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The Thinker's Test
© Dr. Karl Albrecht
If Tom is shorter than Dick, and Harry is taller than Dick,
is Tom taller or shorter than Harry?

Do you find thinking puzzles like this one easy, hard or somewhere in between? However you find them, they can help you assess and improve your practical thinking skills. If you answered that Tom is shorter than Harry, you've just shown your ability at a skill which psychologists call sequential thought.

People who have learned to organize their ideas into sequences or chains of logic can usually reason their way effectively through confused or complicated situations in the business of living.

Are you hungry for mental stimulation? The following Thinker's Test will challenge and exercise a variety of practical thinking skills, so you can identify your strongest ones as well as those that need further development. Before going through the questions, consider these useful strategies: Approach each question with a playful, flexible and exploratory attitude. Draw thinking diagrams — sketches or "models" — to help organize your thoughts. Think out loud. Put your thoughts into words. Use names, labels and verbal relationships to clarify and add structure to your thought processes.

You'll find the answers below, along with a discussion of the various kinds of thinking skills they call forth. (Don't peek at any other answers before you've solved the questions!)

Don't feel discouraged if you haven't managed to get every question right — most people don't. There is no scoring system, so it's more important to think about thinking — and your relative strengths and learning needs — than to wind up with the "right" answer.

Here are the questions:

1. Bob, Carol, Ted, and Alice are sitting around a table discussing their favorite sports. You have some bits of information about each of the people and their favorite sports. Your task is to figure out where each person is sitting and what sport each of them prefers. Use the selectors to help you keep track of your possible answers. (Set each one to "?" to start, and then set them one by one as you figure out the names and sports.) When you're sure of your answers, click the link to check your results.

  Choose Name

Choose Sport
 
Choose Name

Choose Sport
Clues:

a. Bob sits directly across from the jogger.

b. Carol sits to the right of the racquetball player.

c. Alice sits across from Ted.

d. The golfer sits to the left of the tennis player.

e. A man sits on Ted's right.

Choose Name

Choose Sport
  Choose Name

Choose Sport
 

Check Your Answers

 

2. Find the pattern that governs this familiar sequence, and figure out the next letter:
"O, T, T, F, F, S, S, E, ..."

Put your answer in the box, and click the link to check your result.

Check Your Answers

 

3. If three days ago was the day before Friday, what will the day after tomorrow be? (Hint: type the initials of the days of the week in a sequence, and use it as a visual aid.)

Put your answer in the box, and click the link to check your result.

Check Your Answers

 

4. A man needs to transport three items — a wolf, a goat, and a very large cabbage — across a river. His boat is so small that it can only carry him and one of the items across at a time. Clearly, he will have to make a series of crossings. A further restriction is that he must never leave the wolf alone with the goat while he is crossing the river; if he does, the wolf will eat the goat. Also, he must not leave the goat alone with the cabbage, or the goat will eat the cabbage. It is safe to leave the wolf alone with the cabbage. Your task is to figure out: by what series of crossings, and carrying which items, can he get himself and the three items safely to the other side of the river? Use the selectors to help you keep track of where each one is during each crossing. (The column headings "W-G-C" represent "Wolf," "Goat," and "Cabbage" respectively. Set each one to indicate which item he has with him in the boat on each crossing. Double check to make sure your solution meets the rules. When you're sure of your answers, click the link to check your results.

Crossing #What's On
Left Bank?
W - G - C

What's
In the Boat?
W - G - C
What's On
Right Bank?
W - G - C
1 (Over)
2 (Back)
3 (Over)
4 (Back)
5 (Over)
6 (Back)
7 (Over)

 

Check Your Answers

 

5. Six drinking glasses stand in a row, with the first three full of water and the next three empty. By handling and moving only one glass, how can you arrange the six glasses so that no full glass stands next to another full one, and no empty glass stands next to another empty one? Put your answer in the box, and click the link to check your result.

Check Your Answers

 

6. Excavating in England, an archeologist found a Roman coin dated "44 B.C." and bearing a likeness of Julius Caesar. Another archeologist correctly identified the coin as a fake. How did she know? Put your answer in the box, and click the link to check your result.

Check Your Answers

 

7. How can you arrange the numbers from 1 to 9 to form a 3 X 3 square array, such that each row, each column, and the two diagonals will all total exactly 15? Use the selectors below to keep track of your work. Set each one to "?" to start, and then set them one by one as you figure out the numbers and positions. (Hint: choose the center number first.) When you're sure of your answers, click the link to check your results.

 

Check Your Answers

 

8. In five minutes, write down as many unusual uses as you can for a paper clip. Put your answer in the box, and click the link to evaluate your list:

Check Your Answers

 

9. Three playing cards lie face down on the table, in a row. You have some bits of information about the faces and suits of the cards, and their positions. Your task is to associate the face and suit of each card with its position. Use the selectors to help you keep track of your possible answers. (Set each one to "?" to start, and then set them one by one as you figure out the faces and suits.) When you're sure of your answers, click the link to check your results.

We Know That:
a. To the right of the Jack is a Diamond.
b. To the left of the Diamond is a Club.
c. To the right of the Heart is a Jack.
d. To the left of the King is an Ace.

Left

Card:

Suit:

Middle

Card:

Suit:

Right

Card:

Suit:

 

Check Your Answers

 

10. Imagine that you put two pieces of typing paper on your desk with a piece of carbon paper (or tracing paper of some kind) between them, as if you wanted to write something in duplicate. Now, imagine that you fold this assembly in half with the crease running left to right, bringing the lower half back up under the top half. If you write your name on the top half of the top sheet, how many copies will you make, where will they appear (front, back, first sheet, second sheet), and how will they be oriented? Explain your answer in the box, and click the link to check your result.

Check Your Answers