I am trying to understand the difference between these two but it looks like as if they are calculated the same way. What is the difference?

R precision:

R precision is the precision at the Rth position in the ranking of results for a query that has R relevant documents.

Precision at K:

Precision at K is calculate for only K documents. Documents ranked lower than K are ignored.

  • $\begingroup$ It could be the same thing. People don't always use the same letter for a given parameter, or the exact same grammar for an expression. $\endgroup$ Dec 21, 2016 at 14:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What is the context here? Where did you find these two definitions? $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    May 1, 2017 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ We examine the top |Rel| results of a system, and find that r are relevant, then by definition, not only is the precision (and hence R-precision) r/|Rel|, but the recall of this result set is also r/|Rel|. $\endgroup$
    – Shayan
    Jan 14 at 20:02

2 Answers 2



R-Precision is defined as $\frac{r}{R}$, which is the ratio between all the relevant documents retrieved until the rank that equals the number of relevant documents you have in your collection in total ($r$), to the total number of relevant documents in your collection $R$.

Suppose in your collection there are 100 documents in total, 30 of which are relevant ($R = 30$), the rest irrelevant. So you retrieve the first 30 documents (because 30 are relevant in total in your collection) and, say, 10 of them are relevant ($r = 10$). Your R-Precision is then $\frac{10}{30} = \frac{1}{3}$.


Precision@K is defined as the precision at rank $k$, which is more intuitive if you know about the definition of precision itself. Suppose your system retrieves 10 documents, where the relevant ones are at ranks ${1,3,6,7,9}$ and you want to know how 'well' your system does until rank 5 ('well' depends on the objective of your system of course but here we'll say we want high precision at low ranks). So you compute your Precision@5, which is the ratio of the number of relevant documents until (including) rank 5 to the total number of documents until $k$ (this number is $k$ itself). Your Precision@K where $K = 5$ is therefore $\frac{2}{5}$.

Youc an see that R-Precision is a measure that allows for assessment of your entire system whereas Precision@K really only takes the documents until $K$ into account. Depending on what you want to measure, either of them may be suitable.


In addition to what @simonst told, I'm gonna add these:

Disadvantage of Precision@K:

Precision at K has this disadvantage that the total number of relevant documents in the collection has a strong influence on this metric.
For example, a perfect system, could only achieve a precision@20 of 0.4, if there were only 8 documents relevant to an information need.

R-Precision solves that issue:

Actually R-Precision is the same as Precision@X where X is the total number of relevant documents in the collection. A perfect system could score 1 for each query, if R-Precision is used.


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