How to Perform a Binomial Test in R

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The binomial test is a fundamental statistical test used to determine if observed proportions of categorical data deviate from expected proportions. It’s particularly useful when you’re dealing with binary or dichotomous outcomes, such as “success/failure” or “yes/no.”

In this comprehensive article, we’ll illuminate the underlying principles of the binomial test, demonstrate how to prepare and analyze data in R, and guide you in drawing meaningful conclusions from the results.

Understanding the Binomial Test

The binomial test evaluates the hypothesis about the probability of success in a binomial experiment. It is pertinent when we have:

  1. A random sample.
  2. Two possible outcomes for each observation (commonly coded as 0 and 1 or success and failure).
  3. A null hypothesis that posits the probability of success is a specific value.

The null and alternative hypotheses are typically framed as:

  • Null Hypothesis (H0​): The probability of success is equal to some specified value (e.g., P=0.5).
  • Alternative Hypothesis (Ha​): The probability of success is not equal to, greater than, or less than the specified value, depending on the context.

Preparing Your Data

For a binomial test, data is usually in the form of a count of successes out of a total number of trials. For instance:

  • You might want to test if a coin is fair. After 100 flips, you observe 60 heads. Is the coin biased?

Performing the Binomial Test in R

R provides the binom.test() function as part of its base package, making it easy to perform a binomial test.

Using the coin flipping example:

# Number of successes
heads_observed <- 60

# Total number of trials
total_flips <- 100

# Performing the binomial test
result <- binom.test(heads_observed, total_flips, p = 0.5)

The parameter pp denotes the expected probability of success under the null hypothesis. In this example, p=0.5p=0.5 indicates that we expect a fair coin to produce heads 50% of the time.

Interpreting the Results

A typical output for the binom.test() might look like:

Exact binomial test

data:  heads_observed and total_flips
number of successes = 60, number of trials = 100, p-value = 0.0443
alternative hypothesis: true probability of success is not equal to 0.5
95 percent confidence interval:
 0.5028 0.6972
sample estimates:
probability of success 

Let’s decipher the output:

  • p-value: The p-value helps determine statistical significance. A p-value less than a chosen significance level (e.g., 0.05) suggests that the observed data is inconsistent with the null hypothesis. In this case, with a p-value of 0.0443, there’s significant evidence at the 0.05 level to reject the null hypothesis and claim the coin might be biased.
  • 95 percent confidence interval: This interval provides an estimated range for the true probability of observing heads. If this interval doesn’t contain the probability under the null hypothesis (0.5 in our example), it’s another indication that the coin might be biased.

Practical Applications and Considerations

  1. Scenario Suitability: The binomial test is suitable for scenarios where you have two outcomes and a clear expectation or benchmark for one of the outcomes. Common examples include testing fairness of a die, evaluating conversion rates, or measuring drug efficacy.
  2. One-Sided vs. Two-Sided Tests: The binom.test() function can also accommodate one-sided tests. You can specify the alternative parameter as “greater” or “less” to test if the true proportion is greater than or less than a specified value, respectively.
  3. Larger Samples: As the sample size grows, the binomial test becomes more sensitive to smaller differences from the expected proportion. Ensure that the observed deviation from expectation is not just statistically significant but also practically meaningful.
  4. Assumptions: The binomial test assumes that each trial in your experiment is independent of others. This is important to consider, especially in experiments where the independence assumption might be violated.


The binomial test is a robust and straightforward tool for analyzing categorical data with two outcomes. By using R’s binom.test() function, researchers and analysts can quickly evaluate if their observed data deviates from expectations, aiding in informed decision-making. As always, while statistical significance provides valuable insights, it’s essential to consider the practical implications and context of the results.

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