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Statistically speaking: The dreaded F

July 6, 2022, 11:00 a.m. (EDT)

Statistically speaking

Statistics involves gathering information, summarizing it, and deciding what it means. Sometimes, statisticians put funny-looking symbols or letters in a table or words in the text that don’t seem to make much sense. There are a lot of technical terms that may be overwhelming at times. This series aims to explain the language of statistics, some of the basic rules around interpreting and publishing data, and what these terms and symbols really mean.

The report cards are in. 

Some students are basking in the glows of As. Most have Bs and Cs. 

A few have gotten Ds. Then there is the dreaded F.

At Statistics Canada, we can relate to you all.

Whenever we conduct a survey, we test the data to ensure they are 100% accurate.

Getting 100% statistically is as hard as it is scholastically, so we keep tabs on our data to confirm accuracy and identify areas of concern.

Luckily, most of our data falls within the A range, but we do sometimes get lower scores, including the occasional F. 

Like students, we also have to show our report card, which in our case is to you, fellow Canadians.

As any person who has received a lower-than-hoped-for mark will tell you, all sorts of extenuating circumstances are behind a bad grade.

“The dog ate my homework” is the classic excuse for the student. When we get an F, it is usually because of low response rates, late responses and, of course, human error. Like students, statisticians are also "human."

Nevertheless, getting an F still stings, whether it is at school or in a data table.

We don't give up when we get a bad grade—we learn from it and work to get better. That's why our agency ranks among the best in the world.

There is no reason why you cannot turn it around, too.

Contact information

For more information, contact the Statistical Information Service (toll-free or Media Relations (