## What is a Paired T Test?

Use a paired t-test when each subject has a pair of measurements, such as a before and after score. A paired t-test determines whether the mean change for these pairs is significantly different from zero. This test is an inferential statistics procedure because it uses samples to draw conclusions about populations.

Paired t tests are also known as a paired sample t-test or a dependent samples t test. These names reflect the fact that the two samples are paired or dependent because they contain the same subjects. Conversely, an independent samples t test contains different subjects in the two samples.

For example, you gather a random sample of people, give them a pretest, administer a training program, and then perform a posttest. Each subject has a paired pretest and posttest score, and you want to determine whether there is significant improvement between the tests.

Or, perhaps you have a sample of wood boards, and you paint half of each board with one paint and the other half with the other paint. Then, you measure the paint durability for both types of paint on all the boards. Each board has two paint durability scores, and you want to determine whether the two paints have different durability.

In both cases, you have the same subjects/items in both groups. Each subject has a pair of measurements. A paired t-test determines whether the mean difference of these pairs equals zero (no effect).

In this article, you’ll learn about the hypotheses, assumptions, and how to interpret the results for paired t tests.

**Related post**: Difference between Descriptive and Inferential Statistics

## Paired T Test Hypotheses

Paired t tests have the following hypotheses:

**Null hypothesis:**The mean of the paired differences equals zero in the population.**Alternative hypothesis:**The mean of the paired differences does not equal zero in the population.

If the p-value is less than your significance level (e.g., 0.05), you can reject the null hypothesis. Your sample provides strong enough evidence to conclude that the mean paired difference does not equal zero in the population. Learn more about the Null Hypothesis: Definition, Rejecting & Examples.

Notice how the hypotheses reflect the paired sample nature of this t-test. This test assesses the mean difference between the pairs.

**Related post**: How to Interpret P Values

## Paired T Test Assumptions

For reliable paired sample t-test results, your data should satisfy the following assumptions.

### You have a random sample with independent subjects

Drawing a random sample from the population you are studying helps ensure that your data represent the population. Representative samples are vital when drawing inferences about the population. If your data do not represent the population, your analysis results will not be valid for that population.

When drawing a random sample, each item or person must have the same probability of being selected.

**Related post**: Populations, Parameters, and Samples in Inferential Statistics

### Dependent Samples

Paired sample t-tests use the same people or items in both groups. These are dependent samples, also known as paired samples.

Dependent samples can increase the statistical power of your analyses. To learn why, read my post about Independent and Dependent Samples.

It’s important to distinguish between independent subjects when drawing a random sample and dependent samples when measuring. When choosing the subjects, selecting one must not affect the probability of choosing the others. However, after selecting your subjects, they will all be in both groups. In this manner, you have independent subjects but dependent samples.

If the two groups contain different subjects, use an independent samples t test instead.

### Your data must be continuous

T tests require continuous data. Continuous variables can take on any numeric value. Values can be meaningfully divided into smaller increments, including fractional and decimal values. Typically, you measure continuous variables on a scale. For example, weight, temperature, and height are continuous data.

If you don’t have continuous data, you’ll need to use a different type of hypothesis test. To learn more, read my post, Comparing Hypothesis Tests for Continuous, Binary, and Count Data.

### Data should follow a normal distribution or have a sample size larger than 20

All t-tests assume that your data follow the normal distribution. For a paired t test, the normality assumption applies to the distribution of paired differences rather than raw test scores. However, you can waive this assumption for mildly skewed data when your distribution is unimodal and the sample size is large enough thanks to the central limit theorem.

For a paired sample t test, if you have at least 20 subjects, your test results will be reliable even when your data are skewed. However, when you have a smaller sample size, nonnormal data can cause the test results to be unreliable.

Be sure to check for outliers because they can throw off the results.

**Related posts**: Central Limit Theorem, Skewed Distributions and 5 Ways to Find Outliers.

## Paired T Test Example

For example, imagine we have a training program and administer a pretest and posttest to the same sample of students. Consequently, each student has a pair of test scores. We need to determine whether the average change for the pairs of scores is different from zero.

Here is what the data look like in the datasheet. Note that the analysis does not use the subject’s ID number.

Here’s the deciding characteristic for when you should use paired t tests versus an independent samples t test. Does it make sense to assess the difference within a row? In other words, does each row correspond to one person or item? Are the samples paired with each other?

For our dataset, each row in the dataset contains the same subject in the two measurement columns. Consequently, it makes sense to find the difference between the pairs of values. Because we have paired samples, each difference in a row represents how much a subject’s score changed after the training program. The paired t-test is the correct choice.

Conversely, if each row had contained different subjects, it would not make sense to subtract them. The change between the pretest for one subject and the posttest for another does not provide meaningful information. In that case, we’d need to perform an independent samples t test.

### Interpreting the Results

Here’s how to read and report the results for a paired t test.

The output indicates that the mean for the Pretest is 97.06, and for the Posttest it is 107.83. The average difference between the paired pretest and posttest scores is -10.77. If the p-value is less than your significance level, the difference does not equal zero.

Because our p-value (0.002) for the paired sample t-test is less than the standard significance level of 0.05, we can reject the null hypothesis. The results are statistically significant. Our sample data support the notion that the average paired difference does not equal zero. Specifically, the Posttest mean is greater than the Pretest mean.

Learn more about Statistical Significance: Definition & Meaning.

The sample estimate of the difference (-10.77) is unlikely to equal the population difference. The confidence interval estimates that the actual population difference between the Pretest and Posttest is likely between -16.96 and -4.59.

The negative values reflect the fact that the Pretest has a lower mean than the Posttest (i.e., Pretest – Posttest < 0). The confidence interval excludes the zero (no difference between the paired samples) as a likely value, so we can conclude that the population difference does not equal zero.

If high scores are better, the paired sample t-test indicates that the Posttest scores are significantly better than the pretest scores.

To learn more about performing t-tests and how they work, read the following posts:

- T Test Overview
- One-Sample T-Test
- Two-Sample T-Test
- Running T Tests in Excel
- T-Values and T-Distributions

Mike says

Hi! Our team is conducting a sensory evaluation of two cocoa blends. The blends vary in the amount of sweetener. A panel of 50 individuals will taste both blends and rate them based on a set criteria. In analyzing their ratings, which t-test is the most appropriate?

Thanks!

Mitch Tsai says

Hi Jim,

I want to know if adding hood to a light bulb may change the brightness or not. So I measured the brightness from 30 light bulbs for group 1, then I add hoods to the same 30 light bulbs and measure the brightness again for group 2.

In this setup, should I use paired sample t-test or two samples t-test to test if the mean brightness had no difference or not?

Could you please help on this?

Thank you,

Mitch

Jim Frost says

Hi Mitch,

Because you’re using the same lightbulbs in both groups, you should use a paired sample t-test.

arun says

One-Sample Statistics

N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean

Female 224 1.7098 .45486 .03039

Male 143 1.7273 .44693 .03737

One-Sample Test

Test Value = 0

t df Sig. (2-tailed) Mean Difference 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

Lower Upper

Female 56.260 223 .000 1.70982 1.6499 1.7697

Male 46.216 142 .000 1.72727 1.6534 1.8012

Therefore, Female show more of HTLV infection in comparison with Male.

is this true, could u kindly explain jim

Jim Frost says

Hi Arun,

I really can’t interpret these results because I don’t know what the variables are measuring. Also, from what I can tell, there seems to be two different variables. And there seems to be some values missing as well and the lack of formatting is not helping.