Accuracy vs Precision: Definition, Diagram, & Example

Do you know there is a difference between Accuracy and Precision?

Hmm…Really? But why bother? On the face of it, these terms look to be the same.

Well! You should bother if you are a Quality professional or a Project Manager. And if you are a PMP® aspirant then it definitely warrants a clear understanding. It may help you in solving one or two questions correctly.

On the face of it, the meaning of Accuracy and Precision seems to be the same. But, there is a small but important difference between the two.

Let us understand the difference between Precision and Accuracy with the help of a small example.

Note: You should also refer to my other articles on difference between similar Project Management Terms.

Accuracy vs Precision

Definition of Accuracy

Accuracy means that the measured value is very close to true value (target or goal). Accuracy is about correctness.

Definition of Precision

Precision means the values of repeated measurements are clustered and have a little scatter. Precision is about exactness.

Precision and Accuracy are not equivalent. Precise measurement are not necessary accurate. An accurate measurement is not necessarily precise.

These definitions are precisely accurate. But they are confusing. Let us go beyond the definitions.

You can refer to Max Wideman Glossary to read some other definitions.

Difference Between Prcision And Accuracy Using An Example

accuracy and precisionHave you played Darts? I am sure you would have. The idea of the game is to hit the Bull’s Eye.

Refer to the adjoining figure. Let us assume that it represents a dart-board. The target or goal (true value) is to put darts exactly in the center (Bull’s Eye) of the dart-board. The blue circle in the adjoining figure represents our goal.

Let us assume that we hit 4 darts and all of them landed inside the blue circle. We can say that we met our our goal. Or in other words we can say we were Accurate (Correct).

Let us assume that we hit another 4 darts and all of them landed in the grey circle. The darts landed just outside the blue circle. All the 4 darts were very close to each other. We did not meet our goal but there was hardly any space between the darts. We can say that there was very little scatter. Or in other words we can say we were Precise (Exact).

Blue circle darts are Accurate but not Precise (too much of Scatter). Grey circle darts are Precise but not Accurate (not hitting the goal).


an Accurate measurement may not be Precise

a Precise measurement may not be accurate.

A project manager along with other stakeholders (who are providing the requirements) must determine required level of accuracy and precision for measurements. Both are important for the project.

What is your goal? Let me guess…you want to be PMP® certified.

You should be Precise. Define a time target for yourself.

All the best.

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