Distinction between Ability and Aptitude

1 Ability describes something that a person can do now. Aptitude refers to latent ability. Thus aptitude describes the ability which will result from adding training and/or experience to aptitude.

2 Examples. Person A might have twice as high a current ability to manage as Person B. But B may have much more managerial aptitude than A – which training would bring out.

3 Typist A can type 40 words per minute at the moment but has the aptitude to type at 80 wpm. Typist B has the ability to type at 50 wpm but has an aptitude of 55 wpm. Thus B has nearly reached the level of B’s capacity whereas, with training, A will type much faster than B.

Practical Application

4 In the process of selecting people, Selectors should distinguish between ability and aptitude. Some Applicants will have high aptitudes but relatively low current ability. Many people may have little apparent ability but have a great deal of aptitude.    Identifying such a
situation will help the Selector to obtain a greater number of potential Candidates.

5 Selectors will have to decide in selection whether they will restrict themselves to people with sufficient present ability or seek someone with less present ability but with sufficient aptitude to achieve the required ability after experience/training.

6 Sometimes people emphasise present ability too much as compared with whether the person has appropriate aptitude and can receive relatively inexpensive and fast training.

7 However, some Selectors put too much emphasis on aptitude and an Appointee then struggles on – doing a job with too little ability. The Appointee either does not have the real aptitude to make use of the training given and/or does not receive any appropriate training.


8 Aptitude plus Training/Experience = Future Ability.

2 thoughts on “Distinction between Ability and Aptitude

    • Not necessarily. Aptitude would always refer to something – He has an aptitude for ………..

      A person may have an aptitude for adapting to circumstances – his/her environment. The aptitude could range from (almost) nil to very high

      But aptitude does not have to refer only to adaptability.It could refer to many other things

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