# Significance Tests - Why Would a Low Sample Size Cause Problems?

Okay, on my AP Statistics test on the chapter on significance tests, the following free response question appeared:

When the manufacturing process is working properly, NeverREady batteries have lifetimes that follow a slightly right-skewed distribution with μ = 7 hours. A quality control supervisor selects the simple random sample of n batteries every hour and measures the lifetime of each. If she is convinced that the mean lifetime of all batteries produced that hour is less than 7 hours at the 5% significance level, then all of those batteries are discarded.

(b) Since testing the lifetime of a battery requires draining the battery completely, the supervisor wants to sample as few batteries as possible from each hour's production. She is considering a sample size of n = 4. Explain why this sample size may lead to problems in carrying out the significance test of (a).

Now, (a) was just defining the parameter of interest (μ = the true mean lifetime (in hours) of NeverReady batteries) and labeling the null (μ = 7) & alternative (μ < 7) hypotheses.

I answered that it would result in a lower power of the significance test.

Is it because it was already stated above that the population distribution was slightly right skewed and therefore not Normal?

In addition, when I searched the question up online and I found 3 answer keys with the answer to the problem: 2 of them state it's because of the lower power, and 1 of them states that its because the population distribution is neither large (n = 4 < 30) nor Normal (because its slightly right-skewed).

Which one is right? Is it the Normal/Large Sample condition or is it the lower power that may cause problems when doing a significance test? I'm assuming the former but only 1/3 answer keys would have the correct answer in that case. It seems to me that both answers are problems a small sample size would have on a significance test.

• The last sentence of your 2nd paragraph seems to end abruptly. I assume you meant something like "...all of those batteries are destroyed." // Nice question. Hope you enjoy your AP Statistics class. – BruceET Mar 10 at 8:46
• @BruceET Yeah, it should have ended with "are discarded." – ChippeRockTheMurph Mar 10 at 15:57

Typically, decreased sample sizes result in poorer power, whatever then concerns about the population distribution.

For example, suppose we know the population of batteries is normal. We don't know the mean $$\mu$$ for a particular batch, but past experience has shown that the population standard deviation is about $$\sigma = 3.$$

We are testing $$H_0: \mu = 7$$ against alternative $$H_a: \mu < 7$$ at the 5% level, using a one-sample t test. We would be disappointed not to be able to detect a $$\mu$$ value as small as $$5$$ with probability 80%. That is, we want power $$0.8.$$

The following chart from Minitab, shows that a sample of size $$n = 16$$ (upper curve) would be large enough to get the desired power, but a sample of size $$n = 4$$ (lower curve) would not. On the chart, we want the value $$-2$$ on the horizontal axis, because $$7 - 2 = 5.$$ Also, if the population is slightly skewed to the right then $$n = 4$$ may be too few observations for the t test used above to give truthful results. The $$T$$ test statistic is not distributed even roughly according to Student's t distribution with $$n - 1$$ degrees of freedom, unless the sample mean is roughly normal.

Just as one possible illustration, the histogram on the left shows individual samples from a right-skewed population. The one in the middle shows of averages of $$n = 4$$ observations; it is still noticeably skewed. By contrast, the histogram on the right shows a more nearly normal distribution of averages of $$n = 40$$ observations. (The Central Limit Theorem has performed as promised.) So I would say that both objections to a sample of size $$n = 4$$ seem correct---both poor power and skewed distribution.