Critical Thinking Measurement Tools

Weak critical thinking skills show themselves in many ways: critical and costly errors, repeated mistakes, bad decisions, failed systems, inaction when action is needed, the giving of bad advice, inaccurate assumptions, the poor design of training programs, the poor evaluation of educational curricula, the lack of anticipated action… the list is long.

Weakness in critical thinking skill results in loss of opportunities, of financial resources, of relationships, and even loss of life. There is probably no other attribute more worthy of measure than critical thinking skills.

Human reasoning and problem solving processes are highly complex but not impossible to analyze, measure and improve. A measure of critical thinking that can profile an individual's comparative strength in critical thinking skill is of extreme value for determining a person's capacity to benefit from training or to succeed in their job. Individual measures of critical thinking ability (analysis, inference, evaluation, inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning) provide information about potential hires and guidance in planning employee and student improvement programs. That all educational programs and workplace training programs must objectively demonstrate that they are effectively improving critical thinking skill is a powerful argument.

The California Critical Thinking Skills Test family of measurement tools - called the  Gold Standard of Critical Thinking Tests - targets precisely those core cognitive skills which are called upon as we form reflective, purposeful judgments about what to believe or what to do. Measuring, exercising and strengthening these skills improves decision making and problem solving, which is important only for ... everyone.

What is the best way to assess critical thinking?

The most effective way to measure critical thinking is to use a validated critical thinking skills test to assess the skills used to solve problems and make decisions AND to use a critical thinking mindset measure to assess the level of the person's consistent internal motivation or willingness to use his or her critical thinking skills when it counts in decision making.

Costly mistakes and poor judgments might be the result of deficient thinking skills, but an equally likely cause is a mindset that predisposes the decision-maker to biased, hasty or superficial analysis of the situation at hand.

Having the skill to interpret a situation and correctly infer that a problem exists would not be sufficient if we then cannot analyze why the problem continues to exist and then explain and evaluate our attempts to solve the problem.  Interpretation, inference, analysis explanation and evaluation are all critical thinking skills. 

  • A valid and reliable assessment of an individual’s critical thinking skills must challenge the individual to demonstrate all of these skills over a range of difficult problem situations that is calibrated to match the level of their decision responsibility. 

Critical thinking mindset determines how disposed a person will be to work to achieve goals and to engage and resolve significant problems.

  • Do they have the integrity to honestly define problem situations, the disposition to take an organized approach to seeking out best possible solutions, the tolerance to listen to all points of view, the ability to reconsider when the evidence points to the need for a new appraisal?  These are only a few of the characteristics included in a valid and reliable assessment of critical thinking mindset.  

For a complete assessment of an individual’s thinking, it is essential to measure both skills and mindset.   After more than 30 years of assessing critical thinking students of all ages and in working adults from all types of workplaces, the researchers at Insight Assessment have learned that there is an  array of reasoning skills and mindset attributes that are predictive of success in both life and work. All are important for reliable reasoning and decision-making.

Insight Assessment test instruments for children and adults include skills and mindset tools that can be paired for the most comprehensive information about the strengths and weaknesses in thinking.  We also offer a variety of two part tests that measure both skills and mindset. Contact us to learn more.

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