What is a Watson Glaser Critical Thinking test?
The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (W-GCTA) is the most widely used test for critical thinking skills. Currently published by TalentLens, the original test was created by Goodwin Watson, a professor of education at Columbia, and Edward Glaser, a psychologist. The first version of this test was published in 1949, and it has been through some updates to make it more relevant to the modern world.
The Watson Glaser test measures a job applicant on their critical thinking skills, which according to the World Economic Forum is a key skill for life in the 21st Century. The TalentLens description of critical thinking is as follows:
"The ability to look at a situation and clearly understand it from multiple perspectives whilst separating facts from opinions and assumptions; helping a person to reach the right, rational decision."
Critical thinking assessments like Watson Glaser are used in the recruitment process for high-level jobs (often in the legal or financial industries) because they are considered to be good predictors of future job role success.
The Watson Glaser test assess different facets of critical thinking, including a candidate's ability to:
Come to conclusions
Make correct inferences
How is the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking test formatted?
The Watson Glaser assessment is presented in five distinct sections, with an overall time limit of either 30 minutes or 60 minutes, depending on which test is taken. Each section is designed to test a different aspect of the group of skills that are important in critical thinking.
In this section, you will be presented with a passage of information and a list of possible deductions. A deduction is the takeaway fact that can be logically reached using the data presented.
The assessment asks you to decide whether the deduction follows or does not follow given the information presented.
To answer this correctly, you need to look only at the information given in the passage to decide if the deduction follows rather than using your opinion or any previous knowledge.
Interpretation of information is similar to Deduction in that you will be presented with a paragraph of information and a list of possible conclusions.
In this type of question, you are looking at whether the conclusion follows beyond reasonable doubt given the information provided in the paragraph. It is looking beyond the obvious yes/no decision to ensure that the conclusion must follow.
An assumption is something that is taken for granted, and in the context of this part of the assessment, you are looking for the assumption in a given statement.
The statement will be relatively simple in structure, and may have more than one component. After the statement there will be an assumption, and you must decide if the assumption is made in the statement or not.
The statement might not be related to reason or reality, but you must treat it as if it is for the best results.
Inferences are conclusions that are not stated, but might be drawn from given information. They are sometimes described as an educated guess.
In this section, you will be presented with a passage of information about a scenario followed by a list of possible inferences, and you must decide whether the inferences can be truthful based on the given data.
The answers available are on a scale: true, possibly true, not possible to say, possibly false, or false. To answer this you might need to refer to common knowledge (information like all cars are not red, for example).
A short scenario will be presented, often on a contentious subject, and a series of arguments for and against will be provided.
To answer these questions, you need to be able to analyse the strength of the provided arguments in relation to the scenario.
In general terms, a strong argument is relevant and addresses the scenario, while a weak argument is more vague and not specific to the given scenario.
This is not about personal opinion, or which argument is the 'correct' one, but about the strength of the argument.
Which law firms use Watson Glaser tests?
Watson Glaser tests are used for high-level roles in recruitment and finance, but they are mostly used in the recruitment process for legal careers globally. Some of the big law firms that use Watson Glaser include:
- Linklaters: one of the top three law firms in the UK
- Clifford Chance: the 2020 International Law Firm of the Year
- GLS: The British Government Legal Services
- Irwin Mitchell: UK-based legal and wealth management services
The Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Assessment is usually part of the initial recruitment process, offering a simple screening test to identify top talent in a wide candidate pool, but it is often used in internal progression to identify leaders and performers that are ready to advance.
What abilities is the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking test measuring?
As predictors of high-level job role success, Watson Glaser assessments are looking at certain skills and aptitudes relating to decision making, problem solving and behavioural traits that indicate good job fit.
Drawing logical conclusions - especially with limited information
Defining and solving problems
Interpretation of information
Top 5 Tips to Prepare for your Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Test
Philosophy might seem like a strange place to start when it comes to preparing for a test, but it is thanks to philosophers that we can recognise what makes a good (and bad) argument.
One of the things that can help is to recognise what a fallacy is - and what types of fallacies there are. Logical fallacies are little untruths that can completely destroy an argument, and you can often find them in critical thinking assessments like the Watson Glaser.
Practice Critical Thinking Every Day
Although thinking about the facets of critical thinking might be confusing, the reality is that we use these skills every day - and by actively thinking critically about things that you read or hear, whether on the news, on social media, or in articles you can hone that aptitude.
When looking at a news report, think about whether the arguments that are being made are strong, or whether there are any logical fallacies present. Think about assumptions made in the text, and identify inferences that can be found.
If you know that you are taking a Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Assessment as part of the recruitment process for a new role, then practice will make perfect. You can find practice assessments based on the structure and example questions of the real test online, or you can go to the TalentLens website to take a practice test there.
When practicing, make sure that you are making it as realistic as possible - time yourself to ensure that you get used to the pressure of a timed test and complete it under test conditions without distractions. Practicing beforehand will help you to recognise if there are any areas you are less confident or strong in, and work on those ready for the real thing.
Read the Instructions Carefully
Each section of the Watson Glaser assessment needs to be answered in a slightly different way, so take the time to ensure that you know what is expected of you before you start by reading the instructions.
This can also give you a bit of time to calm down if you are feeling particularly anxious about the test.
Although the test is timed, don't rush through it. This is especially important when you are reading the given information as you need to take enough time to read, understand and analyse the passages or statements so that you can answer the question correctly.
These assessments are meant to be hard - and that is why they are used as part of the recruitment process for high-level jobs. Be mindful of the time constraints, but take enough time to read the answers thoroughly so you can avoid making any mistakes.
How is the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking test scored?
The Watson Glaser scoring is based on the number of correct answers, and is presented as a percentile. This is compared to a norm group that is usually made up of successful test takers, but is sometimes just a comparison to other candidates who have applied for the same role.
This means that not only must you perform well on the test, you also need to perform better than the other applicants to be considered for the role. As with other tests as part of an application process, the results from the Watson Glaser test will be used alongside other data from your application form and CV like qualifications and experience to make a decision on whether a candidate will be taken forward.
With this in mind, there is no set pass or fail mark - but you should be aiming to get at least 75-80% to be considered.
Are Watson Glaser tests timed?
The current Watson Glaser test (W-GCTA III) is timed at 30 minutes, with 40 questions divided into five sections.
For those needing adjustments, an untimed version is available, too.
How do I get better at Watson Glaser Critical Thinking tests?
The best way to improve with critical thinking in general is to apply it to everyday life as much as possible by reading widely and considering arguments.
To improve specifically at the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking test, it is always a good idea to take a number of practice tests and examine your results to find the areas that you need most work on - so that you can revise and research to improve.
What do I need to complete the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking test?
The Watson Glaser test is administered online, and can be taken at home or at a test centre. There is no specific equipment needed other than access to the internet, and you will be sent a link to complete the test by the recruiter.