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'Jeopardy!' champ Arthur Chu tells us how to beat the SATs

arthur_chu_on_jeopardy Arthur Chu won nearly $300,000 during his 'Jeopardy!' winning streak.
Photo credit: Jeopardy!

Arthur Chu amazed and infuriated an equal number of “Jeopardy!” fans this spring when his unique approach to the game led him to win nearly $300,000 over the course of 11 games.

Chu’s style of play was unusually aggressive and involved what many commentators referred to as “game theory,” which incorporated tactics like buzzing in for questions he did not know the answers to and betting $5 on Daily Doubles simply to prevent his fellow contestants from scoring. “I knew there was a lot of backlash with other high-profile people who used this method had won on the show,” he says. “Anytime anyone has done anything that makes the show harder to watch for the viewer, there would be backlash.”

As we watched Chu’s historic run, we began to wonder if his methods could be applied to tests like the SAT. He shares these tips with students.


Look for patterns

“I actually taught SAT prep a few years ago,” says Chu. The trick to mastering the exam is to study past exams to get a feel for the patterns the test-makers tend to follow. “With reading comprehension, it’s possible to do well on the questions without actually reading the relevant passage,” he points out. “When you see certain words, you know you can expect a certain answer. ... You can kind of tell that if an answer choice is too opinionated and is passing a value judgement, that it is not going to be the right choice,” he continues.

Test-takers should keep in mind that the educators that write the questions are striving to be as balanced as possible, and any question that seems to harshly criticize a character or historical event is likely incorrect, he says.

The writing section is simpler than you think

Chu says there is no need to be intimidated by this section. “If I were teaching the SATs now, I would never teach how to write a perfect literary essay," he says. "But you can teach students how to write an essay that will score well.”

Be conscious of all of your choices

“Game theory is making choices,” says Chu. “I would say that it’s important for students to think about the stakes. A lot of people psych themselves out when it comes to the SAT. They think of the test as an all-important thing. But a game [like ‘Jeopardy!’] is like a test in that it’s being created by an institution that has a goal to achieve.”

It’s about repetition

“The big message is that the SAT doesn’t test how smart you are, it tests how good you are at taking a test,” Chu notes.

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

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