Accuracy vs. Precision: The Differences in Measurement

In the world of measurements and data collection, accuracy and precision are two vital concepts that often get confused. You might have heard these terms used interchangeably, but understanding their differences is crucial for producing reliable and trustworthy results.

The Main Difference Between Accuracy and Precision

Accuracy vs. Precision: The Differences in Measurement Pin

Accuracy vs. Precision: Key Takeaways

  • Accuracy is the closeness of a measurement to the true or accepted value.
  • Precision is about the consistency of measurements, or how close they are to each other.
  • Accurate measurements are not necessarily precise, and precise measurements may not be accurate.

Accuracy vs. Precision: The Definition

What Does Accuracy Mean?

Accuracy is the degree to which a measurement aligns with the target or accepted value. In simple terms, it means “hitting the bullseye” or getting the right answer. When measuring something, you want your data to be as accurate as possible. It is important to remember that accuracy depends on the absence of bias — measurements should not be systematically too high or too low.

Example: Imagine you are trying to measure the length of a table. If the true length is 5 meters, and your measurements are consistently around 5 meters, then your measurements are accurate.

What Does Precision Mean?

Precision, on the other hand, is concerned with the level of consistency or repeatability in your measurements. It does not necessarily mean that the measurements are correct or close to the true value. Instead, precision indicates how similar your measurements are to one another, regardless of their proximity to the actual value.

Example: Continuing with the table example, if your measurements are consistently around 4.8 meters, even though they are not accurate, they are considered precise because they are consistently close to each other.

Tips to Remember the Differences

Accuracy is a measure of how close a measurement is to the true or known value, while precision refers to how close and consistent the measurements are to each other. To help you remember the differences, here are a few tips you can use:

  1. Mnemonic: Try to remember the phrase “Accurate Aims, Precise Patterns”. This indicates that accurate measurements hit the target (correct value) while precise measurements follow a consistent pattern.
  2. Real-life example: Imagine you are an archer trying to hit a target. If your shots are accurate, they will be close to the center of the target. If your shots are precise, they will be grouped closely together, even if they are not near the center.

By using these tips and engaging with examples, you can better understand and remember the key differences between accuracy and precision. Remember, while both are important, the context of the situation determines which is more crucial for the task at hand.

Accuracy vs. Precision: Examples

In this section, we’ll look at examples that illustrate the differences between accuracy and precision.

Example Sentences Using Accuracy

  • When you weigh yourself on a scale, accuracy is how close the reading is to your true weight.
  • In a game of dartsaccuracy is represented by how close your throw lands to the bullseye.
  • If a weather forecast says it will be 70°F and the actual temperature is 68°F, the forecast is more accurate than if it said 80°F.

Example Sentences Using Precision

  • If you weigh yourself on a scale multiple times and get consistent readings of 150.0, 150.1, and 150.2 pounds, the scale has high precision.
  • In a game of darts, a player with high precision consistently throws their darts close together, whether or not they hit the bullseye.
  • A clock that reads 3:02:00 PM, 3:02:00 PM, and 3:02:00 PM on successive checks is showing high precision but may not be accurate if it’s actually 4:00 PM.

To help you better visualize the concept, let’s look at an example using a target:

Description Drawing Accuracy & Precision
High Accuracy, High Precision 🎯🎯🎯 Close to target & consistent
High Accuracy, Low Precision 🎯🎯❌ Close to target but inconsistent
Low Accuracy, High Precision ❌🎯❌ Off target but consistent
Low Accuracy, Low Precision ❌❌❌ Off target & inconsistent

Remember, accuracy refers to how close your measurements or results are to a known or true value, while precision refers to how consistently close your measurements are to each other, regardless of their closeness to the true value.

Related Confused Words with Accuracy or Precision

Accuracy vs. Reliability

Accuracy refers to how close a measurement is to the true or accepted value. In other words, how correct a measurement is. In contrast, reliability is associated with the consistency and repeatability of the measurements. It focuses on whether you get the same or similar results over multiple instances.

To understand this better, consider the following example:

  • You have a bathroom scale that measures your weight. If the scale consistently displays a weight of 150 lbs when your actual weight is 145 lbs, it is reliable (consistent) but not accurate (correct).

Precision vs. Repeatability

Precision emphasizes the agreement between individual measurements, while repeatability emphasizes the consistency of results when the same measurement is performed multiple times under the same conditions. Both concepts are crucial for ensuring the reliability and accuracy of measurements and experimental outcomes.


  • Precision refers to the closeness of multiple measurements to each other.
  • It indicates the consistency and reliability of the measurement process.
  • Example: If a scale consistently shows the weight of an object as 10.00 grams when the true weight is 10.00 grams, it is considered precise.


  • Repeatability refers to the ability to obtain the same result when the same measurement is performed under the same conditions.
  • It focuses on the consistency of results when the same measurement is repeated.
  • Example: In an experiment, if multiple trials of the same procedure yield very similar results each time, the experiment is said to have high repeatability.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the definitions of accuracy and precision in scientific measurements?

Accuracy refers to how close a measurement is to the true or known value. In other words, it’s the absence of bias in a series of measurements. Precision, on the other hand, refers to the consistency and reproducibility of measurements. It measures how close the results are to one another, regardless of their closeness to the true value.

How can a measurement be precise but not accurate, and can you provide an example?

A measurement can be precise but not accurate when the results are consistently close to one another but far from the true value. For example, imagine you weigh a 100-gram object on a faulty scale that consistently shows a result of 120 grams. In this case, your measurements are precise because they are consistent, but they are not accurate since they do not match the true value of 100 grams.

What distinguishes accuracy from precision in the context of a chemistry lab?

In a chemistry lab, accuracy refers to how close a measurement, like the mass or volume of a substance, is to the actual or true value. Precision, meanwhile, highlights the consistency and reproducibility of the measurements. Both accuracy and precision are essential for reliable results in a chemistry lab, as accurate measurements ensure that the substances being used are in their correct proportions, while precision ensures that the lab procedures are consistent and reproducible.

In physics, how do accuracy and precision contribute to the reliability of experimental results?

In physics experiments, accuracy and precision both play a crucial role in obtaining reliable results. Accurate measurements ensure that the apparatus and experimental conditions are set up correctly, while precision guarantees that the results can be replicated consistently. Any deviation from the true value affects the accuracy, whereas any variation in repeated measurements impacts the precision. A balance of both accuracy and precision enhances the reliability of experimental results in physics.

How do scientists ensure both accuracy and precision when conducting measurements?

Scientists use various techniques to ensure both accuracy and precision in their measurements. To enhance accuracy, they use well-calibrated instruments, perform multiple measurements, and compare the results with known or accepted values. For precision, they perform multiple measurements, control the experimental conditions, and minimize any potential sources of error or variations. Good laboratory practices, peer reviews, and standard procedures also contribute to maintaining both accuracy and precision in scientific experiments.

What are the implications of prioritizing precision over accuracy in data collection?

Prioritizing precision over accuracy in data collection can lead to consistent but misleading results. While precise measurements reduce variability and increase the reproducibility of the results, they might not be close to the true values. In turn, this can lead to incorrect conclusions and misinterpretation of the data. Therefore, it’s essential to strive for a balance between accuracy and precision to ensure the validity and reliability of collected data.


Last Updated on December 22, 2023

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