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1 September 2023

4 minutes read

Acing the GRE Argument Essay

In the GRE argument essay, one of the most important tasks is to identify the assumptions of the argument. Assumptions are unstated premises that the argument depends on. If the assumptions are flawed or unjustified, it weakens the argument.

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Why Assumptions Are Critical

  • Importance of Assumptions in Arguments
    • Assumptions are foundational to arguments, serving as underlying premises.
    • Flawed assumptions can lead to the collapse of the entire argument.
    • Examples include assumptions about cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Crucial Role of Identifying Assumptions
    • Assumptions are often unstated and implicit, easily overlooked.
    • Despite sound logic and evidence, false assumptions can invalidate conclusions.
    • Careful scrutiny of assumptions is necessary for argument evaluation.
  • Assumptions and Generalizations
    • Assumptions often stem from past generalizations or patterns.
    • Changes over time or exceptions may challenge these assumptions.
    • Failure to account for changing circumstances weakens arguments.
  • Causation and Assumptions
    • Assumptions frequently involve causal relationships between events.
    • Correlation doesn’t guarantee causation; other factors could be at play.
    • Identifying unconsidered factors weakens the argument’s validity.
  • Summing Up Assumption’s Significance
    • Assumptions form the bedrock of arguments.
    • Flawed assumptions weaken arguments, rendering conclusions invalid.
    • Analyzing assumptions is pivotal for accurate argument evaluation.

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How to Identify Assumptions

To identify the assumptions in an argument, ask yourself what must be true for the argument to be valid. For example, if the argument claims that a certain action will lead to a particular outcome, ask yourself what must be true for that to happen. The answers to these questions are the assumptions of the argument.

Another way to identify assumptions is to look for gaps in the argument. These are places where the argument jumps from one point to another without fully explaining the connection. Often, there is an unstated assumption that fills this gap.

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Strengthening and Weakening the Argument

Once you have identified the assumptions of the argument, you can discuss how the argument could be strengthened or weakened.

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Strengthening the Argument

To strengthen the argument, you can suggest additional evidence that would support the assumptions. For example, if the argument assumes that a certain condition always leads to a particular outcome, you could suggest additional studies or examples that support this assumption.

You can also strengthen the argument by addressing potential counter-arguments. For example, if the argument is that a certain action will lead to a positive outcome, you could discuss potential negative outcomes and explain why they are unlikely to occur.

Weakening the Argument

To weaken the argument, you can provide evidence that contradicts the assumptions. For example, if the argument assumes that a certain condition always leads to a particular outcome, you could provide examples where this is not the case.

You can also weaken the argument by pointing out alternative explanations for the evidence provided. For example, if the argument provides evidence that a certain action leads to a positive outcome, you could suggest alternative reasons for this outcome that are not addressed in the argument.

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The Structure of a Great GRE Argument Essay

The structure of your essay is crucial for presenting your analysis clearly and persuasively. A well-structured essay will help your reader follow your reasoning and understand your conclusions.

Introduction

The introduction should provide a brief summary of the argument and state your thesis. Your thesis should be a clear statement of what you believe to be the strengths and/or weaknesses of the argument.

Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph should focus on one aspect of the argument, such as an assumption, a piece of evidence, or a counter-argument. Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that states the main point of the paragraph. Then, provide your analysis of this aspect of the argument, explaining why it is important and how it affects the overall argument.

The conclusion should summarize your analysis and state your final assessment of the argument. Discuss whether the argument is persuasive and what could be done to strengthen it or address its weaknesses.

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Common Pitfalls to Avoid

There are several common mistakes that students make when writing the GRE argument essay. Being aware of these pitfalls can help you avoid them.

  • Analyzing Agreement or Disagreement
    • Analyze the argument without expressing personal opinion.
    • Relevance of focusing on argument quality, assumptions, evidence, and reasoning.
  • Adhering to the Prompt
    • Carefully read and respond to the prompt requirements.
    • Address all specified tasks, such as evaluating assumptions or discussing key questions.
  • Utilizing Specific Examples
    • When discussing argument strengths/weaknesses, offer specific examples.
    • Illustrate the impact of assumptions, evidence, or reasoning with examples.
  • Practicing for Improvement
    • Prepare for GRE argument essay through consistent practice.
    • Write practice essays on sample prompts and seek feedback.
  • Enhancing Analytical Skills
    • Prior to essay writing, practice analyzing arguments.
    • Identify assumptions, evaluate evidence, and explore alternative explanations.
  • Writing Practice Essays
    • Once confident in argument analysis, begin writing practice essays.
    • Employ provided tips to plan, write, and revise essays for improvement.
  • Seeking and Using Feedback
    • Vital to receive feedback for writing skill enhancement.
    • Engage friends, teachers, or online communities for constructive feedback.

Conclusion

The GRE argument essay is a challenging task, but with proper preparation and practice, you can master it. Remember to understand the task, identify the assumptions of the argument, evaluate the evidence, and provide specific examples to support your analysis.

Practice analyzing arguments and writing essays until you feel confident in your abilities. On test day, stay calm, manage your time effectively, and remember the strategies you have learned. Good luck!

FAQs

How many words should the GRE argument essay be?

The GRE argument essay should be between 500-600 words. However, the quality of your analysis is more important than the length of your essay.

Can I use a template for the GRE argument essay?

Yes, using a template can help ensure you cover all the required points in your essay. However, make sure to tailor your essay to the specific argument and prompt.

What should I focus on in the GRE argument essay?

Focus on analyzing the argument, identifying its assumptions, evaluating the evidence, and providing specific examples to support your analysis. Remember to address all parts of the prompt and organize your essay clearly and logically.

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