What is the difference between assess and evaluate?
Generally speaking they are synonyms. In specific cases, only one of the word is used.
The Oxford Living Dictionaries gives the following definitions for evaluate. (Similar definition was given from the NOAD I had installed on my Mac Mini, the copy that comes with the Dictionary application together the OS.)
- Form an idea of the amount, number, or value of; assess.
- (Mathematics) Find a numerical expression or equivalent for (an equation, formula, or function)
For assess, it gives the following definitions.
- Evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of.
- (Usually be assessed) Calculate or estimate the price or value of.
- Set the value of a tax, fine, etc., for (a person or property) at a specified level.
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.
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.