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Achievement vs. Attainment: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 12, 2023
Achievement refers to a notable success, skill, or accomplishment, often through effort, while attainment is the act of reaching a goal, level, or standard, often in education.

Key Differences

Achievement often implies a significant or notable success, resulting from hard work or effort. It's associated with personal accomplishments like winning an award. In contrast, attainment generally refers to the act of achieving or reaching a certain level or standard, especially in an academic or educational context, like attaining a degree.
Achievement is typically used to describe an accomplishment that stands out as extraordinary or noteworthy. This could be in various fields such as sports, arts, or career milestones. Attainment, on the other hand, usually implies a more gradual process of acquiring skills or knowledge, often used in reference to educational benchmarks or levels of expertise.
In terms of measurement, achievement is often subjective, based on individual goals and efforts. It is associated with personal fulfillment. Attainment, however, is more objective and is often measurable against predefined standards or criteria, like educational grades or certifications.
The term achievement carries a sense of triumph and is often associated with overcoming challenges or obstacles. It's about reaching personal bests or breaking records. Attainment, in contrast, suggests a more methodical process of reaching a goal, emphasizing the journey and the end result, like the attainment of proficiency in a language.
Achievement can be singular and momentous, such as completing a marathon, whereas attainment often implies a series of steps or stages leading to a final goal, like the systematic process of advancing through grades in school.

Comparison Chart


Notable success or accomplishment
Reaching or achieving a goal or level


Often personal and subjective
Typically educational or skill-based


Singular and momentous
Gradual process or series of steps


Subjective, based on personal goals
Objective, against set standards


Triumph, overcoming challenges
Methodical process, journey emphasis

Achievement and Attainment Definitions


Accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
Her achievement of publishing a novel was celebrated by her peers.


Achieving a specified standard or level.
Attainment of proficiency in a foreign language can open many doors.


The act of achieving something through effort.
His achievement in the field of science earned him several awards.


The action or fact of achieving a goal.
His attainment of a master's degree was the result of years of hard work.


A notable or distinguished success.
Winning the chess tournament was a major achievement for him.


The act of reaching an educational or professional level.
His attainment in his career was evident in his rapid promotion.


Reaching a significant milestone.
Completing her PhD was a significant achievement in her academic career.


Fulfillment of a pursuit or endeavor.
The attainment of her goals was a source of great satisfaction to her.


Attaining a high level of performance.
Breaking the world record was an incredible achievement.


Reaching a level of knowledge or skill.
Her attainment in mathematics was recognized by the university.


The process of achieving something
She devoted her life to the achievement of voting rights for women.


The act of attaining or the condition of being attained.


Something that has been achieved, especially by means of skill or perseverance
The discovery of antibiotics is one of the great achievements of modern medicine.


Something, such as an accomplishment or achievement, that is attained.


The act of attaining; the act of arriving at or reaching; the act of obtaining by exertion or effort.
My attainment of proficiency in German was due to years upon years of study.


That which is attained, or obtained by exertion.


The act of attaining; the act of arriving at or reaching; hence, the act of obtaining by efforts.
The attainment of every desired object.


That which is attained to, or obtained by exertion; acquirement; acquisition; (pl.), mental acquirements; knowledge; as, literary and scientific attainments.


The act of achieving an aim;
The attainment of independence


Arrival at a new stage;
His attainment of puberty was delayed by malnutrition


An ability that has been acquired by training


Can achievement be measured?

Achievement can be measured, but it's often subjective and based on individual goals.

Does attainment imply a process?

Yes, attainment often implies a systematic process or a series of steps leading to a goal.

Is attainment always formal?

Attainment is often formal, especially in educational contexts, but it can also occur in informal settings.

How do people celebrate achievements?

People celebrate achievements in various ways, such as ceremonies, public recognition, or personal commemorations.

Is attainment always related to education?

Attainment is commonly related to education or skill acquisition, but it can also apply to other areas where levels or standards are reached.

What constitutes a significant achievement?

A significant achievement is typically a personal or professional milestone that is noteworthy or requires considerable effort.

Can someone have multiple achievements?

Absolutely, individuals can have multiple achievements across different areas of their lives.

Does attainment contribute to personal growth?

Attainment can significantly contribute to personal growth and development.

How does attainment differ from achievement?

Attainment is the act of reaching a goal or level, often in an educational or skill-based context, while achievement is a more personal and often subjective success.

Does attainment require external validation?

Attainment often requires external validation, especially in formal education or professional settings.

Can achievement be a team effort?

Yes, achievements can be the result of team efforts, especially in collaborative projects or sports.

Is there a societal standard for attainment?

Societal standards for attainment often exist, especially in educational and professional contexts, but they can vary widely.

What is an achievement?

An achievement is a notable success or accomplishment, often resulting from hard work or effort.

Can achievement change a person's life?

Significant achievements have the potential to change a person's life, opening new opportunities and paths.

How does society view achievement?

Society often views achievement as a sign of success, skill, or excellence.

Can achievements be unexpected?

Yes, achievements can sometimes be unexpected, arising from unplanned success or discoveries.

What role does motivation play in attainment?

Motivation plays a crucial role in attainment, as it drives the effort and commitment needed to reach goals.

Is there a limit to attainment?

There is no set limit to attainment; individuals can continually pursue higher levels or new goals.

How do schools measure achievement?

Schools measure achievement through grades, tests, and evaluations of student performance.

Is attainment specific to an individual?

Attainment can be individual-specific, especially when it relates to personal goals or milestones.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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