Provincial Examinations

Cognitive Levels

The following three cognitive levels are based on a modified version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Bloom et al., 1956). Bloom's taxonomy describes six cognitive categories: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. For ease of classification, the six cognitive domains have been collapsed into three.


Knowledge is defined as including those behaviours and test situations that emphasize the remembering, either by recognition or recall, of ideas, material, or phenomena. Incorporated at this level is knowledge of terminology, specific facts (dates, events, persons, etc.), conventions, classifications and categories, criteria, methods of inquiry, principles and generalizations, theories and structures.

Understanding and Application

Understanding refers to responses that represent a comprehension of the literal message contained in a communication. This means that the student is able to translate, interpret or extrapolate. Interpretation involves the reordering of ideas (inferences, generalizations, or summaries). Extrapolation includes estimating or predicting based on an understanding of trends or tendencies.

Application requires the student to apply an appropriate abstraction (theory, principle, idea, method) to a new situation.

Questions at the understanding and application level subsume those at the knowledge level.

Higher Mental Processes

Included at this thought level are the processes of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Analysis involves the ability to recognize unstated assumptions, to distinguish facts from hypotheses, to distinguish conclusions from statements that support them, to recognize which facts or assumptions are essential to a main thesis or to the argument in support of that thesis, and to distinguish cause-effect relationships from other sequential relationships.

Synthesis involves the production of a unique communication, the ability to propose ways of testing hypotheses, the ability to design an experiment, the ability to formulate and modify hypotheses, and the ability to make generalizations.

Evaluation is defined as the making of judgments about the value of ideas, solutions, and methods. It involves the use of criteria as well as standards for appraising the extent to which details are accurate, effective, economical, or satisfying. Evaluation involves the ability to apply given criteria to judgments of work done, to indicate logical fallacies in arguments, and to compare major theories and generalizations.

Questions at the higher mental processes level subsume both knowledge and understanding and application levels.