however, surveys should be completed within a reasonable timeframe – usually within 10 minutes.
For some additional perspective, on average, 15 to 20 survey questions will take 3 to 5 minutes to complete. So, your survey should have no more than 40 questions to ensure respondents stay engaged.
Survey length and the number of questions you ask don’t always correlate, the amount of time it takes to answer questions depends on how complicated they are.
If you’re asking more than one thing in the same space, or the question requires critical thought, it will take longer to answer. This is something you have to take into consideration when writing survey questions.
A great example of this is found the difference between closed-ended questions and open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions require survey respondents to choose an answer from a preset list, which can be very quick and efficient.
Open-ended questions ask respondents to write a free-form answer, which requires them to put in more thought and can take a lot longer to respond to.
What type of data is collected by survey questions?
That leads us nicely to the kinds of data that you intend to collect for your survey. If you’re conducting statistical research, you’ll mostly write close-ended questions which are attuned to collecting quantitative data.
Whereas if you’re collecting opinions and experiences, you’re more likely to use open-ended questions to collect qualitative data.
In a lot of cases, you’ll be using open and closed questions in tandem. This way, you’re able to collect statistical data to draw on and be able to infer why those choices were made with the qualitative data.
But, how does this factor into how many questions a survey should have?
Well, as we’ve discussed open-ended questions take longer for respondents to answer. So, the more open questions your survey contains the fewer questions you should ask overall.
How do I know how long my survey takes?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here, you’ll need to do a test run of the survey. And we’d recommend you don’t do this yourself, as you’ll be able to anticipate each question and respond in a quicker time.
Send a test version of your survey to some friends or colleagues and ask them to carefully consider each question as a respondent would.
Tally up the time it took for each of them and divide it by the number of participants to find the average time it would take to complete your survey.
How to increase survey completion rates
Everything we’ve covered so far will help you to increase your survey completion rate. But, here are a few extra tips to help motivate respondents to reach the end of your survey:
Use lead magnets: Create lead magnets (such as a free tool or premium content), and give access to these upon completion of your survey.
Offer an incentive: Offer a monetary incentive or some form of promotion to respondents who complete your survey.
Improve your survey design: Ensure the visual design of your survey is up to scratch to keep respondents interested.
Use interactive question types: Using the same survey question types over and over again can be boring for respondents. Switching to more interactive types like sliders and scales can make surveys feel less stale.
If your completion rates are high but you’re struggling to collect the data you need, take a look at these tips for increasing survey response rates.
So, how many questions should a survey have? Based on these findings, we recommend that you have a maximum of 40 questions when conducting online surveys. This will help ensure that respondents finish the survey and provide you with accurate results in a reasonable time.
Our best tip is to create separate survey pages and split your questions into topics across those pages. It’s important to keep in mind that the more pages a survey has, the longer it will take to complete and the more likely it is that respondents will drop out.
We’d recommend including a progress bar so respondents have a visual representation of how many pages they have left. This can go a long way in keeping them motivated and engaged.