Sign test - overview

This page offers structured overviews of one or more selected methods. Add additional methods for comparisons by clicking on the dropdown button in the right-hand column. To practice with a specific method click the button at the bottom row of the table

Sign test
Goodness of fit test
Independent variableIndependent variable
2 paired groupsNone
Dependent variableDependent variable
One of ordinal levelOne categorical with $J$ independent groups ($J \geqslant 2$)
Null hypothesisNull hypothesis
  • H0: P(first score of a pair exceeds second score of a pair) = P(second score of a pair exceeds first score of a pair)
If the dependent variable is measured on a continuous scale, this can also be formulated as:
  • H0: the population median of the difference scores is equal to zero
A difference score is the difference between the first score of a pair and the second score of a pair.
  • H0: the population proportions in each of the $J$ conditions are $\pi_1$, $\pi_2$, $\ldots$, $\pi_J$
or equivalently
  • H0: the probability of drawing an observation from condition 1 is $\pi_1$, the probability of drawing an observation from condition 2 is $\pi_2$, $\ldots$, the probability of drawing an observation from condition $J$ is $\pi_J$
Alternative hypothesisAlternative hypothesis
  • H1 two sided: P(first score of a pair exceeds second score of a pair) $\neq$ P(second score of a pair exceeds first score of a pair)
  • H1 right sided: P(first score of a pair exceeds second score of a pair) > P(second score of a pair exceeds first score of a pair)
  • H1 left sided: P(first score of a pair exceeds second score of a pair) < P(second score of a pair exceeds first score of a pair)
If the dependent variable is measured on a continuous scale, this can also be formulated as:
  • H1 two sided: the population median of the difference scores is different from zero
  • H1 right sided: the population median of the difference scores is larger than zero
  • H1 left sided: the population median of the difference scores is smaller than zero
  • H1: the population proportions are not all as specified under the null hypothesis
or equivalently
  • H1: the probabilities of drawing an observation from each of the conditions are not all as specified under the null hypothesis
AssumptionsAssumptions
  • Sample of pairs is a simple random sample from the population of pairs. That is, pairs are independent of one another
  • Sample size is large enough for $X^2$ to be approximately chi-squared distributed. Rule of thumb: all $J$ expected cell counts are 5 or more
  • Sample is a simple random sample from the population. That is, observations are independent of one another
Test statisticTest statistic
$W = $ number of difference scores that is larger than 0$X^2 = \sum{\frac{(\mbox{observed cell count} - \mbox{expected cell count})^2}{\mbox{expected cell count}}}$
Here the expected cell count for one cell = $N \times \pi_j$, the observed cell count is the observed sample count in that same cell, and the sum is over all $J$ cells.
Sampling distribution of $W$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $X^2$ if H0 were true
The exact distribution of $W$ under the null hypothesis is the Binomial($n$, $P$) distribution, with $n =$ number of positive differences $+$ number of negative differences, and $P = 0.5$.

If $n$ is large, $W$ is approximately normally distributed under the null hypothesis, with mean $nP = n \times 0.5$ and standard deviation $\sqrt{nP(1-P)} = \sqrt{n \times 0.5(1 - 0.5)}$. Hence, if $n$ is large, the standardized test statistic $$z = \frac{W - n \times 0.5}{\sqrt{n \times 0.5(1 - 0.5)}}$$ follows approximately the standard normal distribution if the null hypothesis were true.
Approximately the chi-squared distribution with $J - 1$ degrees of freedom
Significant?Significant?
If $n$ is small, the table for the binomial distribution should be used:
Two sided:
  • Check if $W$ observed in sample is in the rejection region or
  • Find two sided $p$ value corresponding to observed $W$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
Right sided:
  • Check if $W$ observed in sample is in the rejection region or
  • Find right sided $p$ value corresponding to observed $W$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
Left sided:
  • Check if $W$ observed in sample is in the rejection region or
  • Find left sided $p$ value corresponding to observed $W$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$

If $n$ is large, the table for standard normal probabilities can be used:
Two sided: Right sided: Left sided:
  • Check if $X^2$ observed in sample is equal to or larger than critical value $X^{2*}$ or
  • Find $p$ value corresponding to observed $X^2$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
Equivalent ton.a.
Two sided sign test is equivalent to -
Example contextExample context
Do people tend to score higher on mental health after a mindfulness course?Is the proportion of people with a low, moderate, and high social economic status in the population different from $\pi_{low} = 0.2,$ $\pi_{moderate} = 0.6,$ and $\pi_{high} = 0.2$?
SPSSSPSS
Analyze > Nonparametric Tests > Legacy Dialogs > 2 Related Samples...
  • Put the two paired variables in the boxes below Variable 1 and Variable 2
  • Under Test Type, select the Sign test
Analyze > Nonparametric Tests > Legacy Dialogs > Chi-square...
  • Put your categorical variable in the box below Test Variable List
  • Fill in the population proportions / probabilities according to $H_0$ in the box below Expected Values. If $H_0$ states that they are all equal, just pick 'All categories equal' (default)
JamoviJamovi
Jamovi does not have a specific option for the sign test. However, you can do the Friedman test instead. The $p$ value resulting from this Friedman test is equivalent to the two sided $p$ value that would have resulted from the sign test. Go to:

ANOVA > Repeated Measures ANOVA - Friedman
  • Put the two paired variables in the box below Measures
Frequencies > N Outcomes - $\chi^2$ Goodness of fit
  • Put your categorical variable in the box below Variable
  • Click on Expected Proportions and fill in the population proportions / probabilities according to $H_0$ in the boxes below Ratio. If $H_0$ states that they are all equal, you can leave the ratios equal to the default values (1)
Practice questionsPractice questions