How to Perform Reverse Coding in Excel (With Example)


When creating surveys, researchers sometimes rephrase “positive” questions in a “negative” way to make sure that individuals are giving consistent responses.

We say that these types of questions are reverse-coded.

When using a survey to assign a composite score to individuals, it’s important to make sure the reverse-coded questions are reverse-scored as well.

The following example shows how to reverse the scores on reverse-coded questions in Excel.

Example: Reverse Coding in Excel

Suppose researchers administer a survey with 5 questions to 10 individuals in which the possible responses to each questions are:

  • Strongly Agree
  • Agree
  • Neither Agree Nor Disagree
  • Disagree
  • Strongly Disagree

The following screenshot shows the results of the survey in which “Strongly Agree” is assigned a value of 5, “Agree” is assigned a value of 4, and so on:

Suppose questions 2 and 5 are reverse coded, so we must reverse their scores.

That is:

  • 1 should become 5.
  • 2 should become 4.
  • 3 should become 3.
  • 4 should become 2.
  • 5 should become 1.

The easiest way to do this is to take the max possible score (5) and add 1 to get 6. Then subtract the original scores from 6 to get the reverse scored value.

For example:

  • 5 becomes: 6 – 5 = 1.
  • 4 becomes: 6 – 4 = 2.
  • 3 becomes: 6 – 3 = 3.
  • 2 becomes: 6 – 2 = 4.
  • 1 becomes: 6 – 1 = 5.

To do this in Excel, simply copy and paste all of the original answers into a new area on the spreadsheet:

In cell B17 type: =6-B2. Then copy and paste this formula down to all other cells in column B.

In cell E17 type: =6-E2. Then copy and paste this formula down to all other cells in column E.

The scores in column B and column E will now both be reverse coded:

Additional Resources

The following tutorials explain other commonly used terms in questionnaires and surveys:

What is Face Validity?
What is Predictive Validity?
What is Concurrent Validity?
What is Content Validity?

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