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Quartiles

The median divides the data into two equal sets. For more information on the median, refer to
the chapter on Measures of central tendency:

The lower quartile is the value of the middle of the first set, where 25% of the values are
smaller than Q1 and 75% are larger. This first quartile takes the notation Q1.

The upper quartile is the value of the middle of the second set, where 75% of the values
are smaller than Q3 and 25% are larger. This third quartile takes the notation Q3.

It should be noted that the median takes the notation Q2, the second quartile.

Example 1 Upper and lower quartiles

Data: 6, 47, 49, 15, 43, 41, 7, 39, 43, 41, 36

Ordered data: 6, 7, 15, 36, 39, 41, 41, 43, 43, 47, 49

Median: 41

Upper quartile: 43

Lower quartile: 15

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Interquartile range
The interquartile range is another range used as a measure of the spread. The difference
between upper and lower quartiles (Q3Q1), which is called the interquartile range, also indicates
the dispersion of a data set. The interquartile range spans 50% of a data set, and eliminates the
influence of outliers because, in effect, the highest and lowest quarters are removed.
Interquartile range = difference between upper quartile (Q3) and lower quartile (Q1)

Example 2 Range and quartiles


A year ago, Angela began working at a computer store. Her supervisor asked her to keep a
record of the number of sales she made each month.
The following data set is a list of her sales for the last 12 months:
34, 47, 1, 15, 57, 24, 20, 11, 19, 50, 28, 37.
Use Angela's sales records to find:

a. the median
b. the range
c.

the upper and lower quartiles

d. the interquartile range

Answers
a. The values in ascending order are:
1, 11, 15, 19, 20, 24, 28, 34, 37, 47, 50, 57.
Median = (12th + first) 2
= 6.5th value
= (sixth + seventh observations) 2
= (24 + 28) 2
= 26
b. Range = difference between the highest and lowest values
= 57 1
= 56
c.

Lower quartile = value of middle of first half of data Q1


= the median of 1, 11, 15, 19, 20, 24
= (third + fourth observations) 2
= (15 + 19) 2
= 17

d. Upper quartile = value of middle of second half of data Q3


= the median of 28, 34, 37, 47, 50, 57
= (third + fourth observations) 2
= (37 + 47) 2
= 42
e. Interquartile range = Q3Q1
= 42 17
= 25
These results can be summarized as follows:

Note: This example has an even number of observations. The median, Q2, lies between the
centre of two observations (24 and 28), so the calculation of Q1 includes the observation 24 as it
is below the value of Q2. Similarly, 28 is also included in the calculation of Q3 as it is above the
value of Q2.

Consider an odd number of observations such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Here the value of Q 2is 4. As


the location of the median is right on the fourth observation, this value is not included in
calculating Q1 and Q3 , as we are interested only in the data above and below Q2. In the above
example, Q1 = 2 and Q3 = 6.

Semi-quartile range
The semi-quartile range is another measure of spread. It is calculated as one half the difference
between the 75th percentile (often called Q3) and the 25th percentile (Q1). The formula for semiquartile range is:
(Q3Q1) 2.
Since half the values in a distribution lie between Q3 and Q1, the semi-quartile range is one-half
the distance needed to cover half the values. In a symmetric distribution, an interval stretching
from one semi-quartile range below the median to one semi-quartile above the median will
contain one-half of the values. However, this will not be true for askewed distribution.
The semi-quartile range is hardly affected by higher values, so it is a good measure of spread to
use for skewed distributions, but it is rarely used for data sets that have normal distributions. In
the case of a data set with a normal distribution, the standard deviation is used instead.