Statnote 34 : the Kolmogorov-Smirnov (KS) test

Anthony Hilton, Richard Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to specialist publication or newspaperArticle


The Kolmogorov-Smirnov (KS) test is a non-parametric test which can be used in two different circumstances. First, it can be used as an alternative to chi-square (?2) as a ‘goodness-of-fit’ test to compare whether a given ‘observed’ sample of observations conforms to an ‘expected’ distribution of results (KS, one-sample test). An example of the use of the one-sample test to determine whether a sample of observations was normally distributed was described previously. Second, it can be used as an alternative to the Mann-Whitney test to compare two independent samples of observations (KS, two-sample test). Hence, this statnote describes the use of the KS test with reference to two scenarios: (1) to compare the observed frequency (Fo) of soil samples containing cysts of the protozoan Naegleria collected each month for a year with an expected equal frequency (Fe) across months (one-sample test), and (2) to compare the abundance of bacteria on cloths and sponges sampled in a domestic kitchen environment (two-sample test).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages3
Specialist publicationMicrobiologist
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


  • statistics
  • microbiology
  • Kolmogorov-Smirnov test


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