The outcomes of surveys of ‘the student experience’ that are sector‐wide, such as the National Student Survey in the UK and the Course Experience Questionnaire in Australia, are of considerable significance for intending students and institutions. Whilst they may satisfy psychometric criteria, some aspects of their design have been submitted to less attention than they warrant. The use – or non‐use – of negatively stated items in, and aspects of response style following the administration of, such instruments are reviewed. An empirical study follows up some of the issues that are discussed. The article as a whole evidences grounds for both comfort and discomfort on the part of those who construct and administer such surveys.