How to Find the T Critical Value in Python

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The t-distribution, also known as the Student’s t-distribution, plays a crucial role in statistical hypothesis testing and in constructing confidence intervals, especially when the sample size is small. It was first described by William Sealy Gosset under the pseudonym “Student”.

A t critical value is a “cut-off point” on the t-distribution. It is compared to the test statistic to decide whether to reject the null hypothesis. The larger the absolute value of the t critical value, the less likely we would get a value of that magnitude just due to random chance, and so the more “significant” the result is said to be.

Python’s scipy library provides robust tools for calculating and working with the t-distribution and t critical values.

Using the T Distribution in Python

Python’s scipy library contains the scipy.stats module, which provides functions and classes to work with the t-distribution and a variety of other statistical distributions.

Calculating the T Critical Value

The scipy.stats module provides the t.ppf function, which can be used to calculate the t critical value. The ppf stands for ‘Percent Point Function’, also known as the quantile function.

The t.ppf function takes in a quantile (probability) and the degrees of freedom and returns the corresponding critical value. Here is an example of how to use it:

from scipy.stats import t

# Define the degrees of freedom
df = 10

# Define the significance level
alpha = 0.05

# Calculate the critical value for a two-tailed test
t_critical = t.ppf(1 - alpha/2, df)

print(f'T Critical Value: {t_critical}')

In this code, df is the degrees of freedom, typically the sample size minus 1. The alpha value represents the significance level. For a two-tailed test, we divide the significance level by 2, and for a one-tailed test, we would use the full alpha value.

Plotting the T Distribution

Visualizing the t distribution can be beneficial to understand the concepts of t critical values and statistical tests. Here is how you can plot the t distribution with the critical region:

import numpy as np
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# Generate values from a t-distribution
x = np.linspace(t.ppf(0.001, df), t.ppf(0.999, df), 100)

# Plot the t-distribution
plt.plot(x, t.pdf(x, df), 'r-', lw=5, label='t pdf')

# Highlight the critical region for a two-tailed test
crit_region1 = np.linspace(t_critical, x[-1], 10)
crit_region2 = np.linspace(x[0], -t_critical, 10)
plt.fill_between(crit_region1, t.pdf(crit_region1, df), color='red', alpha=0.3)
plt.fill_between(crit_region2, t.pdf(crit_region2, df), color='red', alpha=0.3)


In this plot, the red line represents the t distribution, and the shaded area under the curve represents the critical region, where if the test statistic falls, we would reject the null hypothesis.


The t-distribution and the t critical value are vital tools in inferential statistics, especially when dealing with small samples or when the population standard deviation is unknown. Python, particularly the scipy library, provides a powerful and user-friendly interface for working with this distribution and conducting statistical analyses. Understanding these concepts can provide valuable insights when dealing with complex statistical problems and interpreting results.

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