The Fault in Our Star Rating System

Thursday, July 06, 2017

The star rating system is everywhere. When we want to rate books, most of us use the star rating system. However, there are some major issues with the system.

Is it 5 stars or 10 stars?

I’ve noticed this mostly in newspapers but it can happen around the blogosphere too. I’ll be reading a movie or book review in one paper and it will give a 4 out of 5 stars to the movie or book. Another paper will give it a 7 out of 10 stars. Can’t we all just use the same star system? It is beyond confusing.

 confused minions despicable me GIF

The big issue here is the 10 star rating system is, by far, the better system. It has a larger scope of numbers to work with. Whereas, the 5 star rating system leaves too little of numbers to rate the books with.

What about half stars and decimals?

And that brings me to half stars and decimals. Why doesn’t Goodreads allow us to give half stars? Not every book I read is a 3 or a 4, sometimes it’s a little greater than just a solid 3—maybe a 3.4 or 3.7. Giving book ratings half stars or decimal points will make it easier to understand what the rating truly is.

Same stars are not created equal

You may have 10 books that are all 3 stars but 3 stars for 1 book is a different 3 stars than that other book. You rated it 3 for a variety of reasons. I read a book recently and it got a 3 because it was a bit slow, lacked character development but had fantastic world building. However, the book that I read last month got a 3 because it didn’t live up to my expectations, had a rushed ending but perfect characters. Not every book is going to have 3 stars because this, this, and this. Rating systems are about opinions.

When rating, always keep in mind to stay consistent. As a reader, I always give myself 24 hours after reading to give the book a rating. I want to be sure that this is how I truly feel, rather than get caught up in that cliffhanger that left me twisted or on the edge of my seat.

Every person will have their own system

Similar to your 3 not entirely matching another 3 starred book you read, your 3 stars will not match another person’s 3 stars.

I know a lot of people, myself included, who read books based on reviews, recommendations. Goodreads gives us the average of its reviewers’ ratings right next to the title of the book. How can we not be swayed to read a 4.09 rated book opposed to a 3.39 rated book? However, just because a lot of people loved the book, it doesn’t mean that you will love it too.

For example, there's a hype surrounding The Conqueror's Saga since the sequel just came out last week. I read And I Darken and gave it 2 stars; it wasn't for me. However, it received an average of 3.93 from all the reviews on Goodreads. I was surprised to find myself with an unpopular opinion.

To avoid picking up a book you may not like, focus on specific reviewers that you trust. Choose to follow those bloggers that read the same books as you do, that have rated books the same way you have.

So what can we do?

There are some faults with our star rating system. So, what can we do about it? We could change the way we rate books. Try to delve deeper into what makes a book a 3 opposed to what makes a book a 2 for you. We could even switch from using stars to using percentages like in grade school. Using the education rating system, it will give us a better scope of how to differentiate between each rating. After all the 5-star rating system only has 5 stars.

Papa John’s  happy cute pizza school GIF

Have you noticed any more faults in the star rating system that I didn’t mention? What rating system do you use? Does it work for you?

You Might Also Like


  1. The problem that I have is that I use half-stars and Goodreads doesn't, so I have to make the decision to round up or down when I'm cross-posting reviews, which opens up a whole other can of worms! But yeah, there is a lot of inconsistency - I've seen books assigned letter grades, stars, half-stars, and some bloggers don't give a rating at all in their review!

  2. I've noticed the faults in s star system when I discuss books with my best friend, or read her reviews on her blog. I tend to use a 5 star system but she uses a 10. Its almost like we need our own system!

  3. I've looked back at some of my reviews and realized I may have been too generous with some of my ratings. I think I'll try waiting the 24 hours and see what happens from now on (or at least an hour or two).