Military and Defense Critical Thinking Inventory (MDCTI)

Military and Defense Critical Thinking Inventory (MDCTI)

Insight Assessment Military and Defense Critical Thinking Inventory (MDCTI) Measure what matters: decision-making skills and mindset Sample report image showing group performance on Overall critical thinking Brown paper background with a strip of paper torn to reveal the words PREVIEW
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The Military and Defense Critical Thinking Inventory (MDCTI) precisely targets those core critical thinking skills, the disciplines of mind and the personal attributes regarded as essential for leadership responsibilities at every level. Use the MDCTI for applicant and candidate evaluation, learning outcomes assessment, and to evaluate the effectiveness of PME.

MDCTI Overview

In 2013 critical thinking was specifically identified as one of the six Desired Leadership Attributes for officers (CJCS CM-0166-13) and in 2015 critical thinking was included in the DLAs for enlisted (CJCSI 1805.01B). The development of critical thinking skills and mindset attributes has become a priority for PME. And, it makes the objective assessment of those skills and attributes a necessity.  The MDCTI was developed in response to the growing realization, even before the memoranda from the CJCS, that effective leadership and problem solving required the very skills and attributes that comprise strong critical thinking.

The science of learning assessment tells us that the valid and objective measurement of skills and mindset attributes demands questions that engage a person’s reasoning skills and address the person’s values, intentions, and beliefs. Working with the advice and support of leaders and experts, civilian and military, retired and active, of the US Air Force, US Marine Corps, US Army, US Navy and Joint Special Operations, the MDCTI was built upon that assessment science. This two-part instrument targets core critical thinking skills and key personal attributes associated with successfully engaging complex and novel problems and making thoughtful decisions about what to believe and what to do.

MDCTI Reports on Skills and Mindset

Together the sixteen scales on the MDCTI provide a comprehensive profile of the core reasoning skills, reasoning habits of mind, and style of the test taker.

Because these skills and mental disciplines can be strengthened and refined with training and practice, the MDCTI can be used in educational programs to aid in evaluating candidates, predicting success, measuring progress, evaluating programs, summarizing gains, and benchmarking.

Assessment Format

The topics used in the MDCTI questions are military and defense related; however, the questions themselves target thinking, rather than content knowledge. The mindset items use the familiar agree-disagree format. The skills questions are initiated with scenarios of varying complexity across a range of topics. Sufficient information is presented to enable the test-taker to reason to the best answer from among the choices provided.  Thus individuals with or without specific experience or training in those particular topic areas are neither advantaged nor disadvantaged.

Test Administration

The MDCTI is administered in 90 minutes either through our encrypted on-line testing system. Individual scores and group scores are reported.

Contact Us

Whether you want to evaluate training program effectiveness, or assess the critical thinking of applicants, it is important to use valid and reliable instruments.  Contact us to discuss your assessment goals.

The Military and Defense Critical Thinking Inventory (MDCTI) is a two-part scientifically developed measure of cognitive ability that evaluates the core reasoning skills and personal attributes associated with successful leadership decision making.

MDCTI Part 1 assesses ten mental disciplines and attributes relevant to the expression of thought and to one’s style of interaction in decision making and professional contexts. Part 1 uses the familiar “Agree – Disagree” format; and it can be completed comfortably in less than 30 minutes on-line.

Results are reported for each test-taker on all ten disciplines and attributes assessed by Part 1. First the scale is named and described. Then the individual’s score is presented using one of three tags – typically these are “Strongly Manifested,” “Inconsistent,” or “Not Manifested.” To assist in the interpretation of the results, a further characterization of the general tendencies or preferences of individuals within each category is then displayed.

The disciplines addressed by Part 1 of the MDCTI include: Communicative Confidence, Professional Confidence, Peer Expression, Teamwork, Directness, Intellectual Integrity Mental Focus, Mental Rigor, Foresight, and Cognitive Maturity.

MDCTI Part 2 is an objective measure of the core reasoning skills used in thoughtful decision making. Part 2 can be completed in less than 60 minutes on-line. Success on Part 2 demands the sustained application of thinking skills, focus and effort in an environment free from distractions. The questions on Part 2 present scenarios of varying complexity across a range of topics. Sufficient information is presented to enable the test-taker to reason to the best answer from among the choices provided.

High scores on Part 2 indicate the consistently correct application of one’s skills in analysis, interpretation, inference, evaluation, and explanation. Part 2 was designed and calibrated originally for mid-level and senior level officers and for government and industry professionals with comparable levels of authority and responsibility.  It has been used successfully with senior enlisted personnel and civilian employees whose responsibilities demand successful reasoning and decision making.

The MDCTI Part 2 reports an Overall score and scores on five more specific reasoning skills: Analysis, Inference, Evaluation, Deduction and Induction. The overall score and scores on each skill scales of Part 2 are reported as numerical results and as one of the categorical results “Not Manifested”  “Moderate,” “Strong,” or “Superior.”

Attributes Evaluated on MDCTI Part 1

Mental Focus

Mental focus is the discipline or habit of being diligent, systematic, task-oriented, organized, and clear-headed. A positive score indicates a person who endeavors to stay on task and approach problems and learning in systematic, focused, organized, and timely way. Mental focus is valuable because it directs attention to the duties and responsibilities of the task at hand.

Intellectual Integrity

Intellectual integrity is the discipline of striving to be thorough and honest to learn the truth or to reach the best decision possible in a given situation. A person with intellectual integrity has a driving desire to follow reasons and evidence courageously wherever they may lead. Individuals who strongly manifest intellectual integrity value objectivity, evidence-based decision making, and the courageous, fair-minded, and complete pursuit of the best possible knowledge in any given situation

Mental Rigor

Mental rigor is the discipline to work hard in an effort to analyze, interpret and achieve a deep understanding of complex material. Individuals who strongly manifest mental rigor are willing to engage difficult material and to work hard to analyze complicated situations and problems. They display a desire for learning, and a concern to achieve a deep understanding of events and their causes.


Foresight is the habit of approaching problems with a view toward anticipating consequences and outcomes. A foresightful person values clarity and the accurate interpretation of complex problem situations. Individuals who strongly manifest foresight value getting the problem right, understanding the reasons pro and con, and projecting the likely outcomes of various options.

Professional Confidence

Professional confidence is the self-assurance felt by newly assigned, enrolled, hired or newly promoted individuals regarding their readiness to handle the stress, competitiveness, vocabulary, workload, instructional or orientation methods, and related complexities associated with their new role. Individuals who strongly manifest professional confidence have a positive sense of efficacy in their professional role.

Cognitive Maturity

Cognitive maturity indicates an awareness that there may be multiple potential perspectives on any given situation, problem, proposal or issue. A person who strongly manifests cognitive maturity endeavors to take this into consideration when making important decisions. This person is likely to move forward when an expeditious decision is required, to hold off making a decision if there is time to give the matter fuller consideration, or to reconsider decisions if new evidence emerges.

Communicative Confidence

Communicative confidence measures confidence in oral and written communication and assesses attitudes about technical writing. Individuals who strongly manifest communicative confidence believe that they have the ability to lead groups through the presentation of oral arguments, to read well, and to write effectively about analyses and opinions.


Teamwork describes a style of interacting that may be collaborative, competitive or a mix of both depending on what is called for in a given situation. Teamwork scores fall into three categories: The “Consistent Collaborator” style may be well suited for professional responsibilities requiring diplomacy and compromise, such as interest based negotiation and arbitration. The “Lone Competitor” style may be well suited to highly competitive practice settings including potentially confrontational responsibilities. The “Situational Competitor or Collaborator” is comfortable with collaborative effort and with individual competition as well.  This style is most effective when working within a collaborative group charged with competing effectively against other groups.

Peer Expression

Expression describes a style of interacting with peers that may be quietly observational, expressively performing, or a mix of both depending on context. Expression scores fall into three categories: The “Quiet Observer” prefers to stay in the background and observe others even in social situations with peers.  The “Expressive Performer” tends to be highly demonstrative and expressive, particularly when with their peers. The “Situational Observer or Performer” may present as a quiet observer or as an expressive performer depending on the context. They are comfortable letting others do the talking or, if the occasion demands, being the one who presents information, explanations and analyses.


Directness describes a style of behaving and speaking in relationship to questions or pressure from peers or superiors aimed at seeking their approval, or forthrightly declaring one’s views, or a mix of both depending on the situation.  Directness scores fall into three categories: The “Approval Seeker” tends to present to peers, supervisors and others as being highly agreeable, even if he or she must exaggerate positive characteristics and conceal weaknesses to do so. A “Forthright Declarer” prefers to describe matters exactly as he or she sees them, to speak bluntly, occasionally to the point of painful honesty, and to make decisions with little concern for whether or not others would approve or agree. “Situationally Direct” individuals may exhibit forthrightness or may withhold their true opinions depending on the situation.

Core Reasoning and Critical Thinking Skills Evaluated on MDCTI Part 2

Reasoning Skills Overall

The Reasoning Skills Overall score describes overall strength in using reasoning to form reflective judgments about what to believe or what to do. To score well overall, the test taker must excel in the sustained, focused and integrated application of core thinking skills measured on this test, including analysis, interpretation, inference, evaluation, explanation, induction and deduction. The Overall score predicts the capacity for success in educational or workplace settings which demand reasoned decision making and thoughtful problem solving.


Analytical skills are used to identify assumptions, reasons, themes, and the evidence used in making arguments or offering explanations. Analytical skills enable us to consider all the key elements in any given situation, and to determine how those elements relate to one another. People with strong analytical skills notice important patterns and details.  People use analysis to gather the most relevant information from spoken language, documents, signs, charts, graphs, and diagrams.


Inference skills enable us to draw conclusions from reasons, evidence, observations, experiences, or our values and beliefs.  Using Inference, we can predict the most likely consequences of the options we may be considering. Inference enables us to see the logical consequences of the assumptions we may be making. Sound inferences rely on accurate information. People with strong inference skills draw logical or highly reliable conclusions using all forms of analogical, probabilistic, empirical, and mathematical reasoning.


Evaluative reasoning skills enable us to assess the credibility of sources of information and the claims they make.  We use these skills to determine the strength or weakness of arguments.  Applying evaluation skills we can judge the quality of analyses, interpretations, explanations, inferences, options, opinions, beliefs, ideas, proposals, and decisions.  Strong explanation skills can support high-quality evaluation by providing the evidence, reasons, methods, criteria, or assumptions behind the claims made and the conclusions reached. 


Deductive reasoning is rigorously logical and clear cut. Deductive skills are used whenever we determine the precise logical consequences of a given set of rules, conditions, beliefs, values, policies, principles, procedures, or terminology. Deductive reasoning is deciding what to believe or what to do in precisely defined contexts that rely on strict rules and logic.  Deductive validity results in a conclusion which absolutely cannot be false, if the assumptions or premises from which we started all are true. Deductive validity leaves no room for uncertainty. That is, unless we decide to change the very meanings of our words or the grammar of our language.


Inductive reasoning relies on estimating likely outcomes. Decision making in contexts of uncertainty relies on inductive reasoning. Inductive decisions can be based on analogies, case studies, prior experience, statistical analyses, simulations, hypotheticals, trusted testimony, and the patterns we may recognize in a set of events, experiences, symptoms or behaviors. Inductive reasoning always leaves open the possibility, however remote, that a highly probable conclusion might be mistaken. Although it does not yield certainty, inductive reasoning can provide a solid basis for confidence in our conclusions and a reasonable basis for action.

The MDCTI has been designed to deliver high quality objective metrics on the strengths and weaknesses of key aspects of thinking

 MDCTI reports deliver individual and group results in a presentation ready format.   Each report includes a wide range of statistical and demographic information about individuals and/or test-taker groups. Test-taker scores and group summaries are presented with interpretative analysis by Insight Assessment measurement scientists.

The MDCTI, Part 1, measures and reports on an array of mental disciplines:  Communicative Confidence, Professional Confidence, Expression, Teamwork, Directness, Intellectual Integrity Mental Focus, Mental Rigor, Foresight, and Cognitive Maturity.  The MDCTI, Part 2, measures and reports on an array of reasoning skill scale scores: Overall Reasoning Skills, Analysis, Inference, Evaluation, Induction and Deduction.

As a qualified purchaser, we offer the option of purchasing a preview of the assessment experience.

A preview provides you with one or more opportunities to view and experience the assessment from the perspective of the individual being assessed and to see the reporting options.

Your account representative will set up your preview of the instrument on mobile devices or on computers. The preview includes the profile page, an example of the assessment itself, and an example of the individual report that will be provided at completion of the assessment.

Each preview also includes a digital copy of the user manual and resource guide for the specific instrument you are viewing. User manuals provide:

  • a brief description of each metric being assessed by the instrument;
  • a description of how to interpret both individual and group assessment results;
  • a discussion of validity and reliability for the measures;
  • all necessary information about administration of the assessment;
  • many additional resources that we hope you will find useful for designing your assessment project.

Contact us to order a preview now, or receive your preview when you place your first order for assessments.


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