Two Sample t-test: Definition, Formula, and Example

A two sample t-test is used to determine whether or not two population means are equal.

This tutorial explains the following:

  • The motivation for performing a two sample t-test.
  • The formula to perform a two sample t-test.
  • The assumptions that should be met to perform a two sample t-test.
  • An example of how to perform a two sample t-test.

Two Sample t-test: Motivation

Suppose we want to know whether or not the mean weight between two different species of turtles is equal. Since there are thousands of turtles in each population, it would be too time-consuming and costly to go around and weigh each individual turtle.

Instead, we might take a simple random sample of 15 turtles from each population and use the mean weight in each sample to determine if the mean weight is equal between the two populations:

Two sample t-test example

However, it’s virtually guaranteed that the mean weight between the two samples will be at least a little different. The question is whether or not this difference is statistically significant . Fortunately, a two sample t-test allows us to answer this question.

Two Sample t-test: Formula

A two-sample t-test always uses the following null hypothesis:

  • H 0 : μ 1  = μ 2 (the two population means are equal)

The alternative hypothesis can be either two-tailed, left-tailed, or right-tailed:

  • H 1 (two-tailed): μ 1  ≠ μ 2 (the two population means are not equal)
  • H 1 (left-tailed): μ 1  2 (population 1 mean is less than population 2 mean)
  • H 1 (right-tailed):  μ 1 > μ 2  (population 1 mean is greater than population 2 mean)

We use the following formula to calculate the test statistic t:

Test statistic:  ( x 1  –  x 2 )  /  s p (√ 1/n 1  + 1/n 2 )

where  x 1  and  x 2 are the sample means, n 1 and n 2  are the sample sizes, and where s p is calculated as:

s p = √  (n 1 -1)s 1 2  +  (n 2 -1)s 2 2  /  (n 1 +n 2 -2)

where s 1 2  and s 2 2  are the sample variances.

If the p-value that corresponds to the test statistic t with (n 1 +n 2 -1) degrees of freedom is less than your chosen significance level (common choices are 0.10, 0.05, and 0.01) then you can reject the null hypothesis.

Two Sample t-test: Assumptions

For the results of a two sample t-test to be valid, the following assumptions should be met:

  • The observations in one sample should be independent of the observations in the other sample.
  • The data should be approximately normally distributed.
  • The two samples should have approximately the same variance. If this assumption is not met, you should instead perform Welch’s t-test .
  • The data in both samples was obtained using a random sampling method .

Two Sample t-test : Example

Suppose we want to know whether or not the mean weight between two different species of turtles is equal. To test this, will perform a two sample t-test at significance level α = 0.05 using the following steps:

Step 1: Gather the sample data.

Suppose we collect a random sample of turtles from each population with the following information:

  • Sample size n 1 = 40
  • Sample mean weight  x 1  = 300
  • Sample standard deviation s 1 = 18.5
  • Sample size n 2 = 38
  • Sample mean weight  x 2  = 305
  • Sample standard deviation s 2 = 16.7

Step 2: Define the hypotheses.

We will perform the two sample t-test with the following hypotheses:

  • H 0 :  μ 1  = μ 2 (the two population means are equal)
  • H 1 :  μ 1  ≠ μ 2 (the two population means are not equal)

Step 3: Calculate the test statistic  t .

First, we will calculate the pooled standard deviation s p :

s p = √  (n 1 -1)s 1 2  +  (n 2 -1)s 2 2  /  (n 1 +n 2 -2)  = √  (40-1)18.5 2  +  (38-1)16.7 2  /  (40+38-2)  = 17.647

Next, we will calculate the test statistic  t :

t = ( x 1  –  x 2 )  /  s p (√ 1/n 1  + 1/n 2 ) =  (300-305) / 17.647(√ 1/40 + 1/38 ) =  -1.2508

Step 4: Calculate the p-value of the test statistic  t .

According to the T Score to P Value Calculator , the p-value associated with t = -1.2508 and degrees of freedom = n 1 +n 2 -2 = 40+38-2 = 76 is  0.21484 .

Step 5: Draw a conclusion.

Since this p-value is not less than our significance level α = 0.05, we fail to reject the null hypothesis. We do not have sufficient evidence to say that the mean weight of turtles between these two populations is different.

Note:  You can also perform this entire two sample t-test by simply using the Two Sample t-test Calculator .

Additional Resources

The following tutorials explain how to perform a two-sample t-test using different statistical programs:

How to Perform a Two Sample t-test in Excel How to Perform a Two Sample t-test in SPSS How to Perform a Two Sample t-test in Stata How to Perform a Two Sample t-test in R How to Perform a Two Sample t-test in Python How to Perform a Two Sample t-test on a TI-84 Calculator

An Introduction to the Binomial Distribution

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The Two-Sample t -Test

What is the two-sample t -test.

The two-sample t -test (also known as the independent samples t -test) is a method used to test whether the unknown population means of two groups are equal or not.

Is this the same as an A/B test?

Yes, a two-sample t -test is used to analyze the results from A/B tests.

When can I use the test?

You can use the test when your data values are independent, are randomly sampled from two normal populations and the two independent groups have equal variances.

What if I have more than two groups?

Use a multiple comparison method. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) is one such method. Other multiple comparison methods include the Tukey-Kramer test of all pairwise differences, analysis of means (ANOM) to compare group means to the overall mean or Dunnett’s test to compare each group mean to a control mean.

What if the variances for my two groups are not equal?

You can still use the two-sample t- test. You use a different estimate of the standard deviation. 

What if my data isn’t nearly normally distributed?

If your sample sizes are very small, you might not be able to test for normality. You might need to rely on your understanding of the data. When you cannot safely assume normality, you can perform a nonparametric test that doesn’t assume normality.

See how to perform a two-sample t -test using statistical software

  • Download JMP to follow along using the sample data included with the software.
  • To see more JMP tutorials, visit the JMP Learning Library .

Using the two-sample t -test

The sections below discuss what is needed to perform the test, checking our data, how to perform the test and statistical details.

What do we need?

For the two-sample t -test, we need two variables. One variable defines the two groups. The second variable is the measurement of interest.

We also have an idea, or hypothesis, that the means of the underlying populations for the two groups are different. Here are a couple of examples:

  • We have students who speak English as their first language and students who do not. All students take a reading test. Our two groups are the native English speakers and the non-native speakers. Our measurements are the test scores. Our idea is that the mean test scores for the underlying populations of native and non-native English speakers are not the same. We want to know if the mean score for the population of native English speakers is different from the people who learned English as a second language.
  • We measure the grams of protein in two different brands of energy bars. Our two groups are the two brands. Our measurement is the grams of protein for each energy bar. Our idea is that the mean grams of protein for the underlying populations for the two brands may be different. We want to know if we have evidence that the mean grams of protein for the two brands of energy bars is different or not.

Two-sample t -test assumptions

To conduct a valid test:

  • Data values must be independent. Measurements for one observation do not affect measurements for any other observation.
  • Data in each group must be obtained via a random sample from the population.
  • Data in each group are normally distributed .
  • Data values are continuous.
  • The variances for the two independent groups are equal.

For very small groups of data, it can be hard to test these requirements. Below, we'll discuss how to check the requirements using software and what to do when a requirement isn’t met.

Two-sample t -test example

One way to measure a person’s fitness is to measure their body fat percentage. Average body fat percentages vary by age, but according to some guidelines, the normal range for men is 15-20% body fat, and the normal range for women is 20-25% body fat.

Our sample data is from a group of men and women who did workouts at a gym three times a week for a year. Then, their trainer measured the body fat. The table below shows the data.

Table 1: Body fat percentage data grouped by gender

You can clearly see some overlap in the body fat measurements for the men and women in our sample, but also some differences. Just by looking at the data, it's hard to draw any solid conclusions about whether the underlying populations of men and women at the gym have the same mean body fat. That is the value of statistical tests – they provide a common, statistically valid way to make decisions, so that everyone makes the same decision on the same set of data values.

Checking the data

Let’s start by answering: Is the two-sample t -test an appropriate method to evaluate the difference in body fat between men and women?

  • The data values are independent. The body fat for any one person does not depend on the body fat for another person.
  • We assume the people measured represent a simple random sample from the population of members of the gym.
  • We assume the data are normally distributed, and we can check this assumption.
  • The data values are body fat measurements. The measurements are continuous.
  • We assume the variances for men and women are equal, and we can check this assumption.

Before jumping into analysis, we should always take a quick look at the data. The figure below shows histograms and summary statistics for the men and women.

Histogram and summary statistics for the body fat data

The two histograms are on the same scale. From a quick look, we can see that there are no very unusual points, or outliers . The data look roughly bell-shaped, so our initial idea of a normal distribution seems reasonable.

Examining the summary statistics, we see that the standard deviations are similar. This supports the idea of equal variances. We can also check this using a test for variances.

Based on these observations, the two-sample t -test appears to be an appropriate method to test for a difference in means.

How to perform the two-sample t -test

For each group, we need the average, standard deviation and sample size. These are shown in the table below.

Table 2: Average, standard deviation and sample size statistics grouped by gender

Without doing any testing, we can see that the averages for men and women in our samples are not the same. But how different are they? Are the averages “close enough” for us to conclude that mean body fat is the same for the larger population of men and women at the gym? Or are the averages too different for us to make this conclusion?

We'll further explain the principles underlying the two sample t -test in the statistical details section below, but let's first proceed through the steps from beginning to end. We start by calculating our test statistic. This calculation begins with finding the difference between the two averages:

$ 22.29 - 14.95 = 7.34 $

This difference in our samples estimates the difference between the population means for the two groups.

Next, we calculate the pooled standard deviation. This builds a combined estimate of the overall standard deviation. The estimate adjusts for different group sizes. First, we calculate the pooled variance:

$ s_p^2 = \frac{((n_1 - 1)s_1^2) + ((n_2 - 1)s_2^2)} {n_1 + n_2 - 2} $

$ s_p^2 = \frac{((10 - 1)5.32^2) + ((13 - 1)6.84^2)}{(10 + 13 - 2)} $

$ = \frac{(9\times28.30) + (12\times46.82)}{21} $

$ = \frac{(254.7 + 561.85)}{21} $

$ =\frac{816.55}{21} = 38.88 $

Next, we take the square root of the pooled variance to get the pooled standard deviation. This is:

$ \sqrt{38.88} = 6.24 $

We now have all the pieces for our test statistic. We have the difference of the averages, the pooled standard deviation and the sample sizes.  We calculate our test statistic as follows:

$ t = \frac{\text{difference of group averages}}{\text{standard error of difference}} = \frac{7.34}{(6.24\times \sqrt{(1/10 + 1/13)})} = \frac{7.34}{2.62} = 2.80 $

To evaluate the difference between the means in order to make a decision about our gym programs, we compare the test statistic to a theoretical value from the t- distribution. This activity involves four steps:

  • We decide on the risk we are willing to take for declaring a significant difference. For the body fat data, we decide that we are willing to take a 5% risk of saying that the unknown population means for men and women are not equal when they really are. In statistics-speak, the significance level, denoted by α, is set to 0.05. It is a good practice to make this decision before collecting the data and before calculating test statistics.
  • We calculate a test statistic. Our test statistic is 2.80.
  • We find the theoretical value from the t- distribution based on our null hypothesis which states that the means for men and women are equal. Most statistics books have look-up tables for the t- distribution. You can also find tables online. The most likely situation is that you will use software and will not use printed tables. To find this value, we need the significance level (α = 0.05) and the degrees of freedom . The degrees of freedom ( df ) are based on the sample sizes of the two groups. For the body fat data, this is: $ df = n_1 + n_2 - 2 = 10 + 13 - 2 = 21 $ The t value with α = 0.05 and 21 degrees of freedom is 2.080.
  • We compare the value of our statistic (2.80) to the t value. Since 2.80 > 2.080, we reject the null hypothesis that the mean body fat for men and women are equal, and conclude that we have evidence body fat in the population is different between men and women.

Statistical details

Let’s look at the body fat data and the two-sample t -test using statistical terms.

Our null hypothesis is that the underlying population means are the same. The null hypothesis is written as:

$ H_o:  \mathrm{\mu_1} =\mathrm{\mu_2} $

The alternative hypothesis is that the means are not equal. This is written as:

$ H_o:  \mathrm{\mu_1} \neq \mathrm{\mu_2} $

We calculate the average for each group, and then calculate the difference between the two averages. This is written as:

$\overline{x_1} -  \overline{x_2} $

We calculate the pooled standard deviation. This assumes that the underlying population variances are equal. The pooled variance formula is written as:

The formula shows the sample size for the first group as n 1 and the second group as n 2 . The standard deviations for the two groups are s 1 and s 2 . This estimate allows the two groups to have different numbers of observations. The pooled standard deviation is the square root of the variance and is written as s p .

What if your sample sizes for the two groups are the same? In this situation, the pooled estimate of variance is simply the average of the variances for the two groups:

$ s_p^2 = \frac{(s_1^2 + s_2^2)}{2} $

The test statistic is calculated as:

$ t = \frac{(\overline{x_1} -\overline{x_2})}{s_p\sqrt{1/n_1 + 1/n_2}} $

The numerator of the test statistic is the difference between the two group averages. It estimates the difference between the two unknown population means. The denominator is an estimate of the standard error of the difference between the two unknown population means. 

Technical Detail: For a single mean, the standard error is $ s/\sqrt{n} $  . The formula above extends this idea to two groups that use a pooled estimate for s (standard deviation), and that can have different group sizes.

We then compare the test statistic to a t value with our chosen alpha value and the degrees of freedom for our data. Using the body fat data as an example, we set α = 0.05. The degrees of freedom ( df ) are based on the group sizes and are calculated as:

$ df = n_1 + n_2 - 2 = 10 + 13 - 2 = 21 $

The formula shows the sample size for the first group as n 1 and the second group as n 2 .  Statisticians write the t value with α = 0.05 and 21 degrees of freedom as:

$ t_{0.05,21} $

The t value with α = 0.05 and 21 degrees of freedom is 2.080. There are two possible results from our comparison:

  • The test statistic is lower than the t value. You fail to reject the hypothesis of equal means. You conclude that the data support the assumption that the men and women have the same average body fat.
  • The test statistic is higher than the t value. You reject the hypothesis of equal means. You do not conclude that men and women have the same average body fat.

t -Test with unequal variances

When the variances for the two groups are not equal, we cannot use the pooled estimate of standard deviation. Instead, we take the standard error for each group separately. The test statistic is:

$ t = \frac{ (\overline{x_1} -  \overline{x_2})}{\sqrt{s_1^2/n_1 + s_2^2/n_2}} $

The numerator of the test statistic is the same. It is the difference between the averages of the two groups. The denominator is an estimate of the overall standard error of the difference between means. It is based on the separate standard error for each group.

The degrees of freedom calculation for the t value is more complex with unequal variances than equal variances and is usually left up to statistical software packages. The key point to remember is that if you cannot use the pooled estimate of standard deviation, then you cannot use the simple formula for the degrees of freedom.

Testing for normality

The normality assumption is more important   when the two groups have small sample sizes than for larger sample sizes.

Normal distributions are symmetric, which means they are “even” on both sides of the center. Normal distributions do not have extreme values, or outliers. You can check these two features of a normal distribution with graphs. Earlier, we decided that the body fat data was “close enough” to normal to go ahead with the assumption of normality. The figure below shows a normal quantile plot for men and women, and supports our decision.

 Normal quantile plot of the body fat measurements for men and women

You can also perform a formal test for normality using software. The figure above shows results of testing for normality with JMP software. We test each group separately. Both the test for men and the test for women show that we cannot reject the hypothesis of a normal distribution. We can go ahead with the assumption that the body fat data for men and for women are normally distributed.

Testing for unequal variances

Testing for unequal variances is complex. We won’t show the calculations in detail, but will show the results from JMP software. The figure below shows results of a test for unequal variances for the body fat data.

Test for unequal variances for the body fat data

Without diving into details of the different types of tests for unequal variances, we will use the F test. Before testing, we decide to accept a 10% risk of concluding the variances are equal when they are not. This means we have set α = 0.10.

Like most statistical software, JMP shows the p -value for a test. This is the likelihood of finding a more extreme value for the test statistic than the one observed. It’s difficult to calculate by hand. For the figure above, with the F test statistic of 1.654, the p- value is 0.4561. This is larger than our α value: 0.4561 > 0.10. We fail to reject the hypothesis of equal variances. In practical terms, we can go ahead with the two-sample t -test with the assumption of equal variances for the two groups.

Understanding p-values

Using a visual, you can check to see if your test statistic is a more extreme value in the distribution. The figure below shows a t- distribution with 21 degrees of freedom.

t-distribution with 21 degrees of freedom and α = .05

Since our test is two-sided and we have set α = .05, the figure shows that the value of 2.080 “cuts off” 2.5% of the data in each of the two tails. Only 5% of the data overall is further out in the tails than 2.080. Because our test statistic of 2.80 is beyond the cut-off point, we reject the null hypothesis of equal means.

Putting it all together with software

The figure below shows results for the two-sample t -test for the body fat data from JMP software.

Results for the two-sample t-test from JMP software

The results for the two-sample t -test that assumes equal variances are the same as our calculations earlier. The test statistic is 2.79996. The software shows results for a two-sided test and for one-sided tests. The two-sided test is what we want (Prob > |t|). Our null hypothesis is that the mean body fat for men and women is equal. Our alternative hypothesis is that the mean body fat is not equal. The one-sided tests are for one-sided alternative hypotheses – for example, for a null hypothesis that mean body fat for men is less than that for women.

We can reject the hypothesis of equal mean body fat for the two groups and conclude that we have evidence body fat differs in the population between men and women. The software shows a p -value of 0.0107. We decided on a 5% risk of concluding the mean body fat for men and women are different, when they are not. It is important to make this decision before doing the statistical test.

The figure also shows the results for the t- test that does not assume equal variances. This test does not use the pooled estimate of the standard deviation. As was mentioned above, this test also has a complex formula for degrees of freedom. You can see that the degrees of freedom are 20.9888. The software shows a p- value of 0.0086. Again, with our decision of a 5% risk, we can reject the null hypothesis of equal mean body fat for men and women.

Other topics

If you have more than two independent groups, you cannot use the two-sample t- test. You should use a multiple comparison   method. ANOVA, or analysis of variance, is one such method. Other multiple comparison methods include the Tukey-Kramer test of all pairwise differences, analysis of means (ANOM) to compare group means to the overall mean or Dunnett’s test to compare each group mean to a control mean.

What if my data are not from normal distributions?

If your sample size is very small, it might be hard to test for normality. In this situation, you might need to use your understanding of the measurements. For example, for the body fat data, the trainer knows that the underlying distribution of body fat is normally distributed. Even for a very small sample, the trainer would likely go ahead with the t -test and assume normality.

What if you know the underlying measurements are not normally distributed? Or what if your sample size is large and the test for normality is rejected? In this situation, you can use nonparametric analyses. These types of analyses do not depend on an assumption that the data values are from a specific distribution. For the two-sample t ­-test, the Wilcoxon rank sum test is a nonparametric test that could be used.

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  • Knowledge Base

An Introduction to t Tests | Definitions, Formula and Examples

Published on January 31, 2020 by Rebecca Bevans . Revised on June 22, 2023.

A t test is a statistical test that is used to compare the means of two groups. It is often used in hypothesis testing to determine whether a process or treatment actually has an effect on the population of interest, or whether two groups are different from one another.

  • The null hypothesis ( H 0 ) is that the true difference between these group means is zero.
  • The alternate hypothesis ( H a ) is that the true difference is different from zero.

Table of contents

When to use a t test, what type of t test should i use, performing a t test, interpreting test results, presenting the results of a t test, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about t tests.

A t test can only be used when comparing the means of two groups (a.k.a. pairwise comparison). If you want to compare more than two groups, or if you want to do multiple pairwise comparisons, use an   ANOVA test  or a post-hoc test.

The t test is a parametric test of difference, meaning that it makes the same assumptions about your data as other parametric tests. The t test assumes your data:

  • are independent
  • are (approximately) normally distributed
  • have a similar amount of variance within each group being compared (a.k.a. homogeneity of variance)

If your data do not fit these assumptions, you can try a nonparametric alternative to the t test, such as the Wilcoxon Signed-Rank test for data with unequal variances .

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When choosing a t test, you will need to consider two things: whether the groups being compared come from a single population or two different populations, and whether you want to test the difference in a specific direction.

What type of t-test should I use

One-sample, two-sample, or paired t test?

  • If the groups come from a single population (e.g., measuring before and after an experimental treatment), perform a paired t test . This is a within-subjects design .
  • If the groups come from two different populations (e.g., two different species, or people from two separate cities), perform a two-sample t test (a.k.a. independent t test ). This is a between-subjects design .
  • If there is one group being compared against a standard value (e.g., comparing the acidity of a liquid to a neutral pH of 7), perform a one-sample t test .

One-tailed or two-tailed t test?

  • If you only care whether the two populations are different from one another, perform a two-tailed t test .
  • If you want to know whether one population mean is greater than or less than the other, perform a one-tailed t test.
  • Your observations come from two separate populations (separate species), so you perform a two-sample t test.
  • You don’t care about the direction of the difference, only whether there is a difference, so you choose to use a two-tailed t test.

The t test estimates the true difference between two group means using the ratio of the difference in group means over the pooled standard error of both groups. You can calculate it manually using a formula, or use statistical analysis software.

T test formula

The formula for the two-sample t test (a.k.a. the Student’s t-test) is shown below.

\begin{equation*}t=\dfrac{\bar{x}_{1}-\bar{x}_{2}}{\sqrt{(s^2(\frac{1}{n_{1}}+\frac{1}{n_{2}}))}}}\end{equation*}

In this formula, t is the t value, x 1 and x 2 are the means of the two groups being compared, s 2 is the pooled standard error of the two groups, and n 1 and n 2 are the number of observations in each of the groups.

A larger t value shows that the difference between group means is greater than the pooled standard error, indicating a more significant difference between the groups.

You can compare your calculated t value against the values in a critical value chart (e.g., Student’s t table) to determine whether your t value is greater than what would be expected by chance. If so, you can reject the null hypothesis and conclude that the two groups are in fact different.

T test function in statistical software

Most statistical software (R, SPSS, etc.) includes a t test function. This built-in function will take your raw data and calculate the t value. It will then compare it to the critical value, and calculate a p -value . This way you can quickly see whether your groups are statistically different.

In your comparison of flower petal lengths, you decide to perform your t test using R. The code looks like this:

Download the data set to practice by yourself.

Sample data set

If you perform the t test for your flower hypothesis in R, you will receive the following output:

T-test output in R

The output provides:

  • An explanation of what is being compared, called data in the output table.
  • The t value : -33.719. Note that it’s negative; this is fine! In most cases, we only care about the absolute value of the difference, or the distance from 0. It doesn’t matter which direction.
  • The degrees of freedom : 30.196. Degrees of freedom is related to your sample size, and shows how many ‘free’ data points are available in your test for making comparisons. The greater the degrees of freedom, the better your statistical test will work.
  • The p value : 2.2e-16 (i.e. 2.2 with 15 zeros in front). This describes the probability that you would see a t value as large as this one by chance.
  • A statement of the alternative hypothesis ( H a ). In this test, the H a is that the difference is not 0.
  • The 95% confidence interval . This is the range of numbers within which the true difference in means will be 95% of the time. This can be changed from 95% if you want a larger or smaller interval, but 95% is very commonly used.
  • The mean petal length for each group.

When reporting your t test results, the most important values to include are the t value , the p value , and the degrees of freedom for the test. These will communicate to your audience whether the difference between the two groups is statistically significant (a.k.a. that it is unlikely to have happened by chance).

You can also include the summary statistics for the groups being compared, namely the mean and standard deviation . In R, the code for calculating the mean and the standard deviation from the data looks like this:

flower.data %>% group_by(Species) %>% summarize(mean_length = mean(Petal.Length), sd_length = sd(Petal.Length))

In our example, you would report the results like this:

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Chi square test of independence
  • Statistical power
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Pearson correlation
  • Null hypothesis

Methodology

  • Double-blind study
  • Case-control study
  • Research ethics
  • Data collection
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Structured interviews

Research bias

  • Hawthorne effect
  • Unconscious bias
  • Recall bias
  • Halo effect
  • Self-serving bias
  • Information bias

A t-test is a statistical test that compares the means of two samples . It is used in hypothesis testing , with a null hypothesis that the difference in group means is zero and an alternate hypothesis that the difference in group means is different from zero.

A t-test measures the difference in group means divided by the pooled standard error of the two group means.

In this way, it calculates a number (the t-value) illustrating the magnitude of the difference between the two group means being compared, and estimates the likelihood that this difference exists purely by chance (p-value).

Your choice of t-test depends on whether you are studying one group or two groups, and whether you care about the direction of the difference in group means.

If you are studying one group, use a paired t-test to compare the group mean over time or after an intervention, or use a one-sample t-test to compare the group mean to a standard value. If you are studying two groups, use a two-sample t-test .

If you want to know only whether a difference exists, use a two-tailed test . If you want to know if one group mean is greater or less than the other, use a left-tailed or right-tailed one-tailed test .

A one-sample t-test is used to compare a single population to a standard value (for example, to determine whether the average lifespan of a specific town is different from the country average).

A paired t-test is used to compare a single population before and after some experimental intervention or at two different points in time (for example, measuring student performance on a test before and after being taught the material).

A t-test should not be used to measure differences among more than two groups, because the error structure for a t-test will underestimate the actual error when many groups are being compared.

If you want to compare the means of several groups at once, it’s best to use another statistical test such as ANOVA or a post-hoc test.

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  • Null and Alternative Hypotheses | Definitions & Examples

Null and Alternative Hypotheses | Definitions & Examples

Published on 5 October 2022 by Shaun Turney . Revised on 6 December 2022.

The null and alternative hypotheses are two competing claims that researchers weigh evidence for and against using a statistical test :

  • Null hypothesis (H 0 ): There’s no effect in the population .
  • Alternative hypothesis (H A ): There’s an effect in the population.

The effect is usually the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable .

Table of contents

Answering your research question with hypotheses, what is a null hypothesis, what is an alternative hypothesis, differences between null and alternative hypotheses, how to write null and alternative hypotheses, frequently asked questions about null and alternative hypotheses.

The null and alternative hypotheses offer competing answers to your research question . When the research question asks “Does the independent variable affect the dependent variable?”, the null hypothesis (H 0 ) answers “No, there’s no effect in the population.” On the other hand, the alternative hypothesis (H A ) answers “Yes, there is an effect in the population.”

The null and alternative are always claims about the population. That’s because the goal of hypothesis testing is to make inferences about a population based on a sample . Often, we infer whether there’s an effect in the population by looking at differences between groups or relationships between variables in the sample.

You can use a statistical test to decide whether the evidence favors the null or alternative hypothesis. Each type of statistical test comes with a specific way of phrasing the null and alternative hypothesis. However, the hypotheses can also be phrased in a general way that applies to any test.

The null hypothesis is the claim that there’s no effect in the population.

If the sample provides enough evidence against the claim that there’s no effect in the population ( p ≤ α), then we can reject the null hypothesis . Otherwise, we fail to reject the null hypothesis.

Although “fail to reject” may sound awkward, it’s the only wording that statisticians accept. Be careful not to say you “prove” or “accept” the null hypothesis.

Null hypotheses often include phrases such as “no effect”, “no difference”, or “no relationship”. When written in mathematical terms, they always include an equality (usually =, but sometimes ≥ or ≤).

Examples of null hypotheses

The table below gives examples of research questions and null hypotheses. There’s always more than one way to answer a research question, but these null hypotheses can help you get started.

*Note that some researchers prefer to always write the null hypothesis in terms of “no effect” and “=”. It would be fine to say that daily meditation has no effect on the incidence of depression and p 1 = p 2 .

The alternative hypothesis (H A ) is the other answer to your research question . It claims that there’s an effect in the population.

Often, your alternative hypothesis is the same as your research hypothesis. In other words, it’s the claim that you expect or hope will be true.

The alternative hypothesis is the complement to the null hypothesis. Null and alternative hypotheses are exhaustive, meaning that together they cover every possible outcome. They are also mutually exclusive, meaning that only one can be true at a time.

Alternative hypotheses often include phrases such as “an effect”, “a difference”, or “a relationship”. When alternative hypotheses are written in mathematical terms, they always include an inequality (usually ≠, but sometimes > or <). As with null hypotheses, there are many acceptable ways to phrase an alternative hypothesis.

Examples of alternative hypotheses

The table below gives examples of research questions and alternative hypotheses to help you get started with formulating your own.

Null and alternative hypotheses are similar in some ways:

  • They’re both answers to the research question
  • They both make claims about the population
  • They’re both evaluated by statistical tests.

However, there are important differences between the two types of hypotheses, summarized in the following table.

To help you write your hypotheses, you can use the template sentences below. If you know which statistical test you’re going to use, you can use the test-specific template sentences. Otherwise, you can use the general template sentences.

The only thing you need to know to use these general template sentences are your dependent and independent variables. To write your research question, null hypothesis, and alternative hypothesis, fill in the following sentences with your variables:

Does independent variable affect dependent variable ?

  • Null hypothesis (H 0 ): Independent variable does not affect dependent variable .
  • Alternative hypothesis (H A ): Independent variable affects dependent variable .

Test-specific

Once you know the statistical test you’ll be using, you can write your hypotheses in a more precise and mathematical way specific to the test you chose. The table below provides template sentences for common statistical tests.

Note: The template sentences above assume that you’re performing one-tailed tests . One-tailed tests are appropriate for most studies.

The null hypothesis is often abbreviated as H 0 . When the null hypothesis is written using mathematical symbols, it always includes an equality symbol (usually =, but sometimes ≥ or ≤).

The alternative hypothesis is often abbreviated as H a or H 1 . When the alternative hypothesis is written using mathematical symbols, it always includes an inequality symbol (usually ≠, but sometimes < or >).

A research hypothesis is your proposed answer to your research question. The research hypothesis usually includes an explanation (‘ x affects y because …’).

A statistical hypothesis, on the other hand, is a mathematical statement about a population parameter. Statistical hypotheses always come in pairs: the null and alternative hypotheses. In a well-designed study , the statistical hypotheses correspond logically to the research hypothesis.

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9.1 Null and Alternative Hypotheses

The actual test begins by considering two hypotheses . They are called the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis . These hypotheses contain opposing viewpoints.

H 0 , the — null hypothesis: a statement of no difference between sample means or proportions or no difference between a sample mean or proportion and a population mean or proportion. In other words, the difference equals 0.

H a —, the alternative hypothesis: a claim about the population that is contradictory to H 0 and what we conclude when we reject H 0 .

Since the null and alternative hypotheses are contradictory, you must examine evidence to decide if you have enough evidence to reject the null hypothesis or not. The evidence is in the form of sample data.

After you have determined which hypothesis the sample supports, you make a decision. There are two options for a decision. They are reject H 0 if the sample information favors the alternative hypothesis or do not reject H 0 or decline to reject H 0 if the sample information is insufficient to reject the null hypothesis.

Mathematical Symbols Used in H 0 and H a :

H 0 always has a symbol with an equal in it. H a never has a symbol with an equal in it. The choice of symbol depends on the wording of the hypothesis test. However, be aware that many researchers use = in the null hypothesis, even with > or < as the symbol in the alternative hypothesis. This practice is acceptable because we only make the decision to reject or not reject the null hypothesis.

Example 9.1

H 0 : No more than 30 percent of the registered voters in Santa Clara County voted in the primary election. p ≤ 30 H a : More than 30 percent of the registered voters in Santa Clara County voted in the primary election. p > 30

A medical trial is conducted to test whether or not a new medicine reduces cholesterol by 25 percent. State the null and alternative hypotheses.

Example 9.2

We want to test whether the mean GPA of students in American colleges is different from 2.0 (out of 4.0). The null and alternative hypotheses are the following: H 0 : μ = 2.0 H a : μ ≠ 2.0

We want to test whether the mean height of eighth graders is 66 inches. State the null and alternative hypotheses. Fill in the correct symbol (=, ≠, ≥, <, ≤, >) for the null and alternative hypotheses.

  • H 0 : μ __ 66
  • H a : μ __ 66

Example 9.3

We want to test if college students take fewer than five years to graduate from college, on the average. The null and alternative hypotheses are the following: H 0 : μ ≥ 5 H a : μ < 5

We want to test if it takes fewer than 45 minutes to teach a lesson plan. State the null and alternative hypotheses. Fill in the correct symbol ( =, ≠, ≥, <, ≤, >) for the null and alternative hypotheses.

  • H 0 : μ __ 45
  • H a : μ __ 45

Example 9.4

An article on school standards stated that about half of all students in France, Germany, and Israel take advanced placement exams and a third of the students pass. The same article stated that 6.6 percent of U.S. students take advanced placement exams and 4.4 percent pass. Test if the percentage of U.S. students who take advanced placement exams is more than 6.6 percent. State the null and alternative hypotheses. H 0 : p ≤ 0.066 H a : p > 0.066

On a state driver’s test, about 40 percent pass the test on the first try. We want to test if more than 40 percent pass on the first try. Fill in the correct symbol (=, ≠, ≥, <, ≤, >) for the null and alternative hypotheses.

  • H 0 : p __ 0.40
  • H a : p __ 0.40

Collaborative Exercise

Bring to class a newspaper, some news magazines, and some internet articles. In groups, find articles from which your group can write null and alternative hypotheses. Discuss your hypotheses with the rest of the class.

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null and alternative hypothesis for two sample t test

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  • SPSS Tutorials

Independent Samples t Test

Spss tutorials: independent samples t test.

  • The SPSS Environment
  • The Data View Window
  • Using SPSS Syntax
  • Data Creation in SPSS
  • Importing Data into SPSS
  • Variable Types
  • Date-Time Variables in SPSS
  • Defining Variables
  • Creating a Codebook
  • Computing Variables
  • Recoding Variables
  • Recoding String Variables (Automatic Recode)
  • Weighting Cases
  • rank transform converts a set of data values by ordering them from smallest to largest, and then assigning a rank to each value. In SPSS, the Rank Cases procedure can be used to compute the rank transform of a variable." href="https://libguides.library.kent.edu/SPSS/RankCases" style="" >Rank Cases
  • Sorting Data
  • Grouping Data
  • Descriptive Stats for One Numeric Variable (Explore)
  • Descriptive Stats for One Numeric Variable (Frequencies)
  • Descriptive Stats for Many Numeric Variables (Descriptives)
  • Descriptive Stats by Group (Compare Means)
  • Frequency Tables
  • Working with "Check All That Apply" Survey Data (Multiple Response Sets)
  • Chi-Square Test of Independence
  • Pearson Correlation
  • One Sample t Test
  • Paired Samples t Test
  • One-Way ANOVA
  • How to Cite the Tutorials

Sample Data Files

Our tutorials reference a dataset called "sample" in many examples. If you'd like to download the sample dataset to work through the examples, choose one of the files below:

  • Data definitions (*.pdf)
  • Data - Comma delimited (*.csv)
  • Data - Tab delimited (*.txt)
  • Data - Excel format (*.xlsx)
  • Data - SAS format (*.sas7bdat)
  • Data - SPSS format (*.sav)
  • SPSS Syntax (*.sps) Syntax to add variable labels, value labels, set variable types, and compute several recoded variables used in later tutorials.
  • SAS Syntax (*.sas) Syntax to read the CSV-format sample data and set variable labels and formats/value labels.

The Independent Samples t Test compares the means of two independent groups in order to determine whether there is statistical evidence that the associated population means are significantly different. The Independent Samples t Test is a parametric test.

This test is also known as:

  • Independent t Test
  • Independent Measures t Test
  • Independent Two-sample t Test
  • Student t Test
  • Two-Sample t Test
  • Uncorrelated Scores t Test
  • Unpaired t Test
  • Unrelated t Test

The variables used in this test are known as:

  • Dependent variable, or test variable
  • Independent variable, or grouping variable

Common Uses

The Independent Samples t Test is commonly used to test the following:

  • Statistical differences between the means of two groups
  • Statistical differences between the means of two interventions
  • Statistical differences between the means of two change scores

Note:  The Independent Samples  t  Test can only compare the means for two (and only two) groups. It cannot make comparisons among more than two groups. If you wish to compare the means across more than two groups, you will likely want to run an ANOVA.

Data Requirements

Your data must meet the following requirements:

  • Dependent variable that is continuous (i.e., interval or ratio level)
  • Independent variable that is categorical and has exactly two categories
  • Cases that have values on both the dependent and independent variables
  • Subjects in the first group cannot also be in the second group
  • No subject in either group can influence subjects in the other group
  • No group can influence the other group
  • Violation of this assumption will yield an inaccurate p value
  • Random sample of data from the population
  • Non-normal population distributions, especially those that are thick-tailed or heavily skewed, considerably reduce the power of the test
  • Among moderate or large samples, a violation of normality may still yield accurate p values
  • When this assumption is violated and the sample sizes for each group differ, the p value is not trustworthy. However, the Independent Samples t Test output also includes an approximate t statistic that is not based on assuming equal population variances. This alternative statistic, called the Welch t Test statistic 1 , may be used when equal variances among populations cannot be assumed. The Welch t Test is also known an Unequal Variance t Test or Separate Variances t Test.
  • No outliers

Note: When one or more of the assumptions for the Independent Samples t Test are not met, you may want to run the nonparametric Mann-Whitney U Test instead.

Researchers often follow several rules of thumb:

  • Each group should have at least 6 subjects, ideally more. Inferences for the population will be more tenuous with too few subjects.
  • A balanced design (i.e., same number of subjects in each group) is ideal. Extremely unbalanced designs increase the possibility that violating any of the requirements/assumptions will threaten the validity of the Independent Samples t Test.

1  Welch, B. L. (1947). The generalization of "Student's" problem when several different population variances are involved. Biometrika , 34 (1–2), 28–35.

The null hypothesis ( H 0 ) and alternative hypothesis ( H 1 ) of the Independent Samples t Test can be expressed in two different but equivalent ways:

H 0 : µ 1  = µ 2 ("the two population means are equal") H 1 : µ 1  ≠ µ 2 ("the two population means are not equal")

H 0 : µ 1  - µ 2  = 0 ("the difference between the two population means is equal to 0") H 1 :  µ 1  - µ 2  ≠ 0 ("the difference between the two population means is not 0")

where µ 1 and µ 2 are the population means for group 1 and group 2, respectively. Notice that the second set of hypotheses can be derived from the first set by simply subtracting µ 2 from both sides of the equation.

Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances

Recall that the Independent Samples t Test requires the assumption of homogeneity of variance -- i.e., both groups have the same variance. SPSS conveniently includes a test for the homogeneity of variance, called Levene's Test , whenever you run an independent samples t test.

The hypotheses for Levene’s test are: 

H 0 : σ 1 2 - σ 2 2 = 0 ("the population variances of group 1 and 2 are equal") H 1 : σ 1 2 - σ 2 2 ≠ 0 ("the population variances of group 1 and 2 are not equal")

This implies that if we reject the null hypothesis of Levene's Test, it suggests that the variances of the two groups are not equal; i.e., that the homogeneity of variances assumption is violated.

The output in the Independent Samples Test table includes two rows: Equal variances assumed and Equal variances not assumed . If Levene’s test indicates that the variances are equal across the two groups (i.e., p -value large), you will rely on the first row of output, Equal variances assumed , when you look at the results for the actual Independent Samples t Test (under the heading t -test for Equality of Means). If Levene’s test indicates that the variances are not equal across the two groups (i.e., p -value small), you will need to rely on the second row of output, Equal variances not assumed , when you look at the results of the Independent Samples t Test (under the heading t -test for Equality of Means). 

The difference between these two rows of output lies in the way the independent samples t test statistic is calculated. When equal variances are assumed, the calculation uses pooled variances; when equal variances cannot be assumed, the calculation utilizes un-pooled variances and a correction to the degrees of freedom.

Test Statistic

The test statistic for an Independent Samples t Test is denoted t . There are actually two forms of the test statistic for this test, depending on whether or not equal variances are assumed. SPSS produces both forms of the test, so both forms of the test are described here. Note that the null and alternative hypotheses are identical for both forms of the test statistic.

Equal variances assumed

When the two independent samples are assumed to be drawn from populations with identical population variances (i.e., σ 1 2 = σ 2 2 ) , the test statistic t is computed as:

$$ t = \frac{\overline{x}_{1} - \overline{x}_{2}}{s_{p}\sqrt{\frac{1}{n_{1}} + \frac{1}{n_{2}}}} $$

$$ s_{p} = \sqrt{\frac{(n_{1} - 1)s_{1}^{2} + (n_{2} - 1)s_{2}^{2}}{n_{1} + n_{2} - 2}} $$

\(\bar{x}_{1}\) = Mean of first sample \(\bar{x}_{2}\) = Mean of second sample \(n_{1}\) = Sample size (i.e., number of observations) of first sample \(n_{2}\) = Sample size (i.e., number of observations) of second sample \(s_{1}\) = Standard deviation of first sample \(s_{2}\) = Standard deviation of second sample \(s_{p}\) = Pooled standard deviation

The calculated t value is then compared to the critical t value from the t distribution table with degrees of freedom df = n 1 + n 2 - 2 and chosen confidence level. If the calculated t value is greater than the critical t value, then we reject the null hypothesis.

Note that this form of the independent samples t test statistic assumes equal variances.

Because we assume equal population variances, it is OK to "pool" the sample variances ( s p ). However, if this assumption is violated, the pooled variance estimate may not be accurate, which would affect the accuracy of our test statistic (and hence, the p-value).

Equal variances not assumed

When the two independent samples are assumed to be drawn from populations with unequal variances (i.e., σ 1 2  ≠ σ 2 2 ), the test statistic t is computed as:

$$ t = \frac{\overline{x}_{1} - \overline{x}_{2}}{\sqrt{\frac{s_{1}^{2}}{n_{1}} + \frac{s_{2}^{2}}{n_{2}}}} $$

\(\bar{x}_{1}\) = Mean of first sample \(\bar{x}_{2}\) = Mean of second sample \(n_{1}\) = Sample size (i.e., number of observations) of first sample \(n_{2}\) = Sample size (i.e., number of observations) of second sample \(s_{1}\) = Standard deviation of first sample \(s_{2}\) = Standard deviation of second sample

The calculated t value is then compared to the critical t value from the t distribution table with degrees of freedom

$$ df = \frac{ \left ( \frac{s_{1}^2}{n_{1}} + \frac{s_{2}^2}{n_{2}} \right ) ^{2} }{ \frac{1}{n_{1}-1} \left ( \frac{s_{1}^2}{n_{1}} \right ) ^{2} + \frac{1}{n_{2}-1} \left ( \frac{s_{2}^2}{n_{2}} \right ) ^{2}} $$

and chosen confidence level. If the calculated t value > critical t value, then we reject the null hypothesis.

Note that this form of the independent samples t test statistic does not assume equal variances. This is why both the denominator of the test statistic and the degrees of freedom of the critical value of  t are different than the equal variances form of the test statistic.

Data Set-Up

Your data should include two variables (represented in columns) that will be used in the analysis. The independent variable should be categorical and include exactly two groups. (Note that SPSS restricts categorical indicators to numeric or short string values only.) The dependent variable should be continuous (i.e., interval or ratio). SPSS can only make use of cases that have nonmissing values for the independent and the dependent variables, so if a case has a missing value for either variable, it cannot be included in the test.

The number of rows in the dataset should correspond to the number of subjects in the study. Each row of the dataset should represent a unique subject, person, or unit, and all of the measurements taken on that person or unit should appear in that row.

Run an Independent Samples t Test

To run an Independent Samples t Test in SPSS, click  Analyze > Compare Means > Independent-Samples T Test .

The Independent-Samples T Test window opens where you will specify the variables to be used in the analysis. All of the variables in your dataset appear in the list on the left side. Move variables to the right by selecting them in the list and clicking the blue arrow buttons. You can move a variable(s) to either of two areas: Grouping Variable or Test Variable(s) .

null and alternative hypothesis for two sample t test

A Test Variable(s): The dependent variable(s). This is the continuous variable whose means will be compared between the two groups. You may run multiple t tests simultaneously by selecting more than one test variable.

B Grouping Variable: The independent variable. The categories (or groups) of the independent variable will define which samples will be compared in the t test. The grouping variable must have at least two categories (groups); it may have more than two categories but a t test can only compare two groups, so you will need to specify which two groups to compare. You can also use a continuous variable by specifying a cut point to create two groups (i.e., values at or above the cut point and values below the cut point).

C Define Groups : Click Define Groups to define the category indicators (groups) to use in the t test. If the button is not active, make sure that you have already moved your independent variable to the right in the Grouping Variable field. You must define the categories of your grouping variable before you can run the Independent Samples t Test procedure.

You will not be able to run the Independent Samples t Test until the levels (or cut points) of the grouping variable have been defined. The OK and Paste buttons will be unclickable until the levels have been defined. You can tell if the levels of the grouping variable have not been defined by looking at the Grouping Variable box: if a variable appears in the box but has two question marks next to it, then the levels are not defined:

D Options: The Options section is where you can set your desired confidence level for the confidence interval for the mean difference, and specify how SPSS should handle missing values.

When finished, click OK to run the Independent Samples t Test, or click Paste to have the syntax corresponding to your specified settings written to an open syntax window. (If you do not have a syntax window open, a new window will open for you.)

Define Groups

Clicking the Define Groups button (C) opens the Define Groups window:

null and alternative hypothesis for two sample t test

1 Use specified values: If your grouping variable is categorical, select Use specified values . Enter the values for the categories you wish to compare in the Group 1 and Group 2 fields. If your categories are numerically coded, you will enter the numeric codes. If your group variable is string, you will enter the exact text strings representing the two categories. If your grouping variable has more than two categories (e.g., takes on values of 1, 2, 3, 4), you can specify two of the categories to be compared (SPSS will disregard the other categories in this case).

Note that when computing the test statistic, SPSS will subtract the mean of the Group 2 from the mean of Group 1. Changing the order of the subtraction affects the sign of the results, but does not affect the magnitude of the results.

2 Cut point: If your grouping variable is numeric and continuous, you can designate a cut point for dichotomizing the variable. This will separate the cases into two categories based on the cut point. Specifically, for a given cut point x , the new categories will be:

  • Group 1: All cases where grouping variable > x
  • Group 2: All cases where grouping variable < x

Note that this implies that cases where the grouping variable is equal to the cut point itself will be included in the "greater than or equal to" category. (If you want your cut point to be included in a "less than or equal to" group, then you will need to use Recode into Different Variables or use DO IF syntax to create this grouping variable yourself.) Also note that while you can use cut points on any variable that has a numeric type, it may not make practical sense depending on the actual measurement level of the variable (e.g., nominal categorical variables coded numerically). Additionally, using a dichotomized variable created via a cut point generally reduces the power of the test compared to using a non-dichotomized variable.

Clicking the Options button (D) opens the Options window:

The Independent Samples T Test Options window allows you to modify the confidence interval percentage and choose between listwise or 'analysis by analysis' (pairwise) missing data handling.

The Confidence Interval Percentage box allows you to specify the confidence level for a confidence interval. Note that this setting does NOT affect the test statistic or p-value or standard error; it only affects the computed upper and lower bounds of the confidence interval. You can enter any value between 1 and 99 in this box (although in practice, it only makes sense to enter numbers between 90 and 99).

The Missing Values section allows you to choose if cases should be excluded "analysis by analysis" (i.e. pairwise deletion) or excluded listwise. This setting is not relevant if you have only specified one dependent variable; it only matters if you are entering more than one dependent (continuous numeric) variable. In that case, excluding "analysis by analysis" will use all nonmissing values for a given variable. If you exclude "listwise", it will only use the cases with nonmissing values for all of the variables entered. Depending on the amount of missing data you have, listwise deletion could greatly reduce your sample size.

Example: Independent samples T test when variances are not equal

Problem statement.

In our sample dataset, students reported their typical time to run a mile, and whether or not they were an athlete. Suppose we want to know if the average time to run a mile is different for athletes versus non-athletes. This involves testing whether the sample means for mile time among athletes and non-athletes in your sample are statistically different (and by extension, inferring whether the means for mile times in the population are significantly different between these two groups). You can use an Independent Samples t Test to compare the mean mile time for athletes and non-athletes.

The hypotheses for this example can be expressed as:

H 0 : µ non-athlete  − µ athlete  = 0 ("the difference of the means is equal to zero") H 1 : µ non-athlete  − µ athlete  ≠ 0 ("the difference of the means is not equal to zero")

where µ athlete and µ non-athlete are the population means for athletes and non-athletes, respectively.

In the sample data, we will use two variables: Athlete and MileMinDur . The variable Athlete has values of either “0” (non-athlete) or "1" (athlete). It will function as the independent variable in this T test. The variable MileMinDur is a numeric duration variable (h:mm:ss), and it will function as the dependent variable. In SPSS, the first few rows of data look like this:

null and alternative hypothesis for two sample t test

Before the Test

Before running the Independent Samples t Test, it is a good idea to look at descriptive statistics and graphs to get an idea of what to expect. Running Compare Means ( Analyze > Compare Means > Means ) to get descriptive statistics by group tells us that the standard deviation in mile time for non-athletes is about 2 minutes; for athletes, it is about 49 seconds. This corresponds to a variance of 14803 seconds for non-athletes, and a variance of 2447 seconds for athletes 1 . Running the Explore procedure ( Analyze > Descriptives > Explore ) to obtain a comparative boxplot yields the following graph:

Boxplot comparing the distribution of mile times for athletes versus non-athletes. The total spread of mile times for athletes is much smaller than that of non-athletes. The median mile time is also lower for athletes than non-athletes.

If the variances were indeed equal, we would expect the total length of the boxplots to be about the same for both groups. However, from this boxplot, it is clear that the spread of observations for non-athletes is much greater than the spread of observations for athletes. Already, we can estimate that the variances for these two groups are quite different. It should not come as a surprise if we run the Independent Samples t Test and see that Levene's Test is significant.

Additionally, we should also decide on a significance level (typically denoted using the Greek letter alpha, α ) before we perform our hypothesis tests. The significance level is the threshold we use to decide whether a test result is significant. For this example, let's use α = 0.05.

1 When computing the variance of a duration variable (formatted as hh:mm:ss or mm:ss or mm:ss.s), SPSS converts the standard deviation value to seconds before squaring.

Running the Test

To run the Independent Samples t Test:

  • Click  Analyze > Compare Means > Independent-Samples T Test .
  • Move the variable Athlete to the Grouping Variable field, and move the variable MileMinDur to the Test Variable(s) area. Now Athlete is defined as the independent variable and MileMinDur is defined as the dependent variable.
  • Click Define Groups , which opens a new window. Use specified values is selected by default. Since our grouping variable is numerically coded (0 = "Non-athlete", 1 = "Athlete"), type “0” in the first text box, and “1” in the second text box. This indicates that we will compare groups 0 and 1, which correspond to non-athletes and athletes, respectively. Click Continue when finished.
  • Click OK to run the Independent Samples t Test. Output for the analysis will display in the Output Viewer window. 

Two sections (boxes) appear in the output: Group Statistics and Independent Samples Test . The first section, Group Statistics , provides basic information about the group comparisons, including the sample size ( n ), mean, standard deviation, and standard error for mile times by group. In this example, there are 166 athletes and 226 non-athletes. The mean mile time for athletes is 6 minutes 51 seconds, and the mean mile time for non-athletes is 9 minutes 6 seconds.

null and alternative hypothesis for two sample t test

The second section, Independent Samples Test , displays the results most relevant to the Independent Samples t Test. There are two parts that provide different pieces of information: (A) Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances and (B) t-test for Equality of Means.

null and alternative hypothesis for two sample t test

A Levene's Test for Equality of of Variances : This section has the test results for Levene's Test. From left to right:

  • F is the test statistic of Levene's test
  • Sig. is the p-value corresponding to this test statistic.

The p -value of Levene's test is printed as ".000" (but should be read as p < 0.001 -- i.e., p very small), so we we reject the null of Levene's test and conclude that the variance in mile time of athletes is significantly different than that of non-athletes. This tells us that we should look at the "Equal variances not assumed" row for the t test (and corresponding confidence interval) results . (If this test result had not been significant -- that is, if we had observed p > α -- then we would have used the "Equal variances assumed" output.)

B t-test for Equality of Means provides the results for the actual Independent Samples t Test. From left to right:

  • t is the computed test statistic, using the formula for the equal-variances-assumed test statistic (first row of table) or the formula for the equal-variances-not-assumed test statistic (second row of table)
  • df is the degrees of freedom, using the equal-variances-assumed degrees of freedom formula (first row of table) or the equal-variances-not-assumed degrees of freedom formula (second row of table)
  • Sig (2-tailed) is the p-value corresponding to the given test statistic and degrees of freedom
  • Mean Difference is the difference between the sample means, i.e. x 1  − x 2 ; it also corresponds to the numerator of the test statistic for that test
  • Std. Error Difference is the standard error of the mean difference estimate; it also corresponds to the denominator of the test statistic for that test

Note that the mean difference is calculated by subtracting the mean of the second group from the mean of the first group. In this example, the mean mile time for athletes was subtracted from the mean mile time for non-athletes (9:06 minus 6:51 = 02:14). The sign of the mean difference corresponds to the sign of the t value. The positive t value in this example indicates that the mean mile time for the first group, non-athletes, is significantly greater than the mean for the second group, athletes.

The associated p value is printed as ".000"; double-clicking on the p-value will reveal the un-rounded number. SPSS rounds p-values to three decimal places, so any p-value too small to round up to .001 will print as .000. (In this particular example, the p-values are on the order of 10 -40 .)

C Confidence Interval of the Difference : This part of the t -test output complements the significance test results. Typically, if the CI for the mean difference contains 0 within the interval -- i.e., if the lower boundary of the CI is a negative number and the upper boundary of the CI is a positive number -- the results are not significant at the chosen significance level. In this example, the 95% CI is [01:57, 02:32], which does not contain zero; this agrees with the small p -value of the significance test.

Decision and Conclusions

Since p < .001 is less than our chosen significance level α = 0.05, we can reject the null hypothesis, and conclude that the that the mean mile time for athletes and non-athletes is significantly different.

Based on the results, we can state the following:

  • There was a significant difference in mean mile time between non-athletes and athletes ( t 315.846 = 15.047, p < .001).
  • The average mile time for athletes was 2 minutes and 14 seconds lower than the average mile time for non-athletes.
  • << Previous: Paired Samples t Test
  • Next: One-Way ANOVA >>
  • Last Updated: Dec 18, 2023 12:59 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.library.kent.edu/SPSS

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Independent t-test for two samples

Introduction.

The independent t-test, also called the two sample t-test, independent-samples t-test or student's t-test, is an inferential statistical test that determines whether there is a statistically significant difference between the means in two unrelated groups.

Null and alternative hypotheses for the independent t-test

The null hypothesis for the independent t-test is that the population means from the two unrelated groups are equal:

H 0 : u 1 = u 2

In most cases, we are looking to see if we can show that we can reject the null hypothesis and accept the alternative hypothesis, which is that the population means are not equal:

H A : u 1 ≠ u 2

To do this, we need to set a significance level (also called alpha) that allows us to either reject or accept the alternative hypothesis. Most commonly, this value is set at 0.05.

What do you need to run an independent t-test?

In order to run an independent t-test, you need the following:

  • One independent, categorical variable that has two levels/groups.
  • One continuous dependent variable.

Unrelated groups

Unrelated groups, also called unpaired groups or independent groups, are groups in which the cases (e.g., participants) in each group are different. Often we are investigating differences in individuals, which means that when comparing two groups, an individual in one group cannot also be a member of the other group and vice versa. An example would be gender - an individual would have to be classified as either male or female – not both.

Assumption of normality of the dependent variable

The independent t-test requires that the dependent variable is approximately normally distributed within each group.

Note: Technically, it is the residuals that need to be normally distributed, but for an independent t-test, both will give you the same result.

You can test for this using a number of different tests, but the Shapiro-Wilks test of normality or a graphical method, such as a Q-Q Plot, are very common. You can run these tests using SPSS Statistics, the procedure for which can be found in our Testing for Normality guide. However, the t-test is described as a robust test with respect to the assumption of normality. This means that some deviation away from normality does not have a large influence on Type I error rates. The exception to this is if the ratio of the smallest to largest group size is greater than 1.5 (largest compared to smallest).

What to do when you violate the normality assumption

If you find that either one or both of your group's data is not approximately normally distributed and groups sizes differ greatly, you have two options: (1) transform your data so that the data becomes normally distributed (to do this in SPSS Statistics see our guide on Transforming Data ), or (2) run the Mann-Whitney U test which is a non-parametric test that does not require the assumption of normality (to run this test in SPSS Statistics see our guide on the Mann-Whitney U Test ).

Assumption of homogeneity of variance

The independent t-test assumes the variances of the two groups you are measuring are equal in the population. If your variances are unequal, this can affect the Type I error rate. The assumption of homogeneity of variance can be tested using Levene's Test of Equality of Variances, which is produced in SPSS Statistics when running the independent t-test procedure. If you have run Levene's Test of Equality of Variances in SPSS Statistics, you will get a result similar to that below:

Levene's Test for Equality of Variances in the Independent T-Test Procedure within SPSS

This test for homogeneity of variance provides an F -statistic and a significance value ( p -value). We are primarily concerned with the significance value – if it is greater than 0.05 (i.e., p > .05), our group variances can be treated as equal. However, if p < 0.05, we have unequal variances and we have violated the assumption of homogeneity of variances.

Overcoming a violation of the assumption of homogeneity of variance

If the Levene's Test for Equality of Variances is statistically significant, which indicates that the group variances are unequal in the population, you can correct for this violation by not using the pooled estimate for the error term for the t -statistic, but instead using an adjustment to the degrees of freedom using the Welch-Satterthwaite method. In all reality, you will probably never have heard of these adjustments because SPSS Statistics hides this information and simply labels the two options as "Equal variances assumed" and "Equal variances not assumed" without explicitly stating the underlying tests used. However, you can see the evidence of these tests as below:

Differences in the t-statistic and the degrees of freedom when homogeneity of variance is not assumed

From the result of Levene's Test for Equality of Variances, we can reject the null hypothesis that there is no difference in the variances between the groups and accept the alternative hypothesis that there is a statistically significant difference in the variances between groups. The effect of not being able to assume equal variances is evident in the final column of the above figure where we see a reduction in the value of the t -statistic and a large reduction in the degrees of freedom (df). This has the effect of increasing the p -value above the critical significance level of 0.05. In this case, we therefore do not accept the alternative hypothesis and accept that there are no statistically significant differences between means. This would not have been our conclusion had we not tested for homogeneity of variances.

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Reporting the result of an independent t-test

When reporting the result of an independent t-test, you need to include the t -statistic value, the degrees of freedom (df) and the significance value of the test ( p -value). The format of the test result is: t (df) = t -statistic, p = significance value. Therefore, for the example above, you could report the result as t (7.001) = 2.233, p = 0.061.

Fully reporting your results

In order to provide enough information for readers to fully understand the results when you have run an independent t-test, you should include the result of normality tests, Levene's Equality of Variances test, the two group means and standard deviations, the actual t-test result and the direction of the difference (if any). In addition, you might also wish to include the difference between the groups along with a 95% confidence interval. For example:

Inspection of Q-Q Plots revealed that cholesterol concentration was normally distributed for both groups and that there was homogeneity of variance as assessed by Levene's Test for Equality of Variances. Therefore, an independent t-test was run on the data with a 95% confidence interval (CI) for the mean difference. It was found that after the two interventions, cholesterol concentrations in the dietary group (6.15 ± 0.52 mmol/L) were significantly higher than the exercise group (5.80 ± 0.38 mmol/L) ( t (38) = 2.470, p = 0.018) with a difference of 0.35 (95% CI, 0.06 to 0.64) mmol/L.

To know how to run an independent t-test in SPSS Statistics, see our SPSS Statistics Independent-Samples T-Test guide. Alternatively, you can carry out an independent-samples t-test using Excel, R and RStudio .

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AP®︎/College Statistics

Course: ap®︎/college statistics   >   unit 11.

  • Hypotheses for a two-sample t test

Example of hypotheses for paired and two-sample t tests

  • Writing hypotheses to test the difference of means
  • Two-sample t test for difference of means
  • Test statistic in a two-sample t test
  • P-value in a two-sample t test
  • Conclusion for a two-sample t test using a P-value
  • Conclusion for a two-sample t test using a confidence interval
  • Making conclusions about the difference of means

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9.1: Null and Alternative Hypotheses

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The actual test begins by considering two hypotheses . They are called the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis . These hypotheses contain opposing viewpoints.

\(H_0\): The null hypothesis: It is a statement of no difference between the variables—they are not related. This can often be considered the status quo and as a result if you cannot accept the null it requires some action.

\(H_a\): The alternative hypothesis: It is a claim about the population that is contradictory to \(H_0\) and what we conclude when we reject \(H_0\). This is usually what the researcher is trying to prove.

Since the null and alternative hypotheses are contradictory, you must examine evidence to decide if you have enough evidence to reject the null hypothesis or not. The evidence is in the form of sample data.

After you have determined which hypothesis the sample supports, you make a decision. There are two options for a decision. They are "reject \(H_0\)" if the sample information favors the alternative hypothesis or "do not reject \(H_0\)" or "decline to reject \(H_0\)" if the sample information is insufficient to reject the null hypothesis.

\(H_{0}\) always has a symbol with an equal in it. \(H_{a}\) never has a symbol with an equal in it. The choice of symbol depends on the wording of the hypothesis test. However, be aware that many researchers (including one of the co-authors in research work) use = in the null hypothesis, even with > or < as the symbol in the alternative hypothesis. This practice is acceptable because we only make the decision to reject or not reject the null hypothesis.

Example \(\PageIndex{1}\)

  • \(H_{0}\): No more than 30% of the registered voters in Santa Clara County voted in the primary election. \(p \leq 30\)
  • \(H_{a}\): More than 30% of the registered voters in Santa Clara County voted in the primary election. \(p > 30\)

Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

A medical trial is conducted to test whether or not a new medicine reduces cholesterol by 25%. State the null and alternative hypotheses.

  • \(H_{0}\): The drug reduces cholesterol by 25%. \(p = 0.25\)
  • \(H_{a}\): The drug does not reduce cholesterol by 25%. \(p \neq 0.25\)

Example \(\PageIndex{2}\)

We want to test whether the mean GPA of students in American colleges is different from 2.0 (out of 4.0). The null and alternative hypotheses are:

  • \(H_{0}: \mu = 2.0\)
  • \(H_{a}: \mu \neq 2.0\)

Exercise \(\PageIndex{2}\)

We want to test whether the mean height of eighth graders is 66 inches. State the null and alternative hypotheses. Fill in the correct symbol \((=, \neq, \geq, <, \leq, >)\) for the null and alternative hypotheses.

  • \(H_{0}: \mu \_ 66\)
  • \(H_{a}: \mu \_ 66\)
  • \(H_{0}: \mu = 66\)
  • \(H_{a}: \mu \neq 66\)

Example \(\PageIndex{3}\)

We want to test if college students take less than five years to graduate from college, on the average. The null and alternative hypotheses are:

  • \(H_{0}: \mu \geq 5\)
  • \(H_{a}: \mu < 5\)

Exercise \(\PageIndex{3}\)

We want to test if it takes fewer than 45 minutes to teach a lesson plan. State the null and alternative hypotheses. Fill in the correct symbol ( =, ≠, ≥, <, ≤, >) for the null and alternative hypotheses.

  • \(H_{0}: \mu \_ 45\)
  • \(H_{a}: \mu \_ 45\)
  • \(H_{0}: \mu \geq 45\)
  • \(H_{a}: \mu < 45\)

Example \(\PageIndex{4}\)

In an issue of U. S. News and World Report , an article on school standards stated that about half of all students in France, Germany, and Israel take advanced placement exams and a third pass. The same article stated that 6.6% of U.S. students take advanced placement exams and 4.4% pass. Test if the percentage of U.S. students who take advanced placement exams is more than 6.6%. State the null and alternative hypotheses.

  • \(H_{0}: p \leq 0.066\)
  • \(H_{a}: p > 0.066\)

Exercise \(\PageIndex{4}\)

On a state driver’s test, about 40% pass the test on the first try. We want to test if more than 40% pass on the first try. Fill in the correct symbol (\(=, \neq, \geq, <, \leq, >\)) for the null and alternative hypotheses.

  • \(H_{0}: p \_ 0.40\)
  • \(H_{a}: p \_ 0.40\)
  • \(H_{0}: p = 0.40\)
  • \(H_{a}: p > 0.40\)

COLLABORATIVE EXERCISE

Bring to class a newspaper, some news magazines, and some Internet articles . In groups, find articles from which your group can write null and alternative hypotheses. Discuss your hypotheses with the rest of the class.

In a hypothesis test , sample data is evaluated in order to arrive at a decision about some type of claim. If certain conditions about the sample are satisfied, then the claim can be evaluated for a population. In a hypothesis test, we:

  • Evaluate the null hypothesis , typically denoted with \(H_{0}\). The null is not rejected unless the hypothesis test shows otherwise. The null statement must always contain some form of equality \((=, \leq \text{or} \geq)\)
  • Always write the alternative hypothesis , typically denoted with \(H_{a}\) or \(H_{1}\), using less than, greater than, or not equals symbols, i.e., \((\neq, >, \text{or} <)\).
  • If we reject the null hypothesis, then we can assume there is enough evidence to support the alternative hypothesis.
  • Never state that a claim is proven true or false. Keep in mind the underlying fact that hypothesis testing is based on probability laws; therefore, we can talk only in terms of non-absolute certainties.

Formula Review

\(H_{0}\) and \(H_{a}\) are contradictory.

  • If \(\alpha \leq p\)-value, then do not reject \(H_{0}\).
  • If\(\alpha > p\)-value, then reject \(H_{0}\).

\(\alpha\) is preconceived. Its value is set before the hypothesis test starts. The \(p\)-value is calculated from the data.References

Data from the National Institute of Mental Health. Available online at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/depression.cfm .

t-test Calculator

When to use a t-test, which t-test, how to do a t-test, p-value from t-test, t-test critical values, how to use our t-test calculator, one-sample t-test, two-sample t-test, paired t-test, t-test vs z-test.

Welcome to our t-test calculator! Here you can not only easily perform one-sample t-tests , but also two-sample t-tests , as well as paired t-tests .

Do you prefer to find the p-value from t-test, or would you rather find the t-test critical values? Well, this t-test calculator can do both! 😊

What does a t-test tell you? Take a look at the text below, where we explain what actually gets tested when various types of t-tests are performed. Also, we explain when to use t-tests (in particular, whether to use the z-test vs. t-test) and what assumptions your data should satisfy for the results of a t-test to be valid. If you've ever wanted to know how to do a t-test by hand, we provide the necessary t-test formula, as well as tell you how to determine the number of degrees of freedom in a t-test.

A t-test is one of the most popular statistical tests for location , i.e., it deals with the population(s) mean value(s).

There are different types of t-tests that you can perform:

  • A one-sample t-test;
  • A two-sample t-test; and
  • A paired t-test.

In the next section , we explain when to use which. Remember that a t-test can only be used for one or two groups . If you need to compare three (or more) means, use the analysis of variance ( ANOVA ) method.

The t-test is a parametric test, meaning that your data has to fulfill some assumptions :

  • The data points are independent; AND
  • The data, at least approximately, follow a normal distribution .

If your sample doesn't fit these assumptions, you can resort to nonparametric alternatives. Visit our Mann–Whitney U test calculator or the Wilcoxon rank-sum test calculator to learn more. Other possibilities include the Wilcoxon signed-rank test or the sign test.

Your choice of t-test depends on whether you are studying one group or two groups:

One sample t-test

Choose the one-sample t-test to check if the mean of a population is equal to some pre-set hypothesized value .

The average volume of a drink sold in 0.33 l cans — is it really equal to 330 ml?

The average weight of people from a specific city — is it different from the national average?

Choose the two-sample t-test to check if the difference between the means of two populations is equal to some pre-determined value when the two samples have been chosen independently of each other.

In particular, you can use this test to check whether the two groups are different from one another .

The average difference in weight gain in two groups of people: one group was on a high-carb diet and the other on a high-fat diet.

The average difference in the results of a math test from students at two different universities.

This test is sometimes referred to as an independent samples t-test , or an unpaired samples t-test .

A paired t-test is used to investigate the change in the mean of a population before and after some experimental intervention , based on a paired sample, i.e., when each subject has been measured twice: before and after treatment.

In particular, you can use this test to check whether, on average, the treatment has had any effect on the population .

The change in student test performance before and after taking a course.

The change in blood pressure in patients before and after administering some drug.

So, you've decided which t-test to perform. These next steps will tell you how to calculate the p-value from t-test or its critical values, and then which decision to make about the null hypothesis.

Decide on the alternative hypothesis :

Use a two-tailed t-test if you only care whether the population's mean (or, in the case of two populations, the difference between the populations' means) agrees or disagrees with the pre-set value.

Use a one-tailed t-test if you want to test whether this mean (or difference in means) is greater/less than the pre-set value.

Compute your T-score value :

Formulas for the test statistic in t-tests include the sample size , as well as its mean and standard deviation . The exact formula depends on the t-test type — check the sections dedicated to each particular test for more details.

Determine the degrees of freedom for the t-test:

The degrees of freedom are the number of observations in a sample that are free to vary as we estimate statistical parameters. In the simplest case, the number of degrees of freedom equals your sample size minus the number of parameters you need to estimate . Again, the exact formula depends on the t-test you want to perform — check the sections below for details.

The degrees of freedom are essential, as they determine the distribution followed by your T-score (under the null hypothesis). If there are d degrees of freedom, then the distribution of the test statistics is the t-Student distribution with d degrees of freedom . This distribution has a shape similar to N(0,1) (bell-shaped and symmetric) but has heavier tails . If the number of degrees of freedom is large (>30), which generically happens for large samples, the t-Student distribution is practically indistinguishable from N(0,1).

💡 The t-Student distribution owes its name to William Sealy Gosset, who, in 1908, published his paper on the t-test under the pseudonym "Student". Gosset worked at the famous Guinness Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, and devised the t-test as an economical way to monitor the quality of beer. Cheers! 🍺🍺🍺

Recall that the p-value is the probability (calculated under the assumption that the null hypothesis is true) that the test statistic will produce values at least as extreme as the T-score produced for your sample . As probabilities correspond to areas under the density function, p-value from t-test can be nicely illustrated with the help of the following pictures:

p-value from t-test

The following formulae say how to calculate p-value from t-test. By cdf t,d we denote the cumulative distribution function of the t-Student distribution with d degrees of freedom:

p-value from left-tailed t-test:

p-value = cdf t,d (t score )

p-value from right-tailed t-test:

p-value = 1 − cdf t,d (t score )

p-value from two-tailed t-test:

p-value = 2 × cdf t,d (−|t score |)

or, equivalently: p-value = 2 − 2 × cdf t,d (|t score |)

However, the cdf of the t-distribution is given by a somewhat complicated formula. To find the p-value by hand, you would need to resort to statistical tables, where approximate cdf values are collected, or to specialized statistical software. Fortunately, our t-test calculator determines the p-value from t-test for you in the blink of an eye!

Recall, that in the critical values approach to hypothesis testing, you need to set a significance level, α, before computing the critical values , which in turn give rise to critical regions (a.k.a. rejection regions).

Formulas for critical values employ the quantile function of t-distribution, i.e., the inverse of the cdf :

Critical value for left-tailed t-test: cdf t,d -1 (α)

critical region:

(-∞, cdf t,d -1 (α)]

Critical value for right-tailed t-test: cdf t,d -1 (1-α)

[cdf t,d -1 (1-α), ∞)

Critical values for two-tailed t-test: ±cdf t,d -1 (1-α/2)

(-∞, -cdf t,d -1 (1-α/2)] ∪ [cdf t,d -1 (1-α/2), ∞)

To decide the fate of the null hypothesis, just check if your T-score lies within the critical region:

If your T-score belongs to the critical region , reject the null hypothesis and accept the alternative hypothesis.

If your T-score is outside the critical region , then you don't have enough evidence to reject the null hypothesis.

Choose the type of t-test you wish to perform:

A one-sample t-test (to test the mean of a single group against a hypothesized mean);

A two-sample t-test (to compare the means for two groups); or

A paired t-test (to check how the mean from the same group changes after some intervention).

Two-tailed;

Left-tailed; or

Right-tailed.

This t-test calculator allows you to use either the p-value approach or the critical regions approach to hypothesis testing!

Enter your T-score and the number of degrees of freedom . If you don't know them, provide some data about your sample(s): sample size, mean, and standard deviation, and our t-test calculator will compute the T-score and degrees of freedom for you .

Once all the parameters are present, the p-value, or critical region, will immediately appear underneath the t-test calculator, along with an interpretation!

The null hypothesis is that the population mean is equal to some value μ 0 \mu_0 μ 0 ​ .

The alternative hypothesis is that the population mean is:

  • different from μ 0 \mu_0 μ 0 ​ ;
  • smaller than μ 0 \mu_0 μ 0 ​ ; or
  • greater than μ 0 \mu_0 μ 0 ​ .

One-sample t-test formula :

  • μ 0 \mu_0 μ 0 ​ — Mean postulated in the null hypothesis;
  • n n n — Sample size;
  • x ˉ \bar{x} x ˉ — Sample mean; and
  • s s s — Sample standard deviation.

Number of degrees of freedom in t-test (one-sample) = n − 1 n-1 n − 1 .

The null hypothesis is that the actual difference between these groups' means, μ 1 \mu_1 μ 1 ​ , and μ 2 \mu_2 μ 2 ​ , is equal to some pre-set value, Δ \Delta Δ .

The alternative hypothesis is that the difference μ 1 − μ 2 \mu_1 - \mu_2 μ 1 ​ − μ 2 ​ is:

  • Different from Δ \Delta Δ ;
  • Smaller than Δ \Delta Δ ; or
  • Greater than Δ \Delta Δ .

In particular, if this pre-determined difference is zero ( Δ = 0 \Delta = 0 Δ = 0 ):

The null hypothesis is that the population means are equal.

The alternate hypothesis is that the population means are:

  • μ 1 \mu_1 μ 1 ​ and μ 2 \mu_2 μ 2 ​ are different from one another;
  • μ 1 \mu_1 μ 1 ​ is smaller than μ 2 \mu_2 μ 2 ​ ; and
  • μ 1 \mu_1 μ 1 ​ is greater than μ 2 \mu_2 μ 2 ​ .

Formally, to perform a t-test, we should additionally assume that the variances of the two populations are equal (this assumption is called the homogeneity of variance ).

There is a version of a t-test that can be applied without the assumption of homogeneity of variance: it is called a Welch's t-test . For your convenience, we describe both versions.

Two-sample t-test if variances are equal

Use this test if you know that the two populations' variances are the same (or very similar).

Two-sample t-test formula (with equal variances) :

where s p s_p s p ​ is the so-called pooled standard deviation , which we compute as:

  • Δ \Delta Δ — Mean difference postulated in the null hypothesis;
  • n 1 n_1 n 1 ​ — First sample size;
  • x ˉ 1 \bar{x}_1 x ˉ 1 ​ — Mean for the first sample;
  • s 1 s_1 s 1 ​ — Standard deviation in the first sample;
  • n 2 n_2 n 2 ​ — Second sample size;
  • x ˉ 2 \bar{x}_2 x ˉ 2 ​ — Mean for the second sample; and
  • s 2 s_2 s 2 ​ — Standard deviation in the second sample.

Number of degrees of freedom in t-test (two samples, equal variances) = n 1 + n 2 − 2 n_1 + n_2 - 2 n 1 ​ + n 2 ​ − 2 .

Two-sample t-test if variances are unequal (Welch's t-test)

Use this test if the variances of your populations are different.

Two-sample Welch's t-test formula if variances are unequal:

  • s 1 s_1 s 1 ​ — Standard deviation in the first sample;
  • s 2 s_2 s 2 ​ — Standard deviation in the second sample.

The number of degrees of freedom in a Welch's t-test (two-sample t-test with unequal variances) is very difficult to count. We can approximate it with the help of the following Satterthwaite formula :

Alternatively, you can take the smaller of n 1 − 1 n_1 - 1 n 1 ​ − 1 and n 2 − 1 n_2 - 1 n 2 ​ − 1 as a conservative estimate for the number of degrees of freedom.

🔎 The Satterthwaite formula for the degrees of freedom can be rewritten as a scaled weighted harmonic mean of the degrees of freedom of the respective samples: n 1 − 1 n_1 - 1 n 1 ​ − 1 and n 2 − 1 n_2 - 1 n 2 ​ − 1 , and the weights are proportional to the standard deviations of the corresponding samples.

As we commonly perform a paired t-test when we have data about the same subjects measured twice (before and after some treatment), let us adopt the convention of referring to the samples as the pre-group and post-group.

The null hypothesis is that the true difference between the means of pre- and post-populations is equal to some pre-set value, Δ \Delta Δ .

The alternative hypothesis is that the actual difference between these means is:

Typically, this pre-determined difference is zero. We can then reformulate the hypotheses as follows:

The null hypothesis is that the pre- and post-means are the same, i.e., the treatment has no impact on the population .

The alternative hypothesis:

  • The pre- and post-means are different from one another (treatment has some effect);
  • The pre-mean is smaller than the post-mean (treatment increases the result); or
  • The pre-mean is greater than the post-mean (treatment decreases the result).

Paired t-test formula

In fact, a paired t-test is technically the same as a one-sample t-test! Let us see why it is so. Let x 1 , . . . , x n x_1, ... , x_n x 1 ​ , ... , x n ​ be the pre observations and y 1 , . . . , y n y_1, ... , y_n y 1 ​ , ... , y n ​ the respective post observations. That is, x i , y i x_i, y_i x i ​ , y i ​ are the before and after measurements of the i -th subject.

For each subject, compute the difference, d i : = x i − y i d_i := x_i - y_i d i ​ := x i ​ − y i ​ . All that happens next is just a one-sample t-test performed on the sample of differences d 1 , . . . , d n d_1, ... , d_n d 1 ​ , ... , d n ​ . Take a look at the formula for the T-score :

Δ \Delta Δ — Mean difference postulated in the null hypothesis;

n n n — Size of the sample of differences, i.e., the number of pairs;

x ˉ \bar{x} x ˉ — Mean of the sample of differences; and

s s s  — Standard deviation of the sample of differences.

Number of degrees of freedom in t-test (paired): n − 1 n - 1 n − 1

We use a Z-test when we want to test the population mean of a normally distributed dataset, which has a known population variance . If the number of degrees of freedom is large, then the t-Student distribution is very close to N(0,1).

Hence, if there are many data points (at least 30), you may swap a t-test for a Z-test, and the results will be almost identical. However, for small samples with unknown variance, remember to use the t-test because, in such cases, the t-Student distribution differs significantly from the N(0,1)!

🙋 Have you concluded you need to perform the z-test? Head straight to our z-test calculator !

What is a t-test?

A t-test is a widely used statistical test that analyzes the means of one or two groups of data. For instance, a t-test is performed on medical data to determine whether a new drug really helps.

What are different types of t-tests?

Different types of t-tests are:

  • One-sample t-test;
  • Two-sample t-test; and
  • Paired t-test.

How to find the t value in a one sample t-test?

To find the t-value:

  • Subtract the null hypothesis mean from the sample mean value.
  • Divide the difference by the standard deviation of the sample.
  • Multiply the resultant with the square root of the sample size.

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Statology

Statistics Made Easy

Paired Samples t-test: Definition, Formula, and Example

A paired samples t-test is used to compare the means of two samples when each observation in one sample can be paired with an observation in the other sample.

This tutorial explains the following:

  • The motivation for performing a paired samples t-test.
  • The formula to perform a paired samples t-test.
  • The assumptions that should be met to perform a paired samples t-test.
  • An example of how to perform a paired samples t-test.

Paired Samples t-test: Motivation

A paired samples t-test is commonly used in two scenarios:

1. A measurement is taken on a subject before and after some treatment – e.g. the max vertical jump of college basketball players is measured before and after participating in a training program.

2. A measurement is taken under two different conditions  – e.g. the response time of a patient is measured on two different drugs.

In both cases we are interested in comparing the mean measurement between two groups in which each observation in one sample can be paired with an observation in the other sample.

Paired Samples t-test: Formula

A paired samples t-test always uses the following null hypothesis:

  • H 0 : μ 1  = μ 2 (the two population means are equal)

The alternative hypothesis can be either two-tailed, left-tailed, or right-tailed:

  • H 1 (two-tailed): μ 1  ≠ μ 2 (the two population means are not equal)
  • H 1 (left-tailed): μ 1  < μ 2  (population 1 mean is less than population 2 mean)
  • H 1 (right-tailed):  μ 1 > μ 2  (population 1 mean is greater than population 2 mean)

We use the following formula to calculate the test statistic t:

t = x diff  / (s diff /√n)

  • x diff :  sample mean of the differences
  • s:  sample standard deviation of the differences
  • n:  sample size (i.e. number of pairs)

If the p-value that corresponds to the test statistic t with (n-1) degrees of freedom is less than your chosen significance level (common choices are 0.10, 0.05, and 0.01) then you can reject the null hypothesis.

Paired Samples t-test: Assumptions

For the results of a paired samples t-test to be valid, the following assumptions should be met:

  • The participants should be selected randomly from the population.
  • The differences between the pairs should be approximately normally distributed.
  • There should be no extreme outliers in the differences.

Paired Samples t-test : Example

Suppose we want to know whether or not a certain training program is able to increase the max vertical jump (in inches) of college basketball players.

To test this, we may recruit a simple random sample of 20 college basketball players and measure each of their max vertical jumps. Then, we may have each player use the training program for one month and then measure their max vertical jump again at the end of the month.

Paired t-test example dataset

To determine whether or not the training program actually had an effect on max vertical jump, we will perform a paired samples t-test at significance level α = 0.05 using the following steps:

Step 1: Calculate the summary data for the differences.

Paired samples t-test dataset

  • x diff :  sample mean of the differences =  -0.95
  • s:  sample standard deviation of the differences =  1.317
  • n:  sample size (i.e. number of pairs) =  20

Step 2: Define the hypotheses.

We will perform the paired samples t-test with the following hypotheses:

  • H 0 :  μ 1  = μ 2 (the two population means are equal)
  • H 1 :  μ 1  ≠ μ 2 (the two population means are not equal)

Step 3: Calculate the test statistic  t .

t = x diff  / (s diff /√n)  = -0.95 / (1.317/ √ 20) =  -3.226

Step 4: Calculate the p-value of the test statistic  t .

According to the T Score to P Value Calculator , the p-value associated with t = -3.226 and degrees of freedom = n-1 = 20-1 = 19 is  0.00445 .

Step 5: Draw a conclusion.

Since this p-value is less than our significance level α = 0.05, we reject the null hypothesis. We have sufficient evidence to say that the mean max vertical jump of players is different before and after participating in the training program.

Note:  You can also perform this entire paired samples t-test by simply using the Paired Samples t-test Calculator .

Additional Resources

The following tutorials explain how to perform a paired samples t-test using different statistical programs:

How to Perform a Paired Samples t-Test in Excel How to Perform a Paired Samples t-test in SPSS How to Perform a Paired Samples t-test in Stata How to Perform a Paired Samples t-test on a TI-84 Calculator How to Perform a Paired Samples t-test in R How to Perform a Paired Samples t-Test in Python How to Perform a Paired Samples t-Test by Hand

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IMAGES

  1. Paired sample t test overview

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  2. Two Sample t Test (Independent Samples)

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  3. Hypothesis Testing with Two Samples

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  4. Hypothesis Testing

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  5. Difference between Null and Alternative Hypothesis

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  6. Two-Sample t-Test

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VIDEO

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  2. Two-Sample Hypothesis: Pooled t-Test

  3. Testing of Hypothesis,Null, alternative hypothesis, type-I & -II Error etc @VATAMBEDUSRAVANKUMAR

  4. Hypothesis

  5. Statistics Two tailed Hypothesis example

  6. Part 1: Hypothesis testing (Null & Alternative hypothesis)

COMMENTS

  1. Two Sample t-test: Definition, Formula, and Example

    Fortunately, a two sample t-test allows us to answer this question. Two Sample t-test: Formula. A two-sample t-test always uses the following null hypothesis: H 0: μ 1 = μ 2 (the two population means are equal) The alternative hypothesis can be either two-tailed, left-tailed, or right-tailed:

  2. Null & Alternative Hypotheses

    Statistical test: Null hypothesis (H 0) Alternative hypothesis (H a) Two-sample t test or. One-way ANOVA with two groups: The mean dependent variable does not differ between group 1 (µ 1) and group 2 (µ 2) in the population; µ 1 = µ 2. The mean dependent variable differs between group 1 (µ 1) and group 2 (µ 2) in the population; µ 1 ≠ ...

  3. T-test and Hypothesis Testing (Explained Simply)

    The null hypothesis and alternative hypothesis are always mathematically opposite. The possible outcomes of hypothesis testing: ... David wants to use the independent two-sample t-test to check if there is a real difference between the grade means in A and B classes, or if he got such results by chance. Two groups are independent because ...

  4. Two Sample t-test: Definition, Formula, and Example

    The alternative hypothesis can be either two-tailed, left-tailed, or right-tailed: H 1 ... 0.05, and 0.01) then you can reject the null hypothesis. Two Sample t-test: Assumptions. For the results of a two sample t-test to be valid, the following assumptions should be met:

  5. Two-Sample t-Test

    The results for the two-sample t-test that assumes equal variances are the same as our calculations earlier. The test statistic is 2.79996. The software shows results for a two-sided test and for one-sided tests. The two-sided test is what we want (Prob > |t|). Our null hypothesis is that the mean body fat for men and women is equal.

  6. Hypotheses for a two-sample t test (video)

    If that's below your significance level, then you would reject your null hypothesis and it would suggest the alternative that might be that, "Hey, maybe this mean "is greater than zero." On the other hand, a two-sample T test is where you're thinking about two different populations. For example, you could be thinking about a population of men ...

  7. T Test Overview: How to Use & Examples

    Two-Sample T Test Hypotheses. Null hypothesis (H 0): Two population means are equal (µ 1 = µ 2). Alternative hypothesis (H A): Two population means are not equal (µ 1 ≠ µ 2). Again, when the p-value is less than or equal to your significance level, reject the null hypothesis. The difference between the two means is statistically significant.

  8. PDF Two Sample tTest

    Nonparametric Location Test (Welch Two Sample t-test) alternative hypothesis: true difference of means is greater than 0 t = 3.9747, p-value = 4e-04 sample estimate: difference of the means 456.2576 3 Con dence Interval for Mean Di erences To form a 100(1 )% con dence interval for the mean di erence = x y, we will use the Welch version of the ...

  9. An Introduction to t Tests

    Revised on June 22, 2023. A t test is a statistical test that is used to compare the means of two groups. It is often used in hypothesis testing to determine whether a process or treatment actually has an effect on the population of interest, or whether two groups are different from one another. t test example.

  10. Null and Alternative Hypotheses

    The null and alternative hypotheses are two competing claims that researchers weigh evidence for and against using a statistical test: Null hypothesis (H0): There's no effect in the population. Alternative hypothesis (HA): There's an effect in the population. The effect is usually the effect of the independent variable on the dependent ...

  11. 9.1 Null and Alternative Hypotheses

    The actual test begins by considering two hypotheses.They are called the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis.These hypotheses contain opposing viewpoints. H 0, the —null hypothesis: a statement of no difference between sample means or proportions or no difference between a sample mean or proportion and a population mean or proportion. In other words, the difference equals 0.

  12. SPSS Tutorials: Independent Samples t Test

    The null hypothesis (H 0) and alternative hypothesis (H 1) of the Independent Samples t Test can be expressed in two different but equivalent ways:H 0: µ 1 = µ 2 ("the two population means are equal") H 1: µ 1 ≠ µ 2 ("the two population means are not equal"). OR. H 0: µ 1 - µ 2 = 0 ("the difference between the two population means is equal to 0") H 1: µ 1 - µ 2 ≠ 0 ("the difference ...

  13. Two-sample t test for difference of means

    And let's assume that we are working with a significance level of 0.05. So pause the video, and conduct the two sample T test here, to see whether there's evidence that the sizes of tomato plants differ between the fields. Alright, now let's work through this together. So like always, let's first construct our null hypothesis.

  14. 9.1: Two Sample Mean T-Test for Dependent Groups

    The t-test for dependent samples is a statistical test for comparing the means from two dependent populations (or the difference between the means from two populations). The t-test is used when the differences are normally distributed. The samples also must be dependent. The formula for the t-test statistic is: t = D¯−μD (SD n√) t = D ...

  15. Independent t-test for two samples

    The independent t-test, also called the two sample t-test, independent-samples t-test or student's t-test, is an inferential statistical test that determines whether there is a statistically significant difference between the means in two unrelated groups. Null and alternative hypotheses for the independent t-test. The null hypothesis for the ...

  16. Example of hypotheses for paired and two-sample t tests

    And so as you can imagine, here in this example we are dealing with a paired T test. We aren't looking at two independent groups or two independent samples like you would with the two-sample T test. And so we run a paired T test and the manager wants to test if their times when wearing Harpo's are significantly lower than their times when ...

  17. PDF Two-Sample Problems

    alternative hypothesis is two-sided, and states that, in the population, there is a statistically significant difference in average test scores between females and males. If SPSS is used to conduct the test of significance, results are provided in the "Independent Samples Test" table in the section labeled "t-test for equality of

  18. Independent Samples T Test: Definition, Using & Interpreting

    Independent Samples T Tests Hypotheses. Independent samples t tests have the following hypotheses: Null hypothesis: The means for the two populations are equal. Alternative hypothesis: The means for the two populations are not equal.; If the p-value is less than your significance level (e.g., 0.05), you can reject the null hypothesis. The difference between the two means is statistically ...

  19. 9.1: Null and Alternative Hypotheses

    The actual test begins by considering two hypotheses.They are called the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis.These hypotheses contain opposing viewpoints. \(H_0\): The null hypothesis: It is a statement of no difference between the variables—they are not related. This can often be considered the status quo and as a result if you cannot accept the null it requires some action.

  20. t-test Calculator

    A one-sample t-test (to test the mean of a single group against a hypothesized mean); A two-sample t-test (to compare the means for two groups); or. A paired t-test (to check how the mean from the same group changes after some intervention). Decide on the alternative hypothesis: Two-tailed; Left-tailed; or. Right-tailed.

  21. 1.3.5.3. Two-Sample t -Test for Equal Means

    The two-sample t-test (Snedecor and Cochran, 1989) is used to determine if two population means are equal. A common application is to test if a new process or treatment is superior to a current process or treatment. ... Reject the null hypothesis that the two means are equal if |T| > t 1- α/2,ν ... The rejection regions for three posssible ...

  22. Paired Samples t-test: Definition, Formula, and Example

    The alternative hypothesis can be either two-tailed, left-tailed, or right-tailed: H 1 ... 0.05, and 0.01) then you can reject the null hypothesis. Paired Samples t-test: Assumptions. For the results of a paired samples t-test to be valid, the following assumptions should be met:

  23. One-Tailed and Two-Tailed Hypothesis Tests Explained

    In a two-tailed test, the generic null and alternative hypotheses are the following: Null: The effect equals zero. Alternative: The effect does not equal zero. The specifics of the hypotheses depend on the type of test you perform because you might be assessing means, proportions, or rates. Example of a two-tailed 1-sample t-test