An Explanation and Practical Application of the Machine Learning Algorithm XGBoost in Data Science

Despite its atypical name, XGBoost is relatively simple to understand once a few fundamental concepts have been clarified. You may initially be deterred by the futuristic-sounding concepts such as “decision trees”, “learning algorithms”, and “gradient boosting”, among others. Let’s take a closer look at XGBoost, starting from the basics, and define some of the key words so that you can understand how it functions before exploring its application in the world of data science.

To begin, let’s define XGBoost.

When it comes to the development of machine learning models and the implementation of learning algorithms, XGBoost is an open-source package that is based on the optimal distributed gradient boosting technique. This package provides an efficient foundation for gradient boosting. XGBoost, also known as Extreme gradient boosting, is a type of decision tree which is referred to as a distributed gradient boosted model (GBDT). It is one of the most commonly used machine learning libraries for tasks such as classification, ranking, and regression. The implementation of XGBoost offers the possibility of parallel tree boosting.

Apart from that, XGBoost is a popular choice among Kaggle competitors because to its high prediction quality and its accessibility to programmers.

In order to take full advantage of XGBoost, it is beneficial to possess a fundamental understanding of the algorithms and machine learning principles it leverages. Utilising XGBoost can be a great way to expedite and simplify the coding process, as exemplified by these few examples.

  • Increasing the gradient
  • Formulations for making choices
  • AI with human oversight, or supervised learning
  • Collective understanding

So, let me explain each of these factors to you.

The use of a boosted gradient

As a widely-utilised machine learning technique, gradient boosting is omnipresent. In the context of machine learning, errors and aberrations may be classified into the following categories:

  • Accuracy of the Variance
  • Negative bias

As its name implies, gradient boosting is a boosting method. By fixing the problems, the model’s efficiency is boosted.

In addition, the gradient boosting technique can be used both as a classifier for predicting categorical targets and as a regressor for predicting continuous goals. When the method is used as a classifier, the log loss function is employed to calculate the cost function. To make matters worse, the Mean Square Error is used as the cost function when gradient boosting is used as a regressor.

Formulations for making choices

A decision tree is a type of supervised machine learning model that involves continually partitioning data based on specific criteria. This model is structured like a tree, as it enables multiple decisions to be made simultaneously. Decision trees are capable of being employed in both formal and informal conversations, as they provide a visual representation of an algorithm that can be used to determine the most suitable course of action.

A decision tree is a structured representation of the various options available when making a decision, where each outcome is represented by a distinct code. Each outcome is further divided into multiple branches, also known as nodes, which represent further possibilities. This structure has a similarity to a tree, and the overall process is reminiscent of a controlled fission reaction.

To begin, not all nodes are created equal.

  • Where decisions are made
  • The probability of a certain event occurring
  • Final junctures

At each of these nodes, an illustrative circle is used to portray the range of potential outcomes. Furthermore, the presence of a choice is indicated by a square decision node, and the end result of a decision path is represented by a terminal node.

AI with human oversight, or supervised learning

Supervised machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence in which previously-collected data is leveraged to make predictions. In this method, a supervisor is actively involved in the training process, providing the computers with the necessary data to develop accurate predictions.

Collective understanding

Ensemble learning is a technique used to address computational issues by creating and combining multiple models, such as classifiers and regressors. Through the use of optimisation learning, the parameters of these models, like prediction, function approximation, and classification, can be improved.

Ensemble learning is a meta approach to machine learning which leverages the power of combining multiple models to achieve improved prediction performance. This technique builds upon the predictions of prior models in order to create a more accurate prediction.

It is possible to divide ensemble learning into three broad categories:

  1. Bagging

    The technique of “bagging” is employed to fit multiple decision trees using the same datasets but on different samples. This method also helps to simplify the average predictions.
  2. Stacking

    Stacking is a technique whereby several learning models are trained on the same dataset, and then a third model is used to integrate the predictions made by the first models. This approach offers the potential to improve predictive performance by combining the strengths of different models.
  3. Boosting

    When incorporating boosting into an existing machine learning model, new ensemble members are added in order to refine and improve the accuracy of the network’s predictions. This unit will focus primarily on debugging and enhancing the output of the system.

Powerful XGBoost Capabilities

XGBoost is a powerful implementation of gradient boosting, machine learning models, decision trees, and learning algorithms that is easy to understand for those who are knowledgeable in these areas. Additionally, XGBoost was designed to be extremely efficient and deliver excellent model performance. Furthermore, hyperparameters play an important role in the output of the model as they are pre-learning settings that can greatly influence the end result.

Hyperparameter: what is it?

Hyperparameters are adjustable values that are used to control the operation of an algorithm for learning. XGBoost offers a wide range of hyperparameters that can be adjusted to take full advantage of its features. By tuning these hyperparameters, we can ensure that XGBoost is used to its full potential.

This begs the issue, “When implementing XGBoost, which hyperparameters should be used?” Any suggestions on how to put these hyperparameters to use?

We list several XGBoost Hyperparameters below.

  • Booster
  • Both reg alpha and reg lambda
  • max depth
  • subsample
  • num estimators

One at a time, let’s break down each of these hyperparameters.


The boosting algorithm Booster offers three distinct configurations:

  • Dart: Dart prevents overfitting using dropout methods and is otherwise fairly similar to gbtree.
  • Gblinear: Linear regression is a feature of Gblinear.
  • Gbtree: The default gradient descent tree type is a gbtree, which is the default tree type. As a result, dealing with complexity will incur a greater cost.

Both reg alpha and reg lambda

The term “reg alpha” is derived from the initial language, while the expression “reg lambda” stems from the second language. As these values increase, the model begins to behave with more caution. It is suggested that the range of values for both terms be between 0-1000.

max depth

By adjusting the ‘max depth’ option, the maximum depth of the decision trees can be enabled and modified. Increasing this value will lead to a decrease in the model’s conservatism. If the ‘max depth’ is set to 0, there is no restriction on the depth of the decision trees that can be generated.


In order to prevent overfitting and ensure accurate predictions, training predictors can utilise a subsample of the complete dataset. By default, the entire dataset is used for analysis; however, setting the option to 0.7 will allow for a random sample of 70 percent of the available data to be employed for each boosting loop. By utilising a subsample, overfitting can be avoided.

num estimators

By adjusting the number of estimators, it is possible to control the amount of iterative boosts used. Essentially, this value determines the number of improved decision trees that will be employed. As the number of estimators increases, the risk of overfitting also increases.

A Case Study in XGBoost Implementation

Let us select a straightforward example to accurately calculate the number of ‘Titanic Survivors’ in a Kaggle competition in order to gain a better understanding of how XGBoost works and how to use it.

Multiple variables appear in our data, and we’ll use the same approach as before. We took both ‘age’ and ‘gender’ into account.

At the start of our code, we create two placeholder variables related to gender. To prepare the ‘gender’ variable for numerical representation, we transform it into two distinct categories: “male” and “female”. This enables us to assign a value of either 0 or 1 to the new variables, depending on the gender of the Titanic passenger.

In the following two lines of code, we will declare the necessary variables for making accurate predictions about the target variable, as well as the variables we will use to make those predictions (survivors). Subsequent code lines will be employed to separate the two sets of variables.

Sample tests

We evaluate how well our XGBoost model performs using the test sets.

Model railroads

The XGBoost model we developed relies heavily on train sets.

Functions of XGBoost

XGBoost is recognised as an innovation in data science due to its scalability in both distributed and memory-constrained environments, as well as its efficient learning algorithm. This makes it possible to implement XGBoost on a large scale, making it a crucial tool for data science. What makes it so advantageous? Let us explore some of its best features.

  1. A rough algorithm

    Finding the optimal split across a continuous feature can be a challenging task, particularly when large datasets must be analysed and the necessary information stored in memory. In these cases, the amount of data can make the task difficult to manage.

    A learning approach based on approximations is employed to address this challenge. By taking into consideration the distribution of the features, potential points of separation are identified. These candidate points of separation provide guidance when applying the continuous features. Ultimately, the most advantageous choice is determined based on the collected information.
  2. The Blockade of Columns

    Particularly when employing decision tree algorithms or other forms of machine learning, data sorting can be a laborious process. To reduce the time and effort expended on this task, the data is stored in blocks of memory, with the feature values used to arrange the columns within each block. This kind of calculation is highly precise and should only be done once, prior to the commencement of the training.

    It is possible to divide the task of sorting blocks across multiple threads that run concurrently on the same central processing unit (CPU). Additionally, the data of each column can be gathered at the same time as the blocks are being sorted, thereby allowing the process of determining splits to take place in parallel.
  3. Intensity quantile plot

    In order to streamline the process of partitioning candidates and establishing weighted datasets, we make use of the weighted quantile sketch. This method allows us to combine quantile summaries of data in an efficient manner.
  4. An Algorithm That Takes Sparsity Into Account

    Due to the presence of missing values, zero entries, and one-hot encoding, the input data is highly dispersed. To enhance input retrieval, XGBoost implements its sparsity-aware algorithm to detect the default direction in each node and then traverse in that direction.
  5. Remote processing

    XGBoost is a powerful machine learning algorithm that is capable of partitioning data into multiple blocks and saving them on the system if they cannot fit into the main memory. This allows for efficient memory management and processing. Furthermore, XGBoost also provides a convenient mechanism for compressing and uncompressing blocks of data on the fly, which is facilitated by the use of a separate thread.
  6. Structured instruction

    In order to accurately assess the efficacy of a model based on a set of inputs, it is necessary to define an objective function. This objective function is comprised of two distinct components:
    • Regularisation
    • Decreased Training

      With the regularisation term, the model may be simplified.

Data science features and advantages of XGBoost

There is a long list of advantages and features that XGBoost provides.

  • The XGBoost algorithm is constantly being advanced by the growing data science community and data scientists. Thanks to the contributions of the open-source community, new features and enhancements are being added regularly, helping to streamline the development process and save time and effort.
  • Regression, ranking, and custom prediction issues are just a few of the areas that XGBoost may help simplify.
  • XGBoost provides an extensive library that is cross-platform and works with Linux, OS X, and Windows.
  • Furthermore, XGBoost offers seamless integration with a variety of cloud-based platforms, such as Apache Hadoop Yarn clusters, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and many other similar ecosystems.
  • It has a significant role in many groups and industries.

Despite XGBoost’s impressive performance in a range of machine learning tasks and algorithms, it should not be viewed as a cure-all. For optimal success in the field of data science, it is recommended that feature engineering and data exploration are used in combination. We hope that this post has been helpful in providing insight into this matter.


  1. For XGBoost, what algorithm does it employ?

    XGBoost (short for “Extreme Gradient Boosting”) is a powerful and efficient improvement to the traditional Gradient Boosting algorithms. This approach incorporates the distributed gradient boosting methodology into various machine learning models and algorithms, allowing for enhanced performance and accuracy. Through its implementation, XGBoost is capable of providing better solutions to complex problems.
  2. When applied to data science, how can XGBoost help?

    Extreme Gradient Boosting (XGBoost) is an open-source toolkit designed to develop powerful machine learning models and learning algorithms that are tailored to the requirements of modern data science applications. By leveraging boosting methods, it enables users to optimise their machine learning models more efficiently.

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