About Critical Thinking Tests and How They Work
Critical thinking tests, or critical reasoning tests, are psychometric tests used in recruitment at all levels, graduate, professional and managerial, but predominantly in the legal sector. However, it is not uncommon to find companies in other sectors using critical thinking tests as part of their selection process. This is an intense test, focusing primarily on your analytical, or critical thinking, skills. Some tests are still conducted by paper and pen, but, just like other psychometric tests, critical thinking tests are mostly administered online at home or on a computer at a testing center.
The questions are multiple choice, and these choices and the style of questions are explained in more detail further down the page. The tests will often follow these two common timings:
- 30 questions with a 40 minute time limit
- 80 questions with a 60 minute time limit
Critical Thinking can be defined in many ways and an exact description is disputed, however, most agree on a broad definition of critical thinking, that 'critical thinking involves rational, purposeful, and goal-directed thinking...by using certain cognitive skills and strategies.' An absence or lack of critical thinking skills at times may lead us to believe things which aren't true, because we haven't sufficiently analysed and criticised the information we've received or used this to formulate and independently test our own theories, arguments and ideas. These are all examples of critical thinking skills put into practise. Glaser (An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking, 1941) stated that to think critically involved three key parts:
- An attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one's experiences
- Knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning
- Some skill in applying those methods
Critical Verbal Live Trial
Try a real critical verbal reasoning test. Give it a go to see how a real test works!
Sample critical thinking tests - free
Here, we have a full critical thinking test for you to practise for free. You can dive straight in and practise the full test (in blue at the bototm), or tackle each indivuidual section one at a time.
All answers and explanations are included at the end of the test, or alternatively you can download the Solutions PDF. Each test has been given a generous time limit.
The Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal
TalentLens' Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA) is the most common critical thinking test. You can visit their official site here: Watson Glaser. Most other critical thinking tests are based on the Watson Glaser format. More than 90 years' of experience have led to many modifications and improvements in the test.
The Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal is widely regarded as a good predictor of work productivity and at identifying candidates with a good potential to become managers and occupy other positions as a senior member ofstaff. The latest edition of the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Test has improved its validity, appealed more to businesses by focusing on business-relevant topics, switched to the Item Response Theory (IRT) for its scoring, updated norm groups, and integrated anti-cheat measures by having an online retest, which can be used to validate results.
Developed by Goodwin Watson and Edward Glaser, the Watson Glaser test is favored by law firms, keen to measure people's abilities to reason, reach conclusions and know when leaps in logic have been made. Skills which are required in the legal sector. The questions in each of the 5 sections aims to evaluate the candidate's ability to:
- 1.Arrive at correct inferences
- 2.Identify when an assumption has been made
- 3.Use deductive reasoning
- 4.Reach logical conclusions
- 5.Evaluate the effectiveness of arguments
What is measured by a Watson Glaser Critical Thinking test?
A Critical thinking tests assesses your ability in 5 key areas mentioned above; assumptions, arguments, deductions, inferences and interpreting information. Often in this order. A short paragraph of text a few sentences long or a single sentence is used as a starting point. This passage will contain information which you will base your answer to the question on. Another sentence is then presented to you and you will be asked to judge something about this sentence based on the information in the short paragraph. The five sections are explained in more detail here:
- Assumptions - You are being asked to state whether the information in the second set of text you are presented is an assumption made in the first paragraph. Quite a tricky concept to get your head around at first. In a nutshell, when people speak or make arguments, there are underlying assumptions in those arguments. Here you are presented with some assumptions and are asked to judge if that is being made in the original statement. For example in the statement "only people earning a high salary can afford a fast car," what's being assumed is that fast cars are expensive because only people who are earning a lot of money can buy one, however, what's not being assumed is that people without high salaries aren't legally allowed to buy a fast car. You are asked to choose whether an assumption has been made or has not been made.
- Arguments - You are presented with an argument, such as "Should college fees be abolished?" Regardless of your own opinions and thoughts on the argument, you are then presented with statements related to this original argument. You are asked to say whether the responses to the original argument of "Should college fees be abolished?" make for strong or weak arguments. Arguments are considered strong if they are related to the topic such as, "Yes, many people who would benefit from a college education do not because they cannot afford it. This hurts the country's economic growth." The argument presented is sound, related to the original question. Compare this with a weak argument, "No, I do not trust people who read a lot of books." It is clear that the second argument bears very little relation to the subject of the abolition of college tuition fees. This is not to say that an argument against the original argument will always be a weak one, or that an argument in favour will always be a stong one. For example, "Yes, I like people that read books," is in favour of the abolition as indicated by "yes," but that person's like or dislike of others that read books isn't related, or hasn't been explained how it's related to removing the fees. Carefully considering what is being said, remove it from your own personal opinions and political views to objectively analyse what someone else has put forward.
- Deductions - A few sentences of information are presented to you. Another separate short statement will also be shown to you, which is supposed to represent a conclusion that someone has reached. You will have to determine whether this conclusion logically follows from the information given to you. Can the statement be deduced from the information available>? If so, and without a doubt, then the conclusion follows, if not, then the conclusion does not follow. Your decision must be based on the information given and not from your own knowledge.
- Inferences - A short scenario is described to you, followed by possible inferences. The inferences are short statements. Imagine that these are what people have said is inferred from the scenario. Use your judgement and the short scenario to assess whether what's being said has actually been inferred from the passage and the likelihood of this inference. You are asked to rank each inference as either 'true,' 'false,' 'possibly true,' 'possibly false.' For some proposed inferences there isn't enough information to say either 'true' or 'false' so a fifth option is included; 'more information required.' You can only select one option from the five.
- Interpreting Information - Following a similar format to the previous four sections, a short passage of information and then a series of statements are shown to you. You are asked to judge whether the information in the passage can be interpreted as the statements suggest. The answer options are straightforward here; you either select 'conclusion follows,' or 'conclusion does not follow,' depending on whether or not you believe that the statement can be logically reached from the information given. Again, for this section and all others, you are to base your choice of answer on what you're given, not on any speciliazed knowledge you might have.
What should I know before taking a Watson Glaser Critical Thinking test?
If a watson glaser critical thinking test is used in the early stages of the application process it's likely to be used as a screening tool. This puts some pressure on candidates to meet a minimum pass mark, which will allow them to be selected to go on to the next stage of the selection process. If it's used at a later stage in the process, the results from this will be combined with performance in other assessments, tests, exercises and interviews. All the information you need to answer the questions will be in the test. Below the details of a few companies' critical thinking tests are pointed out.
Major publishers' critical thinking tests
Here is a list of critical reasoning tests on the market at present, which candidates may be likely to encounter for recruitment, selection or development.
- W-GCTA - The Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal as it is formally called is the most ubiquitous critical thinking test out there. This is the one that you are most likely to encounter.
- GMAT - The general management aptitude test, used by business schools and colleges test students' critical thinking ability. The critical thinking questions are written in a business or finance context.
- SHL - SHL have produced the Critical Reasoning Test Battery composed of 60 critical reasoning questions with a strict time limit of 30 minutes.
- Cornell - Cornell - Cornell have developed a critical thinking test to be used in educational environments. The two levels, X and Z, are aimed at children and adults, respectively.
- Area-specific - There are tests which focus on either numerical critical reasoning skills and verbal critical reasoning skills. These tests will ask only numerical or only verbal questions to assess your skills in a specific area.
Advice for all Critical Thinking tests
Here is some general advice to help you perform to the best of your ability for your critical reasoning test.
- No prior knowledge - The key point here is that critical reasoning tests are measuring your ability to think, or the method that you use to reach a conclusion. You should therefore not rely on prior knowledge to answer the question. Questions will be written so that you do not need to know any specialist knowledge to answer the question. For example, you will not be expected to know mathematical formulas or laws of nature and to answer questions with that information. If you are given the formula and its description in the questions, you are expected to use that information to reach the answer.
- Carefully read the instructions - There are 5 sections to most critical thinking tests and each will assess a slightly different skill. Make sure you have read the instructions and understand what it is you are expected to do to answer the questions for this section. There is quite a difference between the Assumptions section and the Deductions section for example. Applying the rules of one to the other would lead to just guessing the answers and making many mistakes.
- Keep your eye on the timer - These tests are complex. You might find yourself fixated on answering one question and taking up a lot of the time you are allowed. Checking how much time you have every so often can help you to more evenly distribute your time between the questions. This is done to avoid spending too much time on one question when that time would be better spent answering more or checking your answers. This time management applies to all tests, but is particularly important with Critical Thinking tests, as many people believe they have such a large amount of time, but underestimate the number of questions they have to answer.
- Logical fallacies - Identifying logical fallacies is key to many parts of this test, and researching the difference between sound and fallacious logic will prove helpful in a critical reasoning test. A fallacy is an error in reasoning due to a misconception or a presumption, and an argument which employs a formal fallacy, logical fallacy or a deductive fallacy in its reasoning becomes an invalid argument. Researching the different types of fallacy (i.e. red herring argument, straw man argument, confusing correlation and causation etc.) can help you spot these in the test and correctly answer the question.
AssessmentDay's practise tests can help you to prepare for a Critical Thinking test
The practise tests that we have cover all of the sections of the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking test and these overlap with many of the variations in Critical Thinking tests produced by major publishers. Practise helps to increase your confidence, gives you a chance to learn from your mistakes in a risk-free environment, and can reduce stress before an exam.
The best place to get advice on taking a critical thinking tests is the test publisher's website, for example this one for the Watson Glaser.
One final point
If you have already successfully passed a few initial stages of the application process, it's unlikely that companies will focus solely on your results in the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking test when deciding whether or not to hire you. This type of selection by results on one test is more likely if it is part of the early stages of the process. However, towards the later stages the company will look at your results across interviews, group exercises, other aptitude tests and your résumé and will collate all of this information before reaching a decision. If you have been invited to undertake a critical reasoning test then the organisation clearly has an interest in hiring you, let that fact inspire confidence and perform to the best of your ability on your test, good luck!