The “7 Survival Skills” – Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

The “7 Survival Skills[1],” established by Tony Wagner, contribute to your success at Sheridan College, in your career. These blogs posts are dedicated to explaining how you can gain these skills in and outside the classroom, how they may be positioned as interview questions, and tips on how to effectively respond.

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What is it?

Critical Thinking is the process of actively conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, questioning, and/or evaluating information generated by observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication.

Problem Solving is the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues.

Inside the Classroom

You can gain these skills through direct application of terms and concepts. This can occur during class discussions or activities, case study analysis, individual and group projects, and writing tests or exams.

Outside the Classroom

The most applicable extra-curricular activity to gain problem solving and critical thinking skills are Case Competitions. These competitions provide you with the opportunity to analyze real life scenarios and gain experience similar to projects you may work on in your desired field.

Upcoming opportunity: Pilon School of Business Case Competition

Club opportunity: Pilon School of Business Competition Team

Antoine Sarhan is the President of the PSBCT. He says that case competitions are “the most effective way to showcase classroom knowledge,” problem solving, and analysis skills as they “test how a business manager would react in a real world scenario.” In the future, Sarhan hopes to see the PSBCT grow to help other Sheridan students show creativity and diligent problem solving skills to generate pragmatic solutions to various business problems.

Possible Interview Questions

In an interview, questions pertaining specifically to the job may be asked to gauge the candidate’s problem solving and critical analysis skills, however, the following are some generic questions that could be asked:

  • Tell me about a time when you were working on a team project and things did not go according to your plans. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you managed an unplanned situation you were confronted with.
  • Describe a situation in which you identified a problem and explain how you resolved.
  • Tell about a time when you identified a problem and presented several solutions to your supervisor/team.
  • What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision?
  • Give me an example of a time you had to make a difficult decision. What was the outcome?
  • Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.

How to Answer

  1. Provide specific examples from in-class projects, assignments and discussions, or from volunteer/work experience. More than one can be used, but try to use only the most relevant experience. This should also include why this situation/project arose, and how it fit within your job and the company or class project and what the outcome was.
  2. Provide a step-by-step description of how you used critical analysis skills or solved a problem. This will show the interviewer you understand the whole process of coming to a solution.
    • i.e. “This was the problem. First I asked clarifying questions, then I conducted research on the topic. Next I asked for advice. Then I asked my Network/coworkers/team-mates if they had completed something similar in the past. etc.” Then finally provide the outcome.
  3. Describe how successful you were. This should include feedback you were given, responses from team-members or colleagues, and how you personally felt about your ability.
  4. Describe what did not go well. This should also include what you learned from the experience, and what you would do differently in the future. This shows the interviewer that you learned from your mistakes, and have completed a critical analysis of your own work, and thus have a more in-depth development of critical thinking skills.


Stay tuned for the next blog post: Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence 

[1] Wagner, T. (2014). Tony Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills. Retrieved from

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