'Assess' or 'Access'? What Is the Difference? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 26 February 2024)

Assess vs Access: Understanding the Difference

Do you know the difference between assess and access? These two words may look similar at first glance, but their meanings are completely different.

What Does Assess Mean?

Assess is a verb meaning 'to evaluate, estimate, or judge the quality, value, or effectiveness of something'. It often involves analysing and making a judgement based on evidence or criteria:

The teacher assessed our stories based on content, creativity, and grammar.

The company has recently hired a consultant to assess its marketing strategy and identify areas for improvement.

✅ They assessed the cost of the water damage at $12,000.

What Does Access Mean?

Access means 'to reach, enter, obtain, or use something'. It can be a verb or a noun. It is often used in the context of obtaining permission or clearance to enter a restricted area or to use a particular resource:

You need a key card to access the building after hours.

The government provides grants to help low-income families access affordable housing.

The professor gave us access to his lab.

How Are Assess and Access Pronounced?

While assess and access may look similar in writing, they have different pronunciations. Assess is pronounced uh-SES (/əˈses/), with the stress on the second syllable, while access is pronounced AK-ses (/ˈækses/), with the stress on the first syllable.

How Can I Easily Remember Which One Is Which?

To remember the difference between these two words, you can use a mnemonic device. For example, assess has two Ss, which can represent 'size up' or 'study and scrutinise'. This can help you associate assess with the act of evaluating and judging something. By contrast, access has two Cs, which can represent 'come in' or 'connect to'. This can help you associate access with the act of entering a place or obtaining information.

The spelling difference can act as a helpful mnemonic device.

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Examples from the Media

My French teacher decided that by using creative writing assignments, she would assess our understanding of grammar and sentence structure rather than with quizzes. —Toronto Star (2020)

GPs are contractually obliged and paid to assess new mothers' mental health and wellbeing six to eight weeks after giving birth. —Daily Mail (2023)

Legislation that would enshrine a patient's right to permanently delete their record, and ensure that police may only access a person's medical history with a court order, is yet to pass Parliament but politicians will not get a chance to debate the bill before the opt-out deadline passes on November 15. —The Sydney Morning Herald (2018)

Our lives have been transformed by the ease with which information can be accessed and conveyed to others and services obtained. —South China Morning Post (2023)


Choose the correct word to complete each sentence.

1. The interviewers will assess/access your suitability for the job.

2. I've just taken a test to assess/access my English proficiency.

3. You will be given a password to assess/access our online course.

4. This report aims to assess/access the impact of video games on children.

5. Everyone should have timely assess/access to affordable healthcare.

6. The severity of the problem is being assessed/accessed now.

7. The vet has to assess/access the tiger's general condition before releasing it into the wild. 

8. This ticket entitles you to a complimentary drink and unlimited assess/access to the zoo.

9. The library offers free assess/access to online resources for all its members.

10. The teacher will assess/access the students' oral presentations based on their delivery, content, and use of visual aids.

Answer Key

1. assess    2. assess    3. access    4. assess    5. access    6. assessed    7. assess    8. access    9. access    10. assess

Recommended Further Reading

'Access Something' or 'Access to Something'?

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