Police Critical Thinking

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking, also known as critical reasoning, is the ability to assess a situation and to consider and understand various perspectives, all while acknowledging, extracting, and deciphering facts, opinions, and assumptions.

Why Is the Critical Thinking Test Important to Employers?

Critical thinking, or critical reasoning, is important to employers because they want to see that when dealing with an issue, you are able to make logical decisions without involving emotions. Being able to look past emotions will help you to be open-minded, confident, and decisive—making your decisions more logical and sound.

When Is Critical Thinking Used?

Critical thinking is used in several stages of the problem-solving and decision-making process:

  • Defining the problem
  • Selecting the relevant information to solve the problem
  • Recognizing the assumptions that are both written and implied in the text
  • Creating hypotheses and selecting the most relevant and credible solutions
  • Reaching valid conclusions and judging the validity of inferences

Critical Thinking Skills Tests

Critical thinking tests can have several sections or subtests that assess and measure a variety of aspects.


In this section, you are asked to draw conclusions from observed or supposed facts. You are presented with a short text containing a set of facts you should consider as true. Below the text is a statement that could be inferred from the text. You need to make a judgement on whether this statement is valid or not, based on what you have read. Furthermore, you are asked to evaluate whether the statement is true, probably true, there is insufficient data to determine, probably false, or false. For example, if a baby is crying and it is his feeding time, you may infer that the baby is hungry. However, the baby may be crying for other reasons—perhaps it is hot.

Recognizing Assumptions

In this section, you are asked to recognize whether an assumption is justifiable or not. Here you are given a statement followed by an assumption on that statement. You need to establish whether this assumption can be supported by the statement or not. You are being tested on your ability to avoid taking things for granted that are not necessarily true. For example, you may say, "I’ll have the same job in three months," but you would be taking for granted the fact that your workplace won't make you redundant, or that that you won’t decide to quit and explore various other possibilities. You are asked to choose between the options of assumption made and assumption not made.


This section tests your ability to weigh information and decide whether given conclusions are warranted. You are presented with a statement of facts followed by a conclusion on what you have read. For example, you may be told, "Nobody in authority can avoid making uncomfortable decisions." You must then decide whether a statement such as "All people must make uncomfortable decisions" is warranted from the first statement. You need to assess whether the conclusion follows or the conclusion does not follow what is contained in the statement.


This section measures your ability to understand the weighing of different arguments on a particular question or issue. You are given a short paragraph to read, which you are expected to take as true. This paragraph is followed by a suggested conclusion, for which you must decide if it follows beyond a reasonable doubt. You have the choice of conclusion follows and conclusion does not follow.

Evaluation of Arguments

In this section you are asked to evaluate the strength of an argument. You are given a question followed by an argument. The argument is considered to be true, but you must decide whether it is a strong or weak argument, i.e. whether it is both important and directly related to the question.

Watson Glaser

Another popular critical thinking assessment, Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA) is a well-established psychometric test produced by Pearson Assessments. The Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal is used for two main purposes: job selection/talent management and academic evaluations. The Watson Glaser test can be administered online or in-person.

Critical Thinking Examples

As there are various forms of critical thinking, we've provided a number of critical thinking sample questions.

Example 1 – Underlying Assumptions

Wife to Husband: Our joint income is lower than it could be. But soon I will begin to work an additional part-time job and I will earn extra income.

Proposed Assumption: Asking for a raise at her current place of work is not the best way to increase the wife's income.

A. Assumption made

B. Assumption not made

The correct answer is (B), Assumption not made. 

Answer explanation: 

The conclusion of the wife's statement: Soon we will increase our joint income. 
The evidence supporting this conclusion: I will begin to work an additional part-time job.
The underlying assumption/s that must be true for the conclusion to be true: A part-time job will provide me with extra money.
The proposed assumption: "Asking for a raise at her current place of work is not the best way to increase the wife's income" is not necessary for the conclusion to be true.

Example 2 – Interpreting Information

Several years ago, Harold and his wife adopted a two-year-old orphan named Betty. Today, Betty is an undergraduate student, living far away from home. Harold feels unhappy and misses Betty tremendously. He would like her to come home more often.

Proposed Assumption: Harold’s wife doesn’t feel unhappy.

A. Conclusion follows

B. Conclusion does not follow

The correct answer is (B), Conclusion does not follow.

Answer explanation: Harold’s wife is not mentioned in the passage, and, therefore, you cannot presume any information regarding her feelings.

Example 3 – Inferences 

Following a reduction in the number of applicants, the college has been asking students to evaluate faculty teaching performance for the last two years. The college's management announced that the purpose of these evaluations is to give information to faculty about teachers' strengths and weaknesses, and to allow those who make decisions about pay raises and promotions to reward the better teachers. Last week, Professor Burke, a recently retired senior lecturer at the college, wrote a letter in which he objected to these evaluations, claiming they compromise academic standards.

Proposed Assumption: There is more to the management's announced intentions than those mentioned by them in the passage.

A. True

B. Probably true

C. Insufficent data

D. False

E. Probably false

The correct answer is (B), Probably true.

Answer explanation: The text begins by introducing the management's announcement as a reaction to a negative trend—reduction in the number of student applications. While the announcement explicitly addresses both the college's staff and its students, it is likely that the issue at hand is not only a wish to achieve academic excellence but, in fact, a means to resolve the issue of reduced applications and college reputation, which has implications on the college's future. Therefore, the correct answer is probably true.

Professions That Use Critical Thinking Tests

Below are some professions that use critical thinking tests and assessments during the hiring process as well as some positions that demand critical thinking and reasoning skills:

Prepare for Critical Thinking and Critical Reasoning Assessments

The Critical Thinking PrepPack™ is designed to provide you with an inclusive critical thinking preparation experience, as our test questions, study guides, and score reports are all aimed at improving your skills. Start preparing today and ensure your success.

JobTestPrep is not affiliated with any specific test provider. Therefore, while our materials are extremely helpful and styled similarly to most critical thinking tests, they are not an exact match.

Higher Education, Critical Thinking and Police Service

Posted on September 8, 2017 by
Dr. Gregory Fowler, CAO and Dr. Jeff Czarnec

On Feb. 4, 1968, exactly two months before his assassination, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, part of which would later be used as a eulogy at his funeral. In it he recounted conversations with white Birmingham, Alabama, police officers while he was sitting in jail. He realized that despite the color of their skin, they and their families were economically just as desperate as the blacks they had arrested for protesting.

That ability to re-view others, to see them through different lenses, to move from “them” to “us,” is the great opportunity we in higher education have. The imperative that we have as educators to enhance sensitivity, compassion and understanding of the communities that students serve or seek to serve has perhaps never been greater. Reversing the progress that has been made would indeed be a national tragedy.

Critical Education

Recent, highly publicized use-of-force events that have involved minority communities and the police that serve them have spawned everything from kitchen table debates and legislative activism to riots and murders.

As researchers David L. Carter, Allen D. Sapp and Herman Goldstein predicted in their studies of police officer behavior, a “college education makes officers more receptive to serving the community, more ethical and moral and more tolerant. College-educated officers would be expected to be less supportive of the abuse of police authority and more supportive of following proper rules and regulation.”

At its core the general purposes of a college education (hence the term “general education”) are particularly critical for members of law enforcement, as they exercise immense power over life and death with the blessing and support of the community. Every action or reaction of any individual law enforcement officer carries with it the full weight of all of society, so it is even more essential than for those in other professions that police officers master effective communication, critical thinking and complex problem solving, and awareness of and ability to negotiate diverse cultures.

A core outcome of SNHU’s law enforcement and criminal justice curriculum has been to ensure acquisition and assessment of these skill sets. This includes explicit training with our faculty on their role and the weight of that role, as the training and engagement we provide in these areas are certain to have societal impacts. Every traffic stop will be a demonstration of how well we have taught our students to communicate. Every house visit could be an exercise in navigating a culture different than that of the officer. The old adage is that seeing is believing. But for cops making split-second decisions, what they believe about the world around them will impact what they see, and a perceived threat, real or not, can have life-changing consequences for all those involved.

A Challenge for Faculty

The role of the faculty, then, includes teaching students to see various possibilities in a given situation and to quickly consider alternative solutions while processing additional information in real time to further refine situational resolutions. (Think of the familiar optical illusion picture in which both an old woman and a young woman can be perceived. Once you focus on one, it takes a moment or two to readjust your perception to perceive the other again.)

At the same time officers can’t get caught in a Hamlet-like contemplation of reality, as that also can end in disaster. Critical thinking skills must be paired with problem-solving abilities. Later these must also be combined with reflection, as the goal of an educated learner is to review what has happened and improve moving forward.

According to political science researcher and author Linda Elder, this is a formidable challenge for faculty who, like their students, must be prepared to find a wide variety of differences in preferred learning styles, race, gender, ethnicity, intellectual skill level, culture, family history, emotional development, physical or mental disability, personality, intellectual characteristics, self-esteem, knowledge, motivation, creativity, social adjustment, genetic intellectual inclinations and maturity. In an environment where lecture, rote memorization and short-term study habits have become the norm, it is absolutely critical that colleges explicitly train faculty to engage their students in ill-structured problems with no easy solutions.

Prepare for Possibilities

This is true for all students, not only those in the law enforcement and criminal justice fields; this is what all students should be comfortable with in general. The responsibility for the community and the society lies on those in all of the other fields of study as well. A college education is not simply beneficial to students because it increases their earning potential; indeed its greatest value may be in its potential to change one-on-one interactions. The citizen in the car also has a responsibility, and how he perceives the reality of his situation and reacts also has the power to change destiny’s trajectory.

Preparing as many citizens as possible to be aware of the different possibilities and equipping them with the skills to communicate effectively, think critically and solve problems is also part of the formula necessary to change the current climate. Whether it’s a black man reaching for a wallet in front of a cop who might perceive a gun threat or a white man stalking a black teenager in a gray hoodie walking through a neighborhood, the ability to consider other realities and resolve tense situations is a skill we must get better at teaching. However, it must be taken into account that faculty can’t do it all. In other words, tailoring content delivery across a broad spectrum while focusing specific attention on the schema and every dimension of diversity while seeking to imbue deep understanding is difficult at best.

This is not merely an opportunity but a mandate. We must honor our obligation as educators and respond to the needs of the American community and those entrusted with service and protection.

About Dr. Gregory Fowler, CAO and Dr. Jeff Czarnec

Dr. Gregory Fowler is Chief Academic Officer at Southern New Hampshire University Online. A two-time Fulbright Senior Scholar (Germany and Belgium), he has published and presented at events throughout the United States, Canada and Germany, where he also taught at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at Freie Universitat-Berlin. He has held senior-level academic and administrative positions at numerous institutions including Western Governors University, Penn State University and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition to a Ph.D. (SUNY-Buffalo) and MBA (Western Governors University), he has also completed an M.A. (George Mason University) a B.A. (Morehouse College) and was Charles A. Dana Scholar at Duke University.

You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Dr. Jeffrey Czarnec is the Social Sciences Associate Dean of Faculty at Southern New Hampshire University Online.

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