A statistics expert tells you how to predict this year's Oscars

The 88th Academy Awards take place on Sunday, and bets are on about who will win.

Now is the time that experts try to tell you how it will all go down — but how right are they?

FiveThirtyEight, ESPN’s data-driven site, has been monitoring the state of the race and using a point system to try and predict the Oscar winners for six of the major categories.

The model uses a point system derived from looking at awards from the past 25 years to see how historically predictive they are of Oscar winners, Walt Hickey, the site’s lead lifestyle writer, told Business Insider. (Hickey has a background in mathematics and used to cover politics and finance for Business Inisder.)

“You start losing the thread if you go back further than 25 years,” he said of the prediction model.

Over the course of awards season, FiveThirtyEight gives points to Oscar nominees if they are nominated for other awards and even more points if they win.

A “batting average” is determined for each of the various awards and then turned into an assigned weight.

“Insider awards,” like the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards, and the BAFTAs, are given more weight over awards like the Golden Globes, because those voters may be closely aligned with or part of the Academy itself, which draws from industry members. (The Globes and some other awards, on the other hand, come from media.)

“This was Nate’s [Silver] baby,” Hickey said. “Basically, back when Nate had FiveThirtyEight at the beginning, he tried to figure out a way to predict the Oscars. Turns out it’s a much harder problem than people give it credit for. We can’t use a lot of our original methods, and we have to figure out a new way.”

The earlier model is pretty much still in place, though Silver refined it, doubling the points awarded for nominees and winners from the “insider awards.”

FiveThirtyEight published its final predictions Monday: Alicia Vikander for supporting actress, Sylvester Stallone for supporting actor, Brie Larson for best actress, Leonardo DiCaprio for best actor, Alejandro Iñárritu for director, and “The Revenant” for best picture.

These predictions line up with the expert predictions compiled by Gold Derby ahead of Sunday’s award show.

Gold Derby looks at a collection of various Hollywood insiders who give their prognostications based on what they have been hearing. Since Academy members aren’t polled the way, say, voters in an election are polled, these are really the best methods available to get at which way the Academy is going.

While DiCaprio and Larson have large point leads, other categories, such as the supporting fields, are a closer race.

“We are not confident enough to say that this will predict the winners, but… It’s a way to see how the terrain looks,” Hickey said. “Ultimately, it’s a fun way to track something that a lot of folks are talking about, that there’s a huge dedicated interest in, and it’s so fun because it’s so hard.”

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