TO ME........all critical thinking entails is being able to apply what you know in the right order. Sort of like......growing up, getting engaged, getting married, then having babies kind of critical thinking. That's a basic analogy to use for example only.
Another example would be to finish one grade level at a time.....in order to arrive at one's educational goal. You can't jump to "C" without first accomplishing "A" then "B" because that's just the sequence outline for how to do things in many areas of life.
Another example: The farmer toils the soil....prepares it for seeding. Then, plants the seeds......keeps the soil watered just right.......removes the weeds as they grow around the plants....then waaaaalaaaaah......the plant reaches maturity and is able to be picked for eating.
Another example: A child is learning to ride a bike for the first time. Now.....some kids learn by "trial and error" because they are in too much of a hurry to slow down and learn a "less painful" way. A child who wants to use his head (critical pathway) would first begin to build his confidence by riding a bike with training wheels on it. Once he feels confident riding with trainers on his bike, he tells his parent(s) to remove the training wheels. Once the training wheels come off, the child is assisted by his parent as he climbs on the two wheel bike and the parent then helps him get a good start. Once the parent sees the child is stable on the bike, the parent let's go. The child is riding the bike....for awhile....then out of his excitement that he is finally riding the bike, he loses his focus on the proper steps.......staying focused once you get the bike rolling. So.....we all know what happens next.....the child falls off the bike.....gets his first "bike bruise". Does he quit? No.....he gets back on that bike until he learns how to ride it.....the right way.
Now.....it's okay to screw up on critical thinking when you aren't working with a human life........but, when you are working with a human life, you want to.....no.....you NEED to get it right the first time. So.......if you don't know what you are doing.....GRAB someone who does.
When taking the critical thinking test, or the NCLEX exam.....the first thing to do is think through things in a sequential order......for when there is ORDER to things......you'll find things run so much more smoothly.
THINK THROUGH EACH SCENARIO VERY CAREFULLY......answering the question in order of what you do first to assure the patient is okay.
THINK "CPR" steps.....order of doing things.....and the rationale for doing each step first. Hope this generalized explanation clarifies how to think critically when a human life is at stake. I wish you all the best in passing your test.