Accuracy or Precision

In everyday life, accuracy and precision are important. These two terms are often interchanged freely, but these terms have key differences. Many businesses require both accurate and precise measurements to stay in business. Accuracy and Precision

Accuracy refers to something that is consistent with a known value (Maze-Emery, 2009). Precision is the amount of detail something provides (“accuracy/precision,” 2005). A simple analogy is someone throwing darts at a dartboard. If a person is trying to hit the center, it requires both accuracy and precision. If that person is throwing high and consistently hitting the 20 area, the throws are precise but not accurate. If the throws are all over the board, they are neither precise nor accurate. The throws are only precise and accurate if they are consistently thrown in the center of the board.

Society depends on accuracy and precision in many places. One example is at the gas pumps. The pumps can be accurate in showing that gas is flowing, but this is not a precise measurement of how much is pumped. The pumps must not only know how much is pumped, but also be very precise to ensure the right amount is charged.

Small variances in precision can cost the company or customers large sums of money if the pump not measuring correctly. Another example can occur if someone is using a navigation system. The system may precisely track a vehicle’s movements, but its accuracy may be off. It could show the vehicle ten miles from its actual position.

This could cause the driver to go the wrong way down a one-way street, drive where there is no road, or fall off a cliff. The military depends on accuracy and precision during war. If a bomber is targeting an area with many civilians close by, both accuracy and precision are important to avoid collateral damage. However, if the target is the only thing in the area, large bombs may be used to destroy an area. This only requires accuracy because a large enough bomb does not need to strike the target directly to cause damage.

Conclusion Although accuracy and precision are very similar, the differences are important. As in the examples, something can be precise and not accurate or accurate and not precise. Different situations require different degrees of each, and it is crucial for those involved to be conscious of what is acceptable.

Referencesaccuracy/precision. (2005). The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style. Retrieved from Maze-Emery, E. (2009). Accuracy & Precision. Tooling & Production, 32-3. Retrieved from