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Thinking skills for university

Watch Gad Lim, from Cambridge English Language Assessment, talk about some of the thinking skills that students need at university.
In our early education, an important focus of learning is acquiring knowledge. In higher education on the other hand, there are other skills you’ll need. I’ll mention three of them here, though there are many others. First, being able to determine whether information is given or not. We need to know what we already know, and what we don’t yet know. So whenever you’re reading something or listening to something, we need to figure out what do we already know? What do we already know to be false? Is there something important that’s being left out? If so, what is it?
Closely related to this skill is knowing which pieces of information are more important and less important so you know what to focus your time and energy on. Think about it a little. Where is more important information more likely to appear in an article? Are there words that give us clues on whether the things coming up next are more or less important? What to focus on may also depend on what you’re looking for. Do you want to know the main idea? Or is it the particular details that you want to find out about? Second, when information is indeed given, you need to be able to evaluate the claims being made, including whether something is a fact or an opinion.
For example, science needs to be objective, so we use neutral, factual language. So if you see emotional language being used, you need to be suspicious. Ask yourself, are the facts correct? Is the reasoning logical? Are there assumptions behind the arguments? Third, having evaluated the information you need to be able to build your own argument. You need to be able to express your own stance or position. To be convincing, you need to discuss not just your own position but also other positions and argue why yours is the best. You need to build your argument using sound reasoning and by providing supporting information. You need to use appropriately neutral language.
And as you’ve learned earlier, the language you use will need to be different if it’s spoken or if it’s written. Why am I telling you all of this? Because these are closely tied to academic reading, listening, speaking, and writing. So you can’t really test academic language ability without somehow testing these. In the next step, you will see how you can use these skills in the IELTS test.
There are many ‘thinking skills’ that you will need at university. Watch Gad talking about some of these. Gad mentions:
  • understanding whether information is given or not
  • identifying more or less important information
  • evaluating claims, and understanding when something is a fact, and when it is an opinion
  • building an argument.
In the next step, you will think about how you can use these skills in the IELTS test.
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