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Metrics to Evaluate your Classification Model to take the right decisions

This article was published as a part of the Data Science Blogathon

Evaluation Metrics for Classification Problem

Evaluation Metrics For Classification Model

Image source  https://www.kaggle.com/nkitgupta/evaluation-metrics-for-multi-class-classification


The most important task in building any machine learning model is to evaluate its performance. So, the question arises that how would one measure the success of a machine learning model? How would we know that when to stop the training and evaluation and when to call it good?

With the help of this article, I’ll try to answer these questions. This article is organized as follows: In the first section, I’ll start with introducing what we mean by “ML Model Evaluation” and why it’s actually necessary to evaluate any machine learning model. In other subsequent section, we’ll discuss various evaluation metrics available to specific use cases in subsequent sections to better understand these metrics.



Evaluation metrics are tied to machine learning tasks. There are different metrics for the tasks of classification and regression. Some metrics, like precision-recall, are useful for multiple tasks. Classification and regression are examples of supervised learning, which constitutes a majority of machine learning applications. Using different metrics for performance evaluation, we should be able to improve our model’s overall predictive power before we roll it out for production on unseen data. Without doing a proper evaluation of the Machine Learning model by using different evaluation metrics, and only depending on accuracy, can lead to a problem when the respective model is deployed on unseen data and may end in poor predictions.

In the next section, I’ll discuss the Classification evaluation metrics that could help in the generalization of the ML classification model.


Classification Metrics

Classification is about predicting the class labels given input data. In binary classification, there are only two possible output classes(i.e., Dichotomy). In multiclass classification, more than two possible classes can be present. I’ll focus only on binary classification.

A very common example of binary classification is spam detection, where the input data could include the email text and metadata (sender, sending time), and the output label is either “spam” or “not spam.” (See Figure) Sometimes, people use some other names also for the two classes: “positive” and “negative,” or “class 1” and “class 0.”

Evaluation Metrics For Classification Model spam

Figure — Email spam detection is a binary classification problem (source: From Book — Evaluating Machine Learning Model — O’Reilly)

There are many ways for measuring classification performance. Accuracy, confusion matrix, log-loss, and AUC-ROC are some of the most popular metrics. Precision-recall is a widely used metrics for classification problems.



Accuracy simply measures how often the classifier correctly predicts. We can define accuracy as the ratio of the number of correct predictions and the total number of predictions.

Evaluation Metrics For Classification Model accuracy

When any model gives an accuracy rate of 99%, you might think that model is performing very good but this is not always true and can be misleading in some situations. I am going to explain this with the help of an example.

Consider a binary classification problem, where a model can achieve only two results, either model gives a correct or incorrect prediction. Now imagine we have a classification task to predict if an image is a dog or cat as shown in the image. In a supervised learning algorithm, we first fit/train a model on training data, then test the model on testing data. Once we have the model’s predictions from the X_test data, we compare them to the true y_values (the correct labels).

Trained Evaluation Metrics For Classification Model

Image Source –    https://www.kdnuggets.com/2020/04/performance-evaluation-metrics-classification.html

We feed the image of the dog into the training model. Suppose the model predicts that this is a dog, and then we compare the prediction to the correct label. If the model predicts that this image is a cat and then we again compare it to the correct label and it would be incorrect.

We repeat this process for all images in X_test data. Eventually, we’ll have a count of correct and incorrect matches. But in reality, it is very rare that all incorrect or correct matches hold equal value. Therefore one metric won’t tell the entire story.

Accuracy is useful when the target class is well balanced but is not a good choice for the unbalanced classes. Imagine the scenario where we had 99 images of the dog and only 1 image of a cat present in our training data. Then our model would always predict the dog, and therefore we got 99% accuracy. In reality, Data is always imbalanced for example Spam email, credit card fraud, and medical diagnosis. Hence, if we want to do a better model evaluation and have a full picture of the model evaluation, other metrics such as recall and precision should also be considered.


Confusion Matrix

Confusion Matrix is a performance measurement for the machine learning classification problems where the output can be two or more classes. It is a table with combinations of predicted and actual values.

A confusion matrix is defined as thetable that is often used to describe the performance of a classification model on a set of the test data for which the true values are known.

Evaluation Metrics For Classification Model confusion matrix

Image Source — https://www.roelpeters.be/glossary/what-is-a-confusion-matrix/

It is extremely useful for measuring the Recall, Precision, Accuracy, and AUC-ROC curves.

Let’s try to understand TP, FP, FN, TN with an example of pregnancy analogy.

Evaluation Metrics For Classification Model type 1 error

Image Source- https://dzone.com/articles/understanding-the-confusion-matrix

True Positive: We predicted positive and it’s true. In the image, we predicted that a woman is pregnant and she actually is.

True Negative: We predicted negative and it’s true. In the image, we predicted that a man is not pregnant and he actually is not.

False Positive (Type 1 Error)- We predicted positive and it’s false. In the image, we predicted that a man is pregnant but he actually is not.

False Negative (Type 2 Error)- We predicted negative and it’s false. In the image, we predicted that a woman is not pregnant but she actually is.

We discussed Accuracy, now let’s discuss some other metrics of the confusion matrix

1. Precision —Precision explains how many of the correctly predicted cases actually turned out to be positive. Precision is useful in the cases where False Positive is a higher concern than False Negatives. The importance of Precision is in music or video recommendation systems, e-commerce websites, etc. where wrong results could lead to customer churn and this could be harmful to the business.

Precision for a label is defined as the number of true positives divided by the number of predicted positives.

Evaluation Metrics For Classification Model precision

2. Recall (Sensitivity) — Recall explains how many of the actual positive cases we were able to predict correctly with our model. It is a useful metric in cases where False Negative is of higher concern than False Positive. It is important in medical cases where it doesn’t matter whether we raise a false alarm but the actual positive cases should not go undetected!

Recall for a label is defined as the number of true positives divided by the total number of actual positives.

recall Evaluation Metrics For Classification Model

3. F1 Score — It gives a combined idea about Precision and Recall metrics. It is maximum when Precision is equal to Recall.

F1 Score is the harmonic mean of precision and recall.

F1 Score

The F1 score punishes extreme values more. F1 Score could be an effective evaluation metric in the following cases:

  • When FP and FN are equally costly.
  • Adding more data doesn’t effectively change the outcome
  • True Negative is high

4. AUC-ROC — The Receiver Operator Characteristic (ROC) is a probability curve that plots the TPR(True Positive Rate) against the FPR(False Positive Rate) at various threshold values and separates the ‘signal’ from the ‘noise’.

The Area Under the Curve (AUC) is the measure of the ability of a classifier to distinguish between classes. From the graph, we simply say the area of the curve ABDE and the X and Y-axis.

From the graph shown below, the greater the AUC, the better is the performance of the model at different threshold points between positive and negative classes. This simply means that When AUC is equal to 1, the classifier is able to perfectly distinguish between all Positive and Negative class points. When AUC is equal to 0, the classifier would be predicting all Negatives as Positives and vice versa. When AUC is 0.5, the classifier is not able to distinguish between the Positive and Negative classes.

False positive

Image Source— https://www.analyticsvidhya.com/blog/2020/06/auc-roc-curve-machine-learning/

Working of AUC —In a ROC curve, the X-axis value shows False Positive Rate (FPR),  and Y-axis shows True Positive Rate (TPR). Higher the value of X means higher the number of False Positives(FP) than True Negatives(TN), while a higher Y-axis value indicates a higher number of TP than FN. So, the choice of the threshold depends on the ability to balance between FP and FN.

5. Log Loss —  Log loss (Logistic loss) or Cross-Entropy Loss is one of the major metrics to assess the performance of a classification problem.

For a single sample with true label y∈{0,1} and a probability estimate p=Pr(y=1), the log loss is:

log loss


Understanding how well a machine learning model will perform on unseen data is the main purpose behind working with these evaluation metrics. Metrics like accuracy, precision, recall are good ways to evaluate classification models for balanced datasets, but if the data is imbalanced then other methods like ROC/AUC perform better in evaluating the model performance.

ROC curve isn’t just a single number but it’s a whole curve that provides nuanced details about the behavior of the classifier. It is also hard to quickly compare many ROC curves to each other.

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