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Nurse Educ Today. 2014 May;34(5):809-14. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2013.08.005. Epub 2013 Aug 27.

Critical thinking skills of undergraduate nursing students: description and demographic predictors.

Author information

  • 1School of Nursing & Midwifery, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia. Electronic address:
  • 2School of Nursing & Midwifery, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.
  • 3Statistical Support Service, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.
  • 4School of Medicine & Public Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan NSW 2308, Australia.



This study investigated the critical thinking skills among undergraduate nursing students in Australia to obtain a profile and determine demographic predictors of critical thinking.


There is universal agreement that being a critical thinker is an outcome requirement for many accreditation and registering nursing bodies. Most studies provide descriptive statistical information about critical thinking skills while some have studied the changes in critical thinking after an intervention. Limited research about factors that predict critical thinking skills is available.


A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted using convenience sampling. Two hundred and sixty-nine students were recruited across three years of an undergraduate programme in 2009. Most students' age ranged from under 20 to 34 years (58%), 87% were female, 91% were Australian and 23% of first and second year students had nursing associated experience external to the university. Data about critical thinking skills were collected via the Health Science Reasoning Test (HSRT). Linear regression analysis investigated the predictors of nursing students' critical thinking skills.


The students in third year had a profile of critical thinking skills comparable with HSRT norms. Year of study predicted higher critical thinking scores for all domains (p<0.001) except the subscale, analysis. Nationality predicted higher scores for total CT skill scores (p<0.001) and subscales, inductive (p=0.001) and deductive reasoning (p=0.001). Nursing associated experience predicted higher scores for the subscale, analysis (p<0.001). Age and gender were not predictive. However, these demographic predictors only accounted for a small variance obtained for the domains of CT skills.


An understanding of factors that predict nursing students' CT skills is required. Despite this study finding a number of significant predictors of nursing students' CT skills, there are others yet to be understood. Future research is recommended exploring explicit CT instructional approaches and nursing students' CT skills.

© 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Critical thinking; Health Science Reasoning Test; Measurement of critical thinking; Undergraduate nursing students

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