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Significant Figures Made Easy – Step 1 of 5


We need to understand the concept of “significant figures” because measurements need to be recorded in a proper way.

Here is an example to make
things easier to understand:

You must be knowing that ruler, vernier calipers and micrometer screwguage all measure length. However they measure length to different amount
of accuracy.

Instrument Accuracy
Ruler 1 millimeter
(1 mm)
Vernier calipers 10th of a millimeter
(0.1 mm)
Micrometer screwguage 100th of a millimeter
(0.01 mm)

Let’s say the actual diameter of a wire is 2.012 millimeters.

So if you measure the diameter of a wire using a ruler, you may record the value as 2mm but not 2.0mm because the ruler will not tell you about the tenth
of a millimeter.

Similarly, if you use vernier calipers, you may write the measurement as 2.0mm but you should not write 2.01mm because vernier calipers cannot
measure accurately a hundredth of a millimeter.

In the same way the recorded value from a micrometer screwguage shall be 2.01mm.

Next step: Identifying significant figures


Have questions? See our compilation of questions and answers.