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This document provides definitions and some results for tests that detect the presence of a

condition (a test result is either positive or negative, which may be true or false).

Definition 1. A true positive test result is one that detects the condition when the

condition is present.

Definition 2. A true negative test result is one that does not detect the condition when

the condition is absent.

Definition 3. A false positive test result is one that detects the condition when the

condition is absent.

Definition 4. A false negative test result is one that does not detect the condition when

the condition is present.

condition

present absent

positive

true false

positive positive

Test

negative

false true

negative negative

Let TP denote the number of true positives, TN the number of true negatives, FP the

number of false positives, and FN the number of false negatives.

Definition 5. Sensitivity measures the ability of a test to detect the condition when the

condition is present. Thus, Sensitivity = TP/(TP+FN).

Definition 6. Specificity measures the ability of a test to correctly exclude the condition

(not detect the condition) when the condition is absent. Thus, Specificity = TN/(TN+FP).

the presence of the condition. Thus, Predictive value positive = TP/(TP+FP).

the absence of the condition. Thus, Predictive value negative = TN/(TN+FN).

Condition condition

present Absent Present absent

Positive

positive

positive positive positive positive

test

test

negative

negative

False True False true

negative negative negative negative

Sensitivity Specificity

Condition condition

present Absent Present absent

positive

positive

positive positive positive positive

test

test

negative

negative

negative negative negative negative

Definition 9. A parallel combination of tests is a test that is positive if at least one of

the combining tests is positive; otherwise it is negative (alternative definition: a parallel

combination of tests is a test that is negative only if all the combining tests are negative;

otherwise it is positive).

Definition 10. A series combination of tests is a test that is negative if at least one of the

combining tests is negative; otherwise it is positive (alternative definition: a series

combination of tests is a test that is positive only if all the combining tests are positive;

otherwise it is negative).

Definition 10. Two (or more) tests are independent if the result of any of the tests does

not depend on the result of the other test(s).

independent tests are

respectively, where SEN i is the sensitivity and SPEi the specificity of the i -th

combining test.

Comment: It is not difficult to show that SEN SEN i and SPE SPEi for i = 1, K, N .

Thus, a parallel combination of tests increases the sensitivity and decreases the

specificity.

independent tests are

respectively, where SEN i is the sensitivity and SPEi the specificity of the i -th

combining test.

Comment: It is not difficult to show that SEN SEN i and SPE SPEi for i = 1, K, N .

Thus, a series combination of tests decreases the sensitivity and increases the specificity.

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