An analytical skill is the ability to apply logical and critical thinking to information in order to derive more meaning from it or use it to build or deconstruct an argument. Humans start to develop analytical skills very early in their cognitive development and such skills are critical for many professions. Colleges and universities often expect students to have some grounding in analytical skill when they start their educations, and different tracks within an educational setting will focus on the development and fine-tuning of additional skills.
Humans apply analytical skill to problem solving on a regular basis. It requires the ability to reason around a situation. This may require the application of deductive or inductive reasoning, observation, and experience. If a driver's car stops in the middle of the road, for instance, she can use analytical skill to attempt to determine why. She might check for obvious causes like an empty gas tank or a mistake made while shifting gears and work through a decision tree to find out what is wrong.
The development of analytical skill is particularly important for any profession where people are required to acquire and evaluate information. A doctor uses this skill on a daily basis to collect data about a patient, synthesize it, and determine what it means. Likewise, a stock market analyst at a financial firm applies the same type of logic and critical thinking skills to his work. Many of these skills are taught in training as people learn about skills specific to their work, like how to apply statistical analysis to stock market information to generate useful projections.
Children start to develop and explore analytical skills at a very young age. Children in resource-rich environments may start to exhibit logical and critical thinking skills as they understand the world around them. If their parents and teachers encourage them, they can engage in more complex logical thinking. Students typically learn analytical skills in classes like English and science as they learn how to read and engage with texts, set up experiments, and perform other tasks.
If analytical skill education is not provided to a child, she may have difficulty developing these skills later in life. Young children develop very rapidly and lay down a number of neural pathways they will draw upon later in life. If these pathways fail to form, the child will not be able to perform tasks that may come more naturally to peers. Children with cognitive impairments and learning disabilities may also struggle with analytical skill acquisition, even with support from parents, teachers, and family.