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Select the Right Chart for the Data

Today’s article is a fun one!

I am going to present you with five challenges. For each challenge, I will give you a dataset and have you guess which chart would be the most effective at visually representing the data.

I will then reveal the answer and explain why that chart is the best option.

If this sounds like fun to you, then let’s get to it!

Challenge 1

For your first challenge, here is a simple dataset showing the sales for four regions.

Your goal is to chart this data to compare the total sales for each region. Which chart should you choose and why?

Challenge 1 Solution

The best chart for this data would be a bar or column chart.

The goal is to depict the total sales data in such a way that makes it easy to compare the values. In a situation like this, a bar or column chart is the best option.

It is easy for our brains to quickly compare the length of the bars to visualize the data as a whole.

Challenge 2

For your second challenge, here we have page ranges and the number of books that have a length falling in that page range.

Which chart would be best fit to chart this data?

Challenge 2 Solution

The best way to display this data is with a Histogram.

The purpose of a histogram is to depict the distribution of the data. In this case, the data provided is in and of itself the metrics that represent a distribution.

Therefore, it is no wonder that the Histogram is the best chart for this dataset.

Challenge 3

How would you chart the total spending over several months? Take a look at the data below, and make your best guess.

The goal is to chart the change in total spending over time.

Challenge 3 Solution

Anytime you are faced with the tasking of depicting the change of a metric through time, a line chart is always the best choice.

In fact, the purpose of a line graph is to depict change through time. That makes this one a “no-brainer.”

Challenge 4

Here you have several different budget categories and the spending percentage for each.

Which chart would be the best tool for comparing the percentage values?

Challenge 4 Solution

Was your first instinct to select a pie chart to display this data? If so, that’s ok. Most people would naturally gravitate to a pie chart in a situation like this.

Nonetheless, a pie chart is not the best option to display this data. A bar chart would be a much better option here.

But why is this so?

The goal is to compare the percentage values against one another. When it comes to the comparison of numerical values, we have a much easier time decoding this as the length of bars rather than the angles of pie slices.

Therefore, a bar chart is much better suited for this task.

To learn more about why a pie chart is not the best option here, check out my article: Too Much Pie.

Challenge 5

In this dataset, you have the number of study hours and the average exam score.

Your goal is to chart this data in such a way that depicts the relationship between these two metrics.

Challenge 5 Solution

For this challenge, you were tasked with depicting the relationship between two variables. Anytime you try to show the relationship between two numerical values, it is best to use a scatter plot.

A scatter plot is designed to depict how an independent variable affects a dependent variable. And that is exactly what we have here.

We are trying to depict how the study hours (independent variable) affect the overall average exam score (dependent variable).

Therefore, the scatter plot is the best chart for this scenario.

I Hope You Had Fun

I hope that you enjoyed this article, had some fun, and also learned a few things along the way.

These days, it is very easy to create a chart in either Excel or Google Sheets. The real challenge is to select the correct chart to properly display the data.

So the next time you are faced with the task of visually representing the data, take some of the lessons you learned here and apply them to your own situation!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. This was so fun! I got 4/5, the scatter plot at the end threw me for a loop! I’m not too familiar with the scatter plot, but I’d love to learn more about it!

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