Finding the Best Threshold that Maximizes Accuracy from ROC & PR Curve

4 minute read


The problem is simple. How to find the best threshold from an ROC and PR curve that maximise a certain binary classification metric?

To make it clearer, let’s take the approach that is commonly used in scikit-learn. Scikit-learn provides a module called metrics that consists of some evaluation metrics, such as accuracy_score, roc_curve, precision_recall_curve, and so forth.

To get the ROC and PR curve, we can apply roc_curve and precision_recall_curve respectively. Both methods require two main parameters, such as the true label and the prediction probability. Take a look at the following code snippet.

from sklearn.metrics import roc_curve, precision_recall_curve

fpr, tpr, thresholds = roc_curve(true_label, pred_proba)
precision, recall, thresholds = precision_recall_curve(true_label, pred_proba)

As you can see, both methods return the parameters needed for the curve creation. Based on the return values, how would one determine the best threshold that maximize a certain evaluation metric? In this post, I’m going to use accuracy as the metric. I think the approach could be adjusted in accordance with the formula of other metrics.

The solution should be simple.

The following shows one of the threshold finding approaches for ROC curve.

def get_metric_and_best_threshold_from_roc_curve(
    tpr, fpr, thresholds, num_pos_class, num_neg_class
    tp = tpr * num_pos_class
    tn = (1 - fpr) * num_neg_class
    acc = (tp + tn) / (num_pos_class + num_neg_class)

    best_threshold = thresholds[np.argmax(acc)]
    return np.amax(acc), best_threshold

Below are the steps used to achieve the above formula. Starts from the below basic formulas.

TPR = recall = TP / TP + FN
FPR = FP / FP + TN
Accuracy = TP + TN / TP + TN + FP + FN

The denominator of the accuracy should be the total number of data. So it’s simply num_pos_class + num_neg_class.

Now, we only need to find the value of TP and TN.

From the TPR formula, we can easily find TP = TPR * (TP + FN). Since TP + FN equals to the number of positive class, then the formula becomes TP = TPR * num_pos_class.

Finding the value of TN is more challenging. We might apply the following approach:

TN = (FP - (FPR * FP)) / FPR

However, the above approach requires us to know the value of FP which is pretty troublesome to calculate.

Alternatively, we could use its neighbour called TNR which equals to TNR = TN / (FP + TN). In such a case, we can calculate TN by TNR * (FP + TN) or TNR * num_neg_class. To make the formula complete, just replace TNR with 1 - FPR.

Knowing all the required parameters, we can now compute the accuracy by accuracy = (TP + TN) / (num_pos_class + num_neg_class).

One thing to note here is that all the variables are in the form of numpy array. Please check the documentation for more details.

To find the best threshold that maximises accuracy, we just need to find the index of the maximum accuracy, then use that index to locate the corresponding threshold.

One curve down. Next, the precision-recall curve.

PR curve consists of precision and recall as its parameters. Below is the code I used to search for the best threshold.

def get_metric_and_best_threshold_from_pr_curve(
    precision, recall, thresholds, num_pos_class, num_neg_class
    tp = recall * num_pos_class
    fp = (tp / precision) - tp
    tn = num_neg_class - fp
    acc = (tp + tn) / (num_pos_class + num_neg_class)

    best_threshold = thresholds[np.argmax(acc)]
    return np.amax(acc), best_threshold

Only needs a few step to reach the final formula. Here’s how it’s built.

Using the following basic formulas,

Precision = TP / TP + FP
Recall = TP / TP + FN
Accuracy = TP + TN / TP + TN + FP + TN

Finding TP is easy. We can just use the recall’s formula, which results in TP = recall * (TP + FN) or TP = recall * num_pos_class.

To find TN, we need to apply a bit tricks since the above precision and recall formulas don’t include TN.

Recall that TN basically equals to num_neg_class - FP. In this case, we just need to find FP. It should become easier since FP can be calculated by leveraging the precision formula. So it becomes FP = (TP / precision) - TP.

We can then use the calculated variables to find the accuracy. The best threshold is generated using the previous approach.