p is the Probability of an Alpha (False Positive) Error. Alpha (α) is the Level of Significance; its value is selected by the person performing the statistical test. If p < α (some say if p < α) then we Reject the Null Hypothesis. That is, we conclude that any difference, change, or effect observed in the Sample data is Statistically Significant.
The p-value contains the same information as the Test Statistic Value, say z. That is because the value of z is used to determine the p-value. As shown in the following concept flow diagram,
Similarly α contains the same information as the Critical Value.
So comparing p and the Critical Value is the same as comparing Alpha and the Test Statistic value. But the comparison symbols ( ">" and "<") point in the opposite direction. That's because p and Test Statistic have an inverse relation. A smaller value for p means that the Test Statistic value must be larger.
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Andrew A. (Andy) Jawlik is the author of the book, Statistics from A to Z -- Confusing Concepts Clarified, published by Wiley.