You probably know that statistics can be difficult. You might even have some experience with a mind-numbing statistics class. But did you know that statistics are used in many different fields and can be applied to everything from science (physics, biology, etc.) to finance and business?
Statistics is a powerful tool because it allows us to make decisions, draw conclusions, and predict and forecast future outcomes.
Read the Whole Question
The most important part of any assignment is to understand what it is asking. As you read the question, think about what it is asking you to do and what you will need to know to do that.
If at any point during your reading a lightbulb goes off and you say, “ah! This is asking me to do this thing I learned about in class,” write down that note. Once you have finished reading through the question, go back to your notes and make sure everything makes sense. Ask yourself whether there are any gaps in understanding or if there is anything else you would like further clarification on before starting.
If something does not make sense, ask for help! Do not hesitate to ask for help if statistics problems do not make sense. The sooner you can ask for help, the more time there will be for someone to provide an explanation or demonstrate how things work specifically for that task.
Do Not Get Hung up on Definitions
Do not get hung up on definitions. Definitions are only there to help you understand a concept, but they are not the main point. If a question asks you to define something, go ahead and do that if it helps. However, remember that definitions are not always enough to help you solve problems.
The same goes for formulae – do not let them hold you back from getting the correct answer!
Normal Distribution Not the Only Way
The normal distribution is useful, though it is not the only one you can use. You should know when it makes sense to use the normal distribution and how to use more appropriate distributions for data that does not get normally distributed.
Any sample from a sufficiently large population can indeed get approximately modeled by a normal probability distribution. Hence, we could always approximate our data using a normal model when the population size is big enough (greater than 30).
We may not have a large sample, or the data can follow another pattern better. Under these situations, it is best to use a statistical model that reflects what your data looks like. It can help avoid approximating with another type of model as an alternative.
Writing Your Answers as a Sentence
You can state your answer clearly. For example, you have to calculate the average number of hours people in a survey spent on homework per day. You can write out your answer as “The mean number of hours spent on homework is X.” You can not write out the word “mean” but instead say the actual number.
You can indicate whether your answer is a proportion or an absolute number. You might see questions asking you to calculate how many hours get spent playing sports in a week. If the question asked for the percentage of students who play sports, then you will do some work and get an answer like “45%” or “0.45” (which can also get written as 45%).
If it asks for the proportion, then you will do some work and get an answer like “5/10” or “0.5” (which can also get written as 50%). You can pay attention to what type of units are in use so that your calculations fit with what you need for that particular problem!
You can ensure you include the units of measurement. What units get represented by years? What about percentages? You can try to keep track throughout your calculations where they come into play because they will affect how results should appear at their final stages before submission!
Don’t Ignore Your Intuition
While solving a problem, you may have an “aha” moment when your gut tells you something does not add up. It is important to trust your intuition and not just brush it off.
On the other hand, don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions either. If that little voice in your head is telling you something is wrong, test its validity by methodically going back over the steps leading up to that point and confirming your logical suspicions. Doing so will help you avoid time-wasting mistakes and improve your problem-solving skills overall.
It can be tempting to ignore any niggling doubts while working through a problem or assignment. However, doing so can lead to costly errors and frustration if it turns out they were right all along. And you will need to go back and correct them after the fact.
On the other hand, don’t jump immediately from “feeling” like there was an error made along the way to believing one was made (there may not have been). You should take a step back, whenever possible, from whatever you’re working on and reexamine it with fresh eyes. You can ensure those eyes are looking for logic more than feelings.
More Practice and New Skills
Statistics problems take a little bit of practice and some new skills to solve, but they aren’t impossible! If you’re stuck, likely, you aren’t familiar with the topic, or you haven’t practiced solving problems like this.
Statistics is especially known for its application in various fields such as economics and politics. The most common type of statistical analysis looks at the average value of a given dataset (e.g., average height). It is descriptive statistics because it describes what’s going on in observation rather than trying to explain why something happens or predict what might happen next time around. It’s what inferential statistics aims to do!
So now that we have an understanding of how statistics works and why it’s important for students facing difficulty with this topic.
The problem with statistics problems is that they often make students panic. After all, students who panic tend to make mistakes. But here is the thing: most statistical problems take a long time due to the several calculations involved. If you rush, you will probably make a mistake. Your professor will think you do not know what you are doing and give you a bad mark.