Published Argument Essay Prompts for the GRE

دوره: GRE Test- Practice & Study Guide / فصل: GRE Analytical Writing- About the Analytical Writing Measure / درس 6

GRE Test- Practice & Study Guide

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Published Argument Essay Prompts for the GRE

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Get a preview of some published prompts for the Analyze an Argument task on the GRE Analytical Writing measure. They're great for practicing with, and it always helps to be prepared!

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The GRE Argument Essay

Wouldn’t it be great if you got the test questions in advance for every test you took, so you knew exactly what to study? Well, on the GRE Analytical Writing Section, you get exactly that: the GRE test writers publish a list of every single potential essay prompt on the website for anyone to see, But here’s the catch: there are hundreds of possible prompts, and you don’t know which two out of all those hundreds you’ll get on the actual test.

That makes it pretty impractical to try to pre-write your essay, but what you can do is use the prompts to get very good at writing GRE-style essays. Learn what you’re likely to see, and you’ll have a much easier time with whatever prompt you do get, even if you haven’t seen it before.

In this lesson, you’ll do just that for the Analyze an Argument task . This task asks you to evaluate an argument, including the reasons, and evidence used to support the claim. It can be a little counterintuitive to analyze the structure of the argument and not the content of a piece of writing, but that’s what practice is for!

Prompt One

Each prompt will give you some context, a piece of written English, and a task that you’ll have to respond to in your essay. Ready to see your first prompt from the GRE website? Here it is:

‘The following appeared as a letter to the editor from a Central Plaza store owner.

Over the past two years, the number of shoppers in Central Plaza has been steadily decreasing while the popularity of skateboarding has increased dramatically. Many Central Plaza store owners believe that the decrease in their business is due to the number of skateboard users in the plaza. There has also been a dramatic increase in the amount of litter and vandalism throughout the plaza. Thus, we recommend that the city prohibit skateboarding in Central Plaza. If skateboarding is prohibited here, we predict that business in Central Plaza will return to its previously high levels.

Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.’

Remember, you’re not being asked about your own opinion about Central Plaza, and you’re not being asked to evaluate whether anything in the passage is true. Your job is to look at the argument.

If you tried to brainstorm some questions that would need to be answered to evaluate this recommendation, what would you come up with?

Maybe something like…

Do the skateboarders patronize the stores in Central Plaza? If they do, then banning skateboarding might not be good for business at all.

Do customers at Central Plaza complain about the skateboarders? If they do, then a skateboarding ban may be effective. If they don’t, then it probably will not improve business.

What other factors may be affecting business at Central Plaza? Has a new mall opened across the street? Has there been an overall economic downturn in the area?

Do the skateboarders actually cause the litter? It’s reasonable to suggest that cleaning up litter would bring in more customers, but if the skateboarders don’t cause it in the first place, then banning skateboarding is unlikely to help.

You may have other questions too; just make sure they’re addressing the relationship between a skateboarding ban and an increased number of customers. These are the kinds of questions you’ll need to ask if you want to address the argument, not the issue.

Prompt Two

Ready to see another?

‘The following appeared in the summary of a study on headaches suffered by the residents of Mentia.

Salicylates are members of the same chemical family as aspirin, a medicine used to treat headaches. Although many foods are naturally rich in salicylates, for the past several decades, food-processing companies have also been adding salicylates to foods as preservatives. This rise in the commercial use of salicylates has been found to correlate with a steady decline in the average number of headaches reported by participants in our 20-year study. Recently, food-processing companies have found that salicylates can also be used as flavor additives for foods. With this new use for salicylates, we can expect a continued steady decline in the number of headaches suffered by the average citizen of Mentia.

Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.’

What kinds of evidence would you need to evaluate this argument?

What about…

Evidence that salicylates themselves help treat headaches. Being in the same chemical family doesn’t prove they have the same effect.

Evidence about other changes to the average diet in Mentia that could reasonably explain the decline in headaches. Surely, they haven’t all been eating the exact same way for the past 20 years!

Evidence showing whether or not citizens of Mentia eat enough processed foods to get a minimum effective dose of salicylates.

Once again, remember that you’re not being asked whether or not you agree that salicylates can cure headaches; you’re just evaluating what kind of evidence would support the argument.

Prompt Three

One more - here’s a third prompt.

‘The following appeared in a health magazine published in Corpora.

Medical experts say that only one-quarter of Corpora’s citizens meet the current standards for adequate physical fitness, even though 20 years ago, one half of all of Corpora’s citizens met the standards as then defined. But these experts are mistaken when they suggest that spending too much time using computers has caused a decline in fitness. Since overall fitness levels are highest in regions of Corpora where levels of computer ownership are also highest, it’s clear that using computers has not made citizens less physically fit. Instead, as shown by this year’s unusually low expenditures on fitness-related products and services, the recent decline in the economy is most likely the cause, and fitness levels will improve when the economy does.

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 these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.’

What assumptions do you think this argument is making?

Maybe you said something like…

The assumption that high computer ownership necessarily correlates with high computer use.

The assumption that the recent low expenditures on fitness are necessarily caused by a struggling economy - what if people are simply doing the kinds of workouts that don’t require a lot of equipment, like jogging on the street?

The assumption that current computer use necessarily reflects computer use over the past 20 years - remember that the passage is making an argument about changes over the past two decades, but it only uses current data on computer use.

Again, your personal opinion on computer use and physical activity isn’t relevant here. The task is to analyze the argument, not the issue.

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you got a preview of what kinds of things you’ll see on the Analyze an Argument essay on the GRE. These prompts don’t ask you to give your own opinion on an issue. Instead, your job is to analyze some aspect of the author’s argument, describe how the argument fits together, and respond to a prompt about the argument’s structure.

All the potential argument essay prompts are available on the GRE website for you to practice with. There are way too many to even think about writing an essay for each one and memorizing them all, but the list does give you unlimited practice material, and that always helps on a test like the GRE!

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