Paired Comparison

Paired Comparison Analysis

Paired Comparison Analysis is an activity for evaluating a small range of options by comparing them against each other. It is useful and easy technique for rating and ranking alternatives where the evaluation criteria are subjective and difficult to measure. This is practically helpful when priorities aren’t clear enough, when alternatives are quite different from one another, or when there is little objective data to base our decision on.

Paired comparison can be used when choosing the most compelling problem to solve, or when selecting the solution that will be the most effective. It can also be used when selecting the most appropriate product idea or concept design before it goes into production. You may also use this tool to decide which computer application is the most appropriate to meet the needs, or what skills and qualifications are the most preferred when hiring people for a new role.

Paired Comparison Matrix
The Paired Comparison Matrix

How to Implement a Paired Comparison Analysis:

The following steps describe how to implement a paired comparison analysis:

  • Identify the options/alternatives to be evaluated and the evaluation criteria to help you make the decision (e.g. the most important, the most interesting, etc.).
  • List all alternatives on the left hand column and on the top row of the Paired Comparison Matrix.
  • In each blank cell of the matrix, compare the option in the row with the option in the column based on the identified criteria.
  • Write in the cell the option that better meets the criteria. You may also give a weighted score for each comparison where zero means no difference while 3 means major difference.
  • Repeat the process until all possible pairs are evaluated.
  • Count the number of times each option has been chosen.
  • Rank the options based on their count (or weighted score) then consider the options with the highest ranking.


As an example, let’s say that you want to decide how to spend your coming summer holidays and you have four specific ideas in mind. Use the paired comparison analysis to help you make this decision.


The following is an example that uses the paired comparison analysis to identify and rank the top motivators for a team.

Further Information:

  • The highest scoring option doesn’t mean that it is the most important. It provides however a basis for further thoughts and discussions.
  • When the exercise is implemented by a team, people should be selected based on their knowledge of the subject matter.
  • Paired comparison analysis becomes cumbersome once there is more than ten options to consider.