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and Using Cognitive Structures
By asking yourself questions
before, during, and after you read or take class notes, you can help yourself
in a number of ways. Asking the right questions can help you to:
- Identify your goals
and to focus your attention.
- Determine what you
already know (or don't know) and thereby concentrate on getting the information
- Monitor your understanding
and when you don't understand, determine other strategies or get help.
information for better understanding and retrieval.
- Check your work by
asking: "Does this make sense?"
But there's a lot more
to questioning that you need to know. There are approximately six "levels
of cognition" or thinking. You need to understand information at all of
these levels in order to learn and to prepare for tests thoroughly. Shown in
order of least difficult to most challenging, they are:
- Knowledge -
to identify or recall information. Most of the information found in textbooks
is written at the knowledge level-- providing facts and supporting details
(including examples and some applications). Matching, true-false and many
multiple choice test questions are written at this level.
You show that you
have obtained this knowledge when you answer the questions:
- Who, what, when,
- Define a term.
- Describe a process.
- to organize and select facts and ideas.
When you summarize information, or are able to make inferences from what you
have read or heard, you are functioning at the comprehension level. Fill-ins,
short-answer, and most multiple choice questions are written at this level.
help to demonstrate your comprehension include:
- Retell in your
- What is the main
- to use facts, rules, principles. Lab and problem-oriented courses such as
math, science, engineering, or psychology as well as occupation-related courses
like computer science or medical assisting, often utilize this level of thinking
both in class and during tests.
help to demonstrate your ability to apply course content might include:
- How is
- How is
- Why is
Most essay tests are
designed to evaluate your understanding at the highest levels of cognition.
However, not all textbooks or lectures teach the information at these levels.
If you want to be fully prepared for tests and exams, you must ask yourself
questions to help yourself to think at these cognitive levels as listed
- Analysis - to
separate a whole into component parts.
assess your ability to analyze include:
to combine ideas to form a new whole.
- What are the parts
or features of
- How does
- What evidence can
you give (list) for
assess your ability to synthesize include:
to develop opinions, judgements, or decisions.
- What would you
- What ideas can
you add to
- How would you create/design
- What might happen
if you combined
- What solutions
would you suggest for
demonstrate your ability to evaluate include:
- Do you agree
- What do you think
- What is most important
- How would you decide
- What criteria would
you use to assess
You can help yourself to
process information at all of these levels of cognition by asking yourself questions
at each of these levels, and by using visual organizers
to help yourself to "see" these kinds of relationships.
Developed by Meg Keeley
Office, Bucks County Community College
With funding from the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education
Designed and Produced by Chimera Studio
Copyright 1997 Bucks
County Community College. All rights reserved.