UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Critical Thinking entrance test

Applications to The Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate for the Humanities (UPCH) involves a ‘Critical Thinking’ entrance test. Before taking it, we recommend that you read the following guidelines.

After completing the practice tests, view our sample answers to check how well you did.

Why a Critical Thinking test?

We recognise that UPC students come from a variety of academic, educational and cultural backgrounds.

This is why the UPCH Critical Thinking test does not assess your knowledge or practice of critical thinking. Instead, it’s used to identify candidates who can think critically.

These are students who can intellectually engage with ideas to develop and support their arguments. This approach to studying is vital to success on the UPCH.

What is the UPCH Critical Thinking test?

The UPCH Critical Thinking entrance test consists of one passage, followed by 10 questions marked out of one, two, three or four points. There is a maximum of 30 marks in this test.

A first set of questions assess your ability to understand the text. This includes being able to:

  • comprehend vocabulary within the context of the passage
  • paraphrase
  • summarise
  • recognise the theme and the main points of the text.

A second set of questions test your ability to analyse the text. This includes being able to:

  • recognise how it’s structured and what arguments are used
  • identify any assumptions, flaws, or logical errors
  • recognise signs of bias or the author’s viewpoint.

The final set of questions assess your ability to respond to the passage. You’ll need to use the passage to present a personal argument. These questions will ask you to support your idea with arguments and relevant examples.

How can I prepare for the Critical Thinking test?

Essential Critical Thinking skills

There are three levels of difficulty in a Critical Thinking entrance test.

You should revise the following Critical Thinking skills and make sure you understand at least three highlighted terms at each level.

Level one

These are simple questions based on reading comprehension. Although not difficult, you should read the questions carefully. Questions may require you to:

  • find the conclusion(s), themes, topics and examples in the passage
  • paraphrase
  • summarise
  • explain
  • cite.

Level two

These questions relate to your ability to support your argument. This could be about the author’s position in the passage or your own opinions. You should read the text carefully and think your answer through before writing. For example, you might have to:

  • identify arguments or assumptions in the passage
  • give a counter-argument to the passage
  • develop your own argument and support it with relevant examples
  • show your ability to consider arguments that differ to your own opinion and to analyse bias and generalisations.

Level three

A few questions will test your abstract thinking or ask you to discuss the main idea(s) in the passage. This is to assess how complex an argument you can understand, build and present. For some, these are the most challenging types of question, but for others they are the most interesting and inspiring! You will be assessed on your ability to:

  • build an argument supported by relevant examples rather than personal opinion
  • be convincing and use rhetoric with skill
  • show expertise or showcase your own knowledge.

Five tips before taking your test

1. The focus of this test is on thought rather than your grammatical accuracy and vocabulary. However, correct grammar and strong vocabulary will help you express yourself better and advance your answers' complexity. Make sure you write to your highest standard from the start as this will improve your mark.

2. You should become familiar with simple reading comprehension terms, which you can look up in dictionaries and online. These include:

  • conclusion
  • paradox
  • inference
  • premise
  • argument and counter-argument
  • fallacy
  • generalisation
  • paraphrase.

3. You should read challenging texts in English as often as possible; these can be from:

  • international news
  • books
  • essays
  • fiction
  • non-fiction.

They can be on a variety of topics:

  • ethical
  • political
  • historical
  • geographical
  • environmental
  • socio-economic
  • scientific
  • artistic
  • or any other!

Focus on articles from named experts who comment on news, or write about their own fields rather than factual articles. 

4. To think critically is to read actively. When you read, try to answer questions like:

  • ‘What’s the topic?'
  • 'What’s the purpose of the text?'
  • 'What are the main arguments/ideas?'
  • 'What support is given for these arguments/ ideas?'
  • 'What conclusion(s) are drawn? Do I agree?’ 

Keep a reading journal, where you can put your positive and negative critiques.

5. Take part in debates and discussions in English with friends and teachers. Train yourself in finding on-the-spot arguments to support your opinions and practice voicing them confidently to yourself and then to others. For example, if you agree with an economist’s or a philosopher's viewpoint, you should be able to explain why.