The following is a sample prompt, similar to the prompts you will encounter on the GRE. Carefully read the directions and write your essay using the strategies outlined previously. After you have written your essay, read the graded sample essays that follow. You can compare your essay to the samples to get a sense of how your essay stacks up. You should also compare the samples to one another to understand better what the GRE readers are looking for. Finally, try to show your essay to an English professor or other qualified person for an evaluation, like one of Chegg’s online GRE tutors. Remember that many different essays can earn high scores.
Tips: Use a word processor with the spell-checker and grammar checker turned off. You may cut, copy, and paste parts of your essay. Take a few minutes to plan your response and write an outline before you begin your essay. In your assessment, analyze the line of reasoning used in the argument. Consider what, if any, questionable assumptions underlie the reasoning and how well any evidence given supports the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of additional evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes would make the conclusion more logically sound, and what additional information might be needed to better evaluate the argument. Note that you are NOT being asked to present your views on the subject.
Directions: You have 30 minutes to read the prompt below and write an evaluation of the argument. An evaluation of any other topic will earn a score of zero.
Prompt: “The following appeared in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper: “‘Too much emphasis is placed on the development of math skills in high school. Many students who are discouraged by the difficulty of the content turn away from schoolwork merely because they lack basic math skills. But practice questions and content review on the Internet provide an important alternative for students at this crucial stage in their education, an alternative that the school board should not reject merely because of the expense involved. After all, many studies attest to the value of using Internet-based math review. Thus, allowing students to practice basic math skills and review relevant math content on the Internet can only make students more eager to study and learn math. Therefore, the school board should encourage schools to purchase computers and permit high school students to access the Internet.’”
Argument Task Sample Essay: Score of 6
The following essay received a score of 6 because it correctly identifies and supports its position, discusses the structure of the argument, and contains compelling logic and persuasive examples. Any errors are minor and do not affect the logic of the essay.
The argument is not persuasive for several reasons. It contains unexamined assumptions, fails to sufficiently address the issue of cost, and fails to consider potentially negative unintended consequences.
The argument begins by stating that, “Too much emphasis is placed on the development of math skills in high school.” It then goes on to discuss a major expenditure that could only serve to place emphasis on math skills as educators seek to justify the expense of new equipment by focusing more energy and time on math. Furthermore, the author of the argument must be assuming that the students at this particular school will have access to the same Internet-based math review that was included in the studies that were cited. Additionally, the studies refer to “review” which may or may not be synonymous with “basic skill” acquisition.
In addition, the argument fails to make a valid comparison between the current methods of math instruction and the Internet method that is proposed. The argument states only that the Internet is an “important alternative” and neglects to provide any level of description of current methods.
Because the argument absolutely lacks even the most rudimentary cost-benefit analysis, it should not be considered valid. The expenditure should be justified by increased levels of achievement by students, or by increased efficiency, or both. There is simply insufficient evidence upon which the reader can base a decision.
The argument also ignores the fact that there are many distractions on the Internet as well as a large volume of content, including math review content, that may be unedited, unfiltered, and incorrect. The distractions alone should give one pause. At best, Internet access in the schools would provide a whole new level of supervision challenges for the faculty and staff. Students could easily be spending time communicating with each other, playing games, or viewing material that is completely irrelevant and perhaps even harmful to their development process.
All in all, the argument lacks merit due to its lack of completeness and its failure to provide a strong connection between the evidence provided and its conclusion.
Argument Task Sample Essay: Score of 4
The following essay received a score of 4 because it shows an adequate grasp of the argument and is reasonably clear. However, it includes some errors in logic and construction that reduce its overall clarity.
The argument presented lacks any serious support, and fails to consider some problems that might come up if high school students use the Internet in school. The argument does not address any financial issues that might arise from encouraging schools to purchase more computers.
First, because the argument doesn’t say whether the Internet use would be monitored in any way, it is likely that students would abuse the privilege. Teenagers have too much access to the Internet in the home and would most likely just use the Internet at school to chat with friends and look at information that is not appropriate, like games or movies. This would not help a student to learn anything about math.
Also, the argument does not cover the additional cost of putting computers in the schools. Although computers are relatively inexpensive these days, a high school would probably need to install many computers in order to give students access to the Internet. There is no evidence provided to support any additional cost to the schools. Many schools are facing budget crunches right now, and may not be able to afford computers or be able to pay for the cost of Internet access.
Finally, if high school students had access to the Internet in school, it might take away from their other studies. There is no gurantee that students would learn the right math skills or if they would be able to spend enough time away from the computer to focus on other classes. Therefore, I believe that the argument is not sufficient and does not completely answer all of the questions necessary to make a good decision.
Argument Task Sample Essay: Score of 2
The following essay received a score of 2 because it lacks analysis of the argument, is vague, and contains pervasive structural and grammatical errors.
I support the argument that the Internet should be available to high schoolers, especially math students. Despite that putting computers into high schools will be expensive, it is a good investment. Not enough high school students focus on math, and being able to access the Internet and be exposed to different learning tools and practice tests will be a good thing.
Also, the school board should encourage schools to purchase computers, because many students don’t have computers at home. So, they can’t get online and learn important math skills. If they could access the Internet at school, in the classroom even, there time would be spent more effectively learning. Because math is an important skill to have—even if some people would disagree – being able to learn more math more easily should be supported.
The argument is a good one that the school board should encourage high schools to purchase computers and permit high schoolers to access the Internet. There are many good reasons for it.
Dulan, Steven W. McGraw-Hill’s GRE: Graduate Record Examination General Test, 2014 Edition. Copyright © 2013 by The McGraw-Hill Education, LLC. All rights reserved.
The GRE Argument Essay does not need to be difficult. It certainly does not need to inordinately tax you before you even begin the test itself (remember both the Argument and the Issue come before the verbal and math sections).
To make sure you finish the essays with confidence—and not a racing pulse and heavy breathing—you want to learn what to do, and what not to do, for the GRE Argument Essay.
1. Do not agree with the argument
The Argument essay gets its name not only from the fact that you must analyze an argument, but also because you must provide your own argument. Specifically, you are arguing how the argument is terrible (in a scholastic manner, of course!) and filled with logical fallacies. You must in no way agree with the argument. It is there for you to skewer with your logical and rhetorical abilities.
2. Don’t belabor the introduction
The intro should be short and sweet. Many forget this and instead try to craft an eloquent and attention-grabbing first sentence. Do not be seduced by such a temptation! Instead, be as dry and formulaic as possible (the Issue statement, it should be noted, allows for a little more flair).
3. Follow a rigid organizational scheme
Organization is key to scoring well on the GRE AWA. The good news is that the Argument has an even more cookie-cutter template than the Issue. Essentially, you want to open with a quick intro stating how the paragraph is weak for a variety of reasons. You can mention those issues, before elaborating on them in the body paragraphs.
Begin each body paragraph with a topic sentence that states the specific fallacy you are attacking. The second sentence should provide your reasoning. The third sentence can elaborate on the second sentence by providing specific examples. Your fourth sentence can be something like, “Had the argument taken into account…”, “Had the argument not assumed X…then….”
The final sentence can recap the paragraph (think of it as a mini-conclusion that is paragraph-specific).
4. Find the right balance
The GRE argument paragraph is a bar of Swiss cheese, the holes gaping logical fallacies. It is easy to get carried away and try to enumerate all of the logical inconsistencies in the paragraph. Doing so, however, detracts from your ability to develop your criticism of any one logical inconsistency or questionable assumption.
At the same time, you could just as easily pick out one of these glaring assumptions and write a really long paragraph, describing why an assumption is unwarranted and ways to make the argument stronger.
The key is finding the right balance between highlighting specific fallacies and developing a thoughtful and sustained (but not too sustained) dismantling of one of the holes in the bar of Swiss cheese.
The magical number is three. Make sure you find three separate logical fallacies in the paragraph. These fallacies of course should be the ones that you feel detract most from the legitimacy of the argument.
5. Brainstorm/outline before you write
Simply rushing through the paragraph and writing whatever comes to mind is probably not going to end well. Take a few minutes to digest what the argument is saying. Often, one of the most glaring assumptions, the one that the argument really hinges on, might escape you on first reading.
Once you’ve written down a few of the logical fallacies think to yourself how you might develop a sustained attack. One great way is to consider how the argument would have been made stronger had it not assumed X, Y, and Z.
Finally, thinking about what you write before you write will help you score big points for organization—a critical part of your AWA score.
Check out this breakdown of a sample argument essay.