A review of the theoretical literature suggests three rival approaches to critical thinking: informal logic (e.g. D'Angelo, 1971; Ennis, 1987; Scriven, 1976), centred on generalizable cognitive abilities; epistemological (e.g. McPeck, 1981; Moon, 2008; Paul & Elder, 2016), centred on acquiring disciplinary knowledge and a relativist worldview; and critical pedagogy (e.g. Benesch, 2001; Canagarajah, 2005; Giroux, 1994), centred on neo-Marxist social transformation. This qualitative study employed deductive and inductive coding strategies (Pingel, 2010; Saldan͂a, 2016) to determine the extent to which these three critical thinking approaches were evidenced in exercises labelled as critical thinking in two popular English for Academic Purposes (EAP) textbooks. The textbook analysis revealed three major findings: the abilities targeted were frequently inconsistent with those abilities identified in the theoretical literature, the importance of subject-specific background knowledge was undermined, and there was a lack of concern for social transformation. The study concluded by offering several implications.