Cognitive Skills in the Classroom

by Belinda Howard
12 May 2020
About Cognitive Skills

The Cognitive Skills (CSs) are the fundamental skills that you learn while at school; you’ve been learning them for years without even realising it! Each of the 75 CSs covers a different aspect of the assessable skills you will encounter during your senior studies. They are the words that are used in exam questions, your assignment tasks and the work you do in class. You will use similar Cognitive Skills across all of your subjects: from Maths, to Science, to English, to the Humanities, and Physical Education.

To do well in assessments, it’s important you understand the Cognitive Skills and what they mean. After all, it’s impossible to answer an exam question if you don’t know what it’s asking.

"Analysing" means the same thing in History and Mathematics, but you will have to apply it to different types of information in different subjects. Therefore, understanding how to analyse is a valuable skill that will help you in every subject.

When answering an exam question, you should follow the approach below:

  1. Read the question closely and highlight or underline important information and key words. For example, in a Maths question, this would be words such as "add" or "divide" and the relevant numbers. In an English question, this might be words such as "simile" or "metaphor", so you can identify exactly what you’re looking for in the text.
  2. Identify all Cognitive Skills in the question – sometimes there will be more than one. Circling or underlining the CS will remind you exactly what you’re being asked to do.
  3. Use your knowledge of the Cognitive Skill meanings and steps to formulate your method for answering the question. Following the steps will ensure that you answer the question thoroughly, cover everything that you need to and produce a high-level response.
  4. Self-assess your response using the Cognitive Skill. Always read over your answer to check that you didn’t miss anything and that you’ve understood the CS. Use the self-assessment matrix for the appropriate CSs to ensure you’ve done everything required.

With difficult questions, you may find that sometimes the Cognitive Skills are not explicitly stated and you’ll have to determine the appropriate steps on your own. This is your ultimate goal – to be able to recognise the Cognitive Skills when they are implicitly used in tasks.

How to Effectively Answer a CS Question
  1. Deconstruct question – Pull the question apart to understand what is being asked of you.
  2. Identify CS/CSs - There may be more than one!
  3. Formulate steps based upon CS/CSs in the question - What do you need to do to answer the question?
  4. Self-assess using levels – Use the proficiency scales to assess what level you would achieve based on your response.
Free Cognitive Skill Worksheet

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