Difference Between Accurate and Precise

Difference Between Accurate and Precise

What is the difference between accurate and precise? No doubt, this is one of the questions that many people try to deal with every other day. From Anglophone countries to countries where English is a lingua franca, people always use the two terms interchangeably. No, these are no isolated instances. Frankly, they are not to blame as these two words have lots of striking similarities. Despite the fact that they have these semblances, the two words have their disparities.

So, if you are one of those struggling to grasp the underlying contrasts between the two adjectives, you don’t have to worry about it. This is so because we will break down for you the key difference between accurate and precise in this well-researched piece. With this end in view, we will kick off this article with precise and accurate definition.

Definition of Accurate

This is simply defined as the nearness of a measured value to a known or true value. This means that there are two figures here, and the aim is to ensure that the figure being measured is close to a known one.

Take for instance, you have a weighing balance in your laboratory. And then, you want to confirm the actual weight of 25kg bag of salt. Keep in mind, however, that 25kg is the true value. So, you probably just bought the bag of salt, and you wish to find out if the value given by the factory will be the same as yours.

Now, what you do is to place the commodity on your weighing balance and check the reading. In the end, you realized that the balance read 20.5kg. Well, this simply means that the 25kg reading is NOT accurate. However, you may go further to satisfy your curiosity by using another device to weigh it. This is the simplest example you can have is when a figure is close to a true value, after calculating it several times.  

Definition of Precise

On the other hand, something is said to be precise if it gives the same results whenever it is tested. Going back to the example we gave above, let’s say that you haven’t measured the 25kg bag of salt. Now, you measured it for the very first time, and you got 25kg. Well, you have just confirmed the weight that the company gave you.

However, you are not satisfied. Out of idle curiosity, you now go ahead to measure the bag of salt again. This time, what happens is that you still get the same figure over and over again, using different weighing balances. At this juncture, you can say that the value is precise. So, you can determine this to be sure by calculating it several times.  

At this point, we have made some progress as we have exhaustively discussed the definition of precise and accurate. But we will explain the disparity some more.  

Accurate and Precise Comparison Table

Now, we have to determine the difference between precise and accurate using a table.

Basis of Comparison Accurate Precise 
Meaning Determining how close a value is to a known or true value This determines how often a figure reoccurs when it is measured repeatedly
Repeated reading May vary or remain the same  Does not change (consistent)
Reproduction There is no guarantee that the same figure can be reproduced The same figure can be reproduced
Acceptability Rarely acceptable All standard values without tolerance are precise, so it is acceptable   

Conclusion of the Main Difference Between Accurate vs Precise

In conclusion, we have to give more precise and accurate examples just to give you a better grasp of what this disparity is. Having said that, we will look at the case of a soccer player. Let’s say that Michael has been playing soccer for years. He is popular with the sport fans because he doesn’t miss the goal whenever he takes a shot. When Michael just started his career, he would take 10 shots and net 2. Over time, he continued honing his shooting skills and got better. Today, when he takes 5 shots, he scores all.

Now, here’s the explanation: When Michael started his career, he took 10 shots and scored 2. He was accurate then. Today, takes 5 shots and scores 5 goals, so he is precise today. Notice that in many real-life scenarios, precision is vague. This is simply because it is difficult to attain it.

So, accuracy is more feasible as people are bound to achieve a feat after several attempts. But in measurements, this is not the case because the figures that most companies put out, like the case of 25kg bag of salt, are always precise measurements. We believe that the accurate and precise examples that we have given so far are enough to clarify the contrasts.