Difference Between Precision and Recall

Difference Between Precision and Recall

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Vikram Singh
Assistant Manager - Content
Updated on Sep 13, 2023 10:10 IST

Discover the key differences between Precision and Recall in our latest article. Dive into examples and Python programming to understand how these metrics, based on relevance, measure the percentage of correctly identified instances. Perfect for Data Science enthusiasts!

difference between precision and recall

Precision and Recall often top the list of confusing concepts for machine learning experts and data scientists. Frequently brought up in interviews, these terms can perplex beginners with incomplete explanations. In simple terms, Precision and Recall are metrics used to assess the effectiveness of classification or information retrieval systems. Precision measures the proportion of relevant instances among all retrieved instances, while Recall, also known as 'sensitivity,' gauges the fraction of retrieved instances out of all relevant ones. Ideally, a flawless classifier would score 1 in both Precision and Recall.

Before starting this blog, first, learn the essential terms which we are going to use in this article. 

Important terms and their meaning

1. True Positive(TP):

  • You predicted positive, and it’s true.

2. True Negative(TN):

  • You predicted negative, and it’s true.

3. False Positive(FP): (Type 1 Error)

  • You predicted positive, and it’s false

4. False Negative(FN): (Type 2 Error)

  • You predicted negative, and it’s false.

All these terms are used in the confusion matrix.

Also read: Difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Error

Table of contents

What is Precision?

The precision metric checks the prediction accuracy of the positive class. Precision represents how many recognized/detected items are actually relevant. It is calculated by dividing true positives by total positives. ‍

 Let's take an example 

Suppose the model is supposed to detect the malicious document when different documents are given to it. This model aims to prevent malicious documents from getting stored on the computer. Now try to understand these important terms corresponding to this problem.


Continuing the same example above, we have the values of true positives, false positives, true negatives, and false negatives from this confusion matrix. If you want to learn more about the confusion matrix, we have a separate blog. Just replace these values in the Precision formula.                                        

For e.g Precision = 560/560+60 = 560/620 = 0.8

Here 0.8 means 80% precision. This means 80% of the positives were identified correctly.

You can see Precision ignores the negative class completely and considers only the positive class into account, so alone, it could be more helpful. When the classifier perfectly classifies all the positive values, the Score is ‘1’ in that case. 

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What is Recall?

The model’s ability to find all relevant cases in a dataset. Mathematically, we define recall as the number of true positives divided by the number of true positives and the number of false negatives.

Recall=560/560+50 = 560/610 = 0.918

If the recall value is 0.918, this means 91.8% of actual positive values were correctly classified.

Must Read: Recall Formula

Also read: Sensitivity vs. Specificity: What’s the Difference?

What is accuracy?

The accuracy in the confusion matrix tells about the correctly classified values. It tells us how accurately our classifiers are performing. It is the sum of all true values(TP and TN) divided by the total number of values.

The ability of a classification model to identify only relevant data points. Mathematically specifies the number of true positives divided by the number of true positives and the number of false positives.

Accuracy=560+330/560+330+60+50 = 890/1000 = 0.89 = 89% accuracy.

If the accuracy is 89%, then this means the model correctly classified 89% of values(TP+TN).

Also read: Difference between Accuracy and Precision

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Combining Precision and Recall

In some situations, you may need to maximize either recall or Precision at the expense of other metrics. For example, preliminary disease screening of patients for follow-up requires a recall and precision close to 1.0. We want to find all patients who have the disease but can accept a lower accuracy. However, if you want to find the best combination of Precision and recall,then use the F1 Score, which can combine the two metrics. The formula is-


Precision and recall are two numbers used together to evaluate the performance of a classification or information retrieval system. Accuracy is defined as the percentage of relevant instances among all retrieved instances. Recall, also called “sensitivity,” is the percentage of retrieved instances among all relevant instances. A perfect classifier has both Precision and recall equal to 1.

When to use Precision and recall?

Scenario 1:

  • The document is malicious but is declared non-malicious by the model.
  • This indicates that the model has a high false positive (FP) rate.
  • If the false positive rate is more important for solving a classification problem, then it is suggested to use Precision.

 Scenario 2: 

  • Classification models failed to identify malicious documents and allow them to be stored. 
  • This situation indicates that the model has a high false negative rate.
  • Recall is suggested if the false negative rate is more important according to your classification problem.
  • If the class imbalance ratio is 20:80 (imbalanced data), recall is more valuable than accuracy because it can provide information about how well the machine learning model identified rarer events.

Precision recall Python

We have to predict the species of the fish.

About data set

This dataset contains seven species of fish data for market sale. We will perform it using Python. The dataset is freely available on Kaggle.

1. Speciesspecies name of fish

2. Weight- the weight of fish in Gram

3. Length1- vertical length in cm

4. Length2- diagonal length in cm

5. Length3- cross length in cm

6. Height- height in cm

7. Width- diagonal width in cm

Importing Libraries and Reading Datasets

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np
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Dependent and Independent Variable

#Get Target data
y = dataset[‘Species’]
#Load X Variables into a Pandas Dataframe with columns
X = dataset.drop(['Species'], axis = 1)
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Splitting Dataset into Training and Testing Set

# Splitting the dataset into the Training set and Test set
from sklearn.model_selection import train_test_split
X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = train_test_split(X, y, test_size = 0.2, random_state = 0)
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Next, split both x and y into Training and testing sets with the help of the train_test_split() function. In this training, the data set is 0.8, which means 80%.

Importing and fitting Logistic Regression to the Training set

# Fitting Multiple Logistic Regression to the Training set
from sklearn.linear_model import LogisticRegression
regressor = LogisticRegression()
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Predicting the Test set results

# Predicting the test set results
y_pred = model.predict(X_test)
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Checking the accuracy score

from sklearn.metrics import accuracy_score,confusion_matrix
score= accuracy_score(y_test,y_pred)
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Output 0.83333

Checking Precision, recall and F1 Score

from sklearn.metrics import classification_report
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The difference between Precision and recall in machine learning is a quick way to assess an algorithm’s performance. Recall measures how many relevant examples the algorithm can find out, while Precision measures how many right answers the algorithm can get. A high level of Precision and recall indicates that an algorithm has performed well in learning. 

About the Author
Vikram Singh
Assistant Manager - Content

Vikram has a Postgraduate degree in Applied Mathematics, with a keen interest in Data Science and Machine Learning. He has experience of 2+ years in content creation in Mathematics, Statistics, Data Science, and Mac... Read Full Bio