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Vince Migliore

www.BlossomHillBooks.com

**Statistics: Understanding the Student’s T-Test
**

Vince Migliore Are you challenged by all the odd names, formulas, and concepts that go into understanding 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 approach that 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 height in inches of the entire student body. There are four groups we are interested in: Honor Roll students Cheerleaders Jockey Club students, and The basketball team. They each have their heights charted in Figure 1. Just think about these groups. If you can get the basics of these four groups in your head, you are 99% of the way toward understanding the tests. The Honor Roll Students. We’d expect them to be all different heights, and be pretty much the same spread from short to tall as the entire student population. (See the Blue distribution.) 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 Mean as the other students. Cheerleaders. We’d expect them to be mixed heights, but in this case the coach wants a chorus line effect with most of the girls about the same height. So their average height is near the overall student average height, but they are pretty much bunched up in the middle. There are no very short or very tall girls in this group. (See the Green distribution.) Again, in stat talk, you’d say they have a different Standard Deviation, because they are all of similar heights. Their Mean height, though, is close to the student average. 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 Magenta distribution.) The jockeys have a narrow spread in heights, and therefore a smaller Standard Deviation, and a lower than average Mean height. Basketball Team. The basketball players are much taller than the other groups, and they too have a narrow range of heights. (See the Moss-green distribution.) They also have a smaller Standard Deviation, but a taller than average Mean height.

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T-Test Tutorial

Vince Migliore

www.BlossomHillBooks.com

Now look at Figure 1, and translate those ideas of the Standard Deviation and the Mean to the different colored groups. Here’s the basic rule: Two groups are different statistically 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 Deviations are 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 similar Standard Deviations AND similar Means. We expect therefore to see no difference in the groups statistically. 2. Honor Roll students compared to Cheerleaders should have different Standard Deviations (remember the coach wanted all of them to be similar heights), but about the same Mean height. They should then show significance when looking at the Standard Deviations. 3. Jockeys compared to the basketball team should show pretty similar Standard Deviations, but different Mean heights. They will different statistically based on their average height. 4. Honor Roll students compared to the basketball team should show differences in both the Standard Deviations AND the Mean heights. This last example is pictured in Figure 2, which shows typical output from the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS, Chicago, IL). There are two boxes in the SPSS output. The top box shows the values for Standard Deviations and Means for the two groups that are being compared. The lower box shows the significance tests. In commercial surveys, the standard confidence interval is 95%, so you would require the P value to be 0.05 or less for significance. In academic or other studies, the confidence level 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. In the real world, we often find differences in two groups that are not quite so clear cut. We have close calls. That is where the confidence levels come in to play, and you have to look at all the results for the Means, the Standard Deviations, and the significance values to determine if and where statistical differences occur. Look at Figure 2, and see how the numbers represent the shape and location of the distributions 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 four student groups, and how their statistics compare, then you will be able to comprehend any T-test result. See, it’s not that difficult!

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T-Test Tutorial

Vince Migliore

www.BlossomHillBooks.com

Figure 1. Student sub-groups.

Figure 2. Typical output from SPSS T-test.

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T-Test Tutorial

Vince Migliore

www.BlossomHillBooks.com

Vince Migliore is a Market Research Analyst. at the bottom.

Contact Info. Vince Migliore Blossom Hill Books www.BlossomHillBooks@aol.com Email: BlossomHillBooks@aol.com

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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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