I am using quantile regression (for example via gbm or quantreg in R) - not focusing on the median but instead an upper quantile (e.g. 75th). Coming from a predictive modeling background, I want to measure how well the model fits on a test set and be able to describe this to a business user. My question is how? In a typical setting with a continuous target I could do the following:

  • Calculate the overall RMSE
  • Decile the data set by the predicted value and compare the average actual to the average predicted in each decile.
  • Etc.

What can be done in this case, where there really is no actual value (i don't think at least) to compare the prediction to?

Here is an example code:





modGBM<-gbm(y.net~., # formula
            data=train, # dataset
            distribution=list(name="quantile",alpha=0.75), # see the help for other choices
            n.trees=5000, # number of trees
            shrinkage=0.005, # shrinkage or learning rate,
            # 0.001 to 0.1 usually work
            interaction.depth=5, # 1: additive model, 2: two-way interactions, etc.
            bag.fraction = 0.5, # subsampling fraction, 0.5 is probably best
            train.fraction = 0.5, # fraction of data for training,
            # first train.fraction*N used for training
            n.minobsinnode = 10, # minimum total weight needed in each node
            cv.folds = 5, # do 3-fold cross-validation
            keep.data=TRUE, # keep a copy of the dataset with the object
            verbose=TRUE) # don’t print out progress



Now what - since we don't observe the percentile of the conditional distribution?


I hypothesized several methods and I would like to know if they are correct and if there are better ones - also how to interpret the first:

  1. Calculate the average value from the loss functions:

    qregLoss<-function(actual, estimate,quantile)

    This is the loss function for quantile regression - but how do we interpret the value?

  2. Should we expect that if for example we are calculating the 75th percentile that on a test set, the predicted value should be greater than the actual value around 75% of the time?

Are there other methods formal or heuristic to describe how well the model predicts new cases?

  • $\begingroup$ Section 3 in this paper might be useful. $\endgroup$ Mar 23, 2013 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ @tchakravarty I think that link has gone dead $\endgroup$ May 9, 2018 at 1:54

1 Answer 1


A useful reference may be Haupt, Kagerer, and Schnurbus (2011) discussing the use of quantile-specific measures of predictive accuracy based on cross-validations for various classes of quantile regression models.


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