Statistics How To

F Test to Compare Two Variances: How to in Easy Steps

Main > Critical Values & Hypothesis Testing > F Test to Compare Two Variances

What is an F Test to Compare Two Variances?

A Statistical F Test uses an F Statistic to compare two variances, s1 and s2, by dividing them. The result is always a positive number (because variances are always positive). The equation for comparing two variances with the f-test is:
F = s21 / s22
f test to compare two variances

F Test to compare two variances by hand: Steps

Warning: F tests can get really tedious to calculate by hand, especially if you have to calculate the variances. You’re much better off using technology (like Excel — see below).
Step 1: If you are given standard deviations, go to Step 2. If you are given variances to compare, go to Step 3.

Step 2: Square both standard deviations to get the variances. For example, if σ1 = 9.6 and σ2 = 10.9, then the variances (s1 and s2) would be 9.62 = 92.16 and 10.92 = 118.81.

Step 3:Take the largest variance, and divide it by the smallest variance to get the f-value. For example, if your two variances were s1 = 2.5 and s2 = 9.4, divide 9.4 / 2.5 = 3.76.
Why? Placing the largest variance on top will force the F-test into a right tailed test, which is much easier to calculate than a left-tailed test.

Step 4:Look the f-value you calculated in Step 3 in the f-table. Note that there are several f-tables, so you’ll need to locate the right table for your alpha level. Unsure how to read an f-table? Read What is an f-table?.

Step 4:Compare the f-critical value in Step 4 with the f-value in Step 3. If the f-value is smaller than the f-critical value, you can reject the null hypothesis.

That’s it!

F Test to Compare Two Variances in Excel

If you have Excel on your computer, you can use Data Analysis to find variances. If you have to do the calculations by hand, you can use Excel to check your work. Check out this short video:

Subscribe to our Youtube channel for more stats videos.

Still have questions? Check our FREE statistics forum. Our resident stats guy will answer your tricky stats problems. He’ll even tackle homework (just please be kind and only post one question at a time :) ).

15 thoughts on “F Test to Compare Two Variances: How to in Easy Steps

  1. Stephanie N

    I am having a REALLY hard time finding the tables for the f test. I have incomplete tables for a=0.05 and a=0.01, but its obviously not enough. Where can I find full tables, including ones for a=0.10 or a=0.001?

  2. Vanessa DuBarry

    This blog is really helpful, but for once the mathzone explained how to do the chapter 8 problems in the second homework.

  3. Phil Smith

    I’m still not understanding how to tell when it’s a one-tailed or two-tailed test for the F distribution. I have tried to compare the questions to see if there is a difference in wording, but there doesn’t seem to be one.

  4. Tammy Sutton

    Even after looking at that site, I’m still confused about left tail, right tail, one tail, two tail. I feel like Dr. Seuss

  5. Rebecca Gamble

    I had a hard time too, but once I found it I labeled it so that way I remember that it was used for this chapter, but I’m still confused about the tails, how do you know when you need to consider it a left tail and a right tail and let’s not go to when its two tail. I know when its two tails can the section that you right your answer will would have a negative and positive sign in it.

  6. Alison Bryant

    I really do not understand this, now that I have the value, what do I do with it?

  7. gita

    A simple way to distinguish one-tailed and two-tailed tests.
    Ha tells you if the test is one-tailed or two-tailed.
    Let PP1=population parameter 1; PP2=population parameter 2.

    a) If PP1>PP2, this is right tailed. It becomes left-tailed if you rewrite it as PP2<PP1.
    b) If PP1PP1.
    c) If PP1≠PP2, this is two tailed. This is because it means that either PP1>PP2 or PP1<PP2, which are two alternatives, one in each tail.

    In the tests of variance, think of PP1=variance 1, PP2=variance2.

    Hope this helps.

  8. Andale

    Hi, Janne,

    Could you post your question on our forum? One of our mods will be glad to answer your question.

    Regards,
    Stephanie