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Partial Completion

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About Partial Completion

After a respondent starts a survey, they have a certain amount of time allotted for them to complete the survey, regardless of the survey’s activation status or expiration dates. How much time the participant has is determined by the Partial Completion setting, found in the Survey Options.

the partial completion option in survey options

In this page, you will learn all about partial responses—how Qualtrics stores survey progress, how participants can return to finish a survey, and how partial responses are reported in the dataset.

Understanding Partial Responses

As a respondent progresses through a survey (navigates to the next page in a survey), the answers they input are securely sent to Qualtrics servers and stored as Responses in Progress. This saving happens automatically as they navigate to the next page—no need for respondents to click any sort of “Save” button.

However, please note that the responses are only saved as the respondent progresses to the next page of the survey. If you have a survey that is only on one page, Qualtrics would not be able to save any progress the respondent makes on the survey since there is not another page for the respondent to progress to. Instead, in this case, the respondent would have to complete their response in one sitting. Qualtrics recommends periodically adding page breaks in your survey to avoid this issue.

Qtip: Qualtrics doesn’t save empty responses, so if a participant hasn’t answered any questions and their response is closed, it will be deleted instead of saved in Recorded Responses. Likewise, if a one-page survey is started and not completed by a respondent but is then closed either manually or by the partial completion deadline, their response will be deleted (since no progress was saved). Be sure to add page breaks in your survey to ensure the respondent’s progress is periodically saved.
Attention: If there’s Embedded Data saved on a response or a Descriptive Text question at the beginning of your survey, the response will not be registered as empty. Because of this, the response will be saved after the partial completion runs out, even if no questions have been answered.

Once a participant completes the survey, their response is moved from Responses in Progress over to Recorded Responses, where it will show up in reports and in downloaded survey data.

If a participant closes their web browser without finishing the survey, the response will stay in Responses in Progress for a set amount of time, just in case the participant comes back to finish. This amount of time is the Partial Completion deadline. If the participant doesn’t come back within the allotted time frame, the response will automatically be closed as-is and moved over to Recorded Responses.

The Partial Completion setting in your Survey Options allows you to choose how long partial responses will remain in Responses in Progress before being closed and moved over to Recorded Responses.

Setting the Partial Completion Time Frame

  1. Open Survey Options in the Survey tab.
    Survey Options button in the toolbar
  2. Select what you’d like to happen when the Partial Completion deadline is met.
    Partial Completion settings at the bottom of the Survey Options

    • Record: Record the response when the deadline is met.
      Attention: Responses at 0% progress will be deleted, even if this option is set to record.
    • Delete: Delete the response when the deadline is met.
      Attention: If you choose Delete, then even responses in progress that you close manually or responses in progress that you close when deactivating the survey will be deleted!
  3. Select a time frame.
    Qtip: Whether you decide to record or delete, your options are 1 hour, 4 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, or a year.
  4. Choose when the Partial Completion time frame begins counting down. Your options include:
    • Last activity: When your respondent last edited their survey response.
      Example: Let’s say I set my Partial Completion settings to record partial responses one week after the respondent’s last activity. The respondent begins the survey on August 1. They close the survey without completing it, generating a response in progress. Their current Partial Completion deadline is August 8. The respondent revisits their response and edits it on August 5 but still does not complete their response. Their new Partial Completion deadline is August 12.
    • Start of survey: When your respondent first started the survey.
      Example: Let’s say I set my Partial Completion settings to record partial responses one week after the respondent starts the survey. I send out the survey on August 1 and the respondent begins their response on August 3 but does not finish it. The respondent has until August 10 to complete their response.
  5. Click Save.

Qtip: You can change your Partial Completion settings at any time, even when collecting data. However, be sure to publish your changes so they take effect!

Please note that the respondent’s Partial Completion timeframe is locked in place when they begin the survey. Conversely, the Record or Delete action is checked and applied when the response is closed. For example, if a respondent starts a response when the setting is set to “delete one week after last activity”, and you then change it to “record one month after last activity”, their response will still be closed after one week. However, it will be recorded instead of deleted due to the current action setting.

If you would like to see what the Partial Completion setting was at the time your respondent started the survey, look to your survey’s version history and compare the respondent’s start date to the published version of your survey at that time.

Qtip: If you are sending Reminder emails on your survey, it’s best practice to set the Partial Completion deadline greater than or equal to the length of the Reminder period.


For example, if you’re setting up your email invitation to send two Reminder emails, the first sending after 5 days and the second after 10 days, then you should configure your Partial Completion setting to be at least 10 days as well. With this set-up, users that open the survey on the first invitation but do not complete it will be able to resume their survey session when they receive their second Reminder email (because the survey hasn’t expired yet).

Saving Survey Progress

Each time a respondent switches pages in the survey, the answers they’ve provided so far are sent securely to Qualtrics servers, and saved as part of their partial response.

For participants who don’t finish the survey in one sitting, the Save and Continue feature can be used to retrieve their partial response so they can start right where they left off the next time they click the survey link.

Qtip: Save and Continue applies only to responses using the Anonymous Link. For those who received a survey invitation from the Qualtrics Mailer or are using a Personal Link, Save and Continue is not needed. The survey link each participant received identifies who they are, so they can return to the survey from any computer.

Save and Continue works by placing a cookie on the respondent’s browser. The next time the respondent clicks the survey link, Qualtrics sees this cookie and knows to load their previous survey progress.

Save and Continue works as long as the respondent returns to the survey on the same computer and on the same web browser, and has not cleared their browser cookies.

Save and Continue is turned on by default, but can be turned on or off.

To turn on/off Save and Continue

  1. Open Survey Options in the Survey tab.
    Survey Options button in the toolbar
  2. Select the Save and Continue checkbox.
    Survey Experience section of Survey Options with Save and Continue selected
Qtip: Make sure to publish your changes!

Partial Completion vs. Survey Expiration

The Survey Expiration date determines how long participants have to use survey links (Anonymous link, Email Campaign links, Personal links) to start new responses. Once the expiration date passes, all survey links will expire and no participant can start a new survey response.

However, participants who have already started their surveys will be able to complete their responses for a limited period of time. How long they have is determined by the Partial Completion setting.

Example: Let’s say Survey Expiration is set to 60 days and Partial Completion is set to 2 weeks. You receive your survey link and wait 55 days before clicking on it. As soon as you move past the first page (i.e., click the first “next” button), the Partial Completion setting takes over. You now have 2 weeks to finish taking the survey (even though the survey expires in 5 days). Through this means, participants can submit survey responses after a survey has expired or been deactivated.

Rather than rely on the Partial Completion setting, you can choose to close all responses in progress when you deactivate the survey. This will close all surveys regardless of Partial Completion status and stop anyone from submitting after that point.

Qtip: You can close individual Responses in Progress in the Data & Analysis tab.

Identifying Partial Responses in Your Data Set

If your partial completion setting is set to record partial responses, you may want to identify these responses in your data. This is easily done by filtering your responses by the Survey Metadata field Finished is False.

  1. Navigate to the Data section of the Data & Analysis tab.
    adding a filter to filter for partial responses
  2. Click Add Filter.
  3. Hover over Survey Metadata.
  4. Select Finished.
  5. Choose Is as the operator.
    filtering for finished is false
  6. Select False.
Qtip: Add a column for the Progress field to your data set to see how far into your survey your respondents got before dropping off. This can help inform where you may need to make edits to your survey to encourage respondents to keep going.
the progress column has been added into the data table by clicking tools and selecting the progress field
Qtip: If you’d like to see only completed responses, filter your data for Finished is True.