The Critical Thinking A Level is one of the many courses available to A Level students. It’s offered by OCR, one of the main exam boards for secondary education. Critical thinking is the discipline of understanding arguments and argumentative logic. Critical thinkers are invaluable in society because they are well-equipped to cut the wheat from the chaff, drawing attention to flawed arguments, whilst championing strong positions.
Critical thinkers are valuable in the modern era of information. On a daily basis, we’re barraged by information: facts, opinions, news, rumours, and statistical data. You can’t trust everything you read, so being able to think critically about the information you’re exposed to will help you understand what’s really going. For this reason, taking a Critical Thinking A Level is incredibly useful.
Critical Thinking A Level is split into two parts: AS level and A2 level. In the previous post, we discussed the units and topics you’ll have to master to perform well at AS level. Here, we’ll be taking a look at the A2 modules for Critical Thinking A-Level.
A lot of the units covered at A2 level of the A2 Critical Thinking course rely on prior knowledge from the AS level. Therefore, it’s important that you study well at AS level to stop yourself from falling behind.
The units covered at A2 level Critical Thinking are:
• Ethical theories;
• Recognising and applying principles;
• Dilemmas and decision-making;
• Analysis of complex arguments;
• Evaluating complex arguments;
• Developing cogent and complex arguments.
Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
Critical Thinking A Level – Ethical Theories
In this module, students will need to be able to evaluate material that portrays moral arguments and topics. They’ll also be required to evaluate conflicting ideas within this material, especially in relation to ideas such as bias and vested interest. In other words, students will have to read source materials, identify the ethical arguments in the text, then also highlight cases of bias.
Students will also have to recognise the different solutions and responses to an ethical problem. This will apply to both simple and complex ethical situations. This will also include being able to apply hypothetical reasoning, which is covered at AS level.
Critical Thinking A Level – Recognising and Applying Principles, Dilemmas and Decision-Making
These two areas are closely linked, as students will be required to identify a dilemma. In this case, a dilemma is a situation where there are two mutually exclusive options. In some situations, both may be undesirable. Students will need to weigh up the benefits and potential consequences of all responses to a dilemma, and apply principles of the following kinds:
In addition, students will need to understand the basic principles about deontological and teleological ethical theories, such as Kant’s ethics (deontological) and utilitarianism (teleological). These will need to be applied to dilemmas.
In addition to this, students will need to be able to understand and apply relevant ethical terms, such as:
• Suppositional reasoning;
• Relationships between intermediate conclusions and evidence;
• Non-argumentative devices such as rhetorical questions, repetition, scene setting, or ‘grand standing’.
Critical Thinking A Level – Evaluation of Complex Arguments
Once students can analyse complex arguments and identify their components, they’ll need to be able to evaluate them. Students will need to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of complex arguments, and come to a conclusion based on how well they support a conclusion. Students will need to be able to do the following:
• Explain flaws in reasoning;
• Explain rhetorical reasoning;
• Explain weaknesses in the way the evidence is portrayed;
• Identify explanations and potentially offer alternatives to them;
• Identify assumptions made in an argument, and assess them to see if they hold water;
• Identify and suggest alternative conclusions which result from the same reasoning as presented in the argument;
• Assessing the strength or weakness of an argument.
Critical Thinking A Level – Development of Cogent and Complex Arguments
With the knowledge gained from earlier units at AS and A2 level, students will then need to be able to construct and develop arguments which are internally consistent, but also complex in nature. Students will need to do the following when making their arguments:
• Read the subject material closely;
• Select appropriate methods of reasoning (such as hypothetical reasoning);
• Respond to counter-arguments.
Critical Thinking A Level – Conclusion
The Critical Thinking A Level can be tricky, since it requires vast knowledge about a number of different concepts and terms – many of which students might be completely unfamiliar with. However, it can be handled just like any other A-Level subject; read the subject material carefully, then take the time to practice with revision techniques which work best for you. Finally, make sure to attempt practice papers to see what you know and where you need to improve. If you would like more A-Level tips which apply to any A-Level course, including Critical Thinking A-Level, you can find our book here: Pass Your A-Levels With A*s.