An aptitude is a component of a competency to do a certain kind of work at a certain level, which can also be considered "talent". Aptitudes may be physical or mental. Aptitude is developed knowledge, understanding, learned or acquired abilities (skills) or attitude. The innate nature of aptitude is in contrast to achievement, which represents knowledge or ability that is gained through learning.
According to Gladwell (2008) and Colvin (2008) often it is difficult to set apart an outstanding performance merely because of talent or simply because of hard training.
Aptitude and intelligence quotient are related, and in some ways differing views of human mental ability. Whereas IQ sees intelligence as being a single measurable characteristic affecting all mental ability, aptitude often refers to one of many different characteristics which can be independent of each other, such as aptitude for military flight, air traffic control, or computer programming. This is similar to the theory of multiple intelligences.
A single construct such as mental ability might be measured with multiple tests. Often, these test scores will be correlated with each other. 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 aptitudes might be low and others 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 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 aptitude through some other process such as SAT scores, GRE scores, or finishing medical school.
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 a test of aptitude for college in the United States, but has achievement elements. For example, it tests mathematical reasoning, which depends both on innate mathematical ability and education received in mathematics.
Aptitude tests can typically be grouped according to the type of cognitive ability they measure:
- Fluid intelligence: the ability to think and reason abstractly, effectively solve problems and think strategically. It’s more commonly known as ‘street smarts’ or the ability to ‘quickly think on your feet’. An example of what employers can learn from your fluid intelligence is your suitability for the role for which you are applying
- Crystallised intelligence: the ability to learn from past experiences and to apply this learning to work-related situations. Work situations that require crystallised intelligence include producing and analysing written reports, comprehending work instructions, using numbers as a tool to make effective decisions, etc.
- Colvin, Geoff (2008). Talent is overrated: What really separate world-class performers from everybody else. New York: Portfolio, Penguin Group. ISBN 978-1-59184-224-8.
- Gladwell, Malcolm (2008). Outliers: The story of Success. New York: Little, Brown & Co. ISBN 978-0-316-03669-6.