What Is an Aptitude Test?

Intelligence Tests vs. Aptitude Tests

Aptitude tests help measure capabilities.
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An aptitude test is designed to assess what a person is capable of doing or to predict what a person is able to learn or do given the right education and instruction. The goal of an aptitude test is to predict the ability to learn new skills. It represents a person's level of competency to perform a certain type of task.

Aptitude tests are often used to assess academic potential or career suitability and may be used to assess either mental or physical talent in a variety of domains.

So, is an intelligence test an example of an aptitude test? Not exactly. The two tests are similar, but distinct in what they measure.

An intelligence test measures your current cognitive skills; on the other hand, an aptitude test measures whether you have the potential to develop skills in the future in specific areas.

Aptitude Test Examples

People encounter a variety of aptitude tests throughout their personal and professional lives, often starting while they are children going to school.

Here are a few examples of common aptitude tests:

  • A test assessing an individual's aptitude to become a fighter pilot
  • A career test evaluating a person's capability to work as an air traffic controller
  • An aptitude test given to high school students to determine which type of careers they might be good at
  • A computer programming test to determine how a job candidate might solve different hypothetical problems 
  • A test designed to assess a person's physical abilities needed for a particular job such as a police officer or firefighter

Types of Aptitude Tests

You'll find that aptitude tests fall into different categories or types. The different types would be given in such settings as schools or workplaces.

Aptitude Tests in School

Students encounter a variety of aptitude tests throughout school as they think about what they might like to study in college or do as a career.

For example, a student might take an aptitude test suggesting that they are good with numbers and data. Such results might imply that a career as an accountant, banker, or stockbroker would be a good choice for that particular student.

Another student might find that they have strong language and verbal skills, which might suggest that a career as an English teacher, writer, or journalist might be a good choice.

Special Aptitude Tests

Special aptitude tests are designed to look at an individual's capacity in a particular area. For example, a business that is looking to hire a computer programmer will consider a candidate's work history and interview performance, but they might also want to administer an aptitude test to determine if a person possesses the necessary skill to perform the job.

In this case, the special aptitude test is designed to look at a very narrow range of ability: how skilled and knowledgeable the candidate is at computer programming.

Multiple Aptitude Tests

Multiple aptitude tests are designed to measure two or more different abilities. In some cases, such tests may even resemble intelligence tests in terms of their focus and scope. The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) that high school students take during their senior year is a good example of a multiple aptitude test.

The SAT measures aptitudes in areas including math, reasoning, and language and is often used by colleges and universities to determine if an applicant is prepared and has the ability to do well in college.

The Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE), as well as the specialized tests required in order to get into medical (MCAT), law (LSAT), and business graduate programs, are also examples of multiple aptitude tests.

Intelligence Tests vs. Aptitude Tests

So what exactly makes an aptitude test different from an intelligence test? Below, we compare the differences.

Intelligence Tests
  • Measure general intelligence (the capacity to perform in all areas)

  • Used by schools

  • Take the ages of test-takers into consideration

Aptitude Tests
  • Measure a narrower range of abilities than intelligence tests do

  • Used by schools and workplaces

  • Don't take the ages of test-takers into consideration

Intelligence encompasses many different abilities including problem-solving, reasoning, memory, knowledge, and the ability to adapt to a changing environment.

Aptitude tests, on the other hand, are designed to measure a much narrower range of abilities than intelligence or IQ tests do. However, some aptitude tests might have a very narrow focus that limits what they are able to predict. Other tests that look at multiple domains are much more similar to intelligence tests.

Similar to intelligence and aptitude tests are achievement tests, which measure a person's knowledge and skill level in a particular area. Achievement tests tend to focus on what a person has learned as a result of formal learning or training.

So, what are the differences among intelligence, achievement, and aptitude tests? Viewing the three types of tests in terms of a timeline may help you differentiate them:

  • Past: Achievement tests measure what you've already learned or accomplished.
  • Present: Intelligence tests measure the innate cognitive ability you have right now.
  • Future: Aptitude tests aim to uncover where you can potentially apply your skills in the future.

A Word From Verywell

Aptitude tests can help you get an idea of what you are good at or what you might be good at given the right training. However, these tests cannot tell you everything. Consider your results carefully and evaluate other factors such as your interests and experiences. Then, use this information to explore career options.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What kind of tests are used to predict future performance?

    Aptitude tests are used to predict how people will perform in the future on specific domains. Achievements tests, on the other hand, measure a person's level of current skill in a certain area.

  • Which statistical procedure is used to identify the separate abilities assessed by a test?

    Factor analysis is a statistical procedure that can be used to identify clusters of related items on a test. Factor analysis examples variables to look for relationships in order to identify the underlying factors behind those patterns. In aptitude testing, this technique can be used to identify underlying abilities that a specific test is measuring.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. Aptitude test.

  2. American Psychological Association. Specific ability.

  3. American Psychological Association. Multiple aptitude test.

  4. American Psychological Association. Achievement test.

Additional Reading
  • Flensborg-Madsen T, Falgreen Eriksen HL, Mortensen EL. Early life predictors of intelligence in young adulthood and middle age. PLoS ONE. 2020;15(1):e0228144. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0228144

  • Kline, P. Handbook of Psychological Testing. New York: Routledge; 2012.
  • Salking, N. & Rasmussen, K. (Eds.). Encyclopedia of Educational Psychology, Volume 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications; 2008.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."