Idea: A “Critical Thinking” section on the SAT
The College Board, which administers the SAT test, periodically makes changes to the SAT format. Most recently, they eliminated the analogies section and added an essay section. Well, I have an idea for a change that I’m very excited about. It would have profound implications, I think, if the College Board added a “Critical Thinking” section to the SAT.
Critical Thinking skills are among the most important skills a person can have, but they aren’t taught very much in school. I’ve racked my brain trying to think how Critical Thinking could be made more important to students and educators. Making it an SAT category would go a long way.
Every university would want students that score high in that section. And it would fit perfectly in test prep courses, too, because the types of questions on the test would be easy to study for. Just learn the basic forms of valid arguments and common fallacies, and learn to identify them in context. And as an added bonus, if you study well enough to answer the Critical Thinking questions on the test, you can apply Critical Thinking to real life, too.
I’ve come up with a few examples to illustrate how I imagine the section. Different kinds of questions would test a student’s knowledge of basic argument and fallacy forms, and their ability to identify them. I’m not a test writer, and I’ve never taught Critical Thinking, so there may be problems with these examples from either perspective, but this is the basic idea:
1) If Tom is a cat, he is a mammal. Tom is a cat. Therefore, Tom is a mammal.
This statement follows the argument form:
a) modus ponens
b) modus tollens
c) straw man
d) begging the question
e) none of the above
2) In a double-blind study of 2000 men, 60% found Brand X medicine effective in alleviating their headaches.
This statement shows:
a) Brand X is effective because a majority of men’s headaches were alleviated when they used it.
b) Brand X is ineffective because 2000 people are not statistically significant
c) Brand X is effective because double-blind studies are always accurate
d) Brand X is ineffective because only men were tested
e) There is not enough information to know whether Brand X is effective
3) On the planet Syllo, there are Frebats and Lidgemonts. It is well known on Syllo that all Frebats are Twacklers. Betty lives on Syllo. Betty is a Twackler. Therefore, Betty is a Frebat.
The conclusion “Therefore, Betty is a Frebat” is logically sound.
4) The “false dilemma” fallacy is sometimes called:
a) the black or white fallacy
b) the bifurcation fallacy
c) the false dichotomy fallacy
d) all of the above
e) none of the above