An aptitude is an innate, acquired or learned or developed component of a competency (being the others: knowledge, understanding and attitude) to do a certain kind of work at a certain level. Aptitudes may be physical or mental. The innate nature of aptitude is in contrast achievement, which represents knowledge or ability that is gained.

Intelligence and aptitudes

Aptitude and intelligence quotient are related, and in some ways opposite, views of human mental ability. Whereas intelligence quotient sees intelligence as being a single measurable characteristic affecting all mental ability, aptitude breaks mental ability down into many different characteristics which are supposed to be more or less independent of each other.

On the contrary, a casual analysis with any group of test scores will nearly always show them to be highly correlated. The U.S. Department of Labor's General Learning Ability, for instance, is determined by combining Verbal, Numerical and Spatial aptitude subtests. In a given person some may be relatively low and others relatively high. In the context of an aptitude test the "high" and "low" scores are usually not far apart, because all ability test scores tend to be correlated. Aptitude is better applied intra-individually to determine what tasks a given individual is relatively more skilled at performing. Inter-individual aptitude differences are typically not very significant due to IQ differences. Of course this assumes individuals have not already been pre-screened for IQ through some other process such as SAT scores, GRE scores, finishing medical school, etc.

Skills, abilities and aptitudes

Skills, abilities, and aptitudes are similarly related but distinct, descriptions of what a person can do, and should not be conflated. Skills are a backward looking description, and describe what a person has learned to do in the past. Abilities are a present description, and describe what a person can do now, including things which was not explicitly learned skills. Aptitudes are a forward looking description, and describe skills a person has the ability to learn in the future.

Aptitude Only batteries

Aptitudes are generally tested in the form of an aptitude battery which tests a large number of aptitudes at one time with a series of small tests for each aptitude. Aptitude batteries may lean more toward innate aptitudes or more toward learned skills. Aptitude batteries that lean toward aptitudes are often useful in selecting a career. The leading researchers and purveyors of aptitude tests are:

* The Vocational Research Institute which produces a test used in schools and agencies that combines interest and aptitude for career guidance is Careerscope.
* Rockport Institute has been involved since 1981 in researching how aptitudes and personality traits combine to suggest careers that would fit a client perfectly. It produces the Pathfinder Career Testing Program.
* The Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation (JORF) is the original aptitude assessment organization. It produces the Johnson O'Connor Aptitude Battery (JOAB).
* The Highlands Company is a spinoff of the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation. It produces and the Highland Ability Battery.
* The Ball Foundation produces the Ball Aptitude Battery.
* Aptitude Inventory Measurement Service produces the AIMS Aptitude Battery.

Combined aptitude and knowledge tests

Tests that assess learned skills or knowledge are frequently called achievement tests. However, certain tests can assess both types of constructs. An example that leans both ways is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which is given to recruits entering the armed forces of the United States. Another is the SAT, which is designed as an test of aptitude for college in the United States, but has achievement elements. For example, it test mathematical reasoning, which depends both on innate mathematical ability and education received in mathematics.

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Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Career Change. The Official Guide to Career Change is Stacey Mayo. Stacey established the Center for Balanced Living in 1995 as a vehicle to carry out her life’s work. As director of the Center, she and a team of powerful coaches have assisted thousands of people across the nation in living out their dreams with amazing results.

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