Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines

Volume 20, Issue 4, Summer 2001

Don Fawkes, Tom Adajian, Steven Hoeltzel
Pages 19-33

Examining the Exam
A Critical Look at the Watson-Glaser Critcal Thinking Appraisal Exam

This paper examines the content of the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal exam (1980). Our report is not a statistical review. We find the content of this exam defective in a number of areas. The exam consists of five “tests” of 16 questions for a total of 80 questions. Of these, we cannot recommend test 1, test 2, test 4, and test 5; and, we cannot recommend questions 4, 5, 14, 16, 37, 45, 60, 63, 64, 65, 66, and 67. As shown in this report, the exam creates confusion and makes basic errors in critical thinking in a number of areas, and therefore, lacks content quality in these areas. Hence, no statistical results pertaining to the administration of these areas to students can be informative. We find the remaining areas acceptable as to content. But until the problems are corrected, we can only recommend that those who may use the exam remove the defective parts from test administration or from data collection and reporting. We recommend the former, because of the wasted time involved in the latter. This would amount to administering only 14 questions, i.e. test 3 with questions 37 and 45 eliminated. We also find the scope of the exam to be quite limited, but allow that this may be unavoidable for any instrument designed to be completed in about an hour. We further recommend the use of several tests, rather than one; and, that any such results be understood only as a measure of minimal competency (below which remediation likely is needed) for the skills tested, but not as an adequate measure of critical thinking.