5 Star Ratings

edited January 2019 in General Book Babble

Why do we keep using 5 star ratings for books and movies? It's not very granular (20% increments) and, I for one, end up giving 4 stars to books on Goodreads that deserve 3.5 or 3.75 but not 4 as other «real» 4 star books I read. I much prefer the granularity of ratings on 10... its one of my pet peeves...

For exemple, Boardgame Geeks has ratings are on 10 and I find this much more informative. A 6.9 game is not the same as a 7.5 game.


  • 1
    edited January 2019

    I use 5 start ratings, and really I suppose that we don't really need all that much granularity to decide if we like something. My five numbers mean something like this:
    1. Terrible - don't bother with it.
    2. This has some merit, but it's not good enough for me to recommend.
    3. This is a decent book that mostly does what it set out to do, but has rough edges or could have been executed better. Recommended with reservations.
    4. This is a great book and well executed. I definitely recommend it.
    5. This is an amazing book, with some magical quality that elevates it above being a 4. Truly, it could hardly be better, or I'd need a six number rating system.

    That's as much as I think I need to communicate with my numbers. Sometimes, though, I do give something a 'point 5'. On the surface that makes it look like I'm really using a 10 point rating system. But actually all the point five means is that I can't really decide which category it belongs in, but I didn't want that to hold me back from publishing the review.

    Now, looking at the Boardgame Geek system, it's obviously really a 100 point system, not a 10 point system. But I'm highly skeptical that you can distinguish between 100 different degrees of quality. They use that because it works to create an average when rating various aspects of the game separately. They should just round up or down. In which case there wouldn't be much difference at all between a 6.9 and a 7.5.

    Looking more closely at BGG, I see there are hardly any ratings at all above 8. What;s the theoreitcal maximum, then - 8.5? And realistically, what's the lowest game rank you would consider buying - 6.5 maybe? So you're really looking at a system that ranks games between 6.5 and 8.5. If you round to the nearest 0.5, that means you'll look at games that might be rated 6.5, 7.0, 7.5, 8.0, and 8.5. And look at that - there's a 5-point scale right there. So maybe the real question is why sites like BGG are trying to disguise the fact that they're really just using a 5-point scale?


  • 0

    BGG has specific definitions for its ratings.

    BGG said:
    10 - Outstanding - will always enjoy playing and expect this will never change.
    9 - Excellent - always enjoy playing it
    8 - Very good - enjoy playing and would suggest it.
    7 - Good - usually willing to play.
    6 - Ok - will play if in the mood.
    5 - Average - Slightly boring, take it or leave it.
    4 - Not so good - but could play again.
    3 - Bad - likely won't play this again.
    2 - Very bad - won't play ever again.
    1 - Awful - defies game description.

    Which is why there are so few 10s IMHO.

  • 0

    That list just reinforces my point of view.

    For example, I'm struggling to find a difference between:

    7 - Good - usually willing to play.
    6 - Ok - will play if in the mood.

    I mean, with a 7, you'll play even if you aren't in the mood, but a 6 you'll only play if you are in the mood? Riiiight.

    Or this:

    4 - Not so good - but could play again.
    3 - Bad - likely won't play this again.

    If you likely won't play something again it means that logically you could in fact play it again so it that a 3 or a 4? They're the same thing.

    1 and 2 are also pretty much the same thing, and the only difference between 9 and 10 is that 10 can only be applied if you can predict the future, which nobody can, so it's a pointless distinction.

    So really what you have here is
    9-10 There may never come a time when I don't want to play (Excellent).
    8 Will almost always play and would recommend it (Very Good)
    6-7 Usually willing to play (Good)
    3-5 Mostly won't play this again, but could be forced (Meh)
    1-2 Won't play this again - for sure! (Nah!)

    That's a 5-point scale.

  • 2
    edited January 2019

    I was thinking more in terms of categories that synthesize the readers experience. My rating of 4 and your rating of 4 might not originate from the same aspects of the book. We both gave 4 star but for very different reasons. And since we use .5 stars why not simply use 10 ratings. To me its like using 12 hours twice (am/pm) instead of using 24 hours for a 24 hour day. :p

    This is the digital age. Maybe someone could create an app that does that. I often find myself having to read (often long-winded reviews) just to figure out what the Goodread rating actually means before I can make an informed decision. Its all so 2001...

    What if the app could give the overall rating of the book and calculate the low/medium & high values the readers gave for each of categories, for an instant portrait of what are the strengths of the author and the book?

    • Quality of the prose
    • Quality of dialogues
    • World Building
    • Story development
    • Character development
    • Traditional vs innovative in its genre
    • Descriptive (LOTR) vs informative (Sci-FI info dump)
    • Action oriented vs concept oriented
    • How does it compare with the author's other books
    • Quality if the document (printing, digital, audio).

    (If someone steal this idea and becomes an over night billionaire you how me 50% of the share of your company.)

  • 1

    I quite like 5 stars; with a rating out of 10, I struggle (for instance, I can't see the difference between 7 and 8 out of 10, or 2 and 3 out of 10, and it's hard to award 10 out of 10).

    But with 5 stars I can quickly fit something into how I feel. For fiction:

    1 star: I didn't just dislike it. I actually hated it. I probably didn't finish it.
    2 star: I disliked it. I might have finished it, but I feel I wasted my time doing so.
    3 star: It was fine. Maybe it was shaky, maybe I enjoyed it but found it fairly forgettable. I'm not going to read it again, and probably won't keep it on my shelf.
    4 star: I liked it. It will stay on my bookshelf, and may well get a reread. At this level I'm willing to recommend it.
    5 star: I didn't just like it. I actually loved it. I'm certain to read it again at some point, maybe even some point soon. I may enthuse about it to others.

    Really, for more detail, I need an actual review rather than just the number of a rating. But despite being a mathematician, I don't tend to think in figures and ratings, and that heavily influences my point of view here; I don't find a number that informative.

  • 1

    Jumping in late to this, I feel like @Apocryphal and @dr_mitch that a ten-point scale gives a superficial sense of accuracy without real substance. That said, I agree that there are different facets of a book that one might rate differently. For example, I would rate Mortal Engines 5*, as an overall single number reflecting my gut feel of the work as a whole. Within that, if I was analysing different things, I would say 5* for world-building, 4* for plot, 4* for characters, 3* for language and vocabulary. Now if you took a simple average you obviously would not get to 5*. My overall gut feel takes into account the fact that it was YA rather than general adult, and that I would cheerfully re-experience it several times over knowing about the things that I consider let-downs (and fully expect to re-read it in the future).
    I like Audible's approach where readers are encouraged to separately rate content, narration, etc in order to help other potential readers sort out storyline from presentation. I'm sure that could be extended to books other than audio ones.
    When putting up reviews on public sites, I personally would never publish a 1 or 2* outcome. I probably haven't finished the book if I struggled this much with it, and it probably reflects a mismatch of some sort... my expectation vs reality, or my taste vs author's intent, or whatever. So I don't publish reviews of those grades (and fully expect that some folk consider this bizarre... why have a 5-point scale and never use 2 of them?!).
    Within the rest, my ratings mean:
    3* - I finished it but struggled, and cannot imagine rereading it
    4* - It had merit of lots of kinds, but somehow I wasn't pulled in to real immersion in the world
    5* - I loved it, expect to reread it sometime, and was sucked in to the imaginary world to the extent I can easily believe in its reality.

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