What Is Ordinal Type of Data?


Scott Campbell

When it comes to collecting and analyzing data, it is important to understand the different types of data that exist. One such type is ordinal data. In this article, we will explore what ordinal data is and how it differs from other types of data.

What Is Ordinal Data?

Ordinal data is a categorical type of data that represents variables with a natural order or ranking. Unlike nominal data, which only classifies variables into categories without any inherent order, ordinal data assigns values to variables based on their relative ranking or position.

For example:

  • A customer satisfaction survey may ask respondents to rate their experience as “Very Satisfied,” “Satisfied,” “Neutral,” “Dissatisfied,” or “Very Dissatisfied.” Here, the responses have a clear order or ranking.
  • A Likert scale used in surveys often asks participants to rate their agreement with statements using options like “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Neutral,” “Disagree,” or “Strongly Disagree.”

It’s important to note that the actual numerical value assigned to each category in ordinal data does not carry any quantitative meaning. The numbers are simply used for ordering and comparison purposes.

Difference Between Ordinal and Other Types of Data

Now that we understand what ordinal data is, let’s compare it with other types of data:

Nominal Data:

Nominal data, as mentioned earlier, classifies variables into categories without any ordered relationship between them. Examples of nominal data include gender (male/female), eye color (blue/green/brown), or car brands (Toyota/Honda/Ford).

Interval Data:

Interval data, on the other hand, has a fixed and equal distance between each value. It allows for arithmetic operations such as addition and subtraction. An example of interval data is temperature measured in Celsius or Fahrenheit.

Ratio Data:

Ratio data is similar to interval data but includes a meaningful zero point. This means that ratios can be calculated, and multiplication and division operations are valid. Examples of ratio data include age, height, weight, or income.

Analyzing Ordinal Data

Analyzing ordinal data requires special consideration due to its unique properties.

  • Ordering: As the name suggests, ordinal data can be ordered from lowest to highest or vice versa. This order should be maintained during analysis.
  • Non-numeric nature: Remember that the numbers assigned to categories in ordinal data do not have any quantitative meaning. Treating them as numerical values may lead to incorrect analysis results.

To analyze ordinal data effectively, it is best to use non-parametric statistical tests specifically designed for such data types. These tests include the Mann-Whitney U test and Kruskal-Wallis test.


In summary, ordinal data represents variables with a natural order or ranking. It differs from nominal, interval, and ratio data in terms of its properties and requirements for analysis. When working with ordinal data, it is essential to understand its unique characteristics and use appropriate statistical methods for accurate analysis.

By recognizing the distinctions between different types of data, researchers and analysts can make informed decisions when collecting, organizing, and analyzing their datasets.

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