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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 you need.
- Monitor your understanding and when you don't understand, determine
other strategies or get help.
- "Chunk" 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:
Comprehension - to organize and select facts and ideas.
- Who, what, when, where, how?
- Define a term.
- Describe a process.
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.
Questions that help to demonstrate your comprehension include:
Application - 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.
- Retell in your own words
- What is the main idea of
Questions that help to demonstrate your ability to apply course content
- How is
an example of
- 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 below:
- Analysis - to separate a whole into component parts.
Questions that assess your ability to analyze include:
Synthesis - to combine ideas to form a new whole.
- What are the parts or features of
- How does
- What evidence can you give (list) for
Questions that assess your ability to synthesize include:
Evaluation - to develop opinions, judgements, or decisions.
- What would you predict/infer from
- What ideas can you add to
- How would you create/design a new
- What might happen if you combined
- What solutions would you suggest for
Questions that demonstrate your ability to evaluate include:
- Do you agree
- What do you think about
- What is most important
- How would you decide about
- 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.
this document as a Word 97 file
the free Microsoft Word Viewer
Developed by Meg Keeley
Office, Bucks County Community College
With funding from the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied
Technology Education Act
Designed and Produced by Chimera Studio
Copyright 1997 Bucks County Community College. All rights