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What is the difference between assess and evaluate?

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I think your question benefit from a bit of context, so you get an appropriate answer to your problem. Context can be very defining sometimes. –  Eldroß Feb 23 '11 at 10:14
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4 Answers

Generally speaking they are synonyms. In specific cases, only one of the word is used.

  • Evaluate: form an idea of the amount, number, or value of; assess.
    • (usually be assessed) calculate or estimate the price or value of.
    • (often be assessed) set the value of a tax, fine, etc., for a person or property at a specified level.
  • Assess: evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of.
    • (Mathematics) find a numerical expression or equivalent for an equation, formula, or function.

The damage was assessed at $5 million.
All empty properties will be assessed at 50 percent.

[Reference: The New Oxford American Dictionary.]

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To me, an assessment is concrete: the gold is .999 fine, the car is worth $4500, the patient is dead. (It's connected with an assay or an appraisal.)

An evaluation is much more subjective: this plan is risky but worthwhile, the chili is bland, that chick is hot.

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My daughter asked me this as her BTec assignment has criteria, in ascending order of merit, of "explain", "assess" and "evaluate". Clearly the educational establishment here in UK thinks "evaluate" is the more demanding or precise requirement and my answer — which I still think is a good one — is that "evaluate" requires a more quantitative answer than qualitative. However they are synonyms in many usages and context is often the key, for example as above taxes are "assessed" and the usage is definitely quantitative in this case. I would "assess" a team member for performance review but "evaluate" their contribution to a project.

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In a more common, non-mathematical, usage, such as "to evaluate a situation" or "to assess a situation" the difference in implication would be that evaluating the situation is more results oriented (such as viewing the situation while looking for solutions,) while assessing the situation would be closer to simply looking and analyzing the situation is it presently is with less of an inclination to look at solutions.

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