Tree-Based Models

Introduction to Tree-Based Models

Tree-based models employ a decision tree to demonstrate how various input attributes can be leveraged to project a target output. Utilized in both classification and regression tasks such as identifying animal species or estimating real estate value, these models rely on machine learning methodologies.

The Decision Tree Process

The process of creating a decision tree involves continuous subset division of input variables, each segment examined for predictive accuracy while its efficiency and effectiveness is properly assessed. Adjusting the variables' sequence can effectively streamline the number of layers and computations mandatory for precise predictions.

The construction of a high-performing decision tree prioritizes crucial variables — those that significantly sway the predictions, at the peak of the tree hierarchy, while neglecting insignificant features.

Owing to their multiple benefits, tree-based models have gained considerable popularity within machine learning circles. Decision trees are straightforward to comprehend and scrutinize, with easily interpretable outcomes.

Not only can they deal with categorical and numeric inputs within regression and classification models, but they also excel at data computation, regardless of size, and necessitate minimal data preparation.

Creating Decision Tree Models

The construction of a model consists primarily of two phases — deciding on the features to split and determining when to halt. When choosing features to split on, the goal is to generate the most uniform datasets.

This can commonly be achieved by lessening entropy, a measure of dataset disorder, and enhancing information gain, the decrease in entropy prompted by a particular feature split. The attribute yielding the maximum information gain should be split on and both entropy and information gain recalculated for the resultant datasets.

Decision tree models can split on each numeric attribute multiple times at different value thresholds, making them competent at handling nonlinear correlations.

Overfitting and Pruning

Deciding whether to continue tree splitting is the second decision to make. If the tree is divided until each terminal node holds minimal data points, overfitting, or over-specificity of the trained model to its respective dataset can occur.

Pruning is a tactic used to eliminate sections offering little predictive value in order to mitigate this issue. Common pruning methods include setting a maximum tree depth, stipulating the minimum number of samples per leaf, or defining the terminal node.

Advantages and Challenges


  • Easily interpreted
  • Able to manage non-linear, complex relationships


  • Susceptible to overfitting, meaning predictions are often unstable
  • Highly sensitive, with even minor dataset alterations potentially significantly impacting ultimate results


Tree-based models hold a special place in machine learning. While the decision tree model at the heart of tree-based models is easy to interpret, it is relatively weak as a predictor. Two notable ensemble methods used to derive stronger predictions from multiple trees are the random forest and gradient boosting. All tree-based models are proficient at addressing non-linear relationships and can be utilized for both regression and classification.

Integrate | Scan | Test | Automate

Detect hidden vulnerabilities in ML models, from tabular to LLMs, before moving to production.