I wasn’t amazing at A-level statistics either (S1 I got an E, raised to B on resit, and we never did S2); I think A-level stats in general was awful because it was focused on entirely on how to do a few very menial tasks – computing standard deviations by hand, counting out medians and modes, drawing fiddly cumulative frequency graphs and histograms – which no real mathematician has had to do for the best part of 30 years. What it never taught was what any of those funny tests actually meant, or how they could be used in the real world. It’s a shame really; the actual meaning behind them usually isn’t complicated and, like you say, statistics are often genuinely illuminating.

None of my A-level stats knowledge went into creating this post, by the way – it is after all much easier to stick the data in Excel and just tell it to run `stdev()`

and `pearson()`

functions, which is the way any self-respecting physicist does their maths.

I loathe statistics with the burning passion of a thousand suns (I think I got a C and an E on S1 and S2 at A-Level?) but when it’s done right – i.e. by people not me – the maths can be genuinely illuminating. This is one of those times. Thanks!

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