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AS PHYSICS Subject Teacher : Md. Shahidur Rahman

LECTURE NOTE : MEASUREMENT TECHNIQUES (According to GCE Syllabus M/J 2016-2018)
The difference between the true value and the experimental value is called uncertainty.
For example, when the length of an object is recorded as 25.5 cm by using a metre rod having
smallest division in millimeter, it is the difference of two readings of the initial and final positions. The
uncertainty in the single reading as discussed before is taken as ± 0.05 cm which is now doubled
and is called absolute uncertainty (least count) =±0.1 cm
Fractional uncertainty = (0.1 cm / 25.5 cm)
Percentage uncertainty = (0.1 cm / 25.5 cm) X (100 / 100) = 0.4 / 100 = 0.4 %
Another measurement taken by vernier calipers with least count as 0.01 cm is recorded as 0.45 cm.
it has
Precision or absolute uncertainty (least count) = ± 0.01 cm
Fractional uncertainty = (0.01 cm / 0.45 cm) = 0.02
Percentage uncertainty = (0.01 cm / 0.45 cm) X (100 / 100) = (2.0 / 100) = 2.0 %
Thus the reading 25.5 cm taken by metre rule is although less precise by is more accurate having
less percentage uncertainty or error.
Whereas the reading 0.45 cm taken by vernier calipers is more precise but is less accurate. In fact, it
is the relative measurement which is important. The smaller a physical quantity, the more precise
instrument should be used. Here the measurement 0.45 cm demands that a more precise
instrument, such as micrometer screw gauge, with least count 0.001 cm, should have been used.
Hence, we can conclude that:
A precise measurement is the one which has less precision or absolute uncertainty and an
accurate measurement is the one which has less fractional or percentage uncertainty or

All physical measurements are uncertain or imprecise to some extent. It is very difficult to
eliminate all possible errors or uncertainties in a measurement. The error may occur due to
(1) negligence or inexperience of a person
(2) the faulty apparatus
(3) inappropriate method or technique.
The uncertainty may occur due to inadequacy or limitation of an instrument, natural variations of
the object being measured or natural imperfections of a person’s senses. However, the
uncertainty is also usually described as an error in a measurement. There are two major types of

●Accuracy and Precision:

Experimental error is the difference between a measurement and the true value or between two
measured values. Experimental error, itself, is measured by its accuracy and precision. Accuracy
measures how close a measured value is to the true value or accepted value. Since a true or
accepted value for a physical quantity may be unknown, it is sometimes not possible to
determine the accuracy of a measurement. Precision measures how closely two or more
measurements agree with other. A measurement which is highly reproducible tends to give
LECTURE NOTE :SCALAR & VECTOR Md. Shahidur Rahman ,A.HoD, Physics Department , BIS ,Dammam/Page 1 of 5
values which are very close to each other. Figure 1 defines accuracy and precision by analogy to
the grouping of arrows in a target.

Quantity Accuracy Instrument

1 cm Tape
0.1 cm Ruler
0.01 cm Vernier caliper
0.001 cm Micrometer screw gauge
1 cm3 Measuring cylinder
0.05 cm3 Pipette/burette
Angle 0.5o Protractor
1 min Clocks
Time 0.01 sec Stopwatch
-axis scale Time base of c.r.o
1oC Thermometer
0.5oC Thermocouple
P.d. 0.01 V Voltmeter
0.01 A Ammeter
0.0001 A Galvanometer

● Using a Cathode Ray Oscilloscope:

Example: A supply of peak value 5.0 V and of frequency 50 Hz is connected to a c.r.o with time-
base at 10 ms per division and Y-gain at 5.0V per division. Which trace is obtained?

●Systematic and Random Errors
 Systematic error:

LECTURE NOTE :SCALAR & VECTOR Md. Shahidur Rahman ,A.HoD, Physics Department , BIS ,Dammam/Page 2 of 5
o Constant error in one direction; too big or too small
o Cannot be eliminated by repeating or averaging
o If systematic error small, measurement accurate
o Accuracy: refers to degree of agreement between result of a measurement and true value of quantity.

 Random error:
o Random fluctuations or scatter about a true value
o Can be reduced by repeating and averaging
o When random error small, measurement precise
o Precision: refers to degree of agreement of repeated measurements of the same quantity (regardless of
whether it is correct or not)

●Calculations Involving Errors:

For a quantity x = (2.0±0.1)mm
Absolute uncertainty = ∆x = ±0.1mm
Fractional uncertainty = ∆x/x =0.05
Percentage uncertainty = (∆x/x) × 100% = 5%
Combining errors:
o When values added or subtracted, add absolute error
If p = (2x+y) / 3 or p = (2x-y) / 3, then ∆p = (2∆x+∆y) / 3
o When values multiplied or divided, add % errors
o When values are powered (e.g. squared), multiply percentage error with power
If r = 2xy3 or r = 2x / y3, then ∆r/r = ∆x/x+ 3 (∆y/y)

● Treatment of Significant Figures

Actual error: recorded to only 1 significant figure
Number of decimal places for a calculated quantity is equal to number of decimal places in actual error.
During a practical, when calculating using a measured quantity, give answers to the same significant
figure as the measurement or one less

● Micrometer Screw Gauge

LECTURE NOTE :SCALAR & VECTOR Md. Shahidur Rahman ,A.HoD, Physics Department , BIS ,Dammam/Page 3 of 5
 Measures objects up to 0.01mm
 Place object between anvil & spindle
 Rotate thimble until object firmly held by jaws
 Add together value from main scale and rotating scale
Vernier Scale

Measures objects up to 0.1mm

 Place object on rule
 Push slide scale to edge of object.
 The sliding scale is 0.9mm long & is divided into 10 equal divisions.
 Check which line division on sliding scale matches with a line division on rule
 Subtract the value from the sliding scale (0.09×Divisions) by the value from the rule.

Measurement Techniques
There are four terms often used in Experimental Physics:
1 Systematic Error
2 Random error
3 Precision
4 Accuracy

Systematic Error
Systematic error is a type of error that deviates by a fixed amount from the true value of
LECTURE NOTE :SCALAR & VECTOR Md. Shahidur Rahman ,A.HoD, Physics Department , BIS ,Dammam/Page 4 of 5
measurement which will result in all measurements taken being faulty in one direction.
Systematic errors due to:
1. Zero error of measuring instrument. A zero error is when the initial value shown by the
measuring instrument is a non-zero value when it should be zero.
2. Faulty measuring instrument. For example, if your stopwatch shows 100 seconds for an actual
time of 99 seconds, everything you measure with this stopwatch will be dilated, and a systematic
error is induced in your measurements. In this case, the systematic error is proportional to the
3. Inherent systematic errors in the experiment itself, which means even if all the instruments
were 100% perfect, there would still be an error.
For example, in an experiment to calculate acceleration due to gravity using the length and time
period of a simple pendulum, the size of the pendulum bob, the air friction, the slight movement
of support, etc. all affect the calculated value. These systematic errors are inherent to the
experiment and need to be accounted for in an approximate manner.
Many systematic errors cannot be gotten rid of by simply taking a large number of readings and
averaging them out. Therefore in such cases, calibration of the measuring instrument prior to
starting the experiment is required, which will reveal if there is any systematic error or zero error
in the measuring instrument.

Random Error

Random errors are errors in measurement that lead to measured values being inconsistent when
repeated measures of a quantity are taken. They result in a scatter of measured values about a
mean value. The errors have an equal probability of being positive or negative.
Random errors are present in all experiments. Unlike systematic errors, random errors are not
predictable, which makes them difficult to detect but easier to remove since they are statistical
errors and can be removed by statistical methods like averaging.
A random error can occur due to the measuring instrument and the way it is affected by changes
in the surroundings. For example, a spring balance might show some variation in measurement
due to fluctuations in temperature, conditions of loading and unloading, etc.
Random errors can also be due to the inability of the observer to repeat his actions precisely. For
example, if the period of oscillation of a pendulum is being measured, the experimenter might be
timing 50 oscillations. There are several things which cannot be reproduced exactly each time:
- the start of the first swing and the end of the fiftieth swing may not be noted exactly.
- the reaction time on the stopwatch might vary a little.

Accuracy and Precision

Accuracy is related to the closeness of a measurement, within certain limits, with the true value
of the quantity under measurement.
Precision refers to the narrowness of spread of a set of measurements.

LECTURE NOTE :SCALAR & VECTOR Md. Shahidur Rahman ,A.HoD, Physics Department , BIS ,Dammam/Page 5 of 5