Statistics How To

T Critical Value: Easy Definition, Calculating

Critical Values > T Critical Value

Not sure what I mean by a “critical value”? You might want to read this article first: What is a Critical Value?

What is a T Critical Value?


The t-distribution (black line) is taller than the normal (dotted line). Image:

A T critical value is a “cut off point” on the t distribution. It’s almost identical to the Z critical value (which cuts off an area on the normal distribution); The only real difference is that the shape of the t distribution is a different shape than the normal distribution, which results in slightly different values for cut off points.

You’ll use your t value in a hypothesis test to compare against a calculated t score. This helps you to decide if you should support or reject a null hypothesis.

How to Find a T Critical Value

You’ve got several options for finding a T value with technology, including:

  • TI 83: See “How to Find t Critical Value on the TI 83.”
  • Excel: See Excel T Test; Excel will calculate the T critical value as part of the process.

By hand

Step 1: Subtract one from your sample size. This is your df, or degrees of freedom. For example, if the sample size is 9, then your df is 8 – 1 = 7.

Step 2: Choose an alpha level. The alpha level is usually given to you in the question — the most common one is 5% (0.05).

Step 3: Choose either the one tailed T Distribution table or two tailed T Distribution table). This depends on if you’re running a one tailed test or two.

Step 4: Look up the df in the left hand side of the t-distribution table and the alpha level along the top row. Find the intersection of the row and column. For this example (7 df, α = .05,) the t crit value is 1.895.
t critical value


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Statistical concepts explained visually - Includes many concepts such as sample size, hypothesis tests, or logistic regression, explained by Stephanie Glen, founder of StatisticsHowTo.

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