How Do You Read a Graduated Cylinder?

To read a graduated cylinder, look straight at the edge of the liquid at the central horizontal line of the liquid surface, read the numbered graduation below the liquid edge, count the unnumbered lines, and estimate the in-between line space. When counting unnumbered lines, take into account the scale used.

Graduated cylinders are tubes made of glass or plastic with graduation either printed or etched on the sides of the tube. Graduated cylinders can be of different capacity, such as 10 milliliters or 100 milliliters, and graduated differently (in 1, 2 or 10 milliliter increments.

  1. Look at the edge of liquid in the graduated cylinder
  2. To avoid parallax error, either lift the cylinder to your eye level or go down, so that you sight line coincides with the liquid edge. The parallax error occurs when an observer reads the liquid level at an angle.

  3. ]Take the reading
  4. Note the numbered line below the surface of the liquid. This is the first digit in the reading. It can be 5 milliliters or 50 milliliters. Next, determine what each of the smaller unnumbered lines represents. It can be 10th of milliliters or milliliters. Count the smaller lines up to the surface of the liquid. Estimate the in-between line distance. It can be a half or a third of that distance. If each unnumbered line represents one milliliter, then the estimation will be in 10th of milliliters.

  5. Read the meniscus correctly
  6. Liquids can have raised or lowered edges when poured into tubes. Read the central horizontal line of this meniscus, not the edges.