I’m often asked to help teenagers prepare for their SAT or AP writing. I immediately direct young writers to the two most important tasks: choosing strong verbs and employing varied sentence patterns. (Of course, I also tell them to read How to Write with Flair!)
Once they do this, I tell them that graders look for critical thinking skills. What does this mean, and what does it look like? For a young writer, it means moving beyond the obvious. Obvious refers to easy, apparent, and predictable examples in writing. When answering a question that requires a thesis and examples, go for the most complicated and most hidden.
What you think of first normally represents the least complex and most predictable answer. It often involves something self-referential. Instead, move into examples from history, from current events, from philosophy, from psychology, from theology, and from science.
Place your answer into a different context–beyond your immediate experience–and see what your mind does. Find answers from sources outside of your own limited viewpoint.
It won’t stop with the SAT. Critical thinking and moving beyond the obvious serves us for life.
Think beyond what’s right there and practice looking deeply into a problem. Do this every day for the rest of your life. Take whatever happens to you and put it into a different framework.
For me, I’m learning to shine the light of God’s love and goodness on the problem to see what my mind does.
I have to move beyond the obvious to see the good inside.
How do you move beyond the obvious every day?