Aptitude vs. Achievement: Definition & Test Types

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  • 0:03 Testing
  • 0:45 Aptitude
  • 2:28 Achievement
  • 3:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

People learn in different ways, so we need different ways to evaluate a person's cognitive skills. In this lesson, we'll look at the concepts of aptitude and achievement and see how each are tested.


Ask any high schooler about standardized testing and you're pretty likely to get a similar response: a groan and roll of the eyes or some variation on that theme. Standardized tests aren't exactly the most popular topic, and yet we continually use them. Why?

While the overuse of these tests to evaluate school success is a controversial topic, the tests themselves can actually be pretty useful. Tests provide a consistent framework through which educators can evaluate specific aspects of someone's capabilities, comprehension, or development.

But, in order for them to actually be effective, we have to be giving the right tests. After all, a good test can't just be standardized; it has to set a standard.


There are a few kinds of frequently used tests, and each one of them is focused on evaluating a different aspect of a person's cognitive abilities.

One of the most common is an aptitude test, which are tests designed to evaluate a person's ability to learn a skill or subject. That's what aptitude is - natural skill, talent, or capacity to learn.

An aptitude test, therefore, is not testing what you have learned or how well you have responded to education or training. It's not even an evaluation of intelligence or intellectual capacity. It's a measurement of a person's ability to learn a specific subject.

Many training programs, from music and the arts to vocational and technical programs, rely heavily on aptitude tests. These tests inform the instructors whether or not a student is likely to succeed based on their personality, talent, and potential for growth.

Many schools also use aptitude tests to determine how well a student is likely to perform, which can be very useful in determining the best educational style for them. Parts of exams like the SAT and GRE are actually aptitude-based, meant to determine whether a candidate has the skill and capacity to be successful at the next level of education.

Since aptitude tests are based on natural talent, skill, and ability to learn, you don't study for them in the way you would other tests. You're not being tested on knowledge or information you've been taught, but instead on your capacity for learning new information. This being said, there are ways to prepare for an aptitude test.

Aptitude can be broadened through routine mental exercise and exposure to skills. Frequent reading, trips to museums and art galleries, and even things like crosswords, puzzles, and even vocab lists can help children and adults increase their potential for learning.


Aptitude tests evaluate a distinct aspect of a person's cognitive abilities. That makes them different from another kind of evaluation: the achievement test. While aptitude is the potential to learn, achievement is learning itself.

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