In statistics, we often use the Pearson correlation coefficient to measure the linear relationship between two variables.

However, sometimes we’re interested in understanding the relationship between two variables **while controlling for a third variable**.

For example, suppose we want to measure the association between the number of hours a student studies and the final exam score they receive, while controlling for the student’s current grade in the class.

In this case, we could use a **partial correlation **to measure the relationship between hours studied and final exam score.

This tutorial explains how to calculate partial correlation in SPSS.

**Example: Partial Correlation in SPSS**

Suppose we have a dataset that shows the following information for 10 students:

- Current grade in a class
- Hours spent studying for the final exam
- Final exam score

Perform the following steps to calculate the partial correlation between hours and exam, while controlling for grade:

- Click the
**Analyze**tab. - Click
**Correlate**. - Click
**Partial**.

In the window that pops up, drag **hours **and **exam **into the box that says **Variables **and drag **grade **into the box that says **Controlling for**. Then click OK.

Once you click OK, the following screen will appear:

We can see that the partial correlation between hours studied and final exam score is **.191**, which is a small positive correlation. As hours studied increases, exam score tends to increase as well, assuming current grade is held constant.

The corresponding two-tailed p-value is **.623**. Since this value is not less than 0.05, this means the partial correlation between hours and exam score is not statistically significant.