Ability refers to knowledge or skill, including both the potential to acquire knowledge or skills and those already acquired.
The capacity to learn is commonly known as aptitude. The demonstration of skills and knowledge already learned is called achievement. Both aptitude and achievement are primary factors used to evaluate a person's intelligence. In evaluating individuals, a psychologist considers two kinds of abilities: verbal ability, including reading comprehension, the ability to converse, breadth of vocabulary, and the use of language, and problem-solving ability, which is measured by a person's capacity to make good decisions given a particular set of circumstances.
Specific tests of ability are often used by employers to determine an applicant's skills. For example, a person applying for a job as a word processor may be given a keyboarding test, whereas an applicant to drive a bus might be given a driving test. Tests to evaluate more complex abilities, such as leadership, motivation, and social skills, tend to be more general.
Developed early in the twentieth century, formal tests were used by psychologists and educators to measure aptitude and achievement, but these tests were controversial. Standardized intelligence quotient, or IQ, tests have been faulted for cultural and social biases. Critics contend that many standardized measures cannot accurately predict a person's future performance.
See also Intelligence quotient (IQ) ; Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales ; Vocational aptitude test .
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