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Tolerances and Stopping Criteria

The number of iterations in an optimization depends on a solver's stopping criteria. These criteria include several tolerances you can set. Generally, a tolerance is a threshold which, if crossed, stops the iterations of a solver.

Set tolerances and other criteria using optimoptions as explained in Set and Change Optimization Options.


Generally set tolerances such as OptimalityTolerance and StepTolerance to be well above eps, and usually above 1e-14. Setting small tolerances does not always result in accurate results. Instead, a solver can fail to recognize when it has converged, and can continue futile iterations. A tolerance value smaller than eps effectively disables that stopping condition. This tip does not apply to fzero, which uses a default value of eps for the TolX tolerance.

optimoptions displays tolerances. For example,

options = optimoptions('fmincon');
ans =

   1.0e-06 *

    1.0000    1.0000    0.0001

You can also find the default tolerances in the options section of the solver function reference page.

  • StepTolerance is a lower bound on the size of a step, meaning the norm of (xi – xi+1). If the solver attempts to take a step that is smaller than StepTolerance, the iterations end. StepTolerance is generally used as a relative bound, meaning iterations end when |(xi – xi+1)| < StepTolerance*(1 + |xi|), or a similar relative measure. See Tolerance Details.

  • For some algorithms, FunctionTolerance is a lower bound on the change in the value of the objective function during a step. For those algorithms, if |f(xi) – f(xi+1)| < FunctionTolerance, the iterations end. FunctionTolerance is generally used as a relative bound, meaning iterations end when |f(xi) – f(xi+1)| < FunctionTolerance*(1 + |f(xi)|), or a similar relative measure. See Tolerance Details.


    Unlike other solvers, fminsearch stops when it satisfies both TolFun (the function tolerance) and TolX (the step tolerance).

  • OptimalityTolerance is a tolerance for the first-order optimality measure. If the optimality measure is less than OptimalityTolerance, the iterations end. OptimalityTolerance can also be a relative bound on the first-order optimality measure. See Tolerance Details. First-order optimality measure is defined in First-Order Optimality Measure.

  • ConstraintTolerance is an upper bound on the magnitude of any constraint functions. If a solver returns a point x with c(x) > ConstraintTolerance or |ceq(x)| > ConstraintTolerance, the solver reports that the constraints are violated at x. ConstraintTolerance can also be a relative bound. See Tolerance Details.


    ConstraintTolerance operates differently from other tolerances. If ConstraintTolerance is not satisfied (i.e., if the magnitude of the constraint function exceeds ConstraintTolerance), the solver attempts to continue, unless it is halted for another reason. A solver does not halt simply because ConstraintTolerance is satisfied.

  • MaxIterations is a bound on the number of solver iterations. MaxFunctionEvaluations is a bound on the number of function evaluations. Iterations and function evaluations are discussed in Iterations and Function Counts.

There are two other tolerances that apply to particular solvers: TolPCG and MaxPCGIter. These relate to preconditioned conjugate gradient steps. For more information, see Preconditioned Conjugate Gradient Method.

There are several tolerances that apply only to the fmincon interior-point algorithm. For more information, see Interior-Point Algorithm in fmincon options.

There are several tolerances that apply only to intlinprog. See Some “Integer” Solutions Are Not Integers and Branch and Bound.

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