According to a recent Wall Street Journal analysis, many students don’t significantly improve their critical thinking skills while in college.
An FKD Feature exclusive

When parents and students are trying to find the right college, they often look at the same few things. Sorting through various statistics, acceptance rates, prices and programs can help with narrowing down options, but are those the most important factors?

A crucial, but often forgotten, skill that colleges should be helping students develop is critical thinking.

Why is critical thinking important?

In the most basic sense, critical thinking is the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate an issue in order to form a judgment.

Critical thinking is one of those soft skills that employers always want, but it’s also something that many college graduates seem to lack.

College students aren’t properly prepared for the workplace by graduation. A total of 60 percent of employers have complained that the college graduates they hire aren’t ready for the workplace, especially because of their poor critical-reasoning skills.

Unfortunately, many colleges aren’t emphasizing critical thinking in their curriculums, sending students out with the same critical-thinking skills with which they entered.

This discovery was brought to light by a recent Wall Street Journal analysis, which was based off of the College Learning Assessment Plus.

The CLA+

If you’ve never heard of the College Learning Assessment Plus, you’re not alone.

The CLA+ is a standardized test that is given to freshmen and seniors at about 200 higher education institutions. According to the CAE website, the test gives students unlimited information and asks them to gather, analyze and evaluate the information effectively. Its goal is to measure how much better students get at thinking after spending four years in college.

The results showed that at half of the schools, at least one-third of the seniors weren’t able to interpret evidence or make a cohesive argument.

Some of the most prestigious universities that were surveyed had the worst results, with students showing little or no improvement over four years, landing in the “basic” or “below basic” categories.

Many of the best results were at small colleges, where students scored “accomplished” or “advanced.”

Why haven’t we heard about this test before?

The CLA+ rarely discloses their results to the public. This makes it extra difficult for students and parents to figure out what schools would actually improve critical-thinking skills.

The test is also not administered at every college. It’s a lesser known voluntary test, making it an inconsistent way to rank colleges.

Critical thinking is also hard to teach. Many students don’t take classes that are explicitly about critical thinking, and it’s difficult for schools to enforce that other subjects incorporate it.


Whether it be a lack of critical thinking or insufficient workplace manners, students have been entering the working world without many essential skills. Colleges need to focus on preparing students for the workforce by incorporating more soft skills into their curriculum.

Maybe with a little more experience in critical thinking and problem solving, graduates will be ready to take on the working world.

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Header image: Adobe Stock


Posted 06.13.2017 - 02:00 pm EDT