Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Ability and Skill

Ability vs Skill

If one talks about intelligence, will he classify it as a skill or an ability? How about one’s expertise in computer programming, is that a skill or is it more likely an ability? Yes, skills and abilities can be problematic for some because several people don’t know if a certain attribute they have is an ability or a skill. These terms seem the same but they really are different from each other. So what’s the difference between the two?

Skills are abilities! For example, an athlete can have the ability to run for 20 rounds around the oval for as short as 30 minutes. This exceptional ability is then considered to be one of the athlete’s skills. It is therefore something that can be learned and acquired through training for example. Skills can be cognitive, perceptual and motor. It is the former if it involves thinking, perceptual if there’s some information interpretation included and the latter if movement is of the essence.

Skill is a composite of abilities, techniques and knowledge. These are the ones that make one do tasks at a higher degree or standard. These are more goal directed and is seen through improvements or positive changes in one’s performance.

Conversely, ability is the generic make up of the person either perceptual or motor in nature that can be inherited from one’s parents. In many instances, abilities can also be a combination of both perceptual and motor attributes (psychomotor). It is also important to note that abilities are the underlying attributes that bring out the skills or make up the skills of an individual. Like the example above, an athlete can have the skill of running fast for long distances only if he, to begin with, has the endurance or has the ability to run. In addition, abilities can be directly linked to one’s physical attributes. If a person has lots of speedy twitch fibers in his leg and has good coordination then more or less he has the inherent ability of becoming a sprinter but this does not directly imply that he is going to become a skilled sprinter.

Abilities are more of qualities that enable you to do or perform a particular task. Compared to skills, abilities are much stable and enduring. Common examples of abilities that can be observed or assessed are: muscular endurance, strength, flexibility, coordination and balance.

Although both skills and abilities can be perceptual, motor and psychomotor, they still differ because:

1. Skill is learned while ability is more or less inherited or has a genetic background.

2. Skill is more goal-directed because having such can allow a person to attain a higher level of performance whereas possessing abilities does not necessarily equate to exceptional performance.

3. Abilities are more stable than skills.


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