The Difference Between Precision and Accuracy

People tend to confuse precision and accuracy, and many of the definitions out there aren’t entirely clear. Here’s the easiest way to see the difference.

Precision is about how close attempts are to each other, and accuracy is about how close they are to the target.

  • Precision is about taking multiple attempts—such as shots, guesses, or measurements—and having all of them end up very close to each other.

  • Accuracy is about having your attempts land at the true or desired location.

A good example is a marksmanship target, as seen above, where you could have a tight cluster of shots far from the bullseye—which would be precision. Or you could have a loose group near the center that’s fairly accurate but not very precise.

So it doesn’t always help if you’re hitting the same spot over and over, if that spot is nowhere near your target, and it doesn’t always help if you are hitting somewhere near the target but not consistently.

This is why we want to be both accurate and precise.

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