• Critical Thinking A Level

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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.

Related Websites

CriticalThinking.org.uk (Unofficial guide)
ESSEX Critical Thinking
Official OCR Critical Thinking page
Critical Thinking Course (OCR revision site)

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