Creative & critical thinking tests

Why should tests of creative and critical thinking be useful for identifying gifted learners? Well, synthesis (creative thinking) and evaluation (critical thinking) are the most difficult and challenging forms of thinking according to Bloom's Taxonomy. Gifted thinkers should do much better at these two kinds of higher order thinking than the average thinker.

Very few normed pencil and paper tests of creative and critical thinking have been developed for younger students who we wish to identify for gifted programs. The purpose of this article is to introduce a pencil and paper test for both of these forms of thinking. The questions in the tests should give teachers some examples of question types that they can then weave other curriculum content into for the purpose of developing these kinds of thinking with their students.

Critical thinking involves the making of judgements about information. Critical thinkers judge C.A.M.P.E.R., that is they make judgements about such things as the Consequences, Assumptions and Accuracy, Meaning and Main point, Prejudice or bias, Evidence and Examples, and Reliability and Relevance of information. They use relevant criteria to make such judgements. Over twenty core thinking processes have been identified that are associated with critical thinking. Some of these appear in the test introduced in this article. The test items usually ask students to identify, or distinguish, examples and non-examples of information that is prejudiced, irrelevant, factual, inconsistent, and so on.

Creative thinking is different from critical thinking in that it basically involves the learner being prepared to "break away" from usual or dominant patterns stored in their brains. They need to have a personality and an attitude that allows them to think flexibly in this way. Creative thinkers usually have to take risks, incubate ideas, fantasise, have a sense of humour, and be sensitive to creativity about them. On the other hand, critical thinkers have to be objective, open-minded, and clear minded.

Creative thinkers ask themselves different questions to critical thinkers as they try to change, rather than judge, things and ideas. They C.R.E.A.T.E., that is they often Combine, Reverse, Alternate, Twist, and Elaborate things and ideas.

The two tests here have been designed for students in about grades 4 to 9. In order to create grade level norms for the tests that will then help teachers select say the top 5 percent of students in their class for creative and critical thinking, we need to get plenty of student scores. Blank tests for you to photocopy, with my permission, and some possible answers for the items, can be obtained from me at the address ending the article. The total cost is five dollars. After giving the test, if you can provide me with the grade level, and the number of students in your class obtaining scores out of 20 for creativity and out of 30 for critical thinking, I will forward to you the scores obtained by the top 5 percent of students at each grade. A correlation between students scores for the test of creativity and the test of critical thinking would also be of interest. Are students generally good at both these kinds of thinking?

General intellectual ability

         is an avid reader

         has avid interest in science or literature

         provides very alert, rapid answers to questions

         has a wide range of interests

         is secure emotionally

         is venturesome, wanting to do new things

         tends to dominate peers or situations

         is an entrepreneur - readily makes money on various projects or activities

         needs little outside control - applies self discipline

         is resourceful - solving problems by ingenious methods

         is creative in new ideas, seeing associations, pursuing innovations

         displays a great curiosity about objects, situations or events

         has the capacity to look into things and be puzzled

         is involved with many exploratory type activities

         reveals originality in oral and written expression

         is perceptually open to his or her environment

         displays a willingness to accept complexity

         has the capacity to use knowledge and information other than to memorise

         shows superior judgement in evaluating things

         is a good guesser

         makes good grades in most subjects

         learns rapidly, easily and efficiently

         uses a lot of commonsense

         retains and uses information which has been heard or read

         uses a large number of words easily and accurately

         asks many questions of a provocative nature

         has a power of abstraction, conceptualisation and synthesis

         has an interest in cause-effect relations

         has a liking for structure, order and consistency

         has a power of concentration, an intense attention that excludes all else

         is persistent

         has a high energy level

         is independent

         is friendly and outgoing


Specific academic aptitude

         shows similar characteristics to general intellectual ability but concentrated around one or a few fields

         has a long attention span in areas of interest

         learns rapidly, easily and with less repetition in one or a few specific areas (probably not all subject areas)

         likes or loves one or a few areas of knowledge

         likes to study some subjects more than others

         spends time voluntarily beyond ordinary assignments on projects of interest to him or her

         is able to extend learning from these key areas to various situations somewhat unrelated in orientation

         is able to show broad perspective on one or more subject areas

         is able to judge own and others' relative abilities in key areas of interest

         seeks assistance of others beyond his or age peers in extending knowledge in areas of interest


Creative thinking and production

         is fluent in producing and elaborating on ideas

         makes unusual associations between remote ideas

         is flexible in thinking patterns

         senses when problems exist

         acts spontaneously, intuitively

         tolerates ambiguity and uncertainty

         senses inconsistencies and discontinuities

         readily guesses and makes hypotheses

         juggles or redefines elements of a problem or task

         can show intense concentration on a task

         retains own ideas in a discussion or collaboration

         provides mulitple solutions or responses to problems

         is uninhibited in expression, sometimes radical

         is intellectually playful, interested in fantasy, imagination

         always trying to adapt or improve things

         has a keen sense of humour, seeing humour in situations others don't

         doesn't mind being different

         doesn't accept authoritarian pronouncements without own judgement

         asks provocative questions, challenges parents, teachers, written and other authorities

         is bored with memorisation and recitation

         displays energy, somtimes disruptively

         produces unexpected, sometimes "silly" responses

         is considered, and perhaps resented, by some peers as "crazy"

         can show unusual degrees of originality, concentration and persistent hard work on projects that capture their interest and imagination



         can stimulate and arouse others

         organises others

         recognises skills and abilities possessed by others

         interacts with others easily showing social skills

         recognises and can articulate the goals of a group

         can articulate ideas clearly

         can listen to others empathetically

         understands how people feel and how groups function

         can give directions clearly and effectively

         exercises authority reliably and responsibly

         can adopt non-leadership roles within a group

         can establish the mood of a group

         supports others in a group when appropriate

         can coordinate the work of several individuals

         is often asked for ideas and suggestions

         is looked to by others when something must be decided


Psychomotor ability

         is rhythmic

         is athletic

         likes to play physically

         has a suitable body build

         is coordinated, balanced and confident in physical activities

         is inventive in constructing or modifying games

         is energetic

         is able to understand the intellectual aspects of psychomotor activities

         demonstrates endurance, stamina and persistence in physical activities

         demonstrates prowess in physical activities common amongst age peers


Visual and performing arts


         has good sense of rhythm

         is well-coordinated

         discriminates musical and other sounds well

         understands musical relationships

         enjoys musical activities and demonstrates musical feeling

         shows tonal memory

         responds readily to rhythm, melody and harmony

         uses music to express feeling or experience

         makes up original tunes

         enjoys dance and dramatic activities with musical elements


         demonstrates interest and enjoyment in dramatic activities

         readily shifts into role of another character, animal or object

         uses voice to reflect changes in mood

         demonstrates understanding of conflict when acting out a dramatic event

         communicates feelings by means of facial expressions, gestures and bodily movements

         enjoys evoking emotional responses from listeners

         demonstrates ability to dramatise feelings and experiences

         brings a dramatic situation to a climax with a well-timed ending when telling a story


         draws a variety of objects

         puts depth into drawing, showing planning and good proportion

         treats art seriously and enjoys it

         shows originality in modes of undertaking art

         is willing to try out new materials and experiences

         pursues art in spare time

         uses art to express feelings and experiences

         is interested in other people's art, both appreciating it and criticising it

         likes to model three dimensionally with clay, soap carving, plasticine etc

Dr John Langrehr 2002