This paper proposes a new active learning approach, confidence- based active learning, for training a wide range of classifiers. This approach is based on identifying and annotating uncertain samples. The uncertainty value of each sample is measured by its conditional error. The approach takes advantage of current classifiers’ probability preserving and ordering properties. It calibrates the output scores of classifiers to conditional error. Thus, it can estimate the uncertainty value for each input sample according to its output score from a classifier and select only samples with uncertainty value above a user- defined threshold. Even though we cannot guarantee the optimality of the proposed approach, we find it to provide good performance. Compared with existing methods, this approach is robust without additional computational effort. A new active learning method for support vector machines ( SVMs) is implemented following this approach. A dynamic bin width allocation method is proposed to accurately estimate sample conditional error and this method adapts to the underlying probabilities. The effectiveness of the proposed approach is demonstrated using synthetic and real data sets and its performance is compared with the widely used least certain active learning method.