Critical Thinking and the HESI Exam

Critical Thinking and the HESI Exam

Most standardized nursing tests require strong critical thinking skills, and the HESI exam is no exception. Answering practice questions and reading study guides will give you a feel for what type of questions you may be asked on the HESI exam, but there are other tricks you can use to help improve your critical thinking skills. While you can always take a professional critical thinking course in a classroom setting, there are many cheaper and more fun ways to improve your skills yourself.

Unleashing your creative side enhances your ability to think creatively. If you like to paint, try challenging yourself to paint in a style you are unfamiliar with. If don’t mind writing term papers, try writing a poem or a song. You don’t have to be a Picasso or a Plath, but just the act of creating something will use parts of your brain that you’ll be need over and over on tests and in your future career.

Another way to help your critical thinking skills is to use the Socratic Method of thinking. Many people claim to the be the authority on a subject or to have all the facts. As a critical thinker and a nurse, it is your job to distinguish between fact and fiction. Although this may sound simple on the surface, it can be very easy to disguise a biased opinion or to search for facts that only reinforce your own beliefs and viewpoints. When you are gathering information on a subject try to identify both sides of the issue and look for trustworthy data that could support either viewpoint. You still may only agree with a certain side of the issue, but having a well-rounded grasp of the subject will make you a better consumer of knowledge. Look in the newspaper or online and find a topic that interests you, such as religion or politics. What is opinion and what is fact? What are possible solutions to the problem? Try to think deeply about the subject and debate it with willing friends or family using logic and reason. The more your practice looking at problems on a deeper level, the easier tests like the HESI exam will be!

Look at the following sentences and try to identify if they are opinion or fact. Does the subject sound like fact or someone’s opinion? Do you believe you could find unbiased research to support the claims being made?

Pizza is the best food on Earth

Cats are better pets than dogs

Dogs are more popular pets than cats

Monopoly is a fun board game to play

The Earth has one moon

8 of 10 women enjoy eating chocolate

A lot of children misbehave

English is the hardest language to learn

There are 206 bones in the adult human body

God created the world

As you can see, some of these questions are easier to answer than others. A good rule of thumb for answering the opinion or fact question is this: if you can debate the answer with a friend, it is likely opinion. Give this one a try:

Imagine that another life form has just visited the earth and you are tasked with showing them around. You start by taking them to a football game and as you sit there they begin to ask some questions. Try and answer them.

What is a game?

What is a team?

Why are only certain people playing and everyone else watching?

Why does many people yell or make noise during the game?

Why are the players dressed differently than the rest of us?

As you may have noticed we carry certain assumptions about the world around us and sometimes the most obvious question can be the hardest to answer.

There are also several games and puzzles you can play that will increase critical thinking skills. Chess requires you to guess what your opponent is thinking and also incorporates memory and logic. Sudoku and solitaire are two other popular critical-thinking games, and there are various brain teaser games you can buy or play online. Studying for your HESI exam doesn’t have to be boring! By incorporating critical thinking games into your usual exam review, you’ll have all the skills you need to pass the test the first time!

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