Top 8 Critical Thinking Skills and Ways to Improve Them (2022)

Why is critical thinking essential? Firstly, that’s what almost every employer seeks.


Secondly, in the era of fake news, contrasting data, and so much information to process every day, critical thinking is the only way to make sense of this world. Good thing you came to the right place for everything you need to know about critical thinking skills!

This guide will show you:

  • The best definition of critical thinking skills.
  • How to use critical thinking skills step by step.
  • A list of the most important critical thinking skills for the workplace and how to use them to get more job offers.
  • Tools and ideas for improving your critical thinking skills fast.

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1

What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why You Need Them?

Before we jump into defining critical thinking skills, let’s run a quick experiment.

We’ll try to find out if drinking coffee is good for you.

First, google “reasons not to drink coffee.”

Wow! Decreased anxiety (source), healthier teeth (source), weight loss (source), and ahealthier heart (source)!

Oh God! I’ll never touch a cup of coffee again!

How about “reasons to drink coffee?”

Lower rates of depression (source), memory boost (source), longevity (source), and, wait for it, ahealthier heart (source).

Oh well. I’ll never trust the Internet again.

The twist? These are not some random unsupported online claims. There’s legit, peer-reviewed research that backs up EVERY single one of the above findings.

So how do you reconcile these contradictory claims?

By thinking critically.

(Video) Jordan Peterson - The Best Way To Learn Critical Thinking

What does that even mean, though?

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to think in an organized and rational manner in order to understand connections between ideas and/or facts. It helps you decide what to believe in. In other words, it’s “thinking about thinking”—identifying, analyzing, and then fixing flaws in the way we think.

How to Be a Critical Thinker?

To become one takes time, practice, and patience. But something you can start doing today to improve your critical thinking skills is apply the 7 steps of critical thinking to every problem you tackle—either at work or in your everyday life.

Plus, there are some critical thinking questions to help you out at each of the steps.

Steps of Critical Thinking

1. Identify the problem or question.

Be as precise as possible: the narrower the issue, the easier it is to find solutions or answers.

2. Gather data, opinions, and arguments.

Try to find several sources that present different ideas and points of view.

3. Analyze and evaluate the data.

Are the sources reliable? Are their conclusions data-backed or just argumentative? Is there enough information or data to support given hypotheses?

4. Identify assumptions.

Are you sure the sources you found are unbiased? Are you sure you weren’t biased in your search for answers?

5. Establish significance.

What piece of information is most important? Is the sample size sufficient? Are all opinions and arguments even relevant to the problem you’re trying to solve?

6. Make a decision/reach a conclusion.

Identify various conclusions that are possible and decide which (if any) of them are sufficiently supported. Weigh strengths and limitations of all possible options.

7. Present or communicate.

Once you’ve reached a conclusion, present it to all stakeholders.

Let’s go back to our coffee example and examine it critically, point-by-point.

1. The problem in question was: “is drinking coffee good for you?”

This approach is way to broad.

First of all, what does “good” even mean?

Secondly, we don’t know if we’re talking about long- or short-term effects of drinking coffee. It’s also possible that drinking coffee might benefit some aspects of your health while being detrimental to others.

So, let’s narrow down the problem to: “is drinking coffee good for your heart?”

2. Listed above, there are only two pieces of research on the impact of drinking coffee on your heart.

(Video) This tool will help improve your critical thinking - Erick Wilberding

The first one suggests that drinking coffee “could account for premature deaths in the region of 14% for coronary heart disease and 20% for stroke.”

According to the second one, “moderate coffee consumption was associated with a lower prevalence of the Coronary Artery Disease.”

We’ve made two other major mistakes in reasoning: first of all, two sources only are not enough.

Secondly, we haven’t taken into account that heart is a very complex organ: just like it is the case with the rest of our body, coffee might be good for some of its functions while bad for others.

3. Both articles cited have appeared in prestigious, peer-reviewed journals.

But—

The first one has been based on literature review only; no original studies.

The second one, although conducted in a large (25.000 participants) sample of men and women, includes only Korean population—people whose hearts can be affected by other factors such as diet or climate.

4. While the two sources don’t appear biased, we were.

We based our initial Google searches on assumptions: “reasons not to drink coffee” (assuming: coffee is bad for our health) and “reasons to drink coffee” (assuming: coffee is worth drinking).

Google’s search algorithms made sure we found articles in line with our assumptions.

So...

5. Considering all of the above, we can positively state that the information we gathered was not significant for solving the initially stated problem.

6. The only conclusion that can be reached is: according to the data we gathered, drinking coffee might or might not be good for our hearts, depending on many factors and variables we failed to take into account.

7. Even if the conclusion is “the question cannot be answered at this point,” it’s still worth presenting and communicating.

It’s good to know what the limitations of our knowledge on a given topic are.

The point is—

It’s really hard to be sure of something.

And critical thinking skills are necessary for us to accept the flaws in our reasoning and gaps in our knowledge, and take advantage of them!

Why Are Critical Thinking Skills Important?

When you think critically, you’ll constantly challenge what seems given. Say, in your job, even if something appears to be functioning properly, critical thinking will help you try and identify new, better solutions.

Critical thinking skills are the cornerstone of self-development and improvement. That’s why they’re so critical to have in today’s job market.

Just think about this—

A recent report by the AACU revealed that 93% of employers value critical thinking over the candidate’s undergraduate degree. So—

Let’s go through how you can showcase your critical thinking skills to boost your chances of landing a better job!

(Video) 5 tips to improve your critical thinking - Samantha Agoos

And if you want to learn more about other job-winning skills, we've got you covered! Check out our dedicated guides:

  • Management Skills You Must Have (Not Just For Managers)
  • Hard Skills for Any Resume
  • Computer Skills Employers Want
  • Soft Skills vs Hard Skills for a Job: What Employers Look for

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2

Critical Thinking Skills List for Your Job Search

If you’re just looking for a list of the most important critical thinking skills, we’ve got you covered.

Top Critical Thinking Skills: Examples

The twist?

Raw lists of skills are pretty useless.

Say, you’re applying for a job and the job description requires “critical thinking skills.” You can’t just dump random entries from the above list of examples on your resume.

You need to prove you can think critically by giving real-life examples of how you used your critical thinking skills.

How to Put Critical Thinking on a Resume: Examples

The best way to present and validate your critical thinking skills is to include examples of them in your past job description bullet points.

Like in these examples:

Critical Thinking Skills on a Resume—Nursing

  • Evaluated and analyzed cases at hand to determine the priority of treatment.
  • Clearly communicated and explained my rationales to doctors and other members of the nursing staff.

Critical Thinking Skills on a Resume—Engineering

  • Identified 8 major hidden design defects with failed constructions.

Critical Thinking Skills on a Resume—Customer Service

  • Interpreted the results of phone surveys to develop a new strategy for handling customer complaints.

You get the drill, right? Show don’t tell.

Your critical thinking skills might also be evaluated during job interviews. Again, interviewers will want to see specific examples of how you put your critical thinking to use.

(Video) Top 10 ways to improve your #CRITICAL #THINKING skills to win unfairly in life! #win #success

Pro Tip: Most of the interview questions that test critical thinking are situational interview questions. You can learn all about how to handle them from this guide: Toughest Situational Interview Questions and Best Answers

Critical Thinking Interview Questions and Answers: Examples

1. Describe a situation where you challenged the way you and your colleagues did their jobs?

Our online ordering page let clients order incompatible components, causing heavy complaints. I asked if we could put a product check in place. The software engineer added warnings when two products weren’t compatible. Complaints went down by 35%.

2. Describe a situation where you saw a problem and took steps to fix it.

Our rechargeable forklifts had two different plugs. If you used the wrong one, you could wreck a $3,500 battery. I added zip-ties as cord-shorteners so you could only reach the right outlet. We haven’t lost a battery since.

3. Tell me about a time you had to persuade someone to see your side of things.

The owner was convinced our gift shop was a moneymaker. I analyzed our cash flow and found it was running at a 10% deficit. I built data visualizations that showed we could increase store revenue 40% through focusing on more popular products.

Don’t feel like a good enough critical thinker? Not to worry. There are easy ways to improve your critical thinking. You can actually start today!

Because you'll need them—

Employers test your critical thinking skills in many different ways, including on the job interview stage when they ask you lots of different questions.

But these questions actually repeat so you can prepare best answers in advance. How? Read our guide: Most Common Job Interview Questions—And Answers to Impress Your Recruiter

If you came across critical thinking as a job requirement, to land that job interview you also have to list it on your resume and include it in your cover letter, too. TryZety resume builderand get your resume and matching cover letter ready in a flash. Here’s a resume and cover letter sample made using our builder:

Top 8 Critical Thinking Skills and Ways to Improve Them (4)

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3

How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills

To start working on your critical thinking skills, begin with applying these simple strategies:

1. Ask Simple Critical Thinking Questions

  • What do I already know?
  • How do I know that?
  • What am I trying to prove?
  • What are my motivations?

2. Oppose “Common Sense”

The problem with common sense is that it’s so… common.

“No way this business idea can ever be profitable.”

Oh really? Why exactly not? Ramit Sethi is making a killing selling a $300 online course on how to choose a good personal assistant. If that’s profitable, think what else can be.

3. Be Aware of Your Biases

The most common types of cognitive bias you need to avoid are:

  • Confirmation Bias: we always subconsciously assume we’re right.
  • Action Bias: we act too quickly before thinking something through.
  • Association Bias: why did the rain dance always work? Because they’d dance until the rain came.

4. Read a Lot

This will not only help develop your critical thinking skills but actually most skills you can think of. To get a sound start on the theory and strategies behind critical thinking, check out:

Want to practice important skills even more? Check out these two guides: Situational Interview Questions [+20 Answers to Nail Your Interview] and Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers [STAR Method]

Key Takeaway

Here’s all you need to know about critical thinking skills in a nutshell:

(Video) The Easiest Way To Improve Critical Thinking – Jordan Peterson

  • The key critical thinking skills are: analysis, interpretation, inference, explanation, self-regulation, open-mindedness, and problem-solving.
  • In order to apply the basic principles of critical thinking, follow these steps: identify the problem, gather data, analyze and evaluate, identify assumptions, establish significance, make a decision, and communicate.
  • To become a better critical thinker: ask simple questions, challenge common assumptions, be aware of your biases, and read more.

Do you have any questions about critical thinking skills? Maybe you’d like to share some tips on how to think more critically everyday? Let me know in the comments. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

FAQs

What are the ways to improve critical thinking skills? ›

How to Develop Critical Thinking
  1. Don't Believe Everything You're Told. The first step to critical thinking is to consider more than one point of view. ...
  2. Don't Believe Everything You Think. ...
  3. Ask Questions. ...
  4. Research Deeper. ...
  5. Evaluate Your Work.

What are the 10 critical thinking skills? ›

The Skills We Need for Critical Thinking

The skills that we need in order to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making.

What is the 8 step process to critical thinking? ›

In order to apply the basic principles of critical thinking, follow these steps: identify the problem, gather data, analyze and evaluate, identify assumptions, establish significance, make a decision, and communicate.

How can I improve my critical thinking essay? ›

How to Start a Critical Thinking Essay
  1. Choose a central problem or argument. ...
  2. Gather information and recall to existing knowledge. ...
  3. Come up with a thesis statement. ...
  4. Write the body paragraph. ...
  5. Analyze the information. ...
  6. Examine different viewpoints. ...
  7. Review contexts. ...
  8. Come up with your own viewpoint.
9 Mar 2018

What are the 7 principles of critical thinking? ›

Critical thinking involves asking questions, defining a problem, examining evidence, analyzing assumptions and biases, avoiding emotional reasoning, avoiding oversimplification, considering other interpretations, and tolerating ambiguity.

What is a good example of critical thinking? ›

Examples of Critical Thinking

A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated. A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job. An attorney reviews evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.

How can I improve my critical thinking skills PPT? ›

A critically reflective approach relies upon knowledge and a change in attitude. one should question events, ideas and not move with the current. A critically reflective approach relies upon knowledge and a change in attitude.

What are critical thinking skills? ›

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze facts and form a judgment. It is a form of emotional intelligence. Someone with critical thinking skills can think clearly and rationally when the situation demands it. It allows them to perform problem-solving and decision-making more effectively.

What are the 5 critical thinking questions? ›

The questions are as follows:
  • What are the issue and the conclusion?
  • What are the reasons?
  • What are the assumptions?
  • Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?
  • How good is the evidence?
30 Nov 2017

How can I improve my thinking skills Quora? ›

  1. exercise the brain you have. Keep learning new, and different things. ...
  2. Edit: learn to make connections between things and concepts. Everything is connected.
  3. learn to think critically. When reading something, imagine yourself asking the author “are you sure about that? ...
  4. Challenge your own assumptions. ...
  5. learn to meditate.

Why is critical thinking skills important? ›

Critical thinking helps people better understand themselves, their motivations and goals. When you can deduce information to find the most important parts and apply those to your life, you can change your situation and promote personal growth and overall happiness.

What are the 4 steps of critical thinking? ›

Key steps to improving critical thinking include analyze, interpret, present, and evaluate.

Why critical thinking skills are important for students? ›

Critical thinking is at the forefront of learning, as it aids a student reflect and understand their points of views. This skill helps a student figure out how to make sense of the world, based on personal observation and understanding.

What are the 8 elements of reasoning? ›

In the Paul model there are eight elements of reasoning: purpose, question, information, concept, inference, assumption, point of view, and implications.

How can I learn critical thinking? ›

7 Ways to Think More Critically
  1. Ask Basic Questions. “The world is complicated. ...
  2. Question Basic Assumptions. ...
  3. Be Aware of Your Mental Processes. ...
  4. Try Reversing Things. ...
  5. Evaluate the Existing Evidence. ...
  6. Remember to Think for Yourself. ...
  7. Understand That No One Thinks Critically 100% of the Time.
26 Jun 2020

How can one achieve creative and critical thinking skills? ›

Critical and creative thinking
  1. posing questions, gathering, organising and processing information and ideas.
  2. imagining possibilities, suggesting alternatives, seeking solutions and putting ideas into action.
  3. talking about and giving reasons for their thinking and applying knowledge in new situations.
6 Jul 2022

How is critical thinking used in everyday life? ›

Critical thinking can help you better understand yourself, and in turn, help you avoid any kind of negative or limiting beliefs, and focus more on your strengths. Being able to share your thoughts can increase your quality of life.

What are the 7 principles of critical thinking? ›

Critical thinking involves asking questions, defining a problem, examining evidence, analyzing assumptions and biases, avoiding emotional reasoning, avoiding oversimplification, considering other interpretations, and tolerating ambiguity.

What are core critical thinking skills? ›

The key critical thinking skills are identifying biases, inference, research, identification, curiosity, and judging relevance. Let's explore these six critical thinking skills you should learn and why they're so important to the critical thinking process.

What are the 5 critical thinking questions? ›

The questions are as follows:
  • What are the issue and the conclusion?
  • What are the reasons?
  • What are the assumptions?
  • Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?
  • How good is the evidence?
30 Nov 2017

What is a good example of critical thinking? ›

Examples of Critical Thinking

A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated. A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job. An attorney reviews evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.

What are the 9 standards for critical thinking? ›

Thinking critically entails knowledge and application of the standards: clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance, and fairness.

What are the 4 basic criteria for critical thinking? ›

Key steps to improving critical thinking include analyze, interpret, present, and evaluate.

What are the 3 main critical thinking techniques? ›

Critical-thinking skills connect and organize ideas. Three types distinguish them: analysis, inference, and evaluation.

Why is critical thinking skills important? ›

Critical thinking helps people better understand themselves, their motivations and goals. When you can deduce information to find the most important parts and apply those to your life, you can change your situation and promote personal growth and overall happiness.

What is critical thinking short answer? ›

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

How can I practice critical thinking everyday? ›

5 Best Practices for Improving Critical Thinking Skills
  1. Waste No Time.
  2. Learn Something New Every Day.
  3. Develop a Questioning Mind.
  4. Practice Active Listening.
  5. Solve Just One Problem.
30 Sept 2020

How do students develop critical thinking skills? ›

Critical thinking exercises for elementary education
  1. Ask questions. ...
  2. Encourage decision-making. ...
  3. Work in groups. ...
  4. Incorporate different points of view. ...
  5. Connect different ideas. ...
  6. Inspire creativity. ...
  7. Brainstorm.

How do we use critical thinking in everyday life? ›

By practicing critical thinking, we are allowing ourselves not only to solve problems but also to come up with new and creative ideas to do so. Critical thinking allows us to analyze these ideas and adjust them accordingly.

Videos

1. 8 Tips to Improve your Problem-Solving Skills | Become a Critical Thinking Master
(Alex Farcas)
2. Five simple strategies to sharpen your critical thinking | BBC Ideas
(BBC Ideas)
3. Using Brain Teasers to Build Critical Thinking Skills
(GCFLearnFree.org)
4. 7 Ways To Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills | Stand Alone | Sana Khan | Vedantu Class 8
(Math Pirates Grade 6, 7 & 8)
5. Study Skills Workshop 05 - Critical Thinking Skills
(Birkbeck, University of London)
6. 5 Tips to Improve Critical Thinking for Students | Critical Thinking Skills Exercises | BYJU'S
(BYJU'S - Class 6, 7 & 8)

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