Young Black woman, finger to face, eyes narrowed, looking left, grey backdrop

6 Ways to Develop Critical Analysis Skills for the Classroom

Critical thinking and analysis are skills you'll use throughout your life. Here’s how to hone them to improve your academic and professional experience.

Developing complex analytical skills is crucial to lifelong learning and problem-solving. Critical thinking helps you take data from what’s in front of you, sort through it, and analyze potential outcomes. As students leave high school and pursue higher education, trades, and careers, they need these abilities to think logically in various situations. Improving your ability to think on your feet will help you excel in your college classes, jobs, and daily life. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to develop the analytical part of your brain for more prowess in and out of the classroom. Here are six ways to get started!

1. Question everything

If you’ve spent a few minutes with a five-year-old, you know they’re full of endless questions about how the world around them works. Adopt the same attitude and ask questions about anything to get to the root of every problem. If you’re in class and something is unclear, don’t be afraid to ask your teacher or professor to explain in more detail. View documentaries and dig deeper by independently researching the topic at hand. Also, ask those with experience in different areas any questions you can think of that clarify a point and broaden your knowledge.

2. Learn how to catch AI mistakes

New advances in artificial intelligence are creating exciting opportunities for many careers. However, computers can’t (and won’t) replace human workers everywhere. Computer bots lack the critical thinking skills humans bring to their career positions. Researchers specifically point to AI’s inherent biases and penchant for making things up when data isn’t present. AI needs a human element to analyze output to ensure the accuracy of the information (at least for now). That’s why you’ll develop better analytical skills when you push yourself to pay attention to the flaws in AI processes.

Related: A New Learning Ethos: What Does the Future of AI Look Like for Education?

3. Analyze your sources

Embrace higher-order thinking by looking closely at every source you use for information. For example, a study by a cereal company that states cereal is “the best thing you can eat for breakfast” might be biased. On the other hand, if an independent study backed by a reputable institution states the same thing, it might be valid. Take the time to track down who funded the study and question whether there are any biases in the research methods or data analysis. Digging into potential conflicts of interest ensures you’ll find valid research with as little prejudice present as possible.

4. Put in more effort with history

There’s an old saying that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Take the time to dig into the history of something you know little about. For example, your teacher might host a New Year’s celebration in the classroom. You can prepare by learning about how the tradition of celebrating a new year started in Babylon over 4,000 years ago. Then bring this knowledge to class for overall richer academic experiences for you and your peers. Expand your mind regularly by digging into history and seeing how it applies to modern times.

Related: Timeline of Important Events in Black History

5. Gather opposing viewpoints

Many social issues have several viewpoints on a topic. Always take the time to read the opposing views and any research to back them up. When writing essays and creating a thesis, the best way to prove it is to also explain what the other side has to say and what evidence both sides have to bring to the table. Looking at a wide range of thoughts expands your mind and makes you more empathetic to others. When you better understand why someone believes what they do, you can apply all evidence to your decision-making and opinions.

6. Debate with others

A recent study on education examined the benefits of students engaging in debate. The results showed that ninth-grade students participating in academic discourse saw improvement in reading, analysis, and argumentation skills, while the farthest-behind students saw a 68% improvement in ELA reading abilities. Learning to defend your points and the thought processes to make a good argument requires taking time to study the topic and fully understand all viewpoints. To strengthen these skills, you could join the debate club, find teachers and friends willing to discuss topics in a more casual setting, or give speeches in a class, during a club meeting, or at an event. These are all great ways to develop similar skills early on before taking speech and debate classes in college.

Related: Why Model UN Is the Perfect High School Extracurricular

Like any new habit or skill you wish to develop, the more you work on the analytical part of your brain, the more complex your thinking will become. Participate in discussions in class, attend lectures outside the classroom, and study topics until you feel comfortable speaking about them among your peers.

There are so many skills you can develop when you set your mind to it! Start learning how to boost your abilities with Our Best Advice on Building Important Skills as a Student.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Carolina Jacobs

Carolina Jacobs is a Managing Editor at


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Bri'Yana Brown-Dunn

Bri'Yana Brown-Dunn

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me gain interest in many colleges/universities and many scholarships. I would say the most helpful thing CollegeXpress has done for me is sending me emails that tell me certain types of colleges are interested in me as well as emails about scholarships that I can look at and possibly apply for.

Sonny Harris

Sonny Harris

College Student

For the entire year before college, I spent a lot of time deeply considering what major I wanted to go into and how to fund my higher education. After a lot of research, I came across CollegeXpress, which helped me ultimately find a ton of scholarships for which I could apply—and some of which I received! If it weren’t for CollegeXpress, I may not have found those scholarships as they didn't appear on any other scholarship search forum. Additionally, I learned more about the options I had been considering for my major through CollegeXpress’s resources. In the end, I chose to major in Computer Science, as it seemed best suited to me and the careers in the field seemed enjoyable, and I've never been more excited to move into my future! Ultimately, I want to thank CollegeXpress for offering their services. I received enough financial aid in scholarships to fund my entire freshman year of college and even got some money refunded which I used to purchase a new laptop, and I bought all of the books I needed for the semester!

Heather McCarty

Heather McCarty

High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress has helped me with the college application process. The tips and tricks for important essays were so helpful. I also gained useful knowledge about college life. Even though I’m fully online, CollegeXpress has helped me develop a sense of how college is in person. The experiences from college students that were featured on their Instagram page have shown the good, the bad, and the “secret” life on campus from a reliable perspective. Not to mention, they relieved my feelings of anxiety about the workload. I can now understand how it can be stressful, but it takes self-control and willpower to get assignments completed on time and with quality.



High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me by opening my eyes to new opportunities. I learned about such easy ways to get financial help to achieve my dreams while also learning about myself and who I truly am. I know this isn't a very long explanation of what CollegeXpress has done for me, but nonetheless, I believe it's crucial to how I developed as a person throughout my time as a college student.

Jada Bohanon

Jada Bohanon

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me find scholarships for the colleges I applied to. It was very hard for me to find scholarships in the beginning that I was qualified for. My teachers recommended this website to find some, and not only did I find some scholarships but I also got to look into some schools I hadn’t heard of before. I was very happy to have discovered this website, especially with the coronavirus spreading all over as I can’t really go visit many colleges.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Millikin University

Decatur, IL