Think Differently: Part II


In my last blog I described how you might use the technique of thinking differently to different your essay examples from other test-takers in order to raise your scores. In this blog I’ll discuss how you can prepare to do that successfully.


Let’s face it. Woodrow Wilson and Chip Kelly may not be the first names that come to mind when you think of leaders. That’s part of what makes them good choices. The names that come to mind quickly are likely to come to the minds of others quickly as well. But if the answers we want are hard to come up with, how do we get to them within the constraints of a timed test?


The answer is to come up with a series of possible examples before the test. Without knowing what prompt you will be given, that seems impossible. However, most topics and stories have wide applicability. Having a set of things I know well and can discuss easily gives me some choices when the prompt is revealed rather than forcing me to go with the obvious choices.


For example, here are three non-traditional essay topics I know a good deal about and can discuss easily:


-          The Presidency of Andrew Johnson

-          Marbury v. Madison

-          The US Men’s National Team in the 2014 World Cup


Not every example will fit every prompt, but here are three sample prompts I’ve pulled from and how I might apply my examples.


  1. “Are snap judgments better than decisions to which people give a lot of thought?”
  1. Snap judgments are not better because John Marshall’s careful thoughtful decision was able to create a system of judicial review without upsetting the executive branch
  2. Snap judgments are better because as the US Men’s National Team showed, teams that can make decisions on instinct are able to move forward before their opponents can adapt.
  1. “Is it better to care deeply about something or to remain emotionally detached?”
  1. It is better to remain emotionally detached as shown by Andrew Johnson’s struggles as president, because he followed his personal feelings about how African-Americans should be treated after the Civil War rather than considering how the nation could best move forward.
  2. It is better to care deeply about something because as the USMNT showed in the World Cup, even when there is disappointment in the end, the ride is much sweeter.
  1. “Can people who are not famous be better role models than people who are famous?”
    1. People who are not famous can be better role models because they are subject to less scrutiny. For instance, Andrew Johnson the tailor may have been a great role model for young boys in Tennessee, but as President intense scrutiny revealed his dislike for federal recognition of former slaves as citizens.
    2. People who are famous can be better role models because they can bring visibility to a cause. Tim Howard’s advocacy for Tourette Syndrome has brought about much more understanding about the disease than if Tim were not famous.


Those are just a few examples, but I hope they’re a good start to get you thinking about this topic.


Next time, I’ll help you think about how to start building up your own list of potential essay topics.