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Matti Mendoza

Accuracy Precision Errors  Precision 

Interpolation and Significant Figures  ➔ The agreement between 
repeated measures of the 
same sample 
➔ Usually expressed as a 
➔ It is the closeness of a 
standard deviation 
measured value to the true 
➔ For example, the measured  For example, the precision of a 
density of water has become  method for measuring arsenic (As) 
more accurate with improved  was determined by measuring 7 
experimental design,  different solutions each containing 
technique, and equipment.  14.3 μg/L of As. 
Density of H​2​O at 20° C​ (​ g/cm​ )   

1  Measured Concentration 
1.0  (μg/L) 
1.00  18.4 
0.998  13.6 
0.9982  13.6 
0.99820  14.2 
0.998203  16.0 
➔ Percent error is used to  17.8 
estimate the accuracy of a 
  Average = 15.3 μg/L 
Standard Deviation = 2.1 μg/L 
What is the true concentration of As 
in this experiment?  
➔ Percent error will ALWAYS be  14.3 μg/L 
  Estimate the accuracy of this 
What is the percent error if the  method. 
measured density of titanium (Ti) is 
4.45 g/cm​3​ and the accepted   
density of Ti is 4.50 g/cm​3​?  How precise is this method? 
  2.1 μg/L 
Matti Mendoza

Systematic error can be 

Accurate &  ➔ Random (or indeterminate) 
Precise   errors are caused by the 
natural uncertainty that 
occurs with any measurement. 
➔ Random errors obey the laws 
  of probability. That is, random 
  error might cause a value to 
  be over predicted during its 
first measurement and under 
predicted during its second 
measurement. Random error 
cannot be corrected. 
Interpolation & Significant Figures 
  ➔ By convention, a measurement 
Accurate  is recorded by writing all 
exactly known numbers and 1 
number which is uncertain, 
together with a unit label. 
  ➔ All numbers written in this way, 
including the uncertain digit, 
   are called significant figures. 
Not accurate 
and not precise 

➔ Systematic (or determinate)  ➔ For example, the blue line is 
errors are reproducible and  2.73 cm long. This 
cause a bias in the same  measurement has 3 significant 
direction for each  figures. The first 2 digits (2.7 
measurement.  cm) are exactly known. The 
  third digit (0.03 cm) is uncertain 
➔ For example, a poorly trained  because it was interpolated or 
operator that consistently  estimated 1 digit beyond the 
makes the same mistake will  smallest graduation. 
cause systematic error.   
Matti Mendoza

  Grams  Number of  Millimeters  Number 

  sig.fig.  of sigfig 
➔ What is the volume of water in 
this graduated cylinder?  10,034  5  150.  3 
1.908  4  0.705  3 
Always measure the volume of  0.32  2  0.054  2 
a liquid at the bottom of the  0.00046  2  5.86 x 10​-7  3 
meniscus. The units are mL.  150  2  3040  3 
0.00001 3  0.0000730  3 
Significant figures, addition, & 
➔ When adding or subtracting 
do NOT extend the result 
beyond the first column with a 
doubtful figure. For example, 
The volume of water is 52.8 mL. The 
52 mL are exactly known, and the 0.8 
mL is uncertain because it was 
interpolated or estimated 1 digit 
beyond the smallest graduation. 
Significant Figures & Zeroes   
➔ Zeros between nonzero digits  ➔ 16.874 + 2.6? 
are significant. That is, 508 cm 
has 3 significant figures. 
➔ Leading zeroes merely locate 
the decimal point and are 
never significant. That is, 
0.0497 cm equals 4.97 x 10​-2​ cm 
and has 3 significant figures. 
➔ Trailing zeros are significant   
as follows: 50.0 mL has 3   
significant figures, 50. mL has 2  ➔ 16.874 - 2.6? 
significant figures, and 50 mL 
has 1 significant figure. 
Matti Mendoza

Significant figures, multiplication,  discard or round any figures until 

& division  the final number is reported. 
➔ When multiplying or dividing 
the answer will have the same 
number of significant digits as 
the least accurate number 
used to get the answer. For 
2.005 g / 4.95 mL = 0.405 g/mL 
➔ 16.874 x 2.6? 

➔ 16.874 / 2.6?   
➔ What is average and standard 
deviation for the following 3 
  measurements of the same 
Significant figures & calculations   
that require multiple steps 
➔ An ​average​ is the best 
estimate of the true value of a 
➔ A ​standard deviation​ is a 
measure of precision. 

• Averages and standard 
deviations require several steps 
to calculate. You must keep track 
of the number of significant   
figures during each step. Do NOT