One of my life goals is to be on Jeopardy. I don’t have the encyclopedic trivia knowledge of a Ken Jennings or a Brad Rutter, but I like to think that given the right categories on the right night I could win. I stumbled across a Jeopardy fan forum online a few weeks ago and found a game that intrigued me. The game is called Think Differently. The goal is to give a correct answer that as few of the other players will give as possible.
For instance, if asked to name a U.S. President lots of people would likely name Barack Obama or George Washington, making them less than ideal choices. William Harding or John Tyler would be much better answers as they are far less likely to be chosen by many other competitors. The game asks you to do divergent rather than convergent thinking, which many would argue is a better test of intelligence.
Aside from enjoying the game, I was drawn back to thinking about SAT essays. Imagine a prompt that asks you to discuss a leader with big ambitions. Who would you talk about?
Take a minute and think about it and then scroll down.
I hope you didn’t say MLK or Hitler. Unfortunately, the chances are very good that one or both of those men popped into your head, and they certainly fit the category. However, they’re such obvious answers that they are likely to headline thousands of answers. Consciously or not, graders are likely to compare what you have to say about Hitler or MLK about what others are said, and you are very unlikely to have done the best analysis of either man in the thousands of essays that are out there. So I encourage you to think differently.
Instead of MLK and Hitler, what if I discussed Woodrow Wilson and Chip Kelly? Wilson had grand ambitions for the League of Nations in the post-WWI world as a steadying force that might prevent a global conflict. Kelly believed that a fast-paced spread attack could work just as well in the NFL as it had in college football. Both men are leaders with big ambitions and both give you a great opportunity to discuss the themes presented in the prompt. They’re also much less likely to be cited by many other test-takers. Your analysis of Woodrow Wilson or Chip Kelly is very likely to be the best analysis of those leaders that your grader reads all day. By thinking differently you can differentiate yourself, lessen the competition and improve your chances of getting a great score.
Stay tuned for the next blog in this series in which I describe how you can prepare to give unique answers.