Linear / Logistic Regression in R: Dealing With Unknown Factor Levels in Test Data

Let’s say you have data containing a categorical variable with 50 levels. When you divide the data into train and test sets, chances are you don’t have all 50 levels featuring in your training set.

This often happens when you divide the data set into train and test sets according to the distribution of the outcome variable. In doing so, chances are that our explanatory categorical variable might not be distributed exactly the same way in train and test sets – so much so that certain levels of this categorical variable are missing from the training set. The more levels there are to a categorical variable, it gets difficult for that variable to be similarly represented upon splitting the data.

Take for instance this example data set (train.csv + test.csv) which contains a categorical variable var_b that takes 349 unique levels. Our train data has 334 of these levels – on which the model is built – and hence 15 levels are excluded from our trained model. If you try making predictions on the test set with this model in R, it throws an error:
factor var_b has new levels 16060, 17300, 17980, 19060, 21420, 21820,
25220, 29340, 30300, 33260, 34100, 38340, 39660, 44300, 45460

If you’ve used R to model generalized linear class of models such as linear, logit or probit models, then chances are you’ve come across this problem – especially when you’re validating your trained model on test data.

The workaround to this problem is in the form of a function, remove_missing_levels  that I found here written by pat-s. You need magrittr library installed and it can only work on lm, glm and glmmPQL objects.

Once you’ve sourced the above function in R, you can seamlessly proceed with using your trained model to make predictions on the test set. The code below demonstrates this for the data set shared above. You can find these codes in one of my github repos and try it out yourself.


Quick Way of Installing all your old R libraries on a New Device

I recently bought a new laptop and began installing essential software all over again, including R of course! And I wanted all the libraries that I had installed in my previous laptop. Instead of installing libraries one by one all over again, I did the following:

Step 1: Save a list of packages installed in your old computing device (from your old device).

installed <-
write.csv(installed, 'installed_previously.csv')

This saves information on installed packages in a csv file named installed_previously.csv. Now copy or e-mail this file to your new device and access it from your working directory in R.

Step 2: Create a list of libraries from your old list that were not already installed when you freshly download R (from your new device).

installedPreviously <- read.csv('installed_previously.csv')
baseR <-
toInstall <- setdiff(installedPreviously, baseR)

We now have a list of libraries that were installed in your previous computer in addition to the R packages already installed when you download R. So you now go ahead and install these libraries.

Step 3: Download this list of libraries.


That’s it. Save yourself the trouble installing packages one-by-one all over again.


Endogenously Detecting Structural Breaks in a Time Series: Implementation in R

The most conventional approach to determine structural breaks in longitudinal data seems to be the Chow Test.

From Wikipedia,

The Chow test, proposed by econometrician Gregory Chow in 1960, is a test of whether the coefficients in two linear regressions on different data sets are equal. In econometrics, it is most commonly used in time series analysis to test for the presence of a structural break at a period which can be assumed to be known a priori (for instance, a major historical event such as a war). In program evaluation, the Chow test is often used to determine whether the independent variables have different impacts on different subgroups of the population.

As shown in the figure below, regressions on the 2 sub-intervals seem to have greater explanatory power than a single regression over the data.


For the data above, determining the sub-intervals is an easy task. However, things may not look that simple in reality. Conducting a Chow test for structural breaks leaves the data scientist at the mercy of his subjective gaze in choosing a null hypothesis for a break point in the data.

Instead of choosing the breakpoints in an exogenous manner, what if the data itself could learn where these breakpoints lie? Such an endogenous technique is what Bai and Perron came up with in a seminal paper published in 1998 that could detect multiple structural breaks in longitudinal data. A later paper in 2003 dealt with the testing for breaks empirically, using a dynamic programming algorithm based on the Bellman principle.

I will discuss a quick implementation of this technique in R.

Brief Outline:

Assuming you have a ts object (I don’t know whether this works with zoo, but it should) in R, called ts. Then implement the following:

An illustration 

I started with data on India’s rice crop productivity between 1950 (around Independence from British Colonial rule) and 2008. Here’s how it looks:


You can download the excel and CSV files here and here respectively.

Here’s the way to go using R:

Voila, this is what you get:


The dotted vertical lines indicated the break dates; the horizontal red lines indicate their confidence intervals.

This is a quick and dirty implementation. For a more detailed take, check out the documentation on the R package called strucchange.

Abu Mostafa’s Machine Learning MOOC – Now on EdX

This was in the pipeline for quite some time now. I have been waiting for his lectures on a platform such as EdX or Coursera, and the day has arrived. You can enroll and start with week 1’s lectures as they’re live now.

This course is taught by none other than Dr. Yaser S. Abu – Mostafa, whose textbook on machine learning, Learning from Data is #1 bestseller textbook (Amazon) in all categories of Computer Science. His online course has been offered earlier over here.


Dr. Abu-Mostafa received the Clauser Prize for the most original doctoral thesis at Caltech. He received the ASCIT Teaching Awards in 1986, 1989 and 1991, the GSC Teaching Awards in 1995 and 2002, and the Richard P. Feynman prize for excellence in teaching in 1996.

Live ‘One-take’ Recordings

The lectures have been recorded from a live broadcast (including Q&A, which will let you gauge the level of CalTech students taking this course). In fact, it almost seems as though Abu Mostafa takes a direct jab at Andrew Ng’s popular Coursera MOOC by stating the obvious on his course page.

A real Caltech course, not a watered-down version


Again, while enrolling note that this is what Abu Mostafa had to say about the online course:  “A Caltech course does not cater to short attention spans, and it may not provide instant gratification…[like] many MOOCs out there that are quite simple and have a ‘video game’ feel to them.” Unsurprisingly, many online students have dropped out in the past, but some of those students who “complained early on but decided to stick with the course had very flattering words to say at the end”.


  • Basic probability
  • Basic matrices
  • Basic calculus
  • Some programming language/platform (I choose Python!)

If you’re looking for a challenging machine learning course, this is probably one you must take.


Implementing Undirected Graphs in Python

There are 2 popular ways of representing an undirected graph.

Adjacency List
Each list describes the set of neighbors of a vertex in the graph.


Adjacency Matrix
The elements of the matrix indicate whether pairs of vertices are adjacent or not in the graph.


Here’s an implementation of the above in Python:


Deterministic Selection Algorithm Python Code

Through this post, I’m sharing Python code implementing the median of medians algorithm, an algorithm that resembles quickselect, differing only in the way in which the pivot is chosen, i.e, deterministically, instead of at random.

Its best case complexity is O(n) and worst case complexity O(nlog2n)

I don’t have a formal education in CS, and came across this algorithm while going through Tim Roughgarden’s Coursera MOOC on the design and analysis of algorithms. Check out my implementation in Python.

I get the following output:

100 loops, best of 3: 2.38 ms per loop

Note that on the same input, quickselect is faster, giving us:

1000 loops, best of 3: 254 µs per loop

scikit-learn Linear Regression Example

Here’s a quick example case for implementing one of the simplest of learning algorithms in any machine learning toolbox – Linear Regression. You can download the IPython / Jupyter notebook here so as to play around with the code and try things out yourself.

I’m doing a series of posts on scikit-learn. Its documentation is vast, so unless you’re willing to search for a needle in a haystack, you’re better off NOT jumping into the documentation right away. Instead, knowing chunks of code that do the job might help.