What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is self directed thinking that involves:

  • producing new and innovative ideas
  • problem solving
  • reflecting critically
  • making effective decisions.

Why is critical thinking important?

Being able to think well and solve problems systematically is an asset for any future career you will have.

These skills also enable you to tackle more complex exam questions (such as application questions) with more confidence and more success.

There are many ways to improve your critical thinking skills, but two key ones are looking at information from different perspectives and critically evaluating evidence.

Looking at sources from different perspectives

This allows you to think about how different people would respond to a situation and to see things from different viewpoints.

This can allow you to think about why certain events have happened, or may happen in the future.

For example………

Example 1

• How did each of these people feel when Harry’s name appeared from the Goblet of Fire?
• Why did they feel that way?
• How did it influence their behaviour throughout the book?
Example 2
Mary Queen of Scots
King Phillip II of Spain
The Pope
A Puritan
  • How would these people feel about this portrait?
  • Why?
  • What events may this portrait trigger for these people?
Example 3
“I blame the young man who was the father of the child.”

Mrs Birling



The audience

Inspector Goole

• How would each of these people respond to this quote by Mrs Birling in An Inspector Calls?
• How would their responses change throughout the book?

Looking at questions from different perspectives

Example 1 – Flipping the question

Explain why few people live in areas that are at risk from a tectonic or geological hazard.

Could be flipped into…

Explain why people continue to live in areas that are at risk from a geological or tectonic hazard.

Example 2 – Argue the reverse

The Treaty of Versailles was good because …

• It made Germany give up the much stricter Brest-Litvosk treaty that they had made Russia sign in early 1918.
• It limited Germany’s military power.
• Prevented Germany from crippling British economy.

Put forward a case to disagree with my reasoning.

Using RAVEN to critically evaluate a source

The RAVEN acronym allows you to evaluate a source and think about how reliable it is. Can you believe everything you read?

Reputation – How someone is thought of in terms of their character and reputation.

Example – some members of society, for example doctors, have a positive reputation for telling the truth. It would be very unwise for them to not tell the truth.

Ability to see – Were eyewitnesses to an event able to see well, or hear well? Think of things like weather, time of day, distractions, obstacles.

Was the person actually there (primary source)?

Vested interest – Would the person saying what happened stand to gain/lose in some way if they tell it in a particular way?

Example – if a salesperson tries to persuade you that a product is amazing. This is because they need to sell it to make a living – they have a vested interest in promoting the product.

Expertise – Does the individual, group or organisation have relevant training, experience, knowledge and skills to give strong evidence?

Example – If you want to find out about black holes it would be better to ask a scientist, rather than a film producer.

Neutrality – Objectivity can be affected by things like friendships, family connections, religion, nationality. Not knowing people in the situation usually helps neutrality.

Example – does the organisation have a code of ethics which prevents them from taking sides? A newspaper could have a left or right wing bias.

Example – Use RAVEN to critically evaluate this newspaper article

Reputation National Express are a national company. They do have a high reputation. Does that mean they can be trusted to give unbiased information?
Ability to see This is a primary source as National Express carried out the survey. However, the use of data is questionable. For example, “definitely or probably” and the mixed use of ratios and percentages.
Vested interest National Express would make more money if more people used buses / coaches. Therefore they have a vested interest in encouraging people to use public transport.
Expertise Do National Express have the expertise to carry out a completely unbiased survey? Where was the survey carried out? Who was asked – was the sample representative of all people who drive cars?
Neutrality National Express are not neutral. The article implies that petrol process are going to continue to increase, therefore encouraging more people to use public transport.