How to Calculate Confidence Intervals: 3 Example Problems


confidence interval for a mean is a range of values that is likely to contain a population mean with a certain level of confidence.

We use the following formula to calculate a confidence interval for a mean:

Confidence Interval = x  +/-  t*(s/√n)

where:

  • x: sample mean
  • t: the t critical value
  • s: sample standard deviation
  • n: sample size

Note: We replace a t critical value with a z critical value in the formula if the population standard deviation (σ) is known and the sample size is greater than 30.

The following examples show how to construct a confidence interval for a mean in three different scenarios:

  • Population standard deviation (σ) is unknown
  • Population standard deviation (σ) is known but n ≤ 30
  • Population standard deviation (σ) is known and n > 30

Let’s jump in!

Example 1: Confidence Interval when σ is Unknown

Suppose we would like to calculate a 95% confidence interval for the mean height (in inches) of a certain species of plant.

Suppose we collect a simple random sample with the following information:

  • sample mean (x)= 12
  • sample size (n) = 19
  • sample standard deviation (s) = 6.3

We can use the following formula to construct this confidence interval:

  • 95% C.I. = x  +/- t*(s/√n)
  • 95% C.I. = 12 +/- tn-1, α/2*(6.3/√19)
  • 95% C.I. = 12 +/- t18, .025*(6.3/√19)
  • 95% C.I. = 12 +/- 2.1009*(6.3/√19)
  • 95% C.I. = (8.964  , 15.037)

The 95% confidence interval for the population mean height for this particular species of plant is (8.964 inches, 15.037 inches).

Note #1: We used the Inverse t Distribution Calculator to find the t critical value associated with 18 degrees of freedom and a confidence level of 0.95.

Note #2: Since the population standard deviation (σ) was unknown, we used the t critical value when calculating the confidence interval.

Example 2: Confidence Interval when σ is Known but n ≤ 30

Suppose we would like to calculate a 99% confidence interval for the mean exam score on a certain college entrance exam.

Suppose we collect a simple random sample with the following information:

  • sample mean (x)= 85
  • sample size (n) = 25
  • population standard deviation (σ) = 3.5

We can use the following formula to construct this confidence interval:

  • 99% C.I. = x  +/- t*(s/√n)
  • 99% C.I. = 85 +/- tn-1, α/2*(3.5/√25)
  • 99% C.I. = 85 +/- t24, .005*(3.5/√25)
  • 99% C.I. = 85 +/- 2.7969*(3.5/√25)
  • 99% C.I. = (83.042, 86.958)

The 99% confidence interval for the population mean exam score on this particular college entrance exam is (83.042, 86.958).

Note #1: We used the Inverse t Distribution Calculator to find the t critical value associated with 24 degrees of freedom and a confidence level of 0.99.

Note #2: Since the population standard deviation (σ) was known but the sample size (n) was less than 30, we used the t critical value when calculating the confidence interval.

Example 3: Confidence Interval when σ is Known and n > 30

Suppose we would like to calculate a 90% confidence interval for the mean weight of a certain species of turtle.

Suppose we collect a simple random sample with the following information:

  • sample mean (x)= 300
  • sample size (n) = 40
  • population standard deviation (σ) = 15

We can use the following formula to construct this confidence interval:

  • 90% C.I. = x  +/- z*(σ/√n)
  • 90% C.I. = 300 +/- 1.645*(15/√40)
  • 90% C.I. = (296.099, 303.901)

The 90% confidence interval for the population mean weight of this particular species of turtle is (83.042, 86.958).

Note #1: We used the Critical Z Value Calculator to find the z critical value associated with a significance level of 0.1.

Note #2: Since the population standard deviation (σ) was known and the sample size (n) was greater than 30, we used the z critical value when calculating the confidence interval.

Additional Resources

The following tutorials provide additional information about confidence intervals:

4 Examples of Confidence Intervals in Real Life
How to Write a Confidence Interval Conclusion
The 6 Confidence Interval Assumptions to Check

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One Reply to “How to Calculate Confidence Intervals: 3 Example Problems”

  1. These explanations are terrific. I wish I had found them at the start of my sadistics class. Your explanations are so easy to understand:)

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