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Writing an Impressive GRE Argument Essay: Main Tips

A Writing Student

GRE is a test required by many universities to enter a Master program. It consists of three parts: verbal, quantitative and, of course, analytical writing. Analytical writing includes two essays: the issue one and the argument one.

Very often students are too fixated on acing the verbal and the math sections that they forget about writing altogether. However, as you might anticipate, I am going to critique this approach in this article. You may be a very talented writer, but it will not guarantee you a perfect score.

There are certain things that graders look for when they evaluate your writing. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of those rules and botch your essay.

Rule #1: Don’t Make up Your Argument

The goal of the argument essay is to critically evaluate and either debunk or support the already existing argument. You do not have to make up your own, as this is not the task at hand.

If you are going to create your own argument, it is a serious digression and misunderstanding of the assignment. If you do this, there is a high likelihood that you are going to get a below satisfactory mark for your efforts.

Just remember – in the argument essay you ALREADY have an argument. Just deal with it. There is no need for unrequested creativity.

Rule # 2: Critique the Evidence, not the Conclusion

The conclusion may be right; it can simply be unsubstantiated. It is a bad idea to attack the conclusion per se; you need to be subtle and academic in this regard. Your task is first of all to pinpoint the fallacies of logic in the evidence. This alone will make the conclusion doubtful. There is no need to negate it directly.

It is a good idea to review the fallacies before writing an argument essay. Of course, it should not be a problem for you if you almost or already hold a Bachelor’s degree, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Rule # 3: Better Disagree

Seriously, even if you find the author’s point extremely compelling, it is better to disagree with it. The issue here is that those arguments have been specifically constructed in a way to have easily identifiable fallacies. In fact, most abound in them. If you decide to side with the author, it will be a bad sign for the graders.

Remember, it is very hard to endorse an argument that is meant to be faulty.

Rule # 4: Start with the Biggest Flaw

What I really mean is – start with the flaw that you can best identify and criticize. For example, if you studied linguistics, you may notice vague vocabulary and explain its function from a language perspective. Basically, you can point out that particular words diminish the potency of the reasoning.

If you are a statistician at heart, you may take note of an insufficient sample size or poor representation. If you have a fundamental comprehension of economics, you may consider the supply-demand issue and its economic repercussions. Use your background knowledge to figure out which point you can bolster in the most effective manner.

Rule # 5: Take Time to Brainstorm

Many students are so scared of the lack of time that they do not take sufficient time to outline their principal thoughts. It seriously hurts the essay structure and often leads to a low score.

That is why it is vital for you to dedicate at least 3-5 minutes to singling out the most prominent flaws in the argument and the best evidence you can provide to underscore them.

Rule # 6: No Need for the Outside Evidence

The easy part about the argument essay is that you do not need to provide any outside evidence to boost your performance. You deal with the already existing evidence, using your logic and reasoning to stress upon its flaws.

You do not need to think of some real life examples. Moreover, it is better not to do it at all, as they can be faulty as well. It is much safer to hypothesize and test the presented evidence than to try and utilize your own.

The only exception is when you agree with the author. In this case, it is crucial that you provide those examples to underpin your viewpoint. Otherwise, your essay will not have any foundation.

Rule # 7: Recognize the Author’s View

Again returning to the necessity of using cautious language, it is essential not to assault the author’s viewpoint. Moreover, in your conclusion paragraph you need to acknowledge it and not negate it altogether.

It is better to say something along the lines – the author’s argument may be true, but as it stands now, it lacks reliable evidence. Who knows, maybe, if we increase the sample size or diversify the polling pool the conclusion will not change. It is important to show appreciate for the author’s attempt and professionalism in dealing with flawed assumptions.

Rule # 8: Simply Write Well

It is by far the most vital aspect of a good GRE argument essay. You may have a sound line of reasoning and impeccable critical thinking skills, but if your ideas are disorganized or abrupt, or if you make grammar and spelling mistakes, you are unlikely to get a 5 or a 6.

Even though in the official recommendations it is stated that minor spelling mistakes are usually forgiven, it can make a big difference in the overall impression of the graders. They may knock your score down a point for those silly errors that, although insignificant, make your reader subconsciously more critical and attentive to the calibre of your writing.

There is a very blurry distinction between a 5 and a 6. Both scores are, of course, excellent. However, getting a 6 can really make you stand out. Watching those small errors, smoothing out transitions and varying sentence length can ensure you achieve that perfect score. 

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