I have a model that I've used MSE as the accuracy metric. After reading this article on calculating prediction intervals using MSE I looked around for other resources.

I then found this PDF from Wharton that suggests y_hat +/- 2 * RMSE forms a prediction interval for y. However it doesn't tell me what percent prediction interval this is. Is this the 95% prediction interval for y_hat?

As a result I'm a little confused on how to derive the right formula for a N% prediction interval given the RMSE or MSE of the model. Could anyone point me to the right resources, or show me how to derive the formula for this, so I can actually understand how they've arrived at what seems like two different formulas?

  • $\begingroup$ That reference isn't quite right. It is making some (unstated) approximations, presumably to address an audience that might be confused by a full and accurate account of a prediction interval. Correct formulas are provided in several threads here, such as stats.stackexchange.com/questions/9131. They are needed in any situation where the fitted curve has appreciable uncertainty. $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    Nov 25, 2016 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber would you be willing to outline those unstated approximations in a comment or answer for completeness sake? $\endgroup$
    – user124589
    Nov 25, 2016 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ I already have: the approximation completely ignores uncertainty in the fitted curve. $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    Nov 25, 2016 at 20:48

1 Answer 1


To your first question: Wharton does give the ~95% confidence interval. You know this because the formula requires a quantile to be multiplied by a standard error. In this case the quantile represented is 2, which corresponds roughly to ( 1.96 ) a 95% C.I.

In order to calculate N% prediction intervals using this formula you need to adjust the quantile variable accordingly. For example to calcuate a 90% confidence interval change the 2 in the Wharton equation to 1.645.

  • $\begingroup$ Ah I see, this assumes a normal distribution correct? If I wanted a t distribution I would have to adjust this I assume. $\endgroup$
    – user124589
    Nov 25, 2016 at 20:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @grldsndrs You mean "if the d.f. is infinite then it is the same as the normal distribution", not 1. $\endgroup$
    – Chris Haug
    Nov 25, 2016 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisHaug Yes you are quite right. I should have written infinity. $\endgroup$
    – grldsndrs
    Nov 25, 2016 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ Yes according to the number of degrees of freedom, but if the d.f. is infinite then it is the same as the normal distribution. $\endgroup$
    – grldsndrs
    Nov 25, 2016 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ What is your sample size? The degrees of freedom is not infinite but rather is determined by your sample size. If the sample size is less than 20 the normal may not provide a good approximation. But if it is greater than 100 it is probably good enough. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2016 at 23:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.