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.
TSR Wiki > Study Help > Exams and Qualifications > A Levels > Critical Thinking A Level
Critical Thinking A-level is a course designed to promote the skill of critical thinking. Although it is generally regarded as useful skill to have developed as part of your overall education, it is not usually included in UCAS offers because of its lack of subject content and is seen as 'light weight' as a standalone subject. Thus it shares a similar status to General Studies.
OCR offers Critical Thinking at both AS and A2 levels, as well as an AEA. AQA also offers Critical Thinking as an A-Level since 2008.
There has recently been a fall in its popularity as an A level subject, presumably because few Universities accept it, and AQA will not be offering it after June 2014.
Its classification code is 7830.
Structure of the new OCR specification
The A-level Critical Thinking (H052 for AS, H452 for A-level) is composed as follows:
- Introduction to Critical Thinking
- Assessing and Developing Argument
- Ethical Reasoning and Decision-Making
- Critical Reasoning
Unit 1, Introduction to Critical Thinking (F501) involves the language of reasoning and credibility assessment. It is a 1 hour exam, and is worth 40% of the AS and 20% of the A-level.
Unit 2, Assessing and Developing Argument (F502) involves the analysis and evaluation of arguments, and developing your own "reasoned" arguments. It is a 2 hour exam, and is worth 60% of the AS and 30% of the A-level.
Unit 3: Ethical Reasoning and Decision-Making (F503) will involve ethical theories, recognising and applying principles, and dilemmas and decision-making. It will include synoptic assessment, and it is a 1 hour 30 minute exam, and is worth a quarter of the A-level.
Unit 4: Critical Reasoning (F504) will involve the analysis and evaluation of complex arguments, with the developing of your own "cogent and complex" arguments. It will include synoptic assessment and "Stretch and Challenge". It is a 1 hour 30 minute exam, and is worth a quarter of the A-level.
Structure of the new AQA specification
This is the first specification in A-level Critical Thinking (1771 for AS, 2771 for A2) offered by AQA. It is divided into four units, as with most other A-levels from 2008:
- Foundation Unit
- Information, Inference and Explanation
- Beliefs, Claims and Arguments
- Reasoning and Decision Making
Unit 1: Foundation Unit (CRIT1) is an introduction to Critical Thinking, including arguments and their structures, and identifying simpler flaws. It is a 1hr 30min exam, worth 25% of the A-level, 50% of the AS.
Unit 2: Information, Inference and Explanation (CRIT2) includes elements of credibility and statistical representations. It is a 1hr 30min exam, worth 25% of the A-level, 50% of the AS.
Unit 3: Beliefs, Claims and Arguments (CRIT3) links logic to Critical Thinking, and even includes basic application of epistemological concepts, introducing further flaws and patterns of reasoning. It is a 1hr 30min exam, worth 25% of the A-level.
Unit 4: Reasoning and Decision Making (CRIT4) introduces more reasoning patterns, uses techniques from probability, and applies Critical Thinking to decision-making and justification of decisions. It is a 1hr 30min exam, worth 25% of the A-level.
The substantial section on Credibility that constituted F491 has been reduced, with concepts from F492 added into the new Unit 1 F501. There has been some rearrangement of the time allocations to the assessment too. The new AQA specification is quite different in approach, with less substantial writing and slightly more emphasis on statistics and interpretation of figures in short-response questions, accompanied by long-response ones at the end.
CriticalThinking.org.uk (Unofficial guide)
ESSEX Critical Thinking
Official OCR Critical Thinking page
Critical Thinking Course (OCR revision site)
Categories: A Level Subject Guides | Subject Guides | Critical Thinking