Suppose that I'm requested to roll a raw Ability check, such as an Intelligence check or a Dexterity check. (I realise that these checks are relatively rare, compared to skill checks such as Arcana or Acrobatics, but they still do happen.) Is the Proficiency bonus added to these checks? Does it matter if I have Proficiency in the corresponding Saving Throw?

Apologies for a basic rules question, but I couldn't find a definitive reference, and for instance here opinions are divided.


2 Answers 2


Generally, no

This is actually kinda self-answering, since an ability check being raw specifically means that there are no applicable proficiencies. One of the traps here, is the common shorthand of only referring to the skill proficiency of a roll, but this isn't how they're defined by the rules. An ability check is tied to an ability first, and often has a possibility of letting you add your proficiency. You always add your ability modifier and if you have the applicable proficiency, you add your proficiency modifier. (Skills aren't the only option here either, for example tools and vehicle proficiencies are used this way.)

I think the example actually gives the most clarity:

For example, if a character attempts to climb up a dangerous cliff, the DM might ask for a Strength (Athletics) check. If the character is proficient in Athletics, the character's proficiency bonus is added to the Strength check. If the character lacks that proficiency, he or she just makes a Strength check.

Working with that example: If the DM instead decides Athletics isn't applicable, they'd instead just call for a Strength check. Trimming down the example:

For example, if a character attempts to climb up a dangerous cliff, the DM might ask for a Strength check. The character makes a Strength check.

There are minor exceptions to this, most notably Jack of All Trades with adds half your proficiency bonus to any ability check which don't already use it. And there's a general application of this, as initiative rolls are a Dexterity check.


Not under the default rules. Proficiency with ability checks is a variant rule.

Normally, proficiency only applies to skill and tool checks, and saving throws with which you are proficient. Proficiency with ability checks is a variant rule:

Ability Check Proficiency

With this variant rule, characters don’t have skill proficiencies. Instead, each character has proficiency in two abilities: one tied to the character’s class and one tied to the character’s background. The Ability Proficiencies by Class table suggests a proficiency for each class, and you choose which ability is tied to a given background. Starting at 1st level, a character adds his or her proficiency bonus to any ability check tied to one or the other of these two abilities.

-Dungeon Master’s Guide pg. 263

However, there are some features that allow you to add half your proficiency to an ability check under certain conditions. For example, the Champion Fighter’s Remarkable Athlete:

Remarkable Athlete

Starting at 7th level, you can add half your proficiency bonus (round up) to any Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution check you make that doesn’t already use your proficiency bonus

The Bard’s Jack of All Trades feature functions similarly, but applies half proficiency to all ability checks that don’t already use proficiency.


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