The Problem With The 5 Star Rating System

Posted October 7, 2016 by Michelle in Discussions / 6 Comments


The more books I read the more books I end up rating, such is life when you are a constant goodreads addict. Rating books used to be simple  but as time goes by I find it harder to rate books in comparison with other books.  One 5 star read might be a completely different 5 star in relation to another 5 star read, are you following? I think books can be a different level of amazing but how would I accurately portray this if all  I have is 5 Stars? Today I discuss my problems with the 5 star rating system and ask for your opinions on this topic.

The Tea and Titles  1-5 Star Scale

When we first set up our blog we, like many others established our own interpretations of the 5 star rating system. Below is what we had defined our 1-5 stars.

5 star – asfnasfknsdknflkdngjfdngfdbngb READ THIS NOW!

4 star – Very good book, you should probably read this. Only minor flaws.

3 star – The book was okay but not very memorable and probably wouldn’t read it again.

2 star – Not a very good book, major flaws. Wouldn’t recommend.

1 star – Either didn’t finish it or it had too many major flaws. I wouldn’t recommend it to my worst enemy.

5 Stars Is Not Enough

I like the 5 star rating system I really do, it’s effective and everyone understands/uses it. My problem with this system of rating is that I don’t think it fully covers the range of enjoyableness ( that’s a word now)  of a book and I know that many of us include half stars in our systems like 3.5 or 4.5. If we include half stars then why don’t we rate books between 1 and 10?

I find as I mentioned above that I can read two completely different books and they can be rated exactly the same, do they deserve to be rated the same? and are my feelings of the book really coming across?

Many people also consider a 3 star book to be bad, they consider it a negative rating when in actuality its supposed to be halfway between good and bad.  It’s not one or the other.

I am not a very harsh rater of books either, I almost never give books lower then a 3 star and I think this is because I am usually quite easily pleased and I never seem to find something so bad that it’s worthy of that low a rating.  I do notice a lot of other people rate more harshly and I wonder what their rating scale is like, we all use the 5 star system but inside our own minds this system means different things.

How Should We Rate Our Books?

I am not claiming to be an expert on any of this, obviously this is all just my opinion and I am pretty sure I am not making any sense and just jabbering on. Coming up with a different way to rate does not mean it’s the best way to rate or that the 5 star rating system is wrong, I just think it is problematic and would like to see some other ideas/methods.

For some more information on this topic I recommend reading Shannon form The Fault in Our blogs post


I’d love to hear what your thought are on the 5 star rating system, do you agree or disagree with me? How do you rate your books and what do you think we could do differently when rating books?

As always Cats and Wine for all!


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6 responses to “The Problem With The 5 Star Rating System

  1. I don’t really care much about the rating system. I mostly go with my gut. And like you said, 3 stars isn’t bad. It’s just not great either. I think it’s come to the point that I won’t invest my time on 400 pages if others have rated it 3 stars.

    So I guess that is why I like the rating system. But when I am using it, it’s hard. It’s all relative to what I read before. That’s why my rating is hidden on the blog post, so that people can focus on my review rather than the rating. That way, they know there’s more to it, and it’s not just a number!

  2. Seriously, sometimes I give two books the same rating, yet somehow my feelings about them are completely different, and I feel like I’m in this constant turmoil over whether my ratings are accurate lol. But they’re so subjective anyway, and that’s why I don’t pay too much attention to ratings. I read reviews instead and go by that since those actually do portray our feelings 🙂

    By the way, I don’t even have a description of my rating system on my blog because I ended up with like entire paragraphs for each one trying to explain my vast range of feelings and finally just gave up lol.

  3. Oh, I have soooo many different feelings on the 5-star rating system. I used to be very liberal with my five stars, but I think I’ve gotten stingier with them ever since I started blogging and reviewing more. Now five stars are only reserved for the best of the best, and 3.5 and 4 stars are more common with me. I so wish Goodreads would do half-star ratings, because at a glance, I can’t always tell what I was thinking at the time when I rated a book. But I hardly ever rate something a 4.5, because it seems silly to me to get it that close to 5 and not just bump it over. But 3.5 for whatever reason is totally fine by me. It might not totally make sense.

    Thank goodness for verbal reviews to explain our star ratings.

  4. Yep completely agree. A rating out of 10 would give more scope. I am a writer but first and foremost a reader and I frequently get irritated by 5 * reviews for really simply written books with little plot because they were’ a nice read’ and 3/4 * for amazing books because the characters and plot made a reader ‘feel’ some emotion… or the author didn’t take the story where the reader wanted it to go etc etc . It seems the more simplistic a book the higher the ratings. I agree it is completely subjective to the reader and individual but sometimes I get defensive for authors who have written amazing books and been marked down for calling up readers emotions and irritated by 5* reviews for books that are so simple and safe they verge on the ridiculous. Anyway rant over….!

  5. Mm, yeah, I think I agree with a lot of the things you mentioned. I use the five star rating system too, mostly because it seems like less of a hassle to use a system that everyone else already uses. But I just feel like there might not be a better way to rate books. Reviews and ratings are very subjective and ultimately different people interpret things differently. Like you said, three stars can be a not-good-not-bad rating or just a *bad* rating – it depends on the person! I think I used to give 3.5 or 4.5 stars before but I kind of gave up after awhile because it overcomplicated things and anyway, if I didn’t like a book enough to give it 5 stars, I didn’t see why I may as well give 4 stars. So basically, I just jabbered on too hahah (and I have no clue how we can improve/change the system).

  6. I actually don’t use a rating at all – people don’t seem to notice all that much, and I think it’s more valuable to provide information about the things that were good or bad in a book 🙂