What Is an Analytical Skill?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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.

Some standardized tests are designed to ensure children have reaching a certain level of analytical ability.
Some standardized tests are designed to ensure children have reaching a certain level of analytical ability.

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.

Doctors must use analytical skills almost constantly to collect information about a patient, make a diagnosis and prescribe proper treatment.
Doctors must use analytical skills almost constantly to collect information about a patient, make a diagnosis and prescribe proper treatment.

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.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@turquoise-- We might never become as good as Sherlock Holmes, but we can get better at it with exercises. There are so many different exercises you can do to improve your analytical skills and they don't all require a lot of beforehand knowledge. For example, reading a lot and writing stories is a great way to develop analytical skills. So are puzzles, word games, strategy games and math exercises.

Something else you can do to easily improve this skill is to strengthen observational skills but focus and observing the things around you at greater frequency. We often walk around and do things without really paying attention to what's around us. Making the effort to actually notice and think about them, or to make inferences about them can be very helpful for analytical skills. Try these in your free time.


When I think of analytical skills and deductive reasoning, I immediately think of the fictional character, detective Sherlock Holmes. He is an expert when it comes to deductive reasoning. He can take small details, analyze the and reach larger conclusions. It's amazing and I wish I had such good analytical skills. But I don't know if it's possible for a real person to reach that level.


Analytical skills are extremely important and I think that this skill has far greater use than we realize. We tend to think of very specific jobs that may require analysis, like political and military leaders, engineers, doctors, etc. But the ability to reason about a given situation and understand it is helpful with so many other things. It can actually make day to day life much easier.

Despite it being so important though, we are just expected to have this skill or somehow develop it on our own. I think it's possible to build our analytical sills but it requires practice and effort. It doesn't happen in a day. Sadly, school curriculum doesn't concentrate on this skill enough.

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