What is a bar chart?

A bar chart is a graph that you can use to compare bar heights of category measures. Bar charts can be made of category tallies, of different statistics by categories, or of summary values. The height of the bars signifies the magnitude of the values. For example, bars could represent:
  • Total sales for four branch stores for a year
  • Mean diameters of parts manufactured by four different machines in a factory during a week
  • Counts of visitors to four local tourist destinations during a weekend

For example, bars on this bar chart represent the counts of paint flaws on an automobile part.

Clustered and stacked bars

You can represent subcategories on bar charts by creating clusters of bars or by stacking bars. For example, suppose you want to track the number of students at four regional high schools by grade.

Clustered bars

Each cluster of bars represents a school, and each bar within a cluster represents the number of students in a grade.

Creating clusters is helpful when you want to compare subcategories within and across categories. For example, the previous graph shows:
  • East High has the most students.
  • Within East High, 12th grade has the most students.
  • For each high school, the number of students in each grade is similar.
  • The fewest students are in 9th grade at West High, followed closely by the other three grades at that high school.
Stacked bars

Each stack of bars represents a school, and each bar within a stack represents the number of students in a grade.

Stacking bars is helpful when you want to compare subcategories within categories and categories with each other.

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