[R] wilcox.exact() problem

Achim Zeileis Achim.Zeileis at wu-wien.ac.at
Wed Oct 28 18:39:52 CET 2009

On Wed, 28 Oct 2009, David Croll wrote:

> Dear Achim,
> let me thank you for this assurance!
>> The sample size is too large (~4000 observations per group) to solve this 
>> problem exactly. The error message could maybe be improved, but the message 
>> is clear: This is too large to deal with.
>> However, this is not a problem. With several thousand observations, 
>> standard normal approximations should work sufficiently well. And if you 
>> don't believe it, then you can look at approximate solutions that draw a 
>> sufficiently large number of permutations. Both is easily available when 
>> using wilcox_test() in "coin" as the startup message of "exactRankTests" 
>> suggests. 
> But in my dataset there are many, many tied ranks between group_1 and group_2 
> and the other ones. I wanted to use the exact procedure because I read the 
> approximate solution would not give me exact p values in case of tied 
> ranks...

Well, normal asymptotics will work anyway.

> Am I paranoid, or am I in search of an exactness statistics cannot 
> deliver?

Paranoid. ;-) With your sample size all solutions should be sufficiently 
close to exact.

> Well, then I'll try permutation tests, and thank you again!

wilcox.exact() is a permutation test (as is wilcox.test if there are no 
ties). However, not all permutations have to be computed explicitly which 
is why it is also feasible for moderately sized samples. For large samples 
as yours, the computational burden is too large even for wilcox.exact(). 
The usual solution is to not look at all permutations but at a large 
number of them where you can make the approximation as precise as you want 
by increasing the number of permutations. And I'm fairly certain (but 
haven't tried) that the result of the approximate permutation test will be 
almost the same as the asymptotic permutation test.


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