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How to Write Effective Survey Screening Questions | IntelliSurvey


Writing effective survey screening questions is a critical step in ensuring the success of any market research project. Screeners help you filter out respondents who don't fit your target audience and ensure that you're gathering helpful data from the right people. However, crafting effective screening questions requires some thought and strategy. 

In this blog, we will provide tips and a set of best practices for writing screeners that help you target the appropriate respondents, maximize your survey's reach, and collect clean and usable data.

What Are Screening Questions in Surveys?

Screening questions, also known as screeners, are a crucial component of any survey. Screeners help select respondents most relevant to the survey's objectives. Essentially, screening questions prequalify participants to ensure the appropriate target audience is selected.

Screening questions are especially crucial when conducting surveys with many potential respondents. In these scenarios, researchers can use these questions to efficiently filter out respondents who don't meet the desired criteria, helping them narrow down feedback and acquire more precise and accurate data.

Apart from enhancing the quality of survey results, screening questions can also help fight survey farms by identifying and weeding out bad actors or respondents who may try to wrongly gain survey rewards by providing fake or misleading responses. Well-designed screeners can help identify such respondents and prohibit them from participating in the survey.

Screening questions are typically found at the beginning of a survey with general demographic questions to establish the respondent's eligibility for the survey and ensure that the questions are relevant to their experiences.

How Do Screening Questions Help?

Screening questions are a crucial component of any survey, as they offer several benefits to researchers. By utilizing screeners at the beginning of a survey, researchers can ensure that the survey gets to relevant respondents, greatly enhancing its efficacy.

Easily Target Relevant Respondents

Screening questions are an effective way to ensure that only the desired types of respondents participate in a survey. Implementing screening questions is an easy way for researchers to capture the audience that fits into the criteria for a survey. Quality checks can be built early on in the screener section to allow immediate termination of respondents who show contradictory or impossible behaviors.

For example, if the goal is to screen for new refrigerator owners, a question could be asked about various activities in the past 12 months:

Which of the following have you done in the past 12 months? Please select all that apply.
  1. Installed solar panels for your home
  2. Purchased or renewed a pet insurance policy for your cat
  3. Successfully passed the driving license test
  4. Purchased a new (not second-hand) refrigerator

In this scenario, the likelihood of each of these options happening in the same year is almost zero. In other words, researchers can disqualify respondents that select multiple options immediately, as they are likely bad actors or survey farms.

Researchers can also implement attention checks in later survey sections, such as including one or two dummy brands in a list or using opposite-worded statements in grids to ensure respondent attentiveness and consistency. Double questions can be used for consistency checks, such as asking for age at the beginning of the survey and birth year at the end of it. However, obvious checks that can confuse respondents, such as "pick option 3," should be avoided.

Cut Through The Noise

Screening questions offer another advantage by helping researchers separate relevant feedback from the noise. Sorting through feedback from irrelevant respondents can be time-consuming and can even lead to contaminated data. By using screening questions, unqualified respondents lacking knowledge in the area being studied can be filtered out, which helps to ensure that the data collected is accurate.

Enhance User Experience

Screening questions can contribute to a positive user experience by helping market researchers ensure that they survey the right audience. Asking screener questions early on allows researchers to determine whether respondents use a product or service. It is best to write succinct screeners that don't require too much time before qualifying for the survey to provide a good user experience.

It is vital to utilize screeners correctly, as too many questions can lead to confusion and annoyance among potential respondents. If the incidence rate drops, results may suffer, and the audience may become less representative of the entire population. We recommend using fewer than three screening questions to maximize survey reach. Using only a handful of screeners prevents users from spending time on a lengthy survey only to be disqualified halfway through, which could result in negative feedback and damage to your brand.

Improve Efficiency

Screening questions can help improve efficiency and save resources. While some businesses resort to alternative methods, such as buying email lists or paying for ads to promote their surveys, screening questions offer a more cost-effective and efficient way to reach relevant users. Researchers can save time and resources while gathering relevant information by separating impactful information from meaningless data.

What Types of Screening Questions Are There?

There are four primary types of screening questions that can be used to filter out irrelevant respondents and ensure that the survey targets the right audience. 


These screening questions are typically meant to identify basic information about the respondent, such as age, gender, income, and education level. Demographic screeners help researchers create a profile of the ideal respondent and make sure that the survey is capturing the right audience.


Behavioral-focused questions examine respondent behavior in relation to the topic being studied. For example, in a survey about a new service package launch, behavioral screening questions could ask whether the respondent has used similar services in the past, or how often they use products and services in the same category.


Industry-specific questions are tailored to a specific field or profession. For example, in a survey about healthcare, industry-specific screening questions might ask whether the respondent is a healthcare practitioner, or which type of healthcare facility they work for.

Products and Services

These questions are used to filter out respondents who are not users or consumers of the product or service being studied. For example, if the survey is about a new music streaming platform, then product and service screening questions might ask whether the respondent has used similar music services in the past, or how often they listen to the radio or music online.

Screening Question Best Practices

When crafting screening questions, it's important to keep in mind the following dos and don'ts to ensure the most accurate and representative data possible.

Do Use the Correct Question Types

Avoid using simple Yes or No questions, as they can create survey bias and lead respondents to choose a positive response or one that clearly allows them to participate in a survey. Instead, use multiple-choice questions that offer a range of answer choices without clearly indicating which response will allow the respondent to participate.

Do Keep Questions Clear and Concise

Use clear, concise language in your questions to avoid confusion and ensure that respondents understand what is being asked of them. Avoid using technical jargon or overly complex sentence structures that may be difficult for respondents to understand.

Don't Include Unnecessary Questions

Every question you include in your screening process should serve a purpose. Avoid adding unnecessary questions that do not contribute to your research goals or may confuse respondents.

Do Test Your Questions

Before launching your survey, test your screening questions with a small sample group to ensure they are clear and easy to understand. This can help you identify any potential issues with your questions and make necessary adjustments before distributing the survey to a larger audience.

Do Utilize Multiple-selection Questions

Screening questions can be single or multiple-selection. Using multiple-selection questions allows for more specific filtering and a greater chance of finding qualified respondents. It also helps ensure that respondents who select any of the allowed answers will be able to participate in the survey.

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Don't Provide Too Many Answer Choices

When screening for a specific answer, it's important not to provide too many additional choices that will ultimately be screened out. Doing so can yield a low incidence rate and indicate that your audience is narrower and harder to reach. Instead, provide a limited number of relevant answer choices to increase the efficiency and accuracy of your screening questions.

When Should You Use Screening Questions?

Conversion Rate Optimization

Screening questions can be an effective tool for companies trying to optimize their website’s conversion rate. Businesses can filter out those who are not in their target audience and gather more relevant data from those who are by asking users a few qualifying questions upfront. This can help improve the website's user experience and increase the chances of conversion.

Design Feedback

Screeners can be helpful in gathering design feedback from a target audience. For example, if a company is creating a new product or redesigning an existing one, they can ask customers and users about their preferences and previous experiences. In these scenarios, this can help a company identify design flaws and create a product that meets its target audience's needs.

Product Feedback

For organizations conducting a product feedback survey, screening questions can help ensure that they are collecting data from users who have experience with their products. By asking respondents questions about usage and experience, businesses can filter out participants who are unfamiliar with their products and gather more meaningful feedback from those who are. This can help identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to enhance their products and services.

How IntelliSurvey Can Help

IntelliSurvey offers a range of products and services that can help businesses create effective screening questions and conduct surveys and multi-market studies. By utilizing our expertise, businesses can ensure that their screening questions reach their target audience and provide high-quality data for analysis. Our team of experienced professionals can help guide you through the process of designing, implementing, and analyzing your survey results. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business achieve its market research goals.

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