What are Reasoning and Critical Thinking Skills?
Critical thinking is a process of making a judgement, based on an analysis of available evidence. It requires effective communication, problem-solving abilities and overcoming native bias. Critical thinking is crucial in all professional and academic fields.
Reasoning skills divide into verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Verbal reasoning is an ability to understand and reason using concepts framed in words. Non-verbal reasoning is an ability to analyse and solve complex problems without relying upon language skills, for example by analysing visual information and solving problems based on pictures, diagrams etc. The main non-verbal reasoning types are diagrammatic reasoning and spatial reasoning. Notably, students with dyslexia often have strengths and cognitive abilities in areas such as critical thinking and reasoning.
How are Reasoning and Critical Thinking skills assessed and tested?
Reasoning and Critical Thinking skills are tested throughout the education process and professional career. To support the development of these skills, one can undergo an assessment such as an IQ test or Literacy and Achievement Test. During these tests, the examinee’s weaknesses and strengths are identified and individualized advice is made on how to improve. Scenarios in which an individual will encounter the reasoning and critical thinking tests assessments are, for example, university entrance exams and job aptitude tests and interviews.
To assess the Reasoning and Critical Thinking skills, comprehensive assessments can be administered by schools and psychologists. Frequently used tests are listed below:
– IQ Tests such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC)
The test assesses cognitive abilities linked to academic achievements and subsets of learning disabilities. WISC results can also be used for admission to high intelligence societies such as Mensa. For more details refer to our page on IQ tests here.
– Literacy and Achievement Tests
An achievement test is a test of developed skills or knowledge. Standardised achievement tests are commonly used to compare a student’s skills to results obtained by others in the same grade. Achievement tests can be used to indicate whether a learning disability is present and determine how to support the affected child. Highly gifted students can also be discovered through these tests (for example, WJ IV ACH). For more details refer to our page on Literacy and Achievement Testing here.
In the academic environment, reasoning and critical thinking skills are tested by, for example:
– University Entrance Exams such as Cambridge pre-interview exams (tests such as Natural Sciences Admission Assessment (NSAA) and Engineering Admission Assessment (ENGAA) etc.)
Those exams are used to differentiate between high-achieving students and selecting candidates for interviews for Cambridge University courses. Students are typically presented with atypical problems, requiring them to apply both the knowledge gained at school and their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
– Standardised tests such as Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
LSAT is a crucial admission element for prospective law school candidates. LSAT tests reading comprehension and verbal reasoning proficiency. The test is used for admissions to law schools in the United States, Canada and the University of Melbourne, Australia.
– Other elements of the academic admission process include in-person interviews, end-of-year exams etc. Please see our pages on university admissions for more detailed information.
In professional recruitment, ability tests are frequently used. Ability tests are psychometric tests, wildly used in recruitment for assessing candidates’ suitability for the role. Ability tests provide additional information about the applicant’s profile, including the culture fit, numerical fluency and situational judgement ability.
These tests include:
– Aptitude Tests such as SHL Verbal Reasoning and Inductive Reasoning tests (testing elements of Non-Verbal Reasoning)
Aptitude tests allow to efficiently test applicants’ skills in mathematics and verbal reasoning.
– Behavioural Tests such as Situational Judgement Test
The Situational Judgement Test assesses your ability to evaluate workplace situations and choose the best course of action that a person could take in each of them.
How to improve Reasoning and Critical Thinking Skills?
Studies have shown that methods such as tutored problem-solving and training working memory are effective in improving the Reasoning and Critical Thinking skills. Working memory is an ability to hold a limited about of information in mind in the face of distraction and is required to solve a complex problem. Research shows that including reasoning and creativity through children’s classroom exercises led to increased fluid intelligence measured. Fluid intelligence is the ability to identify patterns and relations and infer and implement rules.
Excessive training for any given task leads to improvements for two reasons: task-specific improvement, including the development of efficient strategies and training underlying ability that generalises to other tasks that rely on the same ability.
Many tests at 7+, 11+, 13+, university entrance and corporate graduate-entry stages employ critical thinking, reasoning and aptitude testing of candidates and pupils. Naturally, exam preparation needs to include doing practice tests under timed conditions and/or practice interview questions (this is the task-specific improvement). For more information on job-specific aptitude tests, please refer to our page on the ability tests, here. To practice interview-style questions, you have multiple choices which include asking your colleagues for help, scheduling mock interviews through websites such as Pramp (technical interviews only) or choosing expert support and advice. You can view Mayfair Consultants’ offer of professional career advice here.
To aid your progress in each step of your educational and career journey, training reasoning and critical thinking is crucial. Abilities such as working memory form a base for effective reasoning and critical thinking. Practising those skills can be done through the following:
– Subject courses and tutorials
You can attend specific courses or one-to-one tutorials that focus on building critical thinking skills and training working memory. These can either be incorporated into tuition sessions or delivered through personalised action plans.
– Educational Psychologists
Educational psychology is the branch of psychology focused on processes that affect learning. Educational psychologists study how people absorb and retain information (for more information, see here) and can offer advice on how to improve one’s learning. Students with learning disabilities are affected by a range of developmental disorders and can be helped with structured advice on how to support their learning. Educational Psychologists are also qualified to conduct assessment tests and recognise present learning disabilities. For this purpose, educational therapists can also be consulted.
– Well-established techniques described in books and guides
There are also multiple sources in the literature on study and critical thinking improvement techniques. The books can guide you in your journey to improving desirable skills. For example, you can see “Critical Thinking Skills: Developing Effective Analysis and Argument” by Stella Cottrell or “The Study Skills Handbook” (by the same author).
Reasoning Aptitude and Critical Skills Training at Mayfair Consultants
At Mayfair Consultants, we are unique in our approach to offering study skills, critical thinking skills, and aptitude options that can be either incorporated into tuition sessions or can be delivered through personalised action plans. Many tests at 7+, 11+, 13+, university entrance and corporate graduate-entry stages employ critical thinking, reasoning and aptitude testing of candidates and pupils. We practice these skills allowing them to be instilled over a long-term basis.
If you’d like to discuss Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning, Critical Thinking Skills, and Aptitude tuition as well as special custom programmes aimed at particular schools and universities/companies and entrance consultancy in England please call us on Tel: +44 (0) 207 665 6606 or you can send us an email via our contact form.
https://www.cebglobal.com/shldirect/en/practice-tests SHL Practice Tests
https://www.kent.ac.uk/ces/tests/spatialtest Non-Verbal Reasoning
https://www.verywellfamily.com/what-is-nonverbal-intelligence-2162165 Non-Verbal Intelligence article, medically reviewed