How to Perform Runs Test in R

Spread the love

When analyzing time series data or sequences, one of the questions that often arises is about the randomness of the sequence. Is the sequence truly random, or is there some form of pattern or trend? The Runs Test, also known as Wald-Wolfowitz Runs Test, is a non-parametric statistical test designed to determine if a sequence exhibits randomness or if it follows a specific trend.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll delve deep into the Runs Test, learn its underlying principles, perform the test in R, and discuss how to interpret the results.

Understanding the Runs Test

A “run” is defined as a sequence of similar observations. For instance, in a series of coin flips, a run could be a sequence of consecutive heads or consecutive tails.The Runs Test evaluates the hypothesis:

  • Null Hypothesis (H0​): The sequence was produced in a random manner.
  • Alternative Hypothesis (Ha​): The sequence was not produced randomly.

If the number of runs is too few or too many, it may suggest non-randomness or patterns in the data.

Preparing Your Data

To perform the Runs Test, your data should typically be in binary format (like 0s and 1s or heads and tails). However, if you have continuous data, it can be transformed into binary format by determining whether each data point is above or below the median (or any other threshold).

For instance, let’s consider a sequence of stock market price changes (increases or decreases):

price_changes <- c("increase", "increase", "decrease", "increase", "decrease", "decrease", "increase")

Convert to Numeric Data:

You can assign numeric values (e.g., 1 for “increase” and 0 for “decrease”):

price_changes_numeric <- ifelse(price_changes == "increase", 1, 0)

Performing the Runs Test in R

The randtests package in R provides a function for the Runs Test. First, you’ll need to install and load the package:


To execute the Runs Test:

result <- runs.test(price_changes_numeric)

Interpreting the Results

The output of the runs.test() function might look something like this:

Runs Test

data:  as.factor(price_changes)
Standard Normal = -0.40825, p-value = 0.6831
alternative hypothesis: two.sided

Here’s a breakdown of the output:

  • Standard Normal: This is the test statistic, which follows a standard normal distribution under the null hypothesis. A value far from 0 suggests potential non-randomness.
  • p-value: This value helps determine the statistical significance of the result. A small p-value (typically ≤ 0.05) indicates evidence against the null hypothesis, suggesting the sequence might not be random. Conversely, a larger p-value indicates insufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis.

In our example, with a p-value of 0.6831, we would not reject the null hypothesis, indicating the sequence might be random.

Advantages and Limitations

  1. Simplicity: The Runs Test is straightforward and doesn’t require any distributional assumptions, making it quite versatile.
  2. Binary Data: One of the primary limitations is that the test is suitable for binary sequences. If you have continuous data, it needs to be converted to binary format, which may lead to a loss of information.
  3. Sample Size: For very large samples, even small deviations from randomness can become statistically significant. In contrast, with very small samples, the test might lack the power to detect non-randomness.
  4. Doesn’t Specify Type of Pattern: While the test can identify non-randomness, it doesn’t provide specifics about the type or nature of patterns in the data.


The Runs Test is a valuable tool in the statistician’s toolkit for examining the randomness of a sequence. With its straightforward implementation in R using the randtests package, you can quickly assess the randomness of your data. As always, when interpreting statistical results, it’s crucial to consider the broader context and the inherent limitations of the test.

Posted in RTagged

Leave a Reply