Percentile

A percentile (or a centile) is a measure used in statistics indicating the value below which a given percentage of observations in a group of observations falls. For example, the 20th percentile is the value (or score) below which 20% of the observations may be found.

The term percentile and the related term percentile rank are often used in the reporting of scores from norm-referenced tests. For example, if a score is at the 86th percentile, where 86 is the percentile rank, it is equal to the value below which 86% of the observations may be found (carefully contrast with in the 86th percentile, which means the score is at or below the value below which 86% of the observations may be found—every score is in the 100th percentile). The 25th percentile is also known as the first quartile (Q1), the 50th percentile as the median or second quartile (Q2), and the 75th percentile as the third quartile (Q3). In general, percentiles and quartiles are specific types of quantiles.

Applications

When ISPs bill "burstable" internet bandwidth, the 95th or 98th percentile usually cuts off the top 5% or 2% of bandwidth peaks in each month, and then bills at the nearest rate. In this way infrequent peaks are ignored, and the customer is charged in a fairer way. The reason this statistic is so useful in measuring data throughput is that it gives a very accurate picture of the cost of the bandwidth. The 95th percentile says that 95% of the time, the usage is below this amount: so, the remaining 5% of the time, the usage is above that amount.

Physicians will often use infant and children's weight and height to assess their growth in comparison to national averages and percentiles which are found in growth charts.

The 85th percentile speed of traffic on a road is often used as a guideline in setting speed limits and assessing whether such a limit is too high or low.[1][2]

In finance, Value at Risk is a standard measure to assess (in a model dependent way) the quantity under which the value of the portfolio is not expected to sink within a given period of time and given a confidence value.