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What is an Assessment?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 17, 2024
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As the Greek philosopher Socrates once noted, the unexamined life is not worth living. While Socrates may have been speaking about a spiritual or moral examination, there are other times in our lives when taking an objective personal inventory wouldn't be such a bad idea. This act of evaluating personal strengths, weaknesses, goals and aptitudes is often called an assessment. This may be an informal self-examination or a professional work-up performed by someone else. The ultimate purpose of this examination might be to make adjustments in personal goals or improve performance in a career or social setting.

Most of us have faced one form of assessment or another since infancy. Pediatricians may compare a child's physical, emotional or intellectual development against others in his or her age group, for example. An early examination of a child's growth can help address immediate problems of underdevelopment or long-term problems of social interaction or learning disabilities. Some school systems use tools to assess if a child is prepared for kindergarten or other pre-school programs.

Another form of assessment many of us encountered as adolescents was a vocational aptitude test battery. A series of physical and mental tests would lead to an individual consideration of our occupational strengths and weaknesses. Guidance counselors and teachers could use this assessment to guide students towards training programs or higher education opportunities. Without such an objective consideration, many of us may have become discouraged adults working in fields which did not address our true strengths.

Many occupations require some form of assessment before candidates can be hired or promoted from within. It is not always enough to want a particular job or set of responsibilities. Companies need to have an objective way to determine the best match for the position, based on factors such as aptitude, emotional stability, ability to accept criticism, and personal integrity. This may require extensive interviews, background checks and psychological or physical examinations. Many sensitive positions in the military and other high-security occupations have very stringent assessment procedures.

There are also times in a person's life when a personal assessment may be extremely beneficial. People often re-examine their personality traits following a traumatic break-up or divorce. Losing a job may also trigger a need for a personal consideration of ambitions and interests. Some people feel the need for this as they reach a milestone birthday such as 30, 40 or 65.

A good personal assessment should address both the positive and negative aspects of your life to date. It is not a time for fault-finding or mass rationalization. By examining your life as objectively as possible, you have the opportunity to make adjustments before destructive traits and patterns become entrenched.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
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Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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