A Comparative Study of Critical Thinking Skills in High School and Simulated IELTS Reading Comprehension Questions (Published)
The importance of critical thinking in formal schooling and specially higher education has been recognized for some time. The number of books and papers that encourage teaching, learning, and testing high levels of thinking have become increasingly common. However, there is evidence that the use of higher order thinking skills (analyzing, evaluating, and creating) still has not become widespread in a number of ELT situations. This study focused on the cognitive levels of reading comprehension questions in simulated tests of IELTS and Iranian high-school English text books. 640 Questions were categorized based on the cognitive level and each question was targeting in light of Anderson, et. Al’s (2001) taxonomy. The results of this study showed that in both Iranian high school English text books and IELTS tests, there is a significant tendency to low order questions (remembering, understanding, applying). And although this inclination is more in the case of high school textbooks, there is no significant difference between high school text books and IELTS reading comprehension questions regarding their tendency to low level questions. The possible reasons for the bent towards this level of questioning in such ambitious language tests of international repute and high school text books were classified into the restriction provided by the question types, culture independency of tests, the publishers’ sales policy, the readiness of universities to win more applicants, and also the impact of target objectives on test objectives.The discussion focuses on the impact of the low-level questions tendency on the neglect of critical thinking.