# Exact vs. Precise — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on March 7, 2024
Exact refers to the complete accuracy and absence of error, matching perfectly with the true value or definition. Precise indicates a measure's consistency and repeatability, even if it's not necessarily exact.

## Key Differences

Exactness is about being entirely accurate and in complete agreement with the standard or true value. Precision, on the other hand, relates to the level of detail or specificity in the measurement and the ability to consistently reproduce a result.
When something is described as exact, there is an implication of no deviation from the truth or standard, like an exact replica of a painting which matches the original in every detail. Precision is more about the consistency of outcomes or measurements, not necessarily their accuracy. For example, if a set of measurements are close to one another but not to the target value, they are precise but not exact.
An exact answer is one that is fully accurate and leaves no room for variance or approximation. For instance, the exact result of 2 + 2 is 4, with no other possible answer. Precision involves a level of refinement in measurement that allows for minimal variation between results. This can be seen in a scenario where repeated measurements of a quantity yield values very close to each other, demonstrating high precision.
In practical applications, exactness is often ideal but not always achievable due to limitations in measurement tools and techniques. In contrast, precision is more commonly encountered in practical scenarios, such as scientific experiments and manufacturing, where the focus is on achieving consistency in results, even if they may not exactly match the true or desired value.

## Comparison Chart

### Definition

Completely accurate and in total agreement with the standard or true value.
Consistency and repeatability in measurements or outcomes, regardless of their accuracy.

### Key Feature

Absence of error or deviation from the truth.
Minimal variation between repeated measurements or results.

### Focus

Accuracy to the true or standard value.
Consistency and repeatability of results.

### Example

An exact copy of a document is identical in every detail.
A set of scales that gives readings consistently close together is precise.

### Practical Use

Ideal in theoretical calculations and when absolute accuracy is required.
Common in scientific experiments and manufacturing where consistency is crucial.

## Compare with Definitions

#### Exact

Fully accurate, with no deviation from the truth.
The jeweler provided an exact replica of the antique necklace.

#### Precise

Marked by exactness and accuracy of expression or detail.
The equipment can make precise measurements to the nearest millimeter.

#### Exact

Meticulously accurate or correct in every detail.
She gave an exact account of the events as they happened.

#### Precise

Producing results that closely agree with each other.
His craftsmanship is known for its precise attention to detail.

#### Exact

An exact duplicate is identical in every aspect.
The scientist needed an exact copy of the DNA sequence for the study.

#### Precise

Exactly aimed or directed.
The new marketing strategy was precise in targeting the desired demographic.

#### Exact

Specific and precise, allowing no deviation.
The construction plans called for exact measurements to ensure structural integrity.

#### Precise

Chosen with precision; exact in making a selection.
The chef was precise in selecting ingredients for the signature dish.

#### Exact

Precise and accurate without approximation.
The exact value of π is not attainable, but we use approximations.

#### Precise

Clearly expressed, with exactness in detail or definition.
Legal documents require precise wording to avoid ambiguity.

#### Exact

Not approximated in any way; precise
The exact details were still being worked out

#### Precise

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#### Exact

Demand and obtain (something) from someone
He exacted promises that another Watergate would never be allowed to happen

#### Precise

Clearly expressed or delineated; definite
The victim gave a precise description of the suspect.

#### Exact

Strictly and completely in accord with fact; not deviating from truth or reality
An exact account.
An exact replica.

#### Precise

Exact, as in performance, execution, or amount; accurate or correct
A precise measurement.
A precise instrument.

#### Exact

Characterized by accurate measurements or inferences with small margins of error; not approximate
An exact figure.
An exact science.

#### Precise

Strictly distinguished from others; very
At that precise moment.

#### Exact

Characterized by strict adherence to standards or rules
An exact speaker.

#### Precise

Distinct and correct in sound or meaning
Precise pronunciation.
Precise prose.

#### Exact

To force the payment or yielding of; extort
Exact tribute from a conquered people.

#### Precise

Conforming strictly to rule or proper form
"The setting up of this Maypole was a lamentable spectacle to the precise separatists that lived at New Plymouth" (Thomas Morton).

#### Exact

To demand and obtain by force or authority
A harsh leader who exacts obedience.

Exact, accurate

#### Exact

To inflict (vengeance or punishment, for example).

#### Precise

Consistent, clustered close together, agreeing with each other this does not mean that they cluster near the true, correct, or accurate value

#### Exact

Precisely agreeing with a standard, a fact, or the truth; perfectly conforming; neither exceeding nor falling short in any respect.
The clock keeps exact time.
He paid the exact debt.
An exact copy of a letter
Exact accounts

#### Precise

Adhering too much to rules; prim or punctilious

#### Exact

Habitually careful to agree with a standard, a rule, or a promise; accurate; methodical; punctual.
A man exact in observing an appointment
In my doings I was exact.

#### Precise

To make or render precise; to specify.

#### Exact

Precisely or definitely conceived or stated; strict.

#### Precise

Having determinate limitations; exactly or sharply defined or stated; definite; exact; nice; not vague or equivocal; as, precise rules of morality.
The law in this point is not precise.
For the hour preciseExacts our parting hence.

#### Exact

Such that the kernel of one homomorphism is the image of the preceding one.

#### Precise

Strictly adhering or conforming to rule; very nice or exact; punctilious in conduct or ceremony; formal; ceremonious.
He was ever precise in promise-keeping.

#### Exact

(ambitransitive) To demand and enforce the payment or performance of, sometimes in a forcible or imperious way.
To exact tribute, fees, or obedience from someone

#### Precise

Sharply exact or accurate or delimited;
A precise mind
Specified a precise amount
Arrived at the precise moment

#### Exact

(transitive) To make desirable or necessary.

#### Precise

(of ideas, images, representations, expressions) characterized by perfect conformity to fact or truth ; strictly correct;
A precise image
A precise measurement

#### Exact

(transitive) To inflict; to forcibly obtain or produce.
To exact revenge on someone

#### Exact

Exactly
She's wearing the exact same sweater as I am!

#### Exact

Precisely agreeing with a standard, a fact, or the truth; perfectly conforming; neither exceeding nor falling short in any respect; true; correct; precise; as, the clock keeps exact time; he paid the exact debt; an exact copy of a letter; exact accounts.
I took a great pains to make out the exact truth.

#### Exact

Habitually careful to agree with a standard, a rule, or a promise; accurate; methodical; punctual; as, a man exact in observing an appointment; in my doings I was exact.

#### Exact

Precisely or definitely conceived or stated; strict.
An exact command,Larded with many several sorts of reason.

#### Exact

To practice exaction.
The anemy shall not exact upon him.

#### Exact

Claim as due or just;
The bank demanded payment of the loan

#### Exact

Take as an undesirable consequence of some event or state of affairs;
The accident claimed three lives
The hard work took its toll on her

#### Exact

Marked by strict and particular and complete accordance with fact;
An exact mind
An exact copy
Hit the exact center of the target

#### Exact

(of ideas, images, representations, expressions) characterized by perfect conformity to fact or truth ; strictly correct;
A precise image
A precise measurement

## Common Curiosities

#### Can exactness be achieved in real-world measurements?

Due to limitations in measurement tools and techniques, absolute exactness is often theoretical and not always achievable in real-world scenarios.

#### Why is precision important in scientific measurements?

Precision ensures reliability and reproducibility in scientific experiments, crucial for validating results and theories.

#### Is it possible to be precise but not exact?

Yes, measurements can be precise by being consistent but not exact if they do not match the true value.

#### How do exactness and precision impact data analysis?

Exactness ensures data accuracy, while precision affects the reliability of data sets and, consequently, the conclusions drawn from them.

#### Can something be exact but not precise?

While exactness implies accuracy to the true value, it doesn't necessarily imply precision if there's inconsistency in achieving that exact value across multiple attempts.

#### Are there fields where exactness is more important than precision?

In fields requiring high accuracy, like navigation and pharmaceuticals, exactness may be prioritized over precision.

#### Are there tools that measure both precision and exactness?

Many scientific instruments aim to achieve both by providing consistent measurements close to the true value, but often there's a trade-off between the two.

#### What role does calibration play in ensuring precision and exactness?

Calibration aligns measurement tools with known standards, essential for maintaining both precision and exactness in measurements.

#### How do exactness and precision relate to accuracy?

Exactness is synonymous with accuracy, while precision refers to the consistency of measurements, regardless of their accuracy.

#### How do precision and exactness affect quality control?

In quality control, precision ensures consistency in product quality, while exactness ensures products meet the specified standards or dimensions.

#### Why might someone prioritize precision over exactness?

In scenarios where reproducibility is more critical than matching a true value, such as in mass production, precision might be prioritized.

#### Does the digital age affect the pursuit of exactness and precision?

Digital technologies offer new tools and methods for improving exactness and precision, from computational algorithms to high-precision instruments.

#### How do cultural factors influence the emphasis on precision and exactness?

Cultural values around perfection, efficiency, and reliability can influence the degree of emphasis placed on precision and exactness in various practices and industries.

#### How does human perception influence the interpretation of exactness and precision?

Human perception can introduce biases, affecting the interpretation of what is considered exact or precise, underscoring the need for objective measurement standards.

#### How can one improve precision and exactness in measurements?

Using more refined measurement tools, improving techniques, and eliminating sources of error can enhance both precision and exactness.

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