Critical Thinking at A-Level is a qualification offered by OCR, one of the main exam boards for secondary and higher education. Critical Thinking is the study of arguments, problems, and ideas, as well as the logic the binds arguments together. The role of a critical thinker is to spot faulty reasoning in the arguments that other people make, whilst using reason and evidence when forming their own positions.
Critical Thinking is particularly useful in the modern information era, where it’s easy to be bombarded by news, facts, and opinions. Sometimes, people want to push an agenda, and will misinterpret data or twist events to suit it. Sadly, you can’t just accept everything at face value.
A good critical thinker will be able to analyse and evaluate arguments, develop their own arguments, and be able to follow evidence and logic to the best conclusion. These are all invaluable skills for staying informed about how things truly are in the modern era.
Like most other A-Level subjects, it’s divided into two parts:
• AS Level;
• A2 Level.
From here, AS and A2 Levels are split into the following units:
Critical Thinking at A-Level – AS Units
• The language of reasoning;
• Analysis of argument;
• Evaluating arguments;
• Developing reasoned arguments.
Critical Thinking at A-Level – A2 Units
• Ethical theories;
• Recognising and applying principles;
• Dilemmas and decision-making;
• Analysis of complex arguments;
• Evaluating complex arguments;
• Developing cogent and complex arguments.
Here, we’re going to take a look at each of the topics. In this post, we’re going to focus on the AS Level units.
Critical Thinking at A-Level – The Language of Reasoning
This is the introductory module to Critical Thinking, where students will learn the very basics of argumentation. In this unit, students will learn how to identify an argument, as well as the premises and conclusion which constitute it. In addition to this, students will have to be able to explain what the following ideas and devices are, and be able to identify them in an argument:
• Hypothetical reasoning (such as ‘if, then’ statements);
On top of this, students must be able to evaluate evidence which is frequently used in arguments:
• Ambiguity in statistical data;
• The representative quality and size of surveys;
• How evidence was collected;
• Alternative ways of interpreting the same data.
Critical Thinking at A-Level – Credibility
The credibility module focuses on students’ ability to assess claims made in a text. In other words, students need to be able to show an understanding of the following in the context of argumentation. In addition, they need to be able to identify these features:
• Vested interest or bias;
• Corroboration of evidence;
• Plausibility of evidence;
• Expertise of sources providing evidence;
• Positive and negative reputation;
• Consistency and inconsistency.
Critical Thinking at A-Level – Analysis of Argument
In this module, students will learn how to analyse arguments effectively. In order to do this, they’ll need to understand the tools and devices used in arguments. These include the following terms:
Critical Thinking at A-Level – Evaluating Arguments
In this module, students will be asked to assess strengths or weaknesses in arguments. Students will begin to learn about logical and argumentative fallacies. This gives them the tools to identify poor arguments quicker. These include the following:
Finally, students will learn about appeals. These are kinds of argumentative fallacy which rely on appeal to a falsehood in order to support an argument. Candidates need to be able to identify these fallacies, and also explain why they are a poor form of reasoning. These include:
• Appeal to authority;
• Appeal to tradition;
• Appeal to history (induction);
• Appeal to popularity (bandwagon fallacy);
• Appeal to emotion.
Critical Thinking at A-Level – Developing Reasoned Arguments
While the previous units were focused on analysing other people’s arguments, this module teaches and assesses based on how to create strong arguments. Students will have to create their own arguments using the following criteria:
• At least three reasons or premises to support a conclusion;
• An intermediate conclusion;
• Appropriate use of evidence to support the conclusion;
• A counter-assertion;
• A counter-argument;
• Hypothetical reasoning.
So, now you have an idea about what modules you’ll have to complete in the AS Level part of the critical thinking A-Level. In the next post, we’ll be taking a look at the modules in the A2 portion of the critical thinking A-Level.
If you’re planning on starting your A-Levels soon and want some guidance on how to complete them with the best grades possible, check out our guide: Pass Your A-levels with A*s.