What is the Argument Essay?
Steps to Write a Perfect Score Essay
Step 1: Read and Understand the Argument
The first step to writing a successful Argument Essay is to read the argument carefully and make sure you understand it. Try to identify the main point the author is making, and any supporting evidence or examples they use to make their case.
In surveys, Mason City residents rank water sports (swimming, boating and fishing) among their favorite recreational activities. The Mason River flowing through the city is rarely used for these pursuits, however, and the city park department devotes little of its budget to maintaining riverside recreational facilities. For years there have been complaints from residents about the quality of the river’s water and the river’s smell. In response, the state has recently announced plans to clean up Mason River. The use of the river for water sports is therefore sure to increase. The city government should for that reason devote more money in this year’s budget to riverside recreational facilities.
Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on the assumptions and what the implications are if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
Note: This prompt was taken directly from a previous GRE practice test via www.ets.org/gre.
Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas for the Essay
Once you’ve thoroughly understood the argument, it’s time to start planning your response. Start by brainstorming your ideas and organizing them into an outline. You are allowed to use scratch paper for the GRE, so feel free to write your ideas on paper; however, I recommend typing your ideas in the text box. This way it saves more time when converting the bullet points to paragraphs as a lot of your essay will already be written.
Within the example prompt it asks what the assumptions of the argument are. Therefore, you want to be a detective and dig deep into the argument. You want to ask yourself the question why is this argument flawed? or why should you not believe this argument? Sometimes it is hard to identify the flaws, but just read sentence by sentence and ask yourself what could be wrong with the statements. Let’s pick apart the argument that was given in the example prompt.
List of Assumptions
1. It is assumed that anyone who likes water sports participates in them. This may not be the case; meaning, someone who ranks water sports as their favorite recreation actively may only like to watch it and not actually participate in it. The claim that “water sports is therefore sure to increase” holds true based on this assumption.
2. Any time that there is a survey, you want to ask yourself how accurate is the survey? For example, if they went to the river and surveyed every person that had their bathing suit on, the results would clearly be skewed because those are people that are clearly engaging in some types of water activity. However, if they randomly went to houses in town and asked their feedback on the river, they may have different responses, which would be more accurate.
3. This argument is also assuming that the river quality and small is the only reason that people do not participate in water sports in that river. Maybe it is actually due to the roughness of the water or the lack of parking near the river. Maybe residents would still go to other rivers even if the Mason City River was cleaner due to other factors.
4. In the argument it states “For years there have been complaints from residents about the quality of the river’s water and the river’s smell”; however, it doesn’t indicate if 90% of the residents complain or only 1 person complains every year. This is a huge assumption that the author is making and skews the validity of the argument greatly.
5. Notice that the argument states “The city government should for that reason devote more money in this year’s budget”. It is important to note that the clean-up of the river will also happen this year.
There are so many more assumptions that this argument has; however, above are the most convincing points. Even though there are so many assumptions, you do not need to include them all in your essay, pick the top 3-5 arguments and include them within your essay.
Step 3: Create Paragraphs in Essay Form
Once you have drafted your outline, you will now start to compile your ideas into paragraphs. Your response should include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Typically the GRE essay should be about 300-500 words, but don’t worry too much about quantity as they grade more on content and ideas. However, do keep in mind though, short essays tend to not have well developed ideas.
Structure of Essay:
- In the introduction, you should briefly summarize the argument and state your thesis.
- In the body paragraphs, you should evaluate the argument’s assumptions (in this example), using specific examples and evidence to support your points. This could include facts, statistics, or other relevant information that helps to strengthen your argument.
- When evaluating the argument, be sure to address any potential counterarguments. This shows the graders that you understand both sides of the issue and that you can think critically about the argument.
- Each assumption should be a separate body paragraph. Each bullet point that we created in the brainstorm section can be it’s own body paragraph. Hence, why I mentioned typing the outline as then it will be easy to create a body paragraph out of each bullet point.
- Finally, end your essay with a strong conclusion that summarizes your main points and restates your thesis. This will leave a lasting impression on the graders and reinforce the strength of your argument.
Step 4: Proofread
This is the last step that almost everyone skips; however, it is arguably one of the most important steps. One key concept on the GRE easy grading rubric is spelling, grammar, flow of sentences, and structure of overall essay. Therefore, all these points can be tweaked and fixed within the proofreading stage of writing your essay. I will remind you again: Don’t forget to proofread!
What does a perfect score essay look like?
Below is an essay that scored a 6, which is perfect! Do keep in mind this essay is copied directly how it was written, including any spelling or grammar errors. Prior to reading this essay, I suggest that you pause reading the rest of this blog post and write your own essay based on the given prompt above. This way you can compare your essay to the one below to gauge what score you would receive and what you can do to improve your own writing for test day.
Example Essay Response (Score 6)
While it may be true that the Mason City government ought to devote more money to riverside recreational facilities, this author’s argument does not make a cogent case for increased resources based on river use. It is easy to understand why city residents would want a cleaner river, but this argument is rife with holes and assumptions, and thus, not strong enough to lead to increased funding.
Citing surveys of city residents, the author reports city resident’s love of water sports. It is not clear, however, the scope and validity of that survey. For example, the survey could have asked residents if they prefer using the river for water sports or would like to see a hydroelectric dam built, which may have swayed residents toward river sports. The sample may not have been representative of city residents, asking only those residents who live upon the river. The survey may have been 10 pages long, with 2 questions dedicated to river sports. We just do not know. Unless the survey is fully representative, valid, and reliable, it can not be used to effectively back the author’s argument.
Additionally, the author implies that residents do not use the river for swimming, boating, and fishing, despite their professed interest, because the water is polluted and smelly. While a polluted, smelly river would likely cut down on river sports, a concrete connection between the resident’s lack of river use and the river’s current state is not effectively made. Though there have been complaints, we do not know if there have been numerous complaints from a wide range of people, or perhaps from one or two individuals who made numerous complaints. To strengthen his/her argument, the author would benefit from implementing a normed survey asking a wide range of residents why they do not currently use the river.
Building upon the implication that residents do not use the river due to the quality of the river’s water and the smell, the author suggests that a river clean up will result in increased river usage. If the river’s water quality and smell result from problems which can be cleaned, this may be true. For example, if the decreased water quality and aroma is caused by pollution by factories along the river, this conceivably could be remedied. But if the quality and aroma results from the natural mineral deposits in the water or surrounding rock, this may not be true. There are some bodies of water which emit a strong smell of sulphur due to the geography of the area. This is not something likely to be afffected by a clean-up. Consequently, a river clean up may have no impact upon river usage. Regardless of whether the river’s quality is able to be improved or not, the author does not effectively show a connection between water quality and river usage.
A clean, beautiful, safe river often adds to a city’s property values, leads to increased tourism and revenue from those who come to take advantage of the river, and a better overall quality of life for residents. For these reasons, city government may decide to invest in improving riverside recreational facilities. However, this author’s argument is not likely significantly persuade the city goverment to allocate increased funding.
What must be included in a perfect score essay?
- clearly identifies aspects of the argument relevant to the assigned task and examines them insightfully
- develops ideas cogently, organizes them logically, and connects them with clear transitions
- provides compelling and thorough support for its main points
- conveys ideas fluently and precisely, using effective vocabulary and sentence variety
- demonstrates superior facility with the conventions of standard written English (i.e., grammar, usage and mechanics), but may have minor errors
List of Argument Topics
Each year, ETS (creator of the GRE) complies a list of possible arguments that can be used for the GRE Exam. However, what is so great about this, is they post them for the test takers! I have included the resource for the list of the GRE argument topics and I suggest that you read through them prior to test day. You can also use this pool of prompts for practice writing an essay. I have had serval of my students tell me that the exact essay that they used to practice was actually on their real GRE exam from using this list.
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