A few key facts about the HCTA:
· The test assesses the five dimension of critical thinking: verbal reasoning, argument analysis, thinking as hypothesis testing, likelihood and uncertainty, and decision making and problem solving.
· The HCTA is unique because it is the only test of critical thinking that uses multiple response formats, which allow test takers to demonstrate their ability to think about everyday topics using both constructed responses and recognition formats.
· The HCTA has been validated with numerous diverse samples around the world in different languages. It is a general test – not specific to psychology. A recent study (Butler, 2012) shows that HCTA is the first test of critical thinking that actually predicts what people (say they) do in real life. Publication is available below.
· The test offers an easy way to assess learning outcomes for programs that aim to enhance critical thinking and as a means of assessing levels of critical thinking for ages 15 through adulthood.
· It is available for computer based administration, either online or desktop (PC, laptop, network server).
Please refer to the test manual (listed below) for a full description of the test, detailing the theoretical background, history of development, validity, etc …
A working demo version of the test is available over the internet. This gives you full access to the complete online DEMO version of the Vienna Test System. You can explore sample test items and view the test score.
If you would like to venture into the online demo on your own, please follow the instructions in the document
The Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment has been in development for over two decades, with numerous refinements and improvements in its psychometric properties. It is designed to measure critical thinking skills in adult populations. It has been used with multiple populations including high school seniors, community college students, students at state universities and elite colleges, and a random sample of working adults. The assessment has two forms. It is available online and has been translated into over 10 languages including Spanish, Chinese, Turkish. The HCTA is available as part of the Vienna Testing System in multiple languages (Schuhfried Publishers).
The HCTA consists of 25 everyday scenarios, each of which is briefly described and presented using common language. For each scenario, respondents are first asked an opened ended (i.e., constructed response) question, which is followed by a forced choice question (e.g., multiple choice, ranking, or rating of alternatives) such as select the best alternative, rate each of the alternatives in terms of their relevance, or indicate which two of the following alternatives indicates a good response. Cognitive psychologists differentiate between free recall and recognition processes in memory and these two types of questions are designed to take advantage of the different cognitive processes. The total score is (approximately) equally weighted between constructed response and forced choice questions.
The questions of the HCTA represent five categories of critical thinking skills: verbal reasoning (e.g., recognizing the use of pervasive or misleading language), argument analysis (e.g., recognizing reasons, assumptions, and conclusions in arguments), thinking as hypothesis testing (e.g., understanding sample size, generalizations), using likelihood and uncertainty (e.g., applying relevant principles of probability such as base rates), as well as decision making and problem solving (e.g., identifying the problem goal, generating and selecting solutions among alternatives). Although there are an equal number of scenarios for each critical thinking category, some categories were worth more total points than other categories in their contribution to the total critical thinking score. The categories were weighted as follows with the following rationale as to their relative importance and contribution to critical thinking:
· Decision making and problem solving (approximately 30%): In some sense all of the subtypes of critical thinking skills are involved decision making (generating and selecting from alternatives based on relevant criteria) and problem solving (finding solutions to a situation, or more colloquially, moving from a start space to a goal). Because this category relies on subsets of the other critical thinking skills (e.g., recognizing that an unlikely event is a not an optimal choice when making decisions or examining the reasons for a course of action), it was weighted with more total points than the other categories.
· Thinking as hypothesis testing (approximately 22%): The skills of hypothesis testing are not restricted to evaluating formal research; they are (or should be) used in multiple everyday situations. Faulty thinking often involves hasty generalizations from small samples of behavior (e.g., a new friend is late and the respondent generalizes that the new friend must be habitually late) or failure to consider control conditions (e.g., a cold gets better after taking a vitamin supplement, but there is no consideration that it might have gotten better without the supplement).
· Argument analysis (approximately 22%): Too often people reach conclusions without consideration of the reasons that support or fail to support the conclusion. The ability to seek and provide reasons and to recognize the differences between conclusions and assumptions is critical for good thinking. It is the difference between uninformed opinions and reasoned thinking.
· Likelihood and uncertainty (approximately 12.5%): A basic understanding of probabilities and how they affect the likelihood of an outcome and how to use probabilities in uncertain situations are an essential component of critical thinking, but these skills are unlikely to develop beyond a rudimentary level without formal instruction. Many concepts relating to likelihood and uncertainty such as regression to the mean (an extreme event is likely to be followed by a less extreme event) and gambler's fallacy (if a fair coin comes up heads in 3 flips, a tail is not more likely on the 4th flip) are counterintuitive. Thus, although these are important concepts, the likelihood and uncertainty category was given a lower weight than some of the other categories so as not to penalize test takers who have not had any formal education in understanding likelihood and uncertainty.
Unlike other tests of critical thinking, the HCTA uses both open ended and forced choice questions. Both response formats have advantages and limitations. Forced choice questions assess the ability to recognize a correct response, but there are few instances in real life where people are presented with an array of answers to select from. Recognition is a lower-level cognitive skill, which is expected to yield higher estimates of critical thinking skill than constructed response questions, which requires higher-level cognitive processing. The disadvantage of constructed response questions is that they benefit people with good writing skills, and thus may underestimate the critical thinking skills of mediocre writers. There is evidence that multiple-choice and open-ended responses are measuring separate cognitive abilities (Bridgeman & Moran, 1997). The constructed response portion of the HCTA attempts to reveal more of the dispositional component of thinking, as it allows test-takers to demonstrate whether they are inclined to apply the appropriate skills (Ku, 2009). Essentially, the constructed response format measures “free recall” as there are few constraints on the type of response that the test-taker may generate, whereas the multiple-choice format measures recognition memory. "The former requires test-takers to consciously search and select appropriate knowledge and skills from their own memory in constructing an answer, whereas the latter requires test-takers to identify the appropriate response from a given list of alternatives" (Ku, 2009, p. 74).
After responding to this constructed response prompt, test takers are then asked "to select the best alternative from a short list of alternatives. A sample alternative might be
We only know that being alcoholic is correlated with being depressed. Although relieving the depression could help alcoholics become sober, there is no reason to believe that depression causes alcoholism or that alcoholism causes depression or that by alleviating depression, alcoholics will find it easier to beat their addiction.
New and Improved Grading
Butler, H. A. (2012). Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment predicts real-world outcomes of critical thinking. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26, 721-729. doi:10.1002/acp.2851
Halpern, D. F. (2010a). Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment. Publisher: SCHUHFRIED (Vienna Test System). http://www.schuhfried.com/vienna-test-system-vts/all-tests-from-a-z/test/hcta-halpern-critical-thinking-assessment-1/
Marin, L., & Halpern, D. F. (2010). Pedagogy for developing critical thinking in adolescents: Explicit instruction produces greatest gains. Thinking Skills and Creativity. Doi: 10.1016/j.tsc.2010.08.002
Halpern, D. F. (2006). Is intelligence critical thinking? Why we need a new construct definition for intelligence. In P. Kyllonen, I. Stankov, & R. D. Roberts (Eds.), Extending intelligence: Enhancement and new constructs. Mahwah. NJ: Erlbaum Associates.
Ku, K. Y. L. (2009). Assessing students’ critical thinking performance: Urging for measurements using multi-response format. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 4, 70-76.
Actual HCTA format: To view a sample of the actual test from the test publisher, follow the instructions in this brochure "How to Run the HCTA ONLINE."