The GRE Analytical Writing Measure
The GRE Analytical Writing Measure (AWM) is comprised of two essays: a 45-minute “Present Your Perspective on an Issue” and a 30-minute “Analyze an Argument.” The first essay requires that the test taker construct his/her own argument by taking a position on an issue (students will be able to choose one of two issues from which to write this essay). The second essay requires the test taker to critique another person’s argument (only one argument prompt will be provided). Each essay in the AWM will be scored from 0 – 6, though students will only receive a single score for both essays; individual essay scores will not be reported.
Present Your Perspective on an Issue
For the Perspective on an Issue Essay, you will be given a choice of two prompts, and asked to give your opinion, in essay form, on one of them. The purpose of this portion of the test is to determine how competent you are at writing clear, cohesive essays, as this is an essential skill for most graduate coursework. Your actual opinion on the issue and the content are not nearly as important as the organization of the essay and your writing skills. Your essay will be graded by two readers who will have no knowledge of your identity on a scale of 0-6 in half-point increments. As practice, let's now write an essay, using the Kaplan Five-Step Method for Analytical Writing to guide us. Here's the prompt: Directions: Present your perspective on the issue below, using relevant reasons and/or examples to support your views. "Because people are naturally selfish and lazy, community service should be mandated for all citizens in the United States." Step 1 – Take the issue apart The first step towards writing an effective essay is breaking the issue down to its component parts. First, identify the topic of the issue. The topic is the broad subject matter. Second, pinpoint the scope, or what specific aspect of the topic you will be dealing with. Next, identify what the conclusion, or main idea, of the prompt is. Then, locate the evidence used to support the conclusion. Finally, think about what assumptions the author of the prompt has made. An assumption is a piece of evidence that is not explicitly stated, but that must be true in order for the argument to hold water. Take a few minutes to break this issue apart yourself, and then compare your answers to ours.
and how you’re going to conclude. • What arguments could be marshaled for or against mandating community service?
At this point you should start thinking about outside knowledge. Take a side! After a careful preponderance of the evidence. Take a couple of minutes to decide what you want to say in: • The opening paragraph or introduction
. On the flipside. it’s time to organize the structure of your essay. What do you know about the issue that could be used in support of the argument? Maybe you’ve studied law or sociology or psychology or read an article on community service and you can think of some great reasons why this program should be implemented.Topic – community service in the United States Scope – whether it should be mandated Conclusion – community service should be mandated Evidence – people are naturally lazy and selfish Assumptions – There are many assumptions that the author has made. you might be able to conjure up some pretty good reasons why it shouldn’t. • Community service is desirable. Step 2 – Select the points you will make Now that you have broken down the argument to make it more manageable. Decide how you feel about the issue. Your list may differ from ours a little bit. the author feels that it must be federally mandated because people are too lazy and selfish to perform community service voluntarily. Think about what the best order for listing and supporting your pieces of evidence is. and from that point on. of the pros and cons of the situation. • What is the argument for mandating community service?
As we said before. • Mandating community service would overcome lazy and selfish propensities. but here are the assumptions that we have identified. Step 3 – Organize Once you’ve weighed all the evidence and taken a side. you can select the points that you will make. what do you think? Are you for the plan or against it? Or maybe you believe that the program would be acceptable with some modifications. don't waver. • Most people do not perform community service now.
Phrases like “I believe”. so you want them to be as strong and clear as possible. Be forceful.
As a basis of comparison. the better it will be. Numerous citizens already maintain two or more jobs. sometimes working in excess of eighty hours per
. coercion is an extreme measure that would ultimately prove unsuccessful. but also unconstitutional and unenforceable. As you write. There are several things that you can do to make your writing compelling. The more forceful your essay is. silly mistakes.• •
The middle paragraphs (one point per paragraph) The final paragraph
Step 4 – Write your essay Now that you’ve done all of the preliminary and organizational work. the more authoritative your writing will be. Verbs of action carry more weight than the passive voice does. Benchmark 6 – Outstanding Community service should not be mandated for all citizens of the United States. The beginning and end of your essay are usually what stands out in the graders’ minds. every member would participate in activities that promote the welfare of others. Constantly saying “I believe” sounds like you are qualifying your writing. misspellings. so you can see how you're coming along. Avoid needless self-reference. Don’t be vague. Avoid the passive voice. You don't want to lose any points for typos. The grader already knows that this essay is meant to be a reflection of your views. On the other hand. Many Americans do not have the resources requisite for the endeavor. Although in a utopian society. we have provided examples of essays with rankings of 6 and 4. or clumsy grammar that could be easily corrected in a second read. you’re ready to write your essay.
Step 5 – Proofread Once you have written your essay. keep some things in mind that will make your essay a powerful piece of prose: • • Start out and conclude with strong statements. or “It is my opinion that” are redundant. it will be perceived as hedging. The concept is not only unreasonable. The more specific you are. proofread it carefully. if your writing is ambivalent. and that is the impression that you are aiming for.
and therefore need all of the help that they can get. logical manner. they must somehow be forced to contribute to society. and diction and vocabulary are strong and expressive. Many of these organizations perform vital functions for society. These people lack the time to complete even minimal extraneous functions. demanding citizens to participate in any activity is unconstitutional. A vast expansion of bureaucracy would be necessary in order to track the community service activities of all citizens. The author introduces and expounds upon. and error-free. as well as its citizens as individuals. The individuals in question will also benefit from the services that they perform. and pulls the three critiques together into a coherent analysis of the prompt. people are truly selfish and lazy. However. and society as a whole will benefit. their time and efforts will be well-spent helping others. Finally. Kaplan’s Grading Commentary: This essay is well-organized and incisively argued. as is argued. as most will not do so on their own. This expansion of bureaucracy. Mandating community service for all citizens would ultimately prove to be a fruitless undertaking. instead of into. would only serve to withdraw time and monetary resources from those that the plan intends to benefit. The writing is clean. The rewards that they will reap will compensate for the fact that they do not receive monetary
. The authority to require any person to take part in any activity was not included in the document. Sentence structure is varied. and the toll it would demand upon the participants. supposing it is possible. Benchmark 4 – Adequate Mandating community service for all of the citizens of the United States is an excellent idea. the expense involved. and one that has been long in coming. three distinct and valid critiques of the plan to mandate community service. Even if it were feasible to circumvent legal issues and to implement such a requirement. and is therefore not the prerogative of the government. There is no doubt that the United States needs more volunteer workers. Requiring community service would be as unenforceable as it would be unreasonable. would be counterproductive. if their natural proclivities can be overcome by legislation. communities in need. as it would draw resources away from. the architects of the United States Constitution carefully delineated the power granted to Congress. If. Nearly every volunteer organization complains about lack of manpower.week. in a clear. In order to prevent the federal government from becoming dictatorial. This plan should be implemented as soon as possible in order to benefit the country as a whole. in addition to their familial and personal obligations. concise.
Rather than giving your particular opinion on the subject at hand.payment for their work. An afternoon spent aiding others is far more pleasing. and in tandem. but not extraordinary. to get you on the road to comfort with the Method. it is essential to break the argument down. you are simply discussing whether the argument is logically composed. In order for them to be stimulated. Kaplan’s Grading Commentary: The writer mentions only two valid arguments. Vocabulary is passable. The components of the argument individually. Here's the argument that you will be analyzing: Directions: Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. this modus operandi will become second nature to you. the lessons should reflect subject matter that will be of use to the students in their adult lives. trigonometry. such as geometry. than an afternoon spent watching television or in a shopping mall. Furthermore. If a program serves only to benefit both the participants and society as a whole. This will help you to have a clearer idea of what you are dealing with. and does not develop them fully. you will be presented with a short argument to evaluate.
Analyze an Argument
For the Analyze an Argument essay. Step One of the Kaplan Five-Step Method is a
. Let's start practicing now. The best way to approach this undertaking is to use the Kaplan Five-Step Method for Analytical Writing. and calculus should no longer be required courses for high school students. While it is error-free and does conform to the conventions of standard English. Helping others is a satisfying feeling. there is no reason not to implement it. Dropping advanced mathematics courses from the curriculum will therefore improve the quality of the education that today's high school students are receiving. The following letter to the editor was published in a Parent-Teacher Association newsletter: Advanced mathematics. The writing is not superior.
Step 1 – Take the issue apart In order to get a handle on what can be an intimidating writing task. it is not complex or particularly forceful. Students at the high school level need to be constantly stimulated by their studies. With practice. their studies must consist of topics that are of personal relevance to their own lives. and how to best approach it. earn this essay a four. in the long run.
An assumption is a piece of evidence that is not explicitly stated. • Mathematics will not be of use to students in adulthood. Assumptions – There are many assumptions that the author has made. locate the argument's conclusion. Here is the list that we have come up with. First. Think about how you would make your case in dealing with each of the assumptions. • Mathematics is not relevant to students' lives. identify the topic and scope. Try doing this on your own for the argument above. • To be stimulated. • Studies should reflect subjects that will be of use to students in their adult lives. or do they need substantiating? Decide which ones you find to be most worthy of consideration. Jot down your ideas in shorthand for easy reference. you should have a pretty tight grip on the subject at hand. coursework must reflect students' lives. Topic – high school education Scope – whether advanced mathematics should be required coursework for high school students Conclusion – advanced mathematics should not be required for high school students Evidence • High school students need to be stimulated. The points that you should be considering should be strongly linked to the author's assumptions.
. Then. so you can move on to the second of the five steps. The topic is the subject of discussion. and the scope is the range of discussion on that topic. you can compare our answers to these questions to your own to see how you did. • Stimulating or useful coursework is essential to quality education. which will hopefully be similar to your own. but something that must be true for the argument to make sense.great way to do just that. you help yourself to get a grip on the task. pinpoint any assumptions that the author has made in constructing the argument. By asking yourself a few key questions. Are they valid? Can they stand on their own. and which you think you could argue most convincingly. pin down what evidence the author uses to plead his case. Then. Step 2 – Select the points you will make The second step of the Kaplan Method is to select the points that you want to make in your essay. Finally. or the main point that the author seeks to establish. By now. After that.
As a basis of comparison. Avoid any structures. and what do you want to leave until later on? Jot down quickly what you would like to say in your: • Introduction • Middle paragraphs (one point per paragraph) • Conclusion Step 4 – Write your essay Once you have completed organizing your thoughts. When you write rapidly. There is no evidence. more information about the conjectures of the author is necessary. the reasoning behind the argument is specious. Benchmark 6 – Outstanding At first blush. This may have been the experience of the author. The author of the letter makes several assumptions. Being that the letter
. but it is not necessarily that of the students. Also. In addition to all of the grammar rules.Step 3 – Organize How do you want to organize the essay? Which points would you like to bring up first. however. you are ready to write your essay. there are a few ways to make your essay more effective. such as the passive voice. The first rationale the author gives for abandoning advanced mathematics requirements is that high school students must be stimulated by their studies. or a "5" and a "6". that shelving advanced mathematics requirements for high school students would be a foregone conclusion. so be sure that you give yourself a few minutes at the closing stages of the task to proofread. Keep in mind as you are doing so that conforming to the standards of written English is just as important as the analysis that you have conducted. you risk making minor mistakes of the sort that can be easily spotted and fixed during a final rereading. In order to substantiate the assertion. but it is absolutely essential to the process. according to the logic of the author of the letter. which may or may not be true. are particularly strong. it would seem. Picking up on typos and other such faults can often make the difference between a "4" and a "5". that high school students are not enthused by math. which are most notable in the graders' minds. You don't want to lose points off of an incisive scrutiny because you are not giving enough attention to the writing itself. we have provided examples of essays with rankings of 6 and 4. Step 5 – Proofread Many people do not leave time at the end for revision. and needless self-reference that detract from the power of your writing. Try to use forceful language. make sure that introductory and concluding statements. However. so you can see how you’re coming along.
and therefore not of the same generation as the students in question. perhaps in the form of a survey. Though the utility of the coursework would be increased. has not offered any data to support the contention that advanced mathematics will not be of use to the students in their careers. the attitude that the writer holds towards mathematics may in fact be diametrically opposed to that of the students. The author has identified three critical flaws in the logic of the letter. The writer of this essay displays a strong command of written English. As such. meticulous grammar. it is probable that the writer was either a parent or an instructor. In order to support the claim. Each of these points is argued in a clear. If we were to extend the author's appeal to all subjects that may not result in concrete occupational skills. However. Chances are that the students will make few allusions during their professional career to any particular novel that they read in high school. Another notion the author incorporates into the case against compulsory mathematics programs is that coursework must reflect topics that will be of use to the students in their adult lives. the author seems to be under the impression that the quality of one's education is based solely on whether it imparts skills that could be used later in life. however. would be needed to gauge more accurately the interests of the students. which is just as valuable as occupational skills. as it demonstrates both the author's analytical and writing skills. The author's argument against obliging high school students to take advanced mathematics courses is greatly weakened by the use of unsubstantiated claims. If the author was able to unearth statistics in his or her favor regarding student interests and the function of mathematics in various professional fields. incisive manner. The author.was published in a Parent-Teacher Association newsletter. the argument would still be vulnerable as it implies that any course that does not promote occupational development is inherently out of place in a high school environment. he or she discounts the notion that knowledge can be valuable for its own sake. but this does not necessarily mean educators should eliminate literature from the curriculum. Benchmark 4 – Adequate
. Finally. with eloquent vocabulary. and forceful expressiveness. Consequently. which is a highly questionable proposition. more information. multifaceted education. secondary education would be reduced to vocational seminars. there is no reason to believe that advanced mathematics will not play a significant role in their adult lives. students would lose the opportunity to receive a well-rounded. Given the technologically advanced society into which the students will be graduating. Kaplan’s Grading Commentary: This essay typifies a "6". the contentions made in the letter would be strengthened.
it is not particularly incisively argued. Since he has not offered any evidence to support the assumptions he has made. If the author wishes to use the stimulation factor in support of his argument he should provide some sort of data that coincides with his reasoning. This letter's line of reasoning is fundamentally lacking. the ability to think in the logical manner that mathematics requires is a skill that carries over well into most other disciplines. although it is not extraordinary. The writer brings up two legitimate critiques of the logic of the letter. physics and the like are highly dependent upon mathematics. Many careers. However. clear. However. and free from errors. such as architecture. It seems to be highly biased – based on the personal experience of the author. he has provided no objective data that support his claims. which would need to be provided in order to strengthen its logic. Furthermore. and then provides no evidence to the contrary. but fails to develop them enough to be up to par with a typical "5" essay. The writer's command of the conventions of writing is unproblematic.The claim that advanced mathematics should be dropped from the high school curriculum cannot stand on its own two feet. The first problematic aspect of the letter's reasoning is that it says that coursework must be interesting to students. Kaplan’s Grading Commentary: This essay is adequate. It does not however.
. They may very well be. we can not follow at face value his recommendation. as the essay is overall smooth. The argument is missing crucial evidence. The author also contends that coursework should prove to be useful in the adult lives of the students. prove that students are not stimulated by mathematics. who was probably not stimulated by mathematics and probably does not use mathematics in his own career. as it is presented in the letter to the editor.