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04th May 2019 @ 5 min read
In measurements and sampling, the two terms accuracy and precision are very important to understand. We often use these words interchangeably in regular conversation, but they bear different meaning here. Accuracy refers to the closeness between the measured value and actual value of a quantity. While precision indicates closeness among the measured values of a quantity. Accuracy indicates how much the measured value agrees with actual value, and precision indicates how close the measured values agree among themselves. The results which are easily reproducible have good precision. Accuracy and precision are best explained by darts throwing game.
When darts are landed on the dartboard away from the target point, we say it has low accuracy. But when they are closed to the target point, we say it has high accuracy. If darts are closed to each other, then it is high precision. Similarly, when they are spread out, it is low precision. In the above figure, the four possible conditions are illustrated.
In laboratories, the regular calibration of instrumentations is necessary to maintain the accuracy and precision of measurements.
Consider an experiment involving measuring the mass of copper sulphate whose actual weight is 2.000 g. Student A measures the mass of the salt thrice on weighing machine, he gets values 2.013 g, 2.023 g and 2.002 g. The same measurements are repeated by student B, student C, and student D on different weighing machines. All the readings are reported in the table below.
|Student||Reading 1||Reading 2||Reading 3||Comments|
|A||2.013||2.023||2.002||High accuracy, high precision|
|B||1.901||1.902||1.910||Low accuracy, high precision|
|C||1.990||1.985||2.015||High accuracy, low precision|
|D||1.800||1.921||2.203||Low accuracy, low precision|
From the above table, we can conclude that student A has performed the experiment correctly and precisely. For student B, it might be the weighing machine is not properly calibrated. Student C is not following proper steps while taking the reading like not using vented balance safety enclosures. Finally, student D is the worst case of all the above.
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