Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is focused and intentional, striving for precision and effectiveness. It looks inward, seeking to truly understand a specific topic. Critical thinking helps you progress to ever deeper levels of thought, from remembering to understanding, applying, analyzing, and evaluating.

Along the way, critical thinking has a partner: creative thinking. It is expansive and experimental, seeking an abundance of original ideas. Though creative and critical thinking are opposites, you'll use both to solve problems.

This section provides you a toolkit of critical thinking strategies, and the next toolkit helps you with problem solving.

In this toolkit

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy of Thinking

A researcher named Benjamin Bloom identified six levels of thinking. The video and chart that follow show his Revised Taxonomy of Thinking. As you go down the list, you reach deeper and deeper levels of thinking. Also, note how each deeper level relies on the levels above it.

Deeper Thinking


All other skills rely on remembering because you can't think about something that you don't remember.

  • Recall information.

  • List main points.

  • Repeat details.

  • Define key terms.


When you understand information, you know why it is significant and how it fits in.

  • Explain ideas/processes.

  • Give examples.

  • Explain what something means.

  • Explain why something matters.


To apply ideas, you put them to use within a given context, for a specific purpose.

  • Organize ideas.

  • Set a goal.

  • Demonstrate a process.

  • Put ideas to work.


When you analyze something, you study each part and discover the relationships among parts.

  • Examine thoroughly.

  • Take something apart.

  • Compare and contrast.

  • Trace causes and effects.


To evaluate is to ascribe value to something, judging it according to desirable traits or key benchmarks.

  • Judge the worth of something.

  • Point out pros and cons.

  • Rate different options.

  • Persuade others of value.


When you create something, you combine disparate elements to make a new synthesis, using all the other levels.

  • Invent something new.

  • Hypothesize an idea.

  • Combine and develop.

  • Design and build.

Caveat: Human cognition is complex and holistic. Each of the skills above is connected to all of the other skills in a web of interactions. Bloom's Revised Taxonomy helps you focus on specific skills for specific types of critical thinking, but you should understand that all are important.

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