Problem Solving Skills

It is easier to find a solution than to identify a problem

What is Problem Solving Skill?

OECD (2015) defines problem solving as beginning with “recognizing that a problematic situation exists…. It [then] requires the solver to identify the specific problem(s) to be solved, plan and carry out a solution, and monitor and evaluate progress throughout the activity.”

How does Problem Solving Skills help?

Problem solving can be seen either as a skill that can impact other life outcomes, or as a life outcome in its own right (Barry and others, 2017).


A crosssectional study found that complex problem-solving skills predicted job level at a large German automobile firm and was a much stronger predicter than IQ or school grades (Mainert and others, 2015).

Problem Solving Skills Improve Academic Performance

One reason that problem solving is important in child development is that it teaches discernment, helping young people distinguish what is a solvable problem.

Problem Solving Skills build Confidence

Solving problems means making choices. Typically, effective problem-solving skills result in “happier, more confident, and more independent” individuals.

Problem Solving Skills Prepare Students for Future Careers

Children who learn how to solve problems when they are young tend to appreciate lifelong learning. They are curious, motivated, and innovative.

Am I proficient in Problem Solving Skill?

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What does the Problem Solving Skills Test Assess?

1. Solving Problems Survey

Developers: Barkman, S., & Machtmes, K.

This 24-item scale assesses students’s problem-solving ability by examining the frequency of use of the following skills that are needed to engage in problem-solving:

  • Identify/Define the Problem
  • Analyze Possible Causes or Assumptions
  • Identify Possible Solutions
  • Select Best Solution
  • Implement the Solution
  • Evaluate Progress and Revise as Needed

Youth Life Skills Evaluation project at Penn State. Instrument also cited by the CYFAR Life Skills Project at Texas A&M University.


We profusely thank Daniel F. Perkins, Ph.D. Principal Scientist, Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness/ Pennsylvania State University / 402 Marion Building / University Park, for granting permission to use Problem Solving Survey.

Is it possible to learn Problem Solving Skills?

YES, the literature indicates that, as children grow through middle childhood, their development of problem-solving skills can increase as well as change in both ability and process. A mixed-method study from the United Kingdom on the behaviour of children during problem-solving tasks, showed a quantitative increase in meta-cognitive skills and qualitative improvement in the types of monitoring/planning of the problem-solving tasks undertaken by the children (Bryce and Whitebread, 2012).