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Statistics: Student's T-Test

Statistics: Student's T-Test

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Published by Vince Migliore
Get a grip on one of the most fundamental statistical processes: the Student's T-Test. A simple, clear example shows you what the terms mean, and how to judge significant differences.
Get a grip on one of the most fundamental statistical processes: the Student's T-Test. A simple, clear example shows you what the terms mean, and how to judge significant differences.

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Published by: Vince Migliore on Oct 09, 2009
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T-Test Tutorial Vince Migliore www.BlossomHillBooks.comtabcity@aol.com 1
Statistics: Understanding the Student
s T-Test
Vince MiglioreAre you challenged by all the odd names, formulas, and concepts that go intounderstanding statistics? Well, here is a simple, pictorial method for understanding one of the most common tests in research, the
Student’s T
test. We’ll use a no
-math approachthat will help you read and understand statistical significance testing. With just four basic
examples, you’ll be up and running in no time.
Let’s look at a High School in Kentucky. We have measured the heigh
t in inches of theentire student body. There are four groups we are interested in:
Honor Roll students
Jockey Club students, and
The basketball team.They each have their heights charted in Figure 1. Just think about these groups. If you canget the basics of these four groups in your head, you are 99% of the way towardunderstanding the tests.
The Honor Roll Students.
We’d expect them to be all different height
s, and be prettymuch the same spread from short to tall as the entire student population. (See the Bluedistribution.) In the language of statistics, we would say they have much the same spread,or
Standard Deviation
as the total student body, and about the same average height, or
as the other students.
We’d expect them to
be mixed heights, but in this case the coach wants achorus line effect with most of the girls about the same height. So their average height isnear the overall student average height, but they are pretty much bunched up in themiddle. There are no very short or very tall girls in this group. (See the Greendistribution.)
Again, in stat talk, you’d say they have a different
Standard Deviation
,because they are all of similar heights. Their
height, though, is close to the studentaverage.
Jockey Club Students.
Here we have very light weight, and therefore short students.These students are also bunched up around a very low average height. (See the Magentadistribution.) The jockeys have a narrow spread in heights, and therefore a smaller
Standard Deviation
, and a lower than average
Basketball Team.
The basketball players are much taller than the other groups, and theytoo have a narrow range of heights. (See the Moss-green distribution.) They also have asmaller
Standard Deviation
, but a taller than average
T-Test Tutorial Vince Migliore www.BlossomHillBooks.comtabcity@aol.com 2Now look at Figure 1, and translate those ideas of the Standard Deviation and the Meanto the different colored groups.
Here’s the basic rule:
Two groups are differentstatistically if their Means (average heights) are different, if their Standard Deviations(spread from short to tall) are different, or if both their Means AND Standard Deviationsare different.Here are the four examples that will bring it home to you:1.
Honor Roll students compared to all the other students should have similarStandard Deviations AND similar Means. We expect therefore to see nodifference in the groups statistically.2.
Honor Roll students compared to Cheerleaders should have different StandardDeviations (remember the coach wanted all of them to be similar heights), butabout the same Mean height. They should then show significance when looking atthe Standard Deviations.3.
Jockeys compared to the basketball team should show pretty similar StandardDeviations, but different Mean heights. They will different statistically based ontheir average height.4.
Honor Roll students compared to the basketball team should show differences inboth the Standard Deviations AND the Mean heights.This last example is pictured in Figure 2, which shows typical output from the StatisticalPackage for the Social Sciences (SPSS, Chicago, IL). There are two boxes in the SPSSoutput. The top box shows the values for Standard Deviations and Means for the twogroups that are being compared. The lower box shows the significance tests. Incommercial surveys, the standard confidence interval is 95%, so you would require the Pvalue to be 0.05 or less for significance. In academic or other studies, the confidencelevel may be different, such as 98% (P<.02) or 90% (P<.10).Since these examples use very different populations, the P value is quite low, at .000. Inthe real world, we often find differences in two groups that are not quite so clear cut. Wehave close calls. That is where the confidence levels come in to play, and you have tolook at all the results for the Means, the Standard Deviations, and the significance valuesto determine if and where statistical differences occur.Look at Figure 2, and see how the numbers represent the shape and location of thedistributions in Figure 1. Simply ask yourself, which of the four sample groups is closest
to what I’m seeing in my test group? Are the Means different? Are the Standard
Deviations different? Are both different? Once you have an understanding of these fourstudent groups, and how their statistics compare, then you will be able to comprehendany T-test result.
See, it’s not that difficult!
T-Test Tutorial Vince Migliore www.BlossomHillBooks.comtabcity@aol.com 3Figure 1. Student sub-groups.Figure 2. Typical output from SPSS T-test.

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