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Understanding AQL Inspection: The 6 Important Terms You Need to Know

As a buyer or an importer, you’ve likely heard of AQL inspection, but do you really know what it is and what the different terms mean? AQL inspection is a process used to inspect products to determine if they meet a certain level of quality.

While this inspection process is widely used, it's essential to be familiar with the following six important terms:

General Inspection Level:

This term refers to the sampling level used during an inspection. There are three general inspection levels:

  • GI: The smallest sample size, offering less transparency in a shorter time.

  • GII: The balanced option, commonly used by buyers and importers for inspections.

  • GIII: The largest sample size, providing the highest level of transparency but requiring more time for inspection.


Special Inspection Level:

This term applies when the product has specific requirements that necessitate tests or checks. Special inspection levels are used for tests that are destructive, expensive, time-consuming, or yield consistent results across all units. There are four special inspection levels that indicate varying sample sizes based on the importance of the test.

  • S-1

  • S-2

  • S-3

  • S-4


Acceptable Quality Level (AQL):

AQL, also known as acceptable quality limit, represents the minimum quality level a shipment must meet for acceptance. AQL values range from 0 to 15, with AQLs above 6.5 rarely used in practice. Higher AQL values indicate a higher tolerance for quality defects within the order. The AQL table is commonly employed to determine the sample size required for inspection and to determine whether a lot should be accepted or rejected.


Critical Defect:

This term refers to a severe defect that could potentially harm the consumer or fail to meet safety requirements. Critical defects include issues such as mold on a wood piece, needles left on apparel, or exposed sharp points.


Major Defect:

A major defect is a significant flaw that affects the functionality or appearance of the product. Examples include technical requirements being outside tolerance, cracks on housing, or jammed function buttons.


Minor Defect:

Minor defects do not impact the product's function or appearance significantly but may involve cosmetic imperfections. Examples include removable dirt on the product surface, untrimmed threads on apparel, or unnoticeable scratches on product surfaces.


Understanding these terms is essential for effective quality control through AQL inspection. By familiarizing yourself with these concepts, you can make informed decisions regarding your inspection requirements. If you need assistance with inspections or ensuring compliance with quality standards, please contact us at for a consultation. We have extensive experience in helping customers with inspections and can provide the necessary support.

Inspector inspecting products


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