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Difference Between Accuracy and Precision

accuracyAccuracy vs Precision
Accuracy is a general concept while precision is more of a mathematical concept. On the whole though, the conceptual boundary between the use of the two words is kind of fuzzy. While accuracy means being correct and true in every detail, precision means being more exact and to the point in reference to a certain standard or method. For example, you can be accurate with your answer but you can be precise with the method of calculation.

Accuracy may also refer to the truthfulness of data and records. For example, you can have accurate demographic data of the people in a city. But, in this case precise would refer more to the inferences you have drawn from the accurate date in your possession about the demography of the city in question.

While accuracy refers more to the correctness of data, precision can also refer to greater detail in description of an object or concept. For example, accuracy can be kept in mind while collecting people’s opinion on the social system of marriage but precision will be required in detailing each case study and interpreting it.

Both accuracy and precision can also refer to results obtained from mechanical objects like a compass and watch. For example, if you have tuned or set your watch and compass accurately, it will be able to give you the current time and direction at any given moment with precision.

In the case of musical instruments too, accuracy refers specifically to the correct method of tuning while precision refers to the exactness of tuning in being able to get the right note with the right string or key.

Precision is also often, in conceptual and poetic terms, used to refer to a degree of carefulness. For example, you would say a man chose his words with precision before speaking up openly about his opinion on a landlord’s rights. The implication is that the man possibly did not intend to offend someone and decided to consider what he was going to speak. In this case, if you said the man chose his words accurately, you would necessarily mean that the man spoke on a landlord’s rights using the exact legal language and with conformity to the existing regulations.

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5 Comments

  1. This definition is uninterpretable garbage. It could not be more misleading. Total smoke and mirrors without any veracity of any kind. One of my statistics students cited this and I gave her an F on the assignment. Accuracy is how close measurements are to the “true” value. Precision is how closely repeated measurements cluster around a central value. All the rest of the drivel in the definition you presented is useless and should be deleted from the internet before you confuse more people and do more damage.

    • And to think I almost used this as my reference for Criminal Justice.. Thanks Dr. Clifford. Don’t think the student should have got an F. As students, yes we rely on the internet for resources but so much criticism is set on not using encyclopedias.

    • Well Dr. Clifford, I suppose you would consider a more precise answer to be – the accuracy of a measurement system is the degree of closeness of measurements of a quantity to that quantity’s actual (true) value. The precision of a measurement system, also called reproducibility or repeatability, is the degree to which repeated measurements under unchanged conditions show the same results.

      Never the less, the above description of the difference between accuracy and precision is no less accurate. The accuracy is dependent upon the context – what exactly are we measuring?

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