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The #1 Change in Thinking Skills Exams & How You Can Tackle It in 2024

Sample this question:
“A farmer has a small lake on his property and wants to use it to irrigate three fields. He can build a series of canals from the lake to each field. However, there are some constraints:

The canals can only be dug in straight lines.

Each field must be directly connected to the lake by a canal.

Canals should not intersect with each other.

The total length of the canals should be as short as possible to save costs.

How should the farmer arrange the canals to meet all these requirements?”

This question reflects the new direction of thinking skills tests, now emphasising problem-solving skills. 

An analysis of exam trends between 2021 to 2023 shows a shift in thinking skills tests in NSW, focusing more on problem-solving than on critical reasoning. 

As Scholarly’s Thinking Skills expert Jennifer Xu points out, “In 2023, only 30% of the questions were critical reasoning… you have to be prepared in all realms in all question types.”

Meanwhile, a qualitative study in the European Journal of Educational Research has found a high probability of most school students finding it difficult to answer problem-solving questions. 

But the Thinking Skills Section is infact, make or break — 97.1% of our students, who got into the top 3 selective schools,  got a top 10% in Thinking Skills.

So, how can we better prepare our students?

Understanding the New Pattern
Xu’s extensive research has found that the thinking skills section now includes questions on logical analysis, evaluating reasoning, and identifying mistakes.  

Additionally, there’s a significant presence of spatial reasoning questions, ordering and sequencing, and data interpretation. 

These elements fall under the broader category of finding procedures, a critical aspect of the new test format.

Why These Changes Were Made
The shift towards problem-solving in Thinking skills aims to foster creativity, community engagement, and dynamic thinking, moving away from traditional rote learning methods. 

Wahlin and Blomkamp’s (2022) study highlights the importance of Design Thinking in strategic planning and suggests that integrating problem-solving is a unique way to give a boost to a wide variety of fields, including local governance.

Moreover, the integration of social-emotional learning competencies is recognised as essential for student success, treating problem-solving skills as crucial. Research has identified a correlated five-factor model as the most effective structure to make students more successful, which treats problem-solving skills as absolutely necessary.

NSW educational assessments are increasingly valuing creativity and innovation, integrating arts and humanities with STEM subjects for a more holistic educational experience. This reflects a shift in educational strategies to prepare students with the skills needed for the rapidly evolving technological and creative demands of the future.

Sakdiah et al. (2023) demonstrate how STEAM ( Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematic) education boosts creative thinking. Their study concludes that this becomes possible only when students have been exposed to problem-solving skills.

Tackling the Change: Effective Strategies by Our Experts

  1. Embrace a Diverse Range of Question Types: With the test encompassing a wide array of problem-solving questions, students must familiarise themselves with different question types. This involves practising various scenarios and question formats.
  2. Focus on Deductive Logic: A key element in the recent tests is the reliance on deductive logic. Students should practise forming deductions from given premises, using clues and statements to reach logical conclusions.
  3. Spatial Reasoning Skills: As spatial reasoning questions have gained prominence, students need to develop skills in visualising and manipulating 2D and  3D objects. This includes understanding rotations, transformations, and interpreting diagrams.
  4. Time Management: The new format demands efficient time management, as students have one minute per question. Practising under timed conditions and developing strategies to quickly understand and solve problems is essential.
  5. Strengthen Mathematical Foundations: Mathematics plays a significant role in thinking skills questions. A solid grasp of basic operations and the ability to apply these skills in various contexts is crucial.
  6. Analytical Reading and Logical Fallacies: Critical reasoning still remains an integral part of the test. Students should be adept at analysing arguments, identifying logical flaws, and understanding the core elements of reasoning.
  7. Mistakes Log: Keeping a log of mistakes and analysing them can help students identify patterns in their errors and develop strategies to avoid them in future tests.
  8. Progressive Overload in Practice: Gradually increasing the complexity of practice questions can help build analytical and problem-solving muscles, much like training for physical strength.
  9. Adapting to the Clarity Framework: Scholarly Clarity Framework emphasises curiosity, learning awareness, adaptability, reflective practice, intuitive thinking, theoretical understanding, and yielding insights, which aligns well with the new demands of the thinking skills test.

    Need help navigating the NSW Selective Test 2024 and NSW Selective Test 2025? Reach out here:


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