Types of Thinking

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Understand that there are different types of thinking.
  • Identify how each type of thinking contributes to learning.

There are various types of thinking skills, and each kind requires us to do different things when we apply them. In the 1950s, Benjamin Bloom developed a classification of thinking skills, known as Bloom’s taxonomy, that is still helpful today. Bloom lists six types of thinking skills, ranked in order of complexity: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. “Types of Thinking Skills” outlines each skill and what is involved in that type of thinking.

All of these thinking skills are important for college, for the workplace and for our daily lives.

Types of Thinking Skills

Thinking Skill What It Involves
1. Remembering and Recalling Retrieving or repeating information or ideas from memory. This is the first and most basic thinking skill you develop (starting as a toddler with learning numbers, letters, and colors).
2. Understanding Interpreting, constructing meaning, inferring or explaining material from written, spoken, or graphic sources. Reading is the most common understanding skill; these skills are developed starting with early education.
3. Applying Using learned material or implementing material in new situations. This skill is common used starting in middle school (in some cases earlier).
4. Analyzing Breaking material or concepts into key elements and determining how the parts relate to one another or to an overall structure or purpose. Mental actions included in this skill are examining, contrasting or differentiating, separating, categorizing, experimenting, and deducing. You most likely started developing this skill in high school (particularly in science courses) and will continue to practice it in college.
5. Evaluating Assessing, making judgments, and drawing conclusions from ideas, information, or data. Critiquing the value and usefulness of material. This skill encompasses most of what is commonly referred to as critical thinking; this skill will be called on frequently during your college years and beyond. Critical thinking is the first focus of this chapter.
6. Creating Putting parts together or reorganizing them in a new way, form, or product. This process it the most difficult mental function. This skill will make you stand out in college and is in very high demand in the workforce. Creative thinking is the second focus of this chapter.

Exercise: Thought Inventory

Think about your thinking. Are you using all six thinking skills? Reflect on your schoolwork in the past three weeks and identify specific examples where you used each of the thinking skills. Use the comment column to write notes about the skills, determining the skills which are second nature to you and those you would like to develop further.

Skill Set How You Used It in the Past Three Weeks Comments
Remembering and Recalling


















Look at the lists of things you actually did in each case. Notice that there are certain verbs that apply to each skill set. When you see those verbs as a prompt in an assignment or an exam, you will know what kind of thinking the instructor expects from you. The “Thinking Verbs” table lists some of the most common verbs associated with each skill.

Thinking Verbs

Skill Set Verbs
Remembering and Recalling Bookmark, count, describe, draw, enumerate, find, google, identify, label, list, match, name, quote, recall, recite, search, select, sequence, tell, write
Understanding Blog, conclude, describe, discuss, explain, generalize, identify, illustrate, interpret, paraphrase, predict, report, restate, review, summarize, tell, tweet
Applying Apply, articulate, change, chart, choose, collect, compute, control, demonstrate, determine, do, download, dramatize, imitate, implement, interview, install (as in software), participate, prepare, produce, provide, report, role-play, run (software), select, share, show, solve, transfer, use
Analyzing Analyze, break down, characterize, classify, compare, contrast, debate, deduce, diagram, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, infer, link, outline, relate, research, reverse-engineer, separate, subdivide, tag
Evaluating Appraise, argue, assess, beta test, choose, collaborate, compare, contrast, conclude, critique, criticize, decide, defend, “friend/de-friend,” evaluate, judge, justify, network, post, predict, prioritize, prove, rank, rate, review, select, support
Creating Adapt, animate, blog, combine, compose, construct, create, design, develop, devise, film, formulate, integrate, invent, make, model, modify, organize, perform, plan, podcast, produce, program, propose, rearrange, remix, revise, rewrite, structure

While creative thinking will help you come up with possible solutions for problems and new ideas, critical thinking will help you decide which of those ideas have most merit and deserve to be implemented.  Critical thinking will be discussed more in the following section.


1. List three verbs that are associated with application skills.



2. What is another name for “evaluation” thinking skills?



3. What thinking skills are associated with each of the following?