What are critical analysis and reasoning skills?

by Daniel J. Power
Editor, DSSResources.COM

Measuring critical analysis and reasoning skills is often inferred by asking about the basic components of written passages using multiple choice questions. This is the approach of verbal reasoning tests. This approach to measurement tests a person's ability to comprehend what is read. On the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), comprehension questions may ask for a "general overview of the passage or to focus on specific portions of the text. You may be asked to identify the authorís thesis, the main point or theme of the passage, examples, or something slightly more complex, such as portions of the passage where the author digresses from the central theme".

Test takers need to be able to recognize the purpose of different portions of the target passage, for example, what is the thesis statement?, what examples support the main idea?, and what statements pose an argument or assumption? The test takers should be able to distinguish when an author writes a sustained train of thought as opposed to an isolated detail.

It is noted one should "recognize when an author seems to have drawn upon multiple sources to support a thesis or when he or she presents different points of view in the single passage. Itís also important to attend to perspective: does the author present his or her own perspective, or does he or she use verbatim quotations or restatements from the perspective of other sources?"

Does measuring a person's ability to comprehend what is read correlate significantly with critical analysis and reasoning skills? We don't know. Is a measure of comprehension strongly related to thinking skills or intelligence? Test designers made the assumption of a high correlation by designating and identifying measure as the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section of the MCAT exam.

Improving reading speed is recommended as a way to improve one's score on the critical analysis and reasoning skills section. Another recommendation is "read something 'boring'". Another prescription is "read at least every other day." Asking questions as one reads is also recommended as a strategy to improve comprehension. A person should learn to ask routinely: What was the author/person trying to tell me? What was that all that about? Why did the author write this? What was the position, argument, and support? On the test, rule out incorrect answers first. Finally, it is absolutely essential to take practice tests.

In general, if you learn to slow down to think, then your comprehension will improve.


Last update: 2018-03-20 08:25
Author: Daniel Power

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