Sample

MCAT Essay Composition

Illlriting
Introduction to
Essay Topic Statements For Writing Practice Essays

Sample Essays
With Commentary

K.E.V.I.E.I/V Speci alizing in MCAT Preparation
@

I[Iriting Sample

Contents
Introduction to MCAT Essay Composition
The MCAT Writing Sample
How to Use This Manual

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What You May Not Know about the MCAT Writing Sample
Origins

What the Writing Sample is Designed to Assess
Topics for Writing Sample Essays

How the Writing Sample is Structured: A Brief Overview
Grading of MCAT Writing Samples
Scoring

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l3
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Description of Point Scale

What Does

All of This Mean?

What You Already Know: Essays
The Writing Assignment
"It is Always Wrong to Lie."
Task One: Explain what you think the statement means.
Task Two: Describe a specific situation in which it might not be wrong to lie. Task Three: Discuss what you think determines whether it is ever wrong to lie

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Preparation for the Writing Sample
Practice

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Contents Essay Topic Statements for Insrructions Writing Practice Essays )< 2l 29 JJ L ilff{Ft." The role of a scientist is to explain the natural world. not a privilege.[. """fifu*mnq[irinrr a bore is to tell everything. 1r lm !m[ fr." rm Th pmsl-. tr mhcr elect them. r "That action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number. statement. ilhe only argument for capital punishment is that 'Justice equals revenge. value. rather than The m.nn >omething will not always reflect its m. 4t 45 49 Freenlom of expression should be absolute. j3 obligation to report the irregular behavior of a coworker to a supervisor. story. not to impart values." . governing 53 ['Ie&l-ih care is a right. t. 51 The :tsponsibility of public education is to teach skills. 89 93 MhEWirE.m n'ho buys pornography harms no one by doing so. rrnited terms of office would make elected officials more accountable to those Goverming with the consent of the governed is more effective than h''u lecree." "fc-rurnalists should always be 37 strictly objective.hu-ruld have a good memory. l1 even in its best state. in every 85 #r ft@Mrd ". lm" Xlll . is but a necessary evil.ns m lle sreatest beilg desire of every individual. values.rm" M. $nm tM inms is unnecessary for making an artistic gj l0l 105 . lilm OmE fo.em"s.ass rnedia have a duty to cover all sides of a news 6t 6s 69 -NI 'A liir.ttl" fT." g1 KirillilXllinnnqg u never justified.s$ an *ffimrrrummfinent.irrz.61 votes election.

"The true test of courage is not to die." Commentary ttl 120 il1." Commentary tzt 122 IV." Commentary r23 125 v." Commentary 132 . notjustice." Commentary tt4 116 u. "The goal ofour legal system should be to administer due process under the law. "The price of something will not always reflect its value. like science." Commentary 126 128 w." Commentary 129 131 WI. "Art. is more process than product. but to live.Contents Sample Essays with Commentary Sample Essays 109 111 113 L "A good citizen votes in every election. "The only argument for capital punishment is that'justice equals revenge'. "That action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

Introduction to MCAT Essay Composition 'rfin Speciahzrng ir MCAT Preparation .

What you may not know about the MCAT Writing Sample Origins The MCAT Writing Sample evolved out of a recommendation in 7973 that a test of written communication skills be required for medical school applicants. Begiruri. The Writing Sample was introduced into the MCAT n 1991 after six years of research and development. The best way to choose a textbook like this is to find out which ones are used by college rhetoric departments.g it 2007. We have designed this manual with the assumption that your writing ability is already good. we recolrunend that you take a writing class or get a textbook to teach yourself. Study that book in conjunction with this manual. preferably a textbook that is used in introductory writing courses at the college level. where its limits are. which administers the MCAT. present ideas cohesively and logically. first-draft composition. This section of the MCAT thus offers information about an applicant that other sections of the test cannot offer. Its purpose was--and still is--to provide admission committees with evidence of an applicant's thinking and written communication skills under timed conditions. beyond his or her powers of recognition and recall. If you feel your writing skills are a problem. we suggest that you find a rhetoric textbook to help you develop your skills of argumentation. which are adequately tested in the science portions of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)." The central thesis expressed in an essay topic statement (or "prompt") establishes the main idea to be developed in the three assigned tasks of the essay. counhy that analytical and writing skills were becoming deficient among students and that committee members should therefore emphasize the importance of these skills in the competitive admissions process. Whatever books you decide you need in addition to this manual. urder what conditions might it be subjective? This is not the same as arguing whether Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . as i t grew increasingly evident to medical school admission committees across the History of the MCAT Writing Sample. and when should it be restrained? To what extent is technology a benefit or a curse? Is good joumalism always strictly objective--and if not. and punctuation consistent with timed. the Writing Sample format was converted from two handwritten essays to two essays typed on a computer keyboard. synthesize concepts and ideas. What the Writing Sample is designed to assess According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). and write clearly following accepted practices of grammat. the thirty-minute essay compositions of the MCAT are designed to assess the applicant's abilities to "develop a central thesis. logical arguments. which is designed specifically with the demands of the MCAT Writing Sample in mind.The MCAT Writing Sample How to use this rnanual This manual is designed to focus 01 the particular requirements of the MCAT Writing Sample and not cn general writing technique. The goal of the MCAT Writing Sample essay is to work toward an understanding of what the topic statement means. syntax. they will not replace the information here. if you feel that your problem lies more in the realm of building sound. and how it can be applied to real situations: When should one's freedom of expression be absolute.

leading necessarily to a conclusion that is consistent with and derived from your original premises). justice). Moke sure that you read the exact wording of ench tssk in the instructions listed after the prompt. history. Essay topics do not address the factual content of science or anything about the medical school application process. the general public via the mass media. each of which express what can be considered as a nbrmative rule: an opinion about an abstract concept (e.. The rules of good writing--including good grammar and punctuation (and good spelling. For medical students. the MCAT Writing Sample assesses your ability to write English clearly. politics. Your ability to synthesize concepts and ideas refers to how well you put thoughts together. No detailed prior knowledge about a topic is necessary to complete the Writing Sample. patients.. capital punishment). art. and those who review grant proposals to fund medical research. which is a measure of the reasonableness and creativity of your thinking.g. those "others" may one day include medical colleagues. your writing becomes difficult for others to understand. Topics for Writing Sample essays The AAMC selects Writing Sample topics from a broad range of subjects: business. The three tasks of every MCAT Writing Sample essay.the thesis expressed in the topic statement is true--which is to say. lvlcAT writing sample essays are not examples of advocacy writing (arguing to support or chalienge a central thesis). or a recommended way of thinking about people and their behavior (e. Finally. ar-nong many others. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review l0 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . censorship. meaning at the minimum no spelling errors that obscure your intended meaning)--are designed to help the communication process. human rights. Therefore.g. violent revolution). without gaps and in an ordered sequence. You are asked to satisfy three tasks pertaining to this topic statement. although a breadth of knowledge and experience about it provides the writer with a greater appreciation for the subtleties of the topic statement and its applicability to real situations. lying. a policy (e. Do not assume that you know specifically what you are being asked to write just because you understand the three tasks in a general sense. You will not be asked to give your reasons for wanting to go to medical school or for becoming a doctor.g. or that involve religion or other emotionally charged issues. democratic govemment). If you do not r.. we recommend that you read from a wide variety of sources and subjects when preparing for the test. and ethics. How the Writing Sample is structured: The Three Tasks MCAT Writing Sample test items consist of topic statements. Clear writing not only exhibits your facility with language and a personal style. it also helps get your thoughts across effectively.rse them properly.. education. This does not mean that you may not talk about religious or emotional issues in your treatment of the topic. Clarity is the hallmark of all good writing and the bedrock of unambiguous communication. art. You will not be asked to write about subjects that are not generally accessible to the average college student. Related to this ability to synthesize concepts and ideas is the ability to present ideas cohesively (meaning that they hold together in a harmonious way) and logically (meaning that they flow smoothly. and more examples. Breadth also gives you more to write about in more interesting ways. but it is never required.g. or an institution (e.

or personal experience--that contradicts the rule in the topic statement. How can the conflict between the original statement as you interpreted it in Task #1 and your counter-example in Task #2 be resolved? How can these two viewpoints be reconciled reasonably and comprehensively. are asked to describe a specific situation in which the topic statement might not be true (i. organization. What ultimately matters is how clear. spelling. or content. Grading of MCAT Writing Samples The most important thing to lq:low about how the MCAT readers grade the essays is that the writing is evaluated holistically. and then so many more for grammar. But also know that your strengths can balance your weaknesses. you are not required by the instructions to write an introductory thesis paragraph at the beginning (or a summarizing paragraph a t the end) of your MCAT Writing Sample essay. Each essay is looked at as a whole. not as an assemblage of pieces. and a proexample to illustrate how you interpret the prompt. a reader of your essay should be able to apply the guideline you have derived to any similar hypothetical situation that he or she might imagine about the topic. a definition of the key term or phrase you will need to develop the central thesis. the MCAT graders expect you to apply what you have developed in the first two tasks to a more general conception of the issue presented by the topic statement. The designers of the Writing Sample believe that an essay is an entirety that should not be separated into its constituent parts for the purposes of grading. an exceptional instance or instances in which the rule that is expressed in universal terms in the prompt might be ignored by reasonable people). you can provide thoughts that further explore the meaning of the topic statement.. or writing teachers. T'hird. You do not get a standard mrmber of points for fulfilling each of the three tasks. You are not required to do all of these things. This method of grading may change under the new computer-based testing format. If your essay is effective and compelling. logical. without advocating one at the expense of the other? In Task #3. though some students choose to do this as a holdover from the way they were taught to write essays in highschool writing classes.rnderlying this view is that the different aspects of writing are so interrelated that essays must be judged on the quality of writing as a whole. Make sure that you do not have any weaknesses that might bring your whole score down.First. especially in terms of its limitations. development. Historically. but Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review lt The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . news reports. What this means for you as a test-taker is that you should think of the essay as a unit. you are asked to define the criterion (a guideline or standard of judgment) that may help establish the conditions under which the rule in the topic statement applies or does not apply. Writing Sample essays have been graded by a group of trained readers who may be experienced writers. fictional works. and we strongly discourage you from trying to define every word in the prompt. Holistic scoring. then it is going to get a good score. You must describe a specific counter-example--taken from Second. you are asked to explain what you think the topic statement means. and reasonable your argument is. You can evaluate your owrl writing by judging how effective it is in those three dimensions and whether you answered all three tasks. because all of the aspects of good writing are present. you the pages of history. Also. and build upon the concepts you started with in Task #1.e. A solid approach to Task #1 combines a paraphrase of the statement. When you have completed this final task. The assumption r. In Task #2. editors.

AAMC has not yet (2007) signaled its intention of altering the number of essar-s in the MCAT Writing Sample or the number of readers who will grade it. Since the essay is a timed exercise. spending a lot of time to defend one side or the other. then the essay is given to a third reader who determines the final score. especially if you consistently make the same ones. Each reader scores the essay using a six-point scale. If any essay you submit is deemed "Not Ratable. This means that you may express any Expressing personal opinions in your essays. The readers are instructed to score each essay on the basis of the writing skills displayed and not to judge the writer's personality. with 6 as the highest score and 1 as the lowest. however. poems. Remember that the three tasks that you are graded on ask you to explain a point of view and then to compare it impartially with the opposing point of view. This is not the place for dropped letters. Scoring Essays are graded in terms of their overall effectiveness. Copyright by The Berkeley Review @ 12 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Length is not a primary concem. it is assumed that you will make some minor mistakes. without advocating either one. your essay must be a written composition that conforms to conventional ideas of a written argument. Good writers. noncapitalized proper nouns. a 2 and a 4). The readers are instructed to be lenient with errors that they judge have been made because of time constraints.. and as long as you support those opinions with strong. if you receive no credit for sharing your opinions. you often have more interesting thoughts about it and can express them more powerfully. Besides. a total of four readers is involved. Both essays must be appropriate for the assignment. Scores are determined by the complexity of thought exhibited in your writing. personal opinions or thoughts that you would like. If the two readers for a single essay assign scores that are more than one point apart (i. and hunt-and-peck finger work at the keyboardl Also. how well your argument holds together. is using time in a way that could lower your score. such as drawings. tend to write more than less skilled writers. Two readers evaluate each essay. and how far you develop your ideas. And since the Writing Sample consists of two essays. This does not mean that they will ignore mistakes. or beliefs. the clarity with which your thoughts are expressed. Each pair of readers is responsible for grading the essay written about only one topic. Readers do not score on any kind of curve or use a standard distribution. Writing in the first person and using personal experiences as examples are both permitted in Writing Sample essays. however. Thus. why ure up valuable time to write them out? On the other hand. if you feel strongly about an issue. Both essays are factored into your grade. a few mistakes are unavoidable and therefore should not have a major impact on your grade. The MCAT graders will not accept alternative (non-essay) forms of exposition. It means only that in a timed exercise. that you be selective about what you write in your essay. you will be scored cn the strength of your writing and not on the slant of your ideas. The MCAT is no place to take unnecessary chances. We recommend. valid written arguments. and you don't want to alienate anybody.e. Each essay is graded on its own merits. An essay must be written in the best typed English you can manage. attitudes. or other bizane experiments. just because it coincides with your opinions about the matter." your letter grade for the Writing Sample will be X. as long as the ideas in your essay are effectively developed.

Two score the first essay and two the second. Major ideas are adequately developed. and depth of thought. depth. 1 A one indicates by its serious deficiencies in organization and development of major ideas that the writer probably did not understand the writing assignment. and they should help to remove ambiguity wherever it clouds a clear understanding of those ideas. The scores of all readers are sumned and can range from 4 to is converted to an alphabetical grade cn an 11-letter low of j to a high of T. complexity of ideas. and complexity of thought. little clarity or complexity. The assignment is treated coherently and major ideas are substantially developed. only worse. Clarity. A two has the same problems as a three. focus refers to the common direction of argumentative intent. The assignment is generally coherently treated and focused. A four shows clarity of thought and may have some depth or complexity. The treatment of the assignment is coherent. Strong control of language is apparent. Depth of analysis. and more errors. Language facility is evident. and complexity of thought. usage. usage. and clarity of expression all add together to constitute what might be called the cognitive or intellectual aspect of the essay. This numerical score scale ranging from a T K L M N o Average P 0 R S T Below Average Above Average Description of the point scale A six shows clarity. The treatment of the writing assignment could have problems with integration or coherence and with insufficient development of major ideas. A five shows clarity of thought with some depth and complexity. or sentence structure that the writer's ideas are hard to follow. but less than in a six. depth. with an adequate control of language. Poor focus.Each Writing Sample is scored by at least four readers. Errors in mechanics. Your words should reveal the complex structures between ideas. depth. or sentence structure are evident. Different combinations of numerical scores contributed by the readers can produce the same alphabetical grade. What does all of this mean? Each score level on the point scale addresses the same criteria of clarity. It is said that the fundamental rule of good manners for a host is to make your guests feel at ease. There may be such excessive numbers of errors in mechanics. complexity. and complexity of thought. the first rule of clearly expressing your ideas as a writer is to make yourself understood to the reader. with some focus. Major ideas may receive scant attention. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 13 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Clarity refers to clearness of expression--the ability to choose the right words for the right task. Your Writing Sample essay is judged by how well you can express good thinking about the essay topic. Coherence refers to the way things cohere or stick together like grains of rice. Do you stay cn the Coherence and focus. A three may have some problems with clarity. and major ideas are well developed. 24. Clarity is the most valued attribute in good essay writing style.

convincing--these are all forms used in essays. All of us. Do you justify your claims by giving reasons or er-idence that support them? Are your I4 Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . when we write an essay or make an argument. You must be able to think clearly--and ." Good argument is the process of asserting thoughts clearly.development. topic or wander off onto tangents? How well does everything you write relate to the main point of the argument? Everything yor-r write should add to that strong development of ideas makes them easier to apply to your argument. Cet rid of that image.1 the MCAT you need to be able to do this within a time constraint. with respect to the MCAT. or make clear. the better you will be at expressing your ideas. and imagine the reader responding conversationally to your arguments. it can only distract you frorn doing your bestl ability to get your thoughts across to others determines not only how in getting what you want and influencing others. lf this sounds intimidating. which clepend . Your successful you are The essay as an imaginary conversation that is written out. the Latin root of the word "argument. Interestingly. Some of us just don't realize that we have these skills. a statement of opinion or position regarding a certain issue. or complaining to yor. whom you may imagir-ie to be a hypercritical. you might fear the reader. Finding the right word and applying proper rules of grammar. spelling. complaining. Facility with language is also important. logic.tporr yo. we think of an essay (at least. already know how to consfruct sophisticated and convincing arguments. The greater your mastery of the written idiom. and punctuation allow iou to be more precise at getting your point across. the kind of essay required of you for the writing sample) as a written argument. Think of your reader as a regular person--a reasonable person like yourseif--and think of your essay as you wouid any presentation of your thoughts. you are only adding confusion and detracting from the ciarity of your argument. The style of arguing found in essays is a foundation of human interaction. we are participating ur a sociai discussion. which means "to prove.' is arguere. assert. thus strengthening it as a whole. and reason. What you already know: Essays cenerally. You practice the art of aigumentation everyday. It defines an important method we all r-se to reiate to one another. parents about how they interfere in your personal life. Can it be developed further in some important way? Can a reader ask himself orherself: "why is this here? what does it mean? what about this other aspect?" If so. character of making arg uments. Don't try to impress the reader with fancy language. regardless of our education or social background. write in your normal tone of voice. you have more work to do. it shouldn't. otherwise. there is always an audience or reader. fault-finding sourpuss. when you make a point. and the better you are at it. Try to anticipate where a reader might have trouble with your arguments. Explaining. or convincing your roommate to watch your TV show instead of his. waiting to punish you witl-r i big red pen. The everyday Hardly a day passes without the need to generate an argument. you might be explaining to a car dealer why he should lower his price.ti ability to think clearly and quickly and to communicate that thinking effectively through language. In argument. the more often you get your own way. but also allows you to form social relationships based on mutual understandug and communication. ask yourself if your idea is somehow deficient. Everything you put on the page should serve a purpose. You must be able to communicate that thinking effectively in good writter-r English.

The MCAT Writing Sample as an exploration of ideas. You must explicitly demonstrate to the reader your reasons for using the evidence you have presented. you should read your essay out loud and listen to your writing. exploring meanings and limitations of that topic and looking at both sidei of the issue. Next is the presentation of evidence and arguments in support of the thesis and against it. and an explanatory resolution. the harder it is for a reader to disagree with you. Logic and reasonableness provide structure to thought as it develops in your mind. Another important source of structure is the standard three-task format required by the designers of the Writing Sample. the main point that is to be argued. an MCAT Writing Sample essay consists of a topic statement with a central thesis. Of equal importance is the framework within which the evidence is presented. Your ear is often the best writing teacher. Now that you understand the basic parts of an argumentative essay. You must ensure that the bearing of your evidence on your arguments is apparent. Boiled down to its bare bones. The MCAT Writing Sample is designed so that you are forced to think flexibly and creatively about a topic. intuition. It is really quite simple. since all you need to do is satisfy the three tasks that the MCAT assigns to you. be sure that it supports your claims for either side and helps to illustrate your contentions as effectively as possible. this feeling arises from the way that most of us were taught to argue through the medium of the essay in high-school and college writing classes-namely. just apply your mental and writing abilities to the exploration of that thesis. And the MCAT does the work of choosing your thesis for you. that they have done poorly in their execution of a writing Sample essay. where "winning the argument" is everything. This is always a valuable experience. lt is not enough merely to present a bit of evidence and then leave it up to the reader to decide how it applies to the thesis. advocacy-style writing. because you know what sounds right. It can be difficult to unleam this habit of thought. you must be concemed with developing clear thoughts and presenting them to your reader. When choosing evidence. because the stronger your evidence. You must also make sure that the reader understands why you think that the evidence is so compelling. To be persuasive. Do not argue toward a conclusion that is either completely for or against the opinion expressed in the topic statement. your supporting evidence for that thesis and for a counter-argument to it. mofe like a "fill-in-the-blank" exercise than a true composition. it is the subject of the composition. you can look at the practicalities of applying what you know to the requirements of the MCAT." Sometimes. because the final product seems "too wishy-washy. students feel Most often. This is a critical stage in the construction of an essay. The thesis states the reason for the essay. The only difference between an MCAT essay and something you might write for a writing class is that your job cn the Writing Sample is to create an argument that explores and balances the various implications of the statement rather than to make an argument one way or the other about the statement's validity. but read the instructions m Copyright O by The Berkeley Review 15 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . good writing must be both logical (meaning that it is consistent and progresses by rules toward a necessary conclusion) and reasonable (meaning that it does not violate cofiunon sense.points clear and easy to understand? hr practice. Read practice essays aloud. or experience). The MCAT provides you with a very specific form to follow in your writing. The closer your evidence is to your point. the stonger the argument. It is not designed to provide you with an opPortunity merely to express your personal opinions about the topic sentence. In writing essays.

the writing sample asks you to interpret a topic statement by exploring your thoughts on what the statement means. This guideline can be stated negatively. but it is a good idea to present something positive that demonstrates occasions where the statement is applicable and why this is so. There are standardized tests where those are the instructions for writing an essay. You continue to define limits to the statement in Task #3. In this second part you are. in effect. you must determine the criterion that defines the range within which the statement generaliy can be applied. as in the second task. the reader has also learned about the q. The simplest approach The first thing to notice about this assignment is that it asks tu for a unified writing answers to three separate questions here. Thus. your first paragraph addresses the task of exploring what you think the statement means. The second describes specific situations when ihe statement might not be true. Though they deal many different topics. And the third paragraph discusses what essay. you will will familiarize become second nature. But just as you don't want to write three mini-essays. They do not direct you to defend or attack the rule expressed in the statement. You are not just 16 Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT preparation . in order. instead of coming up with more specific examples where the statement does not apply. The Writing Assignment Let's look now to the MCAT writing sample itself. so the style composition. The essay thus takes the original topic statement and then challenges and redefines it in such a way that the reader knows more precisely what the topic statement means. but creating a composition that manages to address the three tasks in a cohesive way. No part of your essay stands alone. The simplest approach we can recommend is to write an essay that consists of three paragraphs.'. and is connected through transitional phrases and themes to the other parts of the essay. and when it does not apply to other. you lho don't want to write one huge paragraph with no obvious separations between the three tasks. write a unified to structuring the MCAT essay for beginners. As you practice writing MCAT essays. After you have perfotrttua tnii exploration of meaning. Each task that you address is structurally and logically linked to the other two tasks. essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the statement means. or to "argue to a conclusion. Each paragraph addresses one task. exceptional iituations. Briefly. gaining depth and complerity as it develops. but at the present time (2007). The important thing to learn from what we have been discussing is that the MCAT is doing some of your work for you by dictating the struiture of your yourself with their three-part structure. Describe a specific situation in which it might not be wrong to lie. Along the way. However. your argument develops and evolves as you move from one task to the next. the MCAT is not one of them. Discuss what you think determines whether it is ever wrong to lie. MCAT essay items take the following general form: with It is always wrong to lie.ruliti"r of your analytical thought process as a writer.the essay topic statement page carefully. you must think of a specific exu*ple where the statement does not necessarily apply. presenting evidence that refutes the universal validity of the statement and thereby limits its applicability by defining a case in which the rule in the statement is not reasonable. Identify a determining factor that establishes when the topic sentence applies as a general rule in understanding situations of a certain kind.

creative. Looking a t the topic statement./ays to prepare for Task #1 that will provide you with strategies to avoid the dreaded brain-freeze. Cenerally speaking." This is not the same phenomenon that occurs when you eat too much ice cream! Rather.. then. you might start an essay by defining the key word or words of the statement.rnique and ilrteresting a\/enue into your exploration of the concepts. and an unpleasant chemical reaction seems to occur in the general vicinity of the lunch you just finished eating. There are many kinds of lies. A good paraphrase. Another approach to Task #1 can be to use a paraphrase to reformulate the topic staternent in yor-rr ornm words. Explain the relationship of the example to the topic statement and justify your use of the example for this case. Defining key terms. "l think that it is always wrong to iie. essays by the most experienced. there are v. ulderamrs become damp.Doesn't it?" Well. "What do you mean by that?" You are surprised. "lt means what it says!. maybe it isn't so cut-and-dried." How you define this word will have a major effect cn the direction your essay takes. suppose you are having coffee with a friend. yes and no. In fact. The example: "It is always wrong to lie" contains some ambiguous words. The first task can be somewhat disconcerting. and ambitious writers usually do exceed three paragraphs in the Writing Sample. Fortunately. Are they all equally wrong? Is it really always wrong to lie? Now you have to explain what you mean to your friend. Task One Exltlain zahat you think the stateruent means.. words that have many possible interpretations.determines the conditions under which the rule in the essay topic statement applies. This is an example of how flow and not freeze up. Related to this approach is lalking about how your interpretation of the meaning of the topic statement has been influencedby your personal experiences. You might talk about certain meanings of the words and why you think they should be understood that way. You can write as many paragraphs as you like. #1 you must explain to the reader what you think the statement thinking conversationally can help thoughts Arrother approach to Task #1 is the use of pro-examples. This structure of three paragraphs is not a hard-and-fast ru1e. and you are not limited to executing the assigned writing tasks in 1-2-3 order. For irrstance.ays to tell them. You might respond." Imagine your friend giving you a blank stare and asking. One way of looking at this first task is to apply it to a real-life situation. It can be a very helpfui way to create a context for the discussion of meaning and for tying troublesome words io specific kinds of meaning. youcould ask yourself what is meant by the word "lie. it is more psychological than physiological and results in a temporary loss of all thinking and analytical ability" Time seems to fly by at an accelerated rate. This redefines the meaning of the statement according to a personal context. r. just as means. many test-takers suffer from "brainfreeze. and it can provide a r. with lask and rnany w. Generally. Faced with a thirty-minute time limit and the other pressures of the MCAT. brain-freeze is brought on when the test-taker is told to explain what he or she thinks the statement means. It is a thoroughly disagreeabie experience. puises skyrocket. in conjunction with other Copyright O by The Berkeley Review Using a paraphrase. Write about examples the statement applies. But your job is greatly simplified if you do follow this pattern. and that friend tells you about someone who lied to her. Isn't it self-evident what you meant? But on second thought. t'l The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation .vhere Using pro-examples.

approaches.chose to use it. it is very important. ind it makes the second and third tasks simpler. Ninety seconds is not very much time. If you explore your ideasin some depth. Task #.g your essay. .t writing.. However. if you find you are still having difficulty with getting started--or even if you aren't--it b" very helpful t6 "* read some of your classmates' essays. it can help remove ambiguity and stimulate the generation erP amDlgul of examples. Don't make statements without explaining why you say them. take a few seconds to start digesting it. you would have to talk about both the . Task #1 is where you introduce all of the key ideas tha t you will be discussing in the essay. Thus. all of the important concepts that you will te talking about (for the statement above. it establishes a contract between you and the reader. where you implicitly state what you will be talking about and h-ow you will approach it.hu io read. different topic statements lend themselves to different ipproaches to this first task. on-ce you The best way to make certain that you adequately explore all of the key ideas in the topic statement is to make *m" noies in-outline form before yo. In a sense. yo.. it is critical that the paraphrase is not left to stand examples' -nowever/ rt ls crltrcal the cn its own but is presented within a context that expliins its derivation and whv you why addition.. although Task #1 can be intimidating. to face your problems as early as possible. both save you writing time and ensure that you stay on the topic. may put the topic into a form that is more natural for vou. You must determine for yourself how much of the thirty minutes you 't il t the whole. ln sumrnary. If it remains troublesome. reconstitute the parts into a new interpretation of developed adequately.o. but if you start off by thinking of them.1 this first task. At the same time. just a "onfir-. people have different wayi of dealing with the writing sample. Ii Th-ere are many approaches to essay-graders reportedly spend-an average of ninety seionds . This should be a Copyright @ want to spend on an outline (usually no more than 3-5 minutes). because i-n"r-. is the most important part of your composition. of executing the task. or without telling the reader why they are imporLnt. then the parts of the essay that follow will be stronger and more focused.lus weak one may set the reader against you. Then. The succeeding parts need only to build upon what has come before. so the more experience you have with variou.tu.. Ask yourself some questions about it: "what does this mean to me? why? what are the key terms? what are some good counter-examples? \rhat are some good supporting pro-examples? why are thes_e examples good? what do they tell me abb"t the meaning and applicability of the statement?" you may not be able to answer all oithese questions in great depth at first.. write an outline of your essay. u^i . A strong opening paragraph will give "as the reader a good opinion of your writing as he oi . Look at it from different angles. A_strong opening paragraph keeps your essay focused by preventing you from wandering inio digreisions. and you can leain from all of these approaches.. have read the prompt and the instructions below it."pl of lying and of why it is wrong/ not just one or the other). break it down into pieces that are easier to deal with. MCAT Preparing an ouiline before you write.u. don't have to try to write your way out of a compositional dead-end later on. then you will avoid unpleasant surprises later in the writing process. hr many ways. It is al*ays b"ite. it is extremely important that you give the reader a good first impression."udi.o.r".. -uy. but a good or1" . Even more importantly. because no more definitions are needed. Make sure that your exploration and thought in this task is t by The Berkeley Review l8 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . the more prepared you will be for the MCAT writing sample.

For some reason. and we all decided that it would be better if she lied about the risks of the procedure." General counterexample. Compare it to a general situation. Also. Task Two: Describe a specific situation wrong to lie. ic counter- What do you observe about these two statements? First. you would need to think of an occasion when it would not be wrong to 1ie. a general example: "If a doctor has to perform a dangerous procedure but doesn't want to cause her patient excessive fear or stress. and quantities. in which it might not be The second task asks you to describe a specific situation in which the topic sentence might not be true." A specific situation is one where you can specify names. and the doctor knew that if she became anxious about the procedure. When presenting your counter-example. and the procedure worked without a hitch. the risk to her health wouid have been greatly increased. the more you have to talk about. If you have defined the key terms too narrowly. This is important. Let's look at an example of each. Learn from their strengths and their weaknesses. This teaches you how to think along the lines that the designers of the Writing Sample want you to explore. Read other people's essays to get an idea of how they deal with the first task. Think of more than one. Compare this to a specific situation: "My grandmother's physician had to perform a risky procedure. and this can be a problem. Don't just restate the topic with new words and then move on. ny grandmother has hypertension. It is generally much easier to do this as you develop your outline and before you have actually begun writing the essay. even if you don't write the entire essay for each prompt. because the more there is to your example. because this gives you greater freedom in selecting your counter-example. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review t9 The B€rkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . times. in order to protect my grandmotl-rer against her own anxieties. They don't seem to understand what the MCAT means by "specific situation. V\rhen it was time for the procedure. How could you have dealt with the first part better? Can yousee how a stronger opening paragraph would have fortified the rest of the essay? Make outlines of all of the essay topics. h'r this specific case. to avoid the error of stereotyped thinking (generalizing from a small and/or unrepresentative sample). In the example statement above. you ffiust asks you to describe be specific! The task explicitly a specific situation in which the statement might not be true. because i t provides you with a sense of what the statement means to you. The doctor talked to us about her diiemma. then it would be acceptable for the doctor to lie about the risks of the procedure. many test-takers have trouble with this part of the assignment. you might notice that the specific counter-example is longer than the general one. places.fairly long paragraph. my grandmother was relaxed. you can actually discuss the meanings of key words from the topic statement as they apply to a specific context. Thinking of counterexamples can even help you address the first task more clearly. which can be described with less precise language. you might also have limited your choices for counter-examples." Specif example. reread your own practice essays. Unfortunately. First. This increases the depth of your exploration into the topic statement and the development of your ideas.

but it would be more difficult to talk about them in conjunction with the first.tn experience. and to make sure that your eiample illustrates your argument as effectively as possible. movies. that in some essay prompts. such as the one we have been ("It is always wrong to lie"). yet remains focused cn the specifics of the topic at nano. Perhaps most importantly. A single criterion is preferable to a long list of determining factors. Task #3 finishes the development of your ideas. Whether you choose to discuss one criterion or several criteria will depend cn the topic and cn how the particular essay you are writing has developed. the specific case is more interesting. the qualifiers in the prompt might be Task Three: Discuss what you eaer wrong to lie. personal experiences can often provide the best examples. 20 I Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . This serves to hold the reader's attention and keeps them interested in what you have to say. it could be acceptable to choose examples from your or. biographies. you can talk about the repercussions of the specific example and use that to help reinforce your point.! The third and final task of the MCAT writing Sample is typically the most demanding one for most essay-writers. criteria: a standard.e. Notice all of the extra information we have in the second example: family participation. The important thing is to be as specific as possible. tt explains why the rule in the topic statement applies in some cases and not in others. i. religion. But examples can also come from history. the doctor's ability to communicate with the family. otherwise. for many of the topic statements. especially those dealing with ethical issues. "always" or "never.. one might question the ethics of a doctor performing a procedure without full disclosure to the patient. because they individualize your essay--no one else has had experiences exactly like yours--and often allow you to express your thoughts more compellingly.Also." These understandably must be changed in your interpretation of the topic statement to words like "sometimes" or "ever" when you get to the second and third tasks of the essay. current events. and the positive results of the lie. Another helpful quality of specific examples is that they give you more to talk about and provide you with more ammunition for Task #3's discussion of criteria. it reads more like a narrative and less like a lab report. you need to discuss the criterion that determines when the statement applies and when it doesn't. It asks you to discuss what you think determines the conditions under which the rule that is expressed or implied in the topic statement is applicable. folktales.ffi| . with no specifics. or whatever else you can think of that applies to your arguments. pl. Lr fact. Lr other words. it is very easy to come up with alternative hypothetical situations that contradict it. As you can see from the second counter-example. books (fiction and nonfiction). Grandmother's health condition and personality. there is less to prevent a reader from coming up with refutations to yourexample. used to evaluate or test something). As you read a general example. It is harder to challenge the decision to lie made in the specific example above than it is to challenge the general case. For instance. rule. Providing a criterion to guide the reader (criterion. A note about logical consistency: You might notice discussing absolute. think determines uthether it I is I . or principle by which a judgement is formed. This third task completes the discussion of the meaning of the topic statement and outlines the limitations for its applicability. more general example. These can all have a bearing on your arguments about lying and when it is wrong. those tasks could not be completed.

Also notice which arguments seem weak. noticing how the writers work their craft. which you select from sources outside of your field of study. Notice which articles are the most convincing. evidence." Or: "It all depends m your situation. And you should read these texts slowly and carefully. It Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 21 to appreciate the variety of essay styles.rm writings. the way ideas flow throughout the essay. and The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . or throwing a surprise birthday party for your sister). First. and think about how you might reproduce that effect in your or. the strength of their evidence. preparation for the Writing Sample is similar to preparation for the Verbal Reasoning section of the MCAT. and argument. Analyze their arguments. where lying is expected behavior. Ask yourself why they have such an effect on you. If your definition of lying in Task #1 involved the concept of deception. but that they are not particularly illuminating as they are expressed. You will see how different topics call for different kinds of reasoning. An essay about history may look very different from one about ethics. at the other end of the spectrum is a criterion rc general that i t could apply to anything: "The thing that determines whether is it ever wrong to lie is who the individual is and who they are lying to. Second. i t gives you many examples of how arguments can be constructed. You do not need to build toward a conclusion about the statement's validity at all. A common mistake with the third task: Concluding that the essay topic statement is definitely true or f alse. and if your counter-examples in Task #2 all involved instances in which the liar's deception did not produce that result (such as bluffing your buddies in a poker game. learning to think about many different subjects will help you when you have to construct an argument of your own about an unfamiliar subject. You should select your sources from well-respected journals and publications where the writing is of a high quality. the element of a lie that typically results in a loss of trust in the liar. and an essay that asks you to consider the probability of harm resulting from an action could be unlike the structure of an essay that is all about the definition of some abstract concept--but each will provide valuable lessons about essay writing. you do not want to make any arguments that conclusively support or attack the validity of the statement. Something more must be added. In other words.A long list of determining factors is too specific and has not been sufficiently generalized. then your criterion in Task #3 might be: "The thing that determines whether it is ever wrong to lie is whether the deception of the lie does or could destroy the trust of one whose trust we value. Outside readings consist of articles and other texts." A common problem that people have with the third task is that they sometimes use Task #3 to make an absolute conclusion with regard to the validity of the thesis expressed by the topic statement. For the purposes of the MCAT Writing Sample. Your preparation for these sections of the test will overlap most when you do outside readings." The problem with such generalities is not that they are false. since they deal with complementary verbal skills--writing and reading. The structure dictated by the writing instructions of the MCAT Writing Sample effectively concludes the essay by itself. to gain flexibility breadth. This makes sense. You should try to read in many different areas of interest. Your job is only to analyze the statement and construct a well-conceived argument that helps the reader understand the limitations and applicability of the statement. the outside reading will give you more flexibility in your thinking. Why do you think they are weak? What would you do differently that might make the argument stronger? Read essays about new and unfamiliar sub jects: There are several reasons why it is advisable to do outside reading. especially areas with which you are unfamiliar. if properly applied. Preparation for the Writing Sample In many ways.

But. which can help bv giving you material and specific examples to write about in your essay. more importantly. C. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . you must ease into it. If it sounds strange to your ear. areas that are logically flawed or awkwardly written.rnd funny to your ear. with other students and talk about the various practice essay topics. This will not only make your writing sound more natural and flowing. Noticing how a writer introduces his or her topic can help you introduce the topic of your Writing Sample essay. And even then. When evaluating your own writing.o back and rewrite the whole essay. one way to learn how to generate ideas is to sit down Training for timed writing. Also. Discussing essay topics in a group. if that would be helpful. when you practice your initial essays. many students run out of things to write about long before their thirty minutes have expired. Another analytical technique for the Writing Sample is to share your work with others. cohesive unit. as u-ell as giving you something interesting to talk about in your medicai school interviews. It is especially useful to share it with other people who are also taking the MCAT. Practice When preparing for the MCAT Writing Sampie.You rnay be 22 Sharing and comparing written essays with others. Therefore. Talk about the factors that determine when the rule in the topic statement is applicable. When you do so. because they will be familiar with the demands of the Writing Sample essay and will be able to point out areas where you are offcourse. you should take as much time as you need to make sure that you have satisfied all three tasks and developed your ideas as thoroughly as possible. then gradually. Start by allowing yourself 45 minutes. sharing your work with others (and having them share theirs with you) will give you ideas for different ways to express your thoughts. work your way dorm to 40. you will notice areas that just don't make a lot of sense. Eventually. to learn new writing tech n iq ues. students really resist this advice. and finally 30 minutes tm timed writing sessions. it will help you write faster. outside reading ideas effectively. over a period of several weeks. notice the changes you have made. then it might strike others as strange and might bother a grader when he or she is reading your essay. Try to come up with examples.will also broaden your experience. you will learn to write as if you were talking onto the page. it is advisable to figure out how to write a good essay before you start worrying about time. Only after you have begun to master the MCAT Writing Sample style should you start to worry about issues of time. both pro and cory of the topic in action. Ask yourself how you might have avoided these changes by getting them right the first time around. Of course. one of the best methods is to read it to yourself out laud! For some reason. By talking with others. And observing how an author unifies everything at the end of an essay can show you what you need to do to complete your explorations and close your arguments and Third. cari give you examples of different writing techniques that you might want to use in your own essays. but when you read your own work to yourself. Studying how an author makes transitions between different thoughts can teach you how to tie the three tasks together into a seamless. because they will sor. you hear things that somehow remain hidden on silent readings. Talk about how you would start the essay. Reading essays out loud. you are practicing the conversational thinking that is so helpful when writing for the MCAT. 35. It will give you practice in generating many ideas and also will give you more insight into how other people think about various topics. You will notice grammatical mistakes.

where they are strong. not to create an illusion of quality that isn't there. don't be too indirect in your criticism. Tell that person where they are weak. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 23 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . but you have to decide it is more important for you to be comfortable or to succeed on the MCAT. The point of sharing is to get valuable feedback that will help develop writing skills.whether uncomfortable sharing your work with others at first. and what you think they should do differently. If you are going to grade someone else's paper.

Hss4y TOpiC Staternemts for lilrriting Practice Essays 'rfie Speci altztng ir MCAT Preparation .

is but a necessary evil.tt equals 4." 15. 9. not to impart values. '1.Instructions For each statement below. not values. even in its best state. One has an obligation to report the irregular behavior of a coworker to a supervisor. 11. Freedom of expression should be absolute." Copyright O by The Berkeley Review 21 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation .. Freedom is the greatest desire of every individual. 13. "A liar should have a good memory. 'L6. 12." . The role of a scientist is to explain the natural world. 6. A good citizen votes in every 17. "That action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number. 'rThe secret to being a bore is to tell everything." The person who buys pornography harms no one by doing so. Health care is a right. The price of something election. 8. Violence in films is unnecess ary for making an artistic statement. 20. 18. more 7. Limited terms of office would make elected officials accountable to those who elect them. The only argument for capital punishment is that "justice revenge. 5. rather than The mass media have a duty to cover all sides of a news story. will not always reflect its value. Governing with the consent of the governed is more effective than governing by decree. a privilege. 3. Discuss what you think determines whether the point of view expressed in the statement or the one suggested by the counter-example is more persuasive and under what conditions you find this to be so. "Government. write an essay in which you perform the following tasks: (1) (2) (3) Explain what you think the statement means. 14. 10. journalists should always be strictly objective. Describe a specific situation that you think represents a counterexample to what is asserted by the statement. The responsibility of public education is to teach skills. Killing is never justified. 19.

you may practice typing them. But what is alternative B? The implied alternative B is to let the present system continue. the amount of time you will have on the test. try writing your initial essay without imposing any time limitations upon yourself. Then present some specific situation in which you think alternative B might be preferable to alternative A. and perhaps say what it would mean to implement the statement's proposed plan of action or its recommended way of seeing a situation). if you feel ready. set forth the criteria or guidelines by which you think any reasonable person should be able to determine whether A or B is the better alternative for a given situation or a set of circumstances. Simply explain what you think the statement means (define the key terms as you interpret them or as you intend to use them in your essay. The basic idea of the essay is to compare two opinions or two ways of looking at the same problern. When you feel more confident. permitting incumbents in the state and federal legislatures to hold their positions for as long as they wish to stand for re-election. suppose the statement's recommended course of action is to "limit the terms of office for elected officials"--that would be alternative A. If you find this difficult at first. At first you may want to do the writing samples in your own handwriting. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 28 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation .Look carefully at each statement before you begin to write. the one favored by the author of the statement. Make sure that you allot yourself enough time to perform all three tasks that are requested of you for each statement. ask someone to time you for 30 minutes per essay. For example. Notice that you are not being asked here to argue to a conclusion strongly in favor of either altemative presented in the statement. from personal experience. However. You will often find that your guidelines have been determined by how you defined key terms in the statement. You may draw this counter-example from the pages of history. or from your imagination. without necessarily acting as the adaocate or the champion of one solution over the other. Just get a feel for identifying the two alternatives being presented--maybe it will help to write them out in a standard format for each statement--and then organize the structure of your essay to conform to the three tasks. Finally. Make sure that the choice of alternatives being presented is clear to you.

Practice Essays Consider this statement: Writing Sample I l "That action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Describe a specific situation in which the best action might not be the one that procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Discuss what you think determines whether the best action is the one that procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number. lnquiry Concerning Moral Good and EoiI (1720) l r Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement means. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 29 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation ." Francis Hutcheson.

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not to impart values.to impart values. t] { I $ I 4 l ( ll l Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review -1 -t The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT preparation . Writing Sample 2 Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the statement means. Discuss what you think determines whether the role of a scientist is to explain the natural world or to impart values. Describe a specific situation in which the role of a scientist might b.Practice Dssays Consider this statement: The role of a scientist is to explain the natural world.

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Practice Essays Consider this statement: The only argument for capital punishment is that "justice equals revenge." Writing Sample 5 Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the statement means. Discuss what you think determines (i. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 3'7 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Describe a specific situation in which a person might argue in favor of capital punishment for some reason other than a desire for revenge..e. how you can tell) whether a person who argues in favor of capital punishment is really doing so out of a desire for revenge. or for some other reason.

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Describe a specific situation in which a journalist perhaps should not be strictly objective. Discuss what you think determines whether a journalist should be strictly objective at all times or not. Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement means. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 4t The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT preparation .Practice Dssays Consider this statement: Writing Sample 4 Journalists should always be strictly objective.

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Practice Dssays
Consider this statement: Freedom of expression should be absolute.

Writing Sampte 5

Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement
means. Describe a specific situation in which freedom of expression perhaps should not be absolute. Discuss what you think determines whether freedom of expression should be absolute or not.

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Practice Essays

Writing Sample 5

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Practice Essays
Consider this statement:

Writing Sample 6

Limited terms of office would make elected officials more accountable to those who elect them.

Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which limited terms of office might not make elected officials more accountable to those who elect them. Discuss what you think determines whether limited terms of office would make elected officials more accountable or not.

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Practice Essays

Writing Sample 6

?p

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Practice Essays
Consider this statement:

Writing Sample 7

Governing with the consent of the governed is more effective than governing by decree.

Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the statement means. Describe a specific situation in which governing by decree might be more effective than goveming with the consent of the governed. Discuss what you think determines whether goveming with the consent of the govemed or goveming by decree is more effective.

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not a privilege. write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the statement means. rather than a right.Practice Essays Consider this statement: Writing Sampte B Health care is a right. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 51 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Discuss what you think determines whether health care is a right of a privilege. Describe a specific situation in which health care might be thought o] as a privilege.

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rather than values. Copyright O by The Berkeley Review 61 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Discuss what you think determines whether ih" .sibility of public education is to teach skills or values.Practice Essays Consider this statement: The responsibility of public education is to teach skills. Writing Sample 9 Write a unified essay in-which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement me-ans'. rather than skills."rpor.Describe a specific situation in which the responslbility of public education might be to teach values.

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Practice Essays Consider this statement: The mass media have a duty to cover all sides of a news story. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 65 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Discuss what you think determines whether the mass media have a duty to cover all sides of a news story. Writing Sample lO Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which the mass media might not have a duty to cover all sides of a news story.

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" Quintilian.Practice Essays Consider this statement: Writing Sample I I "A liar should have a good memory. De Institutione Oratorin (1st century AD) Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement means: Describe a specific situation in which a liar might not necessarily need a good memory. Discuss what you think determines whether a liar should have a good memory. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 69 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation .

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Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review t) The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Writing Sample 12 Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the statement means.Practice Essays Consider this statement: The person who buys pornography harms no one by doing so. Describe a specific situation in which the person who buys pornography harms someone by doing so. Discuss what you think determines whether buying pornography harms someone.

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Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 7'l The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Discuss what you think determines whether one has an obligation to report a coworker's irregular behavior to a supervisor. Describe a specific situation in which one might not have an obligation to report a coworker's irregular behavior to a supervisor.Practice Dssays Consider this statement: One has an obligation to report the irregular behavior of a coworker to a supervisor. Writing Sample l3 Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the statement means.

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" Thomas Paine. Common Sense (7776) Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement means. even in its best state. Describe a specific situation in which government might be thought of as something other than a necessary evil. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 81 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Discuss what you think determines whether government is or is not a necessary evil. is but a necessary evil.Practice Essays Consider this statement: Writing Sample 14 "Government.

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Discuss what you think determines Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 8s The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement in which killing might be justified.Practice Dssays Consider this statement: Writing Sampte 15 Killing is never justified. Describe a specific situation whether killing is ever justified. means.

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Discuss what you think determines whether a good citizen votes in every election. Describe a specific situation in which a good citizen might not vote in every election.Practice Essays Consider this statement: Writing Sample 16 A good citizen votes in every election. Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement means. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 89 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation .

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Copyright @ by The Berkeley . write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement Tuult: Describe a specific situation in which the price of a thing actualy might reflect its value. Discuss what vou think determines whether the price of something reflects its value or not.Practice Essays Consider this statement: The price of something Writing Sample 17 will not always reflect its value.

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Describe a specific situation in which violence in a film might be necessary for making an artistic statement.Practice Dssays Consider this statement: Writing Sample l8 Violence in films is unnecessary for making an artistic statement. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 97 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement means. Discuss what you think determines whether violence in films is necessary for making an artistic statement.

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Describe a specific situation in which freedom might not be the greaiest desire oi ro*" individual. Writing Sample 19 Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Discuss what you think determines whether freedom is the greatest desire of an individual. Explain what you think the statement means. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review l0l The Berkeley Review Specializitrg in MCAT Preparation .Practice Essays Consider this statement: Freedom is the greatest desire of every individual.

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" Voltaire. SEt discours en aers sur I'homme (1738) Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks: Explain what you think the above statement means. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review t05 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation .Practice Essays Consider this statement: "The secret to being a Writing Sample 2O bore is to tell everything. Describe a specific situation in which the secret to being a bore might not be to tell everything. Discuss what you think determines whether telling everything is the secret to being a bore.

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y.1.wt Speci altztng i^ MCAT Preparation 'rfiz l)6-.Sample Essays with Commentary EIERI{ELEY p.-E. .

Nor should an excellent essay be thought of as something beyond the aspiring student's reach. Second. It is a humbling experience for most of us--again. For some appreciation of what must go on in the mind of a person who is capable of such a prodigious effort. Yet it should not be an intimidating or a demoralizing experience. but which were found in practice exams). and then imagine trying to do that motor function nnd organizing a first-rate piece of writing in your brain simultaneously. although writing of this volume and quality requires considerable diligent practice. For one thing. we include the current faculty for this course. who wanted to have some standard against which to compare their own writing sample. he was very critical of his work and more aware of room for improvement than of his obvious virtues. most of the grammatical and spelling errors in the original essays have been edited out. page 127). praise the writer's clarity. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review lt1 The Berkeley Keview Specializing in MCAT Preparation . and she remembered details from an article she had written for her journalism course. The authors of the MCAT Prectice Test III booklet (01995 by the Association of American Medical Colleges. with a tally of somewhere between 200 and 400 words. with a few of them exceeding 500 or even 600 words. Maybe they did not even consider it to be unusually long. They have been included at the request of many former participants in The Berkeley Review. The typical Berkeley Review student in timed writing samples in class produces a first-draft effort of three to five paragraphs (three being much more often the case than four or five). Although they were written by students in The Berkeley Review. and the shy young woman with hopes of becoming a pediatrician who wrote about whether the practice of capital punishment is rooted in a desire for revenge was stumped about how to begin that essay--until we suggested she draw upon her writing experience in any other class. an essay which they understandably scored with the highest grade of 6.Sample Essays The following essays show how some students have responded to a few of the essay topic statements given in this book (as well as to other statements not contained in this book. they are silent. as well as something to emulate in improving their essay composition style. The Molecular and Cell Biology major who wrote the essay on whether good citizens vote in every election wasn't particularly good at writing about art. Other contributors used things they had learned in classes on poetry and philosophy. Characteristically for all the students who have ever taken the course and talked to us during office hours about their writing attempts. depth of analysis. these essays should not be regarded as typical of what most students will produce in a writing time of only thirty minutes. Only one of the essays included among this sample matches that general description. in commenting on an essay very similar in word count and complexity to those presented here. the curious student might try just copying one of the longer essays by hand within the time constraint of a half-hour. and superior command of the language--but regarding the unusual length of this writing sample. Take comfort in this knowledge as well: Even the very best writers do not do equally well with every essay prompt handed to them. and they have been neatly reproduced to fit onto a single page (rather than the original two or three fixed pages) for easier reading and side-by-side comparison with other essays. and only one of the authors (whose work appears twice in this sample) was very good at anything we asked him to write about. the average length and complexity of these essays are considerably greater than most ordinary mortals (including the instructors for this part of the course) could put together in a legible style in thirty minutes or less.

The commentary accompanying each essay here is not intended to be a rigorous analysis of the essay's strengths and defects from an MCAT scorer's point oi view. Instead. using topic statements and essay prompts that either have appeared or are similar to those that have appeared on past versions of the MCAT. our hope in assembling these minor masterpieces from recent years of teaching this review course has been to inspire and tb instruct. and never to discourage.ln ilass. check out the materials released by the AAMC The essays presented in our collection would probably all receive giades of either 5 or 6. since there seems to be no one perfect way to construct an argument--only better ways and worse ways. the wording that was used. Because Task #3 is the most difficult one for most students. it is possible that more than one sample essay per topic statement may be included to give a broader idea of the variety of excellent techniques students have employed-in the past to write good essays under timed practice conditions at home o.tding essay. It would be a mistake for the student to regard any of these italicized summaries as the only correct solution to its correspo. Perhaps one day an essay of your own might be included among them.In any event. I I I { t ( I t T Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review tt2 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation C{ . To take a look at other essays of the same kind. it has been summarized for each essay in italics at the beginning of the commentary. and so on. In future editions of this book. it represents one writing instructor's personal reflections on and general suggestions about an individual writer's style. the approach he or she took or might have taken. the important related issues brought up by a particular essay topic.

might be called "good citizens" even when they are legally not citizens at all. but who suddenly falls ill on election day. but who still feels so confusecl that they fear they might make the wrong choices in the voting booth. social-involvement aspect of it together reflect an ideal that exceeds the legal definition of being a natural-born or naturalized citizen. it cannot be true that if one votes in every election. The passive. causing more harm than good? Some good citizens can't read. Instead. or by giving time and money to charities. It is participation in the decisionmaking process that creates our laws and elects our government officials. Some people. for example . The 16-year-olj candylstriper hospital volunteer who is too young to vote (and many candidates win their elections with the il"tp tf youthful campaigners not old enough to cast a ballot for them). The individual who--deprived of even a write-in protest option--expresses disgust with a field of ineffective oi corrupt candidates by refusing to give any of them their voter's seal of approval. The paroled felon who coaches late-night Uuit"tUutt games to keep kids in his old neighborhood off the streets and out of the crack wars that sent him to"lait."A good citizen votes in every election. and some are mentally disabled. Clearly. it seems more reasonable to read this statement as saying the reverse: one is a goocl ciiizen. some obstacle prevents the individual from voting: A legal limitation arising from citizenship status. o physical limitation." Let us consider a good citizen to be someone who does more than merely obey all laws and causes no offense to others. there is the gotd citizen who usullly does vote. in fact. we find that generally they do vote in every election. Voting contributes to the common good. . because it is in their natureio contribute willingly and regularly to the common good. saying "a good citizen votes in every election" does not mean that voting in every election is a special kind of behavior which by itself automatically confers the label of "good citizen" on any individual who performs it' That is. law-abiding aspect of good citizenship and the active. u-ong other worthy deeds one might do that contribute to the public welfare. a limitation of conscien-ce or inadequate knowl"ig". What about the citizen who has made &ery effort to educate themselves about the candidates and issues in an upcoming election. or paroled criminal status. or at least in most of them. then Lne will f very likely demonstrate that innate goodness by voting in every election. or age. In each case just described. too late to file for an absentee ballot. because their public behavior marks them so obviously as good neighbors and assets to their community. because it is possible to imagine individuals of a strikingly uncharitable or non-law-abiding charactei who might still make it to the polls every election without fail (perhaps because of some compulJive personality halt). Finally. but who also contributes to the common good of society by organizing civic groups. then by definition one is a good citizen.When might a good citizen not vote? became a naturalized citizen. Many examples suggest themselves: The elderly immigrant who never but who raises funds for the locil library. To the extent that a good citizen is free from such limitations and able to participate. rl Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 113 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT preparation . then.

opposite--things: "ffone votes in every election. or physical is the extent "To the extent that a good citizen zue limitqtions and nble to participate. because voting represents "participation in the decision-making process that creates our laws and elects our government officials. since voting is not required by law in many countriei.. say. There. or on politicians facing. he also explores the notion that . which essentially all ask the question: "If people know the right thing to do. In the initial paragraph.." -hlch he says necessarily includes voting regularly." If he had been content with defining a good citizen only as someone who obeys all laws and offends no one (the "passive" aspect of citizenship). The writer of this essay has chosen to define a good citizen as a person actively willing to "contribute to the common good. as we see in the second paragraph. which technically can be understood as saying two entirely difierent--in fact.'good citizens" are not necessarily legal citizens--meaning he will be able to use some individuals of this description as possible counter-examples for Task #2. on the other hand. a filibuster or a shoriage of funds sb that they are unable to carry out their campaign promises)." The thing thst determines whether a good citizen aotes in eaery election disabilities).' If anlndividual realf does not know right from wrong. the writer dispels a fundamental and almost invisible ambiguity inherent in the topic statement. euery election." kind of forethought is an indicator of an exceptional degree of mental If the organization is good in this essay. limitationi imposed by one's conscience or lack of knowledge. that can be thought of as one kind of limitaiion or limiting factor in itself. then one will very likely demonstratJthat innate goodness by voting in every election. the seriar killer who by day enjoyed donning clown makeup to entertain children. the clarity of thought is even more pronounced. one is reminded of John wayne Gacy." or:"If one is a good citizen. including the US.t they do itz" And th" answer to all of them generally boils down to this: "It all depends on the degree to which they are willing and able to do the right thing. then by definition one is a good citizen. is free from sttch find that genernlly they do uote in of them. to which they are impeded from aoting Uy "ny Iimiting factors (such as legal constraints. and then returned home every night Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review n4 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT preparation C" . but who could not be regarded in any sense as genuine issets to t-heir community. (The practice -essay in this book that deals with restricting the number of times an elected official can hold office as a way of making him or her more accountable to their constituents is effectivelv handled as another essay of this variety--the proposed remedy will have littll effect on utterly corrupt politicians who are unwilling to carry out their campaign promises. because it is in thiir nature to This essay is representative of a family of essays. Finally. why don.Commentary on the essay "A good citizen votes in every election." Which is it? The writer chooses the second interpretation and provides the reason for his selection: There could be sinister people roaming about who vote and do other good things for society. or at lenst in most contribute willingly and regularly to the common good. This organization in a writer.. demonstrates a lack of willingness.. Not caring enough to do the right thing. That is. it would have been difficult for him to argue that passively gbod citizens necessarily vote on a regular basis. he could not have used the "willing and able" resolution to this essay that he does employ so well. he implies that the phrase "good citizen" is most nearly synonymous with "good neighbor" or "asset to [one's] community.

does not automatically make anyone a "good citizen. The third paragraph contains perhaps the most amazing profusion of counterexamples found in any essay in our collection. combining the best aspects of deductive and inductive reasoning. in and of itself. But here." But it is rare to find inherently helpful and civic-minded people who lack a record of public service to demonstrate those character traits. This is an outstanding piece of essay writing. (It is reported that he even shook hands with First Lady Rosalyn Carter on one occasion. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review l15 The Berkeley Revlew Specializing in MCAT Preparation . as a member of a group of Chicago citizens being honored publicly for their outstanding contributions to society!) The message here is the same as what the writer is trying to convey: Doing a few good deeds. and it reveals very strongly the benefit of generating a large. and representative sample of items in order to avoid the error of stereotyped or overly generalized thinking. diverse. have neither the time nor the inclination to put them all on paper. the effect is overwhelming--eight counter-examples in one paragraph! And the thing they all have in common is the criterion used to conclude Task #3. and least likely to be argued away. most accessible. even if they can think of this many specific examples or counter-examples of anything. Most writers. They wisely elect to write about the best example or two in their mental list--and by "best." we mean the strongest.to a house filled with the rotting bodies of his victims hidden beneath the floorboards.

motion that inspires revenge. comes out of anger. Baker stood at the window of the San Quentin gas chamter to witness the execution of his son's murderer. But not until all of those other possible motivating factors have been eiiminated--and not unless the advocate for capital punishment expresses o.' On the morning of July 5." said a woman at the prayer vigil. and outrage at the senselessness of Harris's crimes. Michael. abducted two teenage boys a hamburger stand in San Diego. Especially 'decent. "He took a life. and we're supposed to be able to contiol u. into the grieving father's eyes. and then sat down next to their corpses while he ate their hamburgers.. Yet there seems little reason to doubt the sincerity of the Texas family who begged their local parole board to keep their daughter's killer behind bars for life. They know ]esus said to 'turn the other cheek." _ "Funny because it who argues for capital punishment just wants revenge. fearing he would carry out his proriise to kill them after they testified against him. shot them at close range with'a ninemillimeter Luger. and the desire for retribution in at least the same degree and kind as the oif"t"tt" committed Uy tfre criminal--&n we say that the only argurnent for capital punishment is that "justice equals revenge. Harris gazed.' Like most who had followel the case." Baker turned away from the window. Outside the prison. It can coexist with other motivating factors (such as fear) witho"ut invalidating them as legitimate personal drives behind seeking capital punishment. God-fearing Christians' who quote the Old Testament to defend staL-approved murder. this was not justice. Fourteen years and two dozen appeals later. : Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review lt6 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation _I . he did not know the families of the dead teenagers. "lt's just simple justice that we want." he said. He drove the boys to a remote area. a candlelight vigil protesting the execution. nor had he suffered a personal loss similar to theirs. but in their hearts everyone iis 6od who's angry and needs io be Maybe so. Nothing anyone said or did now would bring back his son. right? I only hope he suffers as much as those two kids he kiilea. in which he used the car originally driven by his victims. "except a world of blind and toothless men?" TV cameras focused on another man in the crowd. Daniel." thing about wanting revenge. and deadly clouds of cyanide gas swirled about the head of the condemned man. "An eye for an eye. 1978 Robert Alton Harris and his brother. So they say appeased.iy urrg". Two pellets beneath it dropped into a vat of acid. his mouth soundlessly forming the words: "I'm sorry. "We're taught to be ashamed of it. Harris was strapped in a chair. was unaware that his own son. people who knew Robert Alton Harris only as a name in a celebrated trial had gathered for his death watch.' leaving . one of the first to arrive at the crime scene. But the story obviously had touched something deep within him--feelings of shock. Somebody's got to pay foiwhat he did. Po'iice officer Steven Baker. had been slain by Harris. Anger alone is the e.' They try to sound like they hold the moral high gilund." because inly then can we be certain that the apPeasement of anger uniquely fulfills an individual's conditions of moral satisfaction regarding punishment for a particr-rlar crime. "And what will that leave us with. bewilderment. At the lasi minute."The only argument for capital punishment is that'justice equals revenge.." murmured a man in the other faction. "We only want what's right.["r. who said he didn't understand why some people accused people like himself of seeking revenge. He was irrested after a failed robbery attempt. They had hoped in vain for the deith sentence in his case. a tooth for a tooth!" shouted one faction of the crowd in a spiritif equal parts anger and jubilation. or at least ise above it. and he should pay with a life. To his mind.

why do people make this false claim? The writer uses the clever idea of setting out this debate in the words of real people talking to television reporters. why are people ashamed to admit it? If it's false. There is some evidence of time running out on her there at the end. even if your vocabulary is first-rate and your attempts to keep your development coherent and focused are more than apparent. in this form). if you have not figured out by this point in your reflections that you need a definition for "revenge" to do that task. you have good reason to feel confident in your reasoning and writing abilities. an execution done in the name of the citizens of the state. the writer has to take a stab at formulating a test for revenge. First of all. based on some distinctive feature by which it can be recognized as the motivating force behind a person's argument in favor of capital punishment. But the direction of the argument is so clear and its structure is so tight and well-organized that she didn't have much to worry about. Is the desire for revenge invariably at the root of this practice. indeedl How well did this writer do? The answer is: exceptionally well.Commentary on the essay "The only argument for capital punishment is that tjustice equals revenge. A very tall order. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review n7 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Last of all. if you are able to pull it off in thirty minutes with the elegance demonstrated by this writer. and it is rather unlikely to appear on the MCAT as a topic statement (at least. and what does it mean to equate the two ("justice equals revenge")? Second. and here several students show they have not read the assignment for Task #2 carefully. Not until all of those other possible motiaating factors haae been eliminnted--nnd not unless the adaocate for capital punishment expresses only anger and the desire for retribution in nt lenst the same degree and kind as the offense committed by the criminal--can lfie say that the only argument for capital punishment is that' justice equals reaenge. It can coexist with other motianting fnctors (such ss This is in many ways the most difficult essay in this practice series given to students to write. a highly emotional argument about the state's execution of individuals found guilty of committing certain crimes. " Anger alone is the emotion that inspires reaenge. The task in this case is not to find arguments against capital punishment.' " indiztidual's conditions of moral satisf action regarding for a particular crime. Then there is the requirement of the essay to come up with a specific counterexample. What do they mean.t " The thing that determines whether the only argument for cnpital punishment is that " justice equals reaenge" is the extent to which we can be certain that the appeasement of anger alone fulfills an punishment fear) without inaslidnting them as legitimate personal driaes behind seeking capital punishment. as some have charged? And why is it a charge or an accusation capable of irritating proponents of capital punishment. the topic calls for a definition of two terms that get at the very heart of human desire and emotion: "justice" and "revenge". to say that all they want is revenge? If it's true. but arguments for capital punishment that have nothing to do with revenge. Tasks #2 and #3 are both collapsed into the concluding paragraph. At the same time. then your powers of organization and clear thinking are not up to the demands of this topic. even when it is denied. and she crossed the finish line in gold-medal time (just under the allotted thirty minutes). She didn't miss a single turn on the ski slope. all of that has to be fit within the context of a social debate. for task #3. Of course.

a tricky thing to know what is in the mind of another person. Only that will hit the spot. a woman who agrees with the sentiment expressed in the topic statement explains why she thinks some who thirst for revenge are ashamed to admit it. because otherwise. unfortunately. and not objective (the same for all observers and participants). Only by making the murderer suffer "as much as those two kids he killed" will his sense of moral outrage be satisfied. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 118 The Berkeley Keview Specializing in MCAT Preparation Cr . in at least the same degree and kind as the original offense. It is. And the final paragraph gives a specific instance of a family who sought the death penalty for their daughter's killer out of fear. Then in the same paragraph we are provided with the litmus test that shows us how we can tell when people are really demanding the death of another human being out of a desire for revenge. he says that all he wants is "simple justice. But the story obviously had touched something deep within him. and a tooth for a tooth. of course. he would still want "an eye for an eye. the other two most frequent writing problems essay are: (1) pursuing the line of reasoning that holds people want revenge only to appease a sense of personal loss. however. Interestingly enough. most people with this know that anyone directly or indirectly related to a murder victim is always rooted out by defense lawyers from serving on the jury hearing the accused killer's case. we hear from a man who wants revenge--a punishment he thinks of as a payback. just as reliably as hydrogen ion concentration indicates whether an unknown solution is an acid or a base. not anger. In the next paragraph. everyone could agree that the verdict in any case was either just or unjust. counter-examples). Such. everyone who reads that opening paragraph agrees that its abundance of graphic and shocking details absolutely rivets the reader's imagination (the writer claims to have remembered them all. The first paragraph deals with the subjective nature of what we call "justice." Likewise. even if the entire first paragraph had not been part of the paper. In the third paragraph." People who feel this way do not want an eye for a tooth. is not the reality of justice. he did not know the families of the dead teenagers. But we might almost consider that the writer comes as close as possible to a clinically diagnostic position in this respect--something like saying that the spoken or implied presence of anger reveals the desire for revenge.The writer of this essay might have been awarded a 5 or a 6. and (2) an inability to think of other reasons for supporting capital punishment (i. The first misunderstanding is dispelled here by the man described in the second paragraph: "Like most who had followed the case. could never satisfy the grieving father." the demand of an individual for moral or ethical satisfaction. even his apology at the last minute.e. nor had he suffered a personal loss similar to theirs." If we can be convinced that he really does want revenge--and the writer's test for revenge at ihe end of the paper points clearly in that direction--then here is a person for whom justice equals revenge. the criminal's execution. and the quotes from the people at the televised death watch for Harris's execution in April 7992. Baker. as far as his concept of simple justice is concerned. One gets the feeling that even if he were told that Mr. They have a very clear idea of what will satisfy their need for retribution to balance the scales of justice. wasn't satisfied after witnessing the execution.. from an article she wrote for her elective class on journalism). ]ustice by its very nature must be subjective (different for each observer or participant). and motivated by anger--but he denies it. Besides misreading the assignment. the dead boy's father. even if they deny it to themselves. As it is.

Capital punishment has been sought to prevent criminals from repeating their offenses. You could characterize the emotions underlying these arguments as fear. and even for humanitarian reasons (i. like boxing matches on cable (pay-per-view). it is difficult to say that wanting revenge is the only reason people seek the death penalty. caution .. yet he still maintains that "someone has to pay for this outrageous crime--an eye for an eye!". and pity.The second problem is also easily resolved with a little patient thought (admittedly a rare commodity during the test). The point is. to deter would-be felons. and in China. giving those facing life imprisonment the option-which some of them choose--to die instead). greed. if you wanted to. Copyright O by The Berkeley Review t19 The BerkeleY Keview Specializing in MCAT Preparation . if any of these other motivating factors are involved. to save the money spent on "warehousing" murderers. But on the other hand.e. There are even enterprising individuals who have proposed airing executions for profit. respectively. then we have good cause to suspect that all he really wants is revenge. some criminals are reportedly killed on a schedule set by hospitals for organ transplantation. if someone who says he wants this punishment in order to save taxpayers money can then be convinced that years of legal appeals cost more than life imprisonment.

" The intensity of situations often draws out latent qualities in human beings. At such times. case. The lone shadow of a student standing in Tiananmen Square in the face of oncoming tanks and soldiers exemplifies courage of this kind. and standing up to seemingly insurmountable odds. it may seem that the true test of courage is not to face death--the thing that most people instinctively fear above any other experience--but to go on living through an ordeal of great physical pain or emotional distress. even though he may be paraplegic if he lives. the missionary who risked his life in order to spread the gospel to the Aucua Indians of South America. so courage itself entails more than merely choosing to live or to die. regardless of any consequences to your personal well-being. Jim Eliot. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review r20 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . in order to serve his country with honor. the prisoner of war who tries to endure the sordid conditions of captivity in the face of torture and hardship. Then the test of courage is to be willing to die. In this put others before yourself. to seek to give all of oneself for the benefit of others. Circumstances like this come to mind: The victim of an automobile accident who struggles for life. Courage is one of these qualities. risking personal injury for the sake of others. the cancer patient who fights to hold on to every last day of her life. At times. for what one believes in--to press on to defeat the odds. In other circumstances. The true test of courage is facing whatever it is that you fear. however. but to live. It involves setting aside one's own fears and well-being in order to stand for what is right."The true test of courage is not to die. people sacrifice their lives because of their courage. the opposite is true. courage may require you to Courageous people are not always the ones on the front lines of a war or the ones doing battle in foreign countries. Courage can also be found in ordinary people living ordinary lives. died by Aucua spears--but the courage he displayed before and during his death remained with the tribesmen and eventually caused them to accept Christianity.

complex. but to live. and to the point--as long as you recognize. sweet. and demanding. the opposite is true. The writer exhibits at least an average. there is no need to make extra work for oneself in writing what is otherwise a very straightforward essay. For example. this one is short. The style and length of this essay come the closest of any of the essays in this sample to what most students (especially those with very little practice in writing essays) can accomplish in a half-hour.. it may seeln that the true test of courage is not to fnce death--the thing that most people instinctiaely fear nboae any other experience--but to go on liaing through an ordeal of great physical pain or emotional distress. and the conclusion is unambiguous. "The true test of courage is facing tthateaer it is thqt you fenr. that the true test of courage in any situation where it is being tested is to face what one fears most. or sometimes just telling the truth about something you have kept hidden. That could be living. The command of the language is good.Commentary on the essay "The true test of courage is not to die. "People are calling you a hero!" said the interviewer to him in a live shot at the scene of the blaze. if not better-thanaverage. the examples are vivid." The thing thot determines whether liuing or dying is the true test of which of those things the indioidual fears the most at any particulqr moment in one's life. shining as beacons to guide our own behavior in times of crisis? Are they really in such short supply? But realistically. and the point of all the examples is unmistakable: In evaluating option A (to die) against option B (to live) as the true test of courage. the problem can be resolved by understanding that both options are just different versions of the same test: confronting your greatest fear.." he said." The writer of this essay might have said more about courage and about the people who display this trait. do we call an action "brave" or "courageous" when an individual really had no choice but to do what they did? In what other ways might one's courage be put to the test? And why does our culture conduct its never-ending search for those who stand taller than the rest of us. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 121 The Berkeley Keview Specializing in MCAT Preparation . and I've been training to do this for the last four years. as this writer did. degree of clarity and coherence. "Vrat do you say to that?" "I'm no hero. The tone is consistent throughout. unwilling to let him step out of the limelight that quickly." he answered. "Because." In almost every way that the death penalty essay topic is dense.At times. without the usual display of false modesty one comes to expect in such situations. He had gone into a burning building and saved an unconscious woman.Jn other circumstances. courage is howeaer. I knew I could get us both out of there. "a hero is someone who is afraid. so I wasn't afraid at all. but they go ahead and do what they know they have to do any'way. "I knew right where she was. or dying. Not too many years ago. so courage itself entails more than merely choosing to lioe or to die." "But why doesn't that make you a hero?" asked the interviewer. a fireman was interviewed by a local television news team.

' ' ' The resolution to this is to go back and work within the system. etc. but ."*o-rld from these appiications. Worse still. l i { ( I Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review r22 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . The value of this separation is that the legislative branch can make laws which have a universal sense. And-most importantly. All citizens can be informed of these laws and use them to guide their decisions. It is then the goal of the judicial branch to interpret these laws in ipplication to specific circumstances. Through a democratic system. fair. There is a perceived need to protect the public and stop coddling criminis--after all. not justice. which apply to a society. Removed from the emotionality of a particului ttiul. These two branches of government really mute our legal system. not in the courts. such as criminal trials. The goal of our legal system is to preserve social harmony by providing an impartial. The sysiem was designed with two branches. which serve only as a means for criminals to bench. not in application to specific circumstances. many defendants are able to get away with their crimls." This statement is a judgment on the need for separation between the "law-making" and "law-applying" branches of government' The legislative branch of government is empowered with the abiliiy to make la#s. cooler heads may prevail. These guidelines are set u! to protect people from being unfairly put on trial and convicted by the courts. The implication of this is that by creating fair laws (through the legislatures) and application of due process (through the courts). fair and speedy trial. these changes will be made. based more on an intuitive sense of what seems right. such as improper search warrants. one to make just laws. If laws should be changed to loosen the stringencies of dre pioiess. and one to apply them cJniistently by the rules of due Process. the right of a defendant to counsel. people. Due process is usually defined as the use of specific guidelines for such things as admissible evidence."The goal of our legal system should be to administer due process under the [aw. rather than due proa"rr. due to technicalities. many people want to do away with such technicalities. which reflect the overall wishes of the people. this should be'done in the legislative branch. free. "p although many people (perhaps including the author of this statement) think of the iegal syste'm as b"iig only the judicial branch. justice will be served f"airly and equally to all But in rebuttal. where more room is available for debate and reflection. why siould their rights be protected? The temptation is thus very great for courts to overstep their role and to aitempt to apply jtstice directly from the J go At times. uniform *eihod for rediessing grievinces. if someone has violated another person's rights (such as through iape or murder). The court system is invariably clogged up with lengthy and expensive trials. changes can be made to the laws. we must consider the practical side to this rationale.

due to technicalities. and as soon as they adopt the cynical position that courtrooms are not in the business of dispensing justice. This essay is exceptional for its organization and clarity. The writer neatly sidesteps that snare at the outset of this well-conceived and beautifully executed essay by saying that "many people (perhaps including the author of this statement) think of the legal system as being only the judicial branch" of government. as well as the more abstract conceptual problems. to make them as fair and equitable as possible to everyone to whom they might ever apply. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review r23 The Berkeley Keview Specializing in MCAT Preparation .. The system was designed with two brnnches.'' Many students struggle with this topic statement chiefly because they interpret the words "legal system" to refer only to what goes on in a courtroom.. and police officers. one to make just lazus. from that person's point of view. The topic statement thus may be the kind of comment uttered by someone who gets angry when they see judges overtuming laws that it took legislators a long time to hammer out. the phrase "criminal justice system" rings rather hollow wherever it appears in their essays.. There is a perceived need [by some judges and many private citizensl to protect the public and stop coddling criminals. and for its treatment in some depth of an intricate social and legal problem.. "The legislatiue branch of gouernment is empowered with the ability to make laws.The goal of our legal system is to preserae sociql harmony by prooiding an impartial. such as improper search warrants. such judges are usurping the legislative branch's powers by succumbing to "the [very great] temptation. expressed in a clear criterion statement." The thing thnt determines whether the goal of our legal system should be to administer due process under the law or to ndminister justice is which brsnch of that system you ere considering. And the temptation for judges to bend the strict rules of due process in many cases is so very great. many defendants are able to get away with their crimes. repeats the formulation of the opening paragraph... and everyone connected with the criminal justice system being administered in jails and courtrooms across the land. lurking behind the topic statement: the annoyance of judges and police officers--and anyone who ever called in to a talk-radio show-regarding criminals who seem to have more rights than their victims. lawyers. not justice. many people want to do away with such technicalities. rather than due process. The writer's neat and sensible conclusion. At times. Worse still.for courts to overstep their role and to attempt to apply justice directly from the bench.. based more on an intuitive sense of what seems right." Following due process is what the speaker of the topic statement would see as the proper function of judges.Commentary on the essay 'The goal of our legal system should be to administer due process under the law. because it is evident that their courts are "invariably clogged up with lengthy and expensive trials. which serve only as a means for criminals to go free. fair.These two brsnches of goaernment renlly make up our legal system. and one to apply them consistently by the rules of due process. uniform method for redressing grieaances. (Never mind the bargaining and compromises that went on behind the scenes!) In effect." All of this development of the main theme shows a familiarity and willingness on the writer's part to deal with the real-life complexities. fand] the goal of the judicial brqnch [isl to interpret these laws in application to specific circumstances..

and anything dealing with the arts are the things toward which most pre-med students in our review courses voice an aversion. philosophy.: . both for reading Verbal Reasoning passages and for composing Writing sample essays. 'Sl iiri:{ :.-" * Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review t24 The Berkeley Keview Specializing in MCAT Preparation . plus a little time invested in reading the newspapers to stay abreast of current issues.Political and legal issues. But this essay could have been written by anyone who had an eighth-grade civics class on the separation of powers in American government.$ i .

is more process than product. The same applies for science. there is a manifest need to express something within. but without a symphony to show one's talents. we must give time to the rebuttal of this argument."Art. in designing a better car engine. science becomes technology. music. Process alone leaves the creative endeavor as a personal experience with no means of transmission to other people. yet it also encompasses the same concept of process. just as one can never predict the final product of an artistic outpouring. such as new methods or inventions. but just craft and technology. totally entrepreneurial. cases. how will the rest of the world ever know about one's creative artistic or scientific endeavors? In the case of the artist. One can never truly predict the outcome of scientific endeavor. For art. The inspiration for artists is. but only by some tangible product. science is really a process of discovery. poetry. which is to say their products.like science. dance. But where art is about totally subjective personal experience. but the process of creativity. and the medium of expression is the product. we see that both science and art need both process and product. science is about uncovering the universal truths of our world. One may be the world's greatest composer. which quite naturally is that without product. one is not really looking to uncover any universal truths about thermodynamics. The scientist/technician is merely trying to meet the demands of the car company to find a better engine. something is lost from the process. the world will never appreciate this fact. or anywhere in between. It is completely objective. can this discovery be conveyed to the rest of the world." as pretty much any form of creative expression--visual. the product can come in the form of papers and similar condensations of the scientist's progress. often the work of other artists. For example. It can be therapeutic. So again. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review t25 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . and the scientist is now a technician. Product without process is not really art or science. naturally enough. In the end. there are Art can be defined Science can be viewed in a similar vein. In all no absolutes. Similarly. However. Art is a personal process of drawing on one's own human experience and playing with it. its point is often not the product. Scientists must always strive to uncover new knowledge. Discovery for personal satisfaction can be very rewarding. the process becomes turned into craft and the personality of the artist as creator is lost. When either art or science sets its goal to production alone. For science. etc. an experiential quest.

weighed against the much greater strengths of this essay. is more process than product.. with smooth transitions starting each new idea.or four-paragraph method one comes to expect as the standard in Writing Sample essays. followed by a comparison to science: "science can be viewed in a similar vein. like science." From the perspectiae of general utitity: "when either ort or science sets its goal to production ilone. And the writer here does acknowledge the dissimilarity between the "totally subjective" realm of art (where "there are no absolutes") and the "completely objective world" of the scientist. They probably would not be enough to deprive the-writer of a score of 6." But these criticisms are small.. Through skillful use of this recurrent structure and a nimble writing style.. without ever falling into a superficial treatment of the topic. also could have been more specific.. about the unpredictability and the personal nature of a quest in both artistic creativity and scientific research..similarly. totally entrepreneurinl. the same structure is repeated: A point is made about artistic pursuits. the third sentence of the fourth paragraph could have begun: "Beethoven might have been the greatest composer of his age.The same applies for science. The differences in their methods and in their goals offer only two obvious examples of that contrast.. The criteria used to carry out the third task of this essay are not all found together in one place (although they are shown that way on this page. moving from art to science." Artists need products to share their tqlents and to inspire others. for example. e. If we follow the logic offered in the sentences of this essay/ we can gain some clarity about the way we use the terms "art" and '. science can be aiewed in a simiky aein.. so one"might fault the writer for a lapse in coherent presentation sty1e.. scienbe becomes technology. the process becomes turned into cralt qnd the personality of the artist as creator is lost. but the process of crentiaity. rather than to compare them with each other.science" Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review t26 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation .nny form of creatiae expression. [as a personal strioingl to uncoaer new knowledge. while scientists also find the products of scientific research usefut to giae new goods and inaentions to the world." The thing that determines whether art or science is more process than product is whether we uiew either disciptine from the perspectiae of personal satisfaction or general utitity. The writer's mental agility is reflected in the paragraph structure as well-six brief ones. similarty. the writer seems to loop effortlessly back and forth. rather than the typical three. It can be therapeutic. as the wording of the topic statement indicates he must do.a personal process of drawing on one.g. somethiig is lost from the process. an experiential quest.s own human experience and playing with it..a process of discouery. a very fluent treatment of a topic where one can easily lose their footing. Throughout the essay. above)... The counter-"*u-p"1". and the scientist is now a technicinn. after all is said and done." But he wisely emphasizes their similarities more. and he certainly should not be awarded anything below a 5. or anywhere in between. science becomes technology.. From the perspectiae of personal satisfaction: "Art can be defined as. He talks. For art." and so on. and from process to product.Commentary on the essay "Art. Its point is often not the product. This is. Many essays ask the student to contrast art and science. in which one attempts to unveil "the universal truths of our world..

The same statements carry a similar value." and the word "science" for "art" both times. if we substitute "Einstein" for "Rembrandt. and museums around the world. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review t21 The Berkeley Keview Specializing in MCAT Preparation . saying that "Rembrandt was devoted to his art" means the Dutch painter was devoted to the process of perfecting his painting style with each new canvas he worked on. Thus. still enjoyed by collectors and studied by novices centuries after his death. galleries. but saying "Rembrandt left the world a magnificent legacy of art" makes a statement about the tangible products he left in homes.in our own everyday speech.

When -u ruy ro-ething is "priceless. It can't. Similarly. certain items with exceedingly high personal value." We mean it is invaluable or possesses a worth too great to be assigned any price. scarcity and abundance? Is the item in question easily replaceable or interchangeable with other items of the same kind. a sandwich has the same number of calories or vitamins. you often hear people say: "You get what you pay for. On the other hand. rather than only relative." Saying that the price of something will not always reflect its value means that the cost you pay for a thing is not necessarily the same as what that thing is worth to you. because if it were. more testing and engineering that went into its creation. But it's not the aesthetic value or the prestige you are paying for.e. the many hours of effort that it represents--the quantifiable units that are the basis for assigning an objective value to anything. only that person can say. then it's likely this is the kind of value that is approximated by a price. regardless of who eats it. rather than the subjective."The price of something will not always reflect its value. how much they value it subjectively." There are good reasons why you pay more for a Rolls Royce than for a Yugo: the extra material. It's like saying the price of a medical education is so many dollars. then people who know the most about cars and can most appreciate those kinds of values in them would have to pay more than someone who doesn't. might be absolutely free. cin it be said that item A is exactly 3. like the dried flower pressed in a high-school yearbook. But what that education means to anyone personally. then price doesn't reflect it. In the end. And a Rolls Royce has a universal reputation among car fanciers and the general public as one of the finest automobiles ever made.: a hammer has the same instrumental value. But a gold ring that belonged to my grandmother cannot have the same meaning--the same subjective value--for a stranger that it has for me. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 128 The Berkeley Keview Specializing in MCAT Preparation .. the objective value of a thing is the same for anyone utilizing it: A gold ring has the same cash value. regardless of who wields it." we don't mean it is "worthless. Rather. the thing that determines whether the price of something reflects its value is the kind of value you are referring to. i. regardless of who wears it. People may have subjective reasons for setting a price. so many ATP molecules of energy expended-those are roughly the same costs paid by any med student. the same nutritional value. If you mean the subjectiue value. when you buy a Rolls Royce or any other expensive car. and the years of craftsmanship devoted to producing its distinctive design. terms? That is. the better-quality material. but once set. exactly. In fact. a price is the same for anyone willing to pay it. But tlre objectiue value of things can often be approximated by a price. because price is essentially always an objective consideration.26 times more valuable than item B? If the answers are yes. so many years of training and study. all anyone pays for are the many Pounds of metal in it. rather than being unique or irreplaceable? Is it possible to state the value in absolute. value of something: Has the value been established by market pressures of supply and demand. Other clues that you are dealing with the objective.

If you mean the subjective ualue. we know from ordirary usage of these terms that they are antonyms." The writer follows that up with a supporting example (the sentimental value attached to something that is absolutely free of charge). persuasive. Other practice essay topics dealing with the same distinction are the ones asking about whether a journalist should always be strictly objective. Can they seriously maintain that only the objectively measurable read-out from the machine used in this experiment is real. this way of looking at experience has put more than one scientist in the bizarre philosophical position of denying the existence of his or her own consciousness or personality. Here we have an essay where task #1 is begun well with a simple paraphrase of the topic statement: 'Saying that the price of something will not always reflect its value means that the cost you pay for a thing is not necessarily the same as what that thing is worth to you. then price doesn't reJlect it." "real. it tells us something about the deeper levels of meanings embedded in language." The writer of this essay has produced what some of us regard as the standard treatment of one of the perennial favorites of normative essayists: the difference between subjective and objective experience." while they think of "subjective" experience as "biased. then by substitution we can say that "price does not necessarily equal worth.tt will not always reflect its "The thing th&t deternines ruhether the price of something reJlects its aslue is the kind of aalue you &re referring to. we get: "priceless does not necessarily equal worthless." according to the paraphrase. and to use them any time the same distinction is called for: "objective" just means "the same for all observers and participants." or "undistorted. It csn't. and about whether a scientist should stick to explanations of the natural world. declaring that both of these subjective constructs are merely "epiphenomena" or collectively shared hallucinations that float like foam on the sea of chemicais in each of our brains! We would invite these skeptics to hook themselves up to a device that registers pain in the human nervous system and then drop a bowling ball from a table onto their own bare feet." and "subjective" means "different for each observer or participant. Very often--far too often--students with a rigorous scientific education come to think of the word "objective" as a synonym for "true. becattse price is essentially ahuays an objecti-oe considerqtion." Taken to its logical extreme." And by negating both halves of this equation. But the objective aalue of things can often be approximated by a price." In fact. and that what they seem to feel is only an illusion? For the sake of reasonable. it will be much simpler to adopt the definitions for "objective" and "subjective" experience offered by this writer here." or ''opinionated. common-sense argumentation in essays like the ones required for this part of the MCAT." We made the same distinction in our commentary about the subjective nature of justice in the essay about capital punishment in this series of sample essays." "illusory.Commentary on the essay "The price of something value. Quite a lot to pack into four short sentences! Copyright O by The Berkeley Revierv 129 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Then comes a clever bit of deductive logic: If "price does not necessarily equal value" means the same as "cost does not necessarily equal worth. This is more than mere word-play. without imparting any personal values to social or political discourse.

because it is empirically assessable.." and "symbolic value" on the other? The writer decides by the beginning of paragraph 3 that the broadest terms we can use to describe these two categories of value are "objective" value and "subjective" value--and then goes on discussion in any given situation. is even used twice--once to show what is meant ty oblective value.' "personal value. a model worthy of imitation. beginning the discussion of task #2 thatcontinues into the third paragraph. Another As we explained at the outset of this commentary. and it could not be clearer in its definition of essential terms or in the wording of its final criterion.99"? And what is the real difference between terms like "cash value. the tendency of scieni Notice that the writer manages to steer clear of the reef upon which some students founder: At no point is either kind of value called the "ieal" value of something.. the gold ring in the last paragraph. The criterion for Task #3 is thus simple: price. students might be to say that objective value is the only "real.r"rui" value." '. being objective.'real" value to their parents other than the dollar amount that has been spent to rear them.' value a thing can have. the writer explores some of the same issues that have perplexed economic theorists since the days of Adam smith and Karl Marx: How can we assign a dollar value to anything? what determines this kind of evaluation? what is the semantic content of ads that tout a product as "a 95. This wtuld leave them in the uncomfortable position of saying that children have no . Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review r30 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT preparation ." and 'property value" on one hand. to offer the reader a three-part test to decide which kind of value is under noteworthy thing about this essay is the apparent ease with which the writer takes a crack at some of the most profouna aspects of the problem under discussion. urra -ugii. It is focused and direct in its analysis of a comple* topic.' "artistic value.In the next paragraph. such as what we mean by the word "meaning" itself (iook at the final sentences of the second and fourth paragraphs) This essay is rich in examples (one of them.. and "historical value. now only $3. or perhaps the market value of all the raw chemical compounds in their bodies. can be reflected only by objective value. It is a paper to study and learn from. never by subjective value. an exemplar of concise essay writing style.00 value. to suggest subjective value).

People are fallible and cannot predict the future with certainty. This was an especially attractive solution to many eighteenth-century European intellectuals. or getting a flu shot (although everybody likes getting through the winter without a sniffle). that there are many actions whose consequences we would deem desirable-even the best--although those actions make most people angry." If it means the immediate gratification of every appetite and desire. But a philosopher might advise us to use the power of reason to find the answer. So maybe what helps us decide whether the best action is the one that procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number is how we define "happiness. but by how good the intentions of the moral agent are when he or she acts. especially those whose outcome is hard to foretell. even in the long run. and whichever column had more checks in it would dictate the correct action to take. because it justifies all actions only in terms of their results. or putting money into a retirement account. They would say the best action is the one that most pleases God. Politicians or businessmen might tell us that the best action is the one that produces the best results. Sometimes all we can do is pick the lesser of two evils. one could just sit down and weigh the costs versus the benefits to everyone that were likely to result from choosing any available option. and sometimes the worst choice of all is to do nothing. and for some philosophers the most reasonable guideline is that the best action is the one that makes as many people as possible as happy as possible. they might direct us to the words of the Bible. the Koran. But if it refers to long-term satisfaction. as the traditional authority of priests and kings began to erode and the new authority of science and reason increased. Some carefully thought-out. then it is difficult to justify paying any taxes at all using the utilitarian rule. then the utilitarian guide has much to recommend it. nobody likes a tax increase (although everybody likes roads without potholes and a responsive fire department). even if the price is delayed gratification of our wants and needs. let alone bothering with flu shots or retirement funds. regardless of intentions. however. Usually. Bentham said the ultimate goal of society and of the individual should be to bring about the greatest happiness for the greatest number. It is said the German philosopher Immanuel Kant decided whether to marry a particular woman of his acquaintance by a similar methodl It must be admitted. regardless of how they are attained or how much we must bend the rules to get them. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review l3t The Berkeley Keview Specializing in MCAT Preparation ." What makes any action the best one to do in a given situation? If we rely on the advice of religious authorities to answer this question. Sometimes the goodness of an action is judged not by how good its outcome is. If we use goodness of intentions as our criterion for determining the best action. or some other sacred text. For example. and the avoidance of anything inconvenient or painful. frightened. Philosophers like jeremy Bentham actually tried to formulate a moral calculus to assist any rational individual confronting the problem of choosing the best course of action in any situation. then the utilitarian principle will often be insufficient for guiding us toward making the best decision in many situations. This is not all we can say about the matter."That action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number." In practice. He called this philosophy "utilitarianism. their sacred text is the pollster's survey or the bottom line of a financial sheet. though. where it stays until you're 65 (although most retired folks seem to enjoy taking those sunny vacations). regardless of the outcome. or unhappy. wellintended actions make everyone involved very unhappy.

let olone bothering with flu shots or retirement funds. but he was one philosopher who gave greater weight to good intentions. regardless of intentions. by the way. there is nothing wrong with this practice. "If zue use goodness of intentions as our criterion for determining the best action. rather than divinely inspired. Generally. All of this is leading to the practical point. as to whether it is a good idea to use quotes in the essays.. and the other focusing on different ways of justifying any action: The thing thqt determines whether the best qction is the one that procures the grentest happiness for the greatest number is how we define the word "happiness. rather than maximum utility. the philosophy expressed by the topic statementl. as long as they are effectively placed to highlight a key point in your argument and not stuck in wherever they happen to Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 132 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . and religious studies electives you have had to take over the years. then the utilitarinn guide has much to recommend And: The thing that determines whether the best action is the one that procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number is the extent to which one belieaes that the goodness of any qction is justified by will often be insufficient for guiding us townrd mnking the best decision in many situntions. often raised in class and in office hours.Commentary on the essay "That action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number.e. except he claimed his rule was logically demonstrable. in his evaluation of the goodness of any and all actions. but they are very much on the mark as far as naming the men whose philosophical writings were most absorbed with the question of weighing intentions against outcomes as the yardstick to be used in ethical discourse. The specific references to Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant may look like nothing more than name-dropping or showing off on the writer's part. then the utilitariqn principle This essay is an excellent specimen showing you what happens when you actually bother to pay attention in all those history." its results. the patron saint of everyone who believes that "the ends justify the means" (or in its modern incarnations: "By any means necessary!" and: "Hey. especially those zuhose outcome is hard to foretell. Like Jesus or Nazareth (the christ) and Gautama siddhartha (the Buddha). opposed to them is Niccold Machiavelli. regardless of the intentions of the moral agent zahen they took that action. philosophy." satisfaction." The writer analyzes the topic statement two ways. because it justifies nll actions only in terms of their results." "lf it means the immediate gratificntion of eoery appetite nnd desire. may (or may not) have used the rather utilitarian method for selecting a wife alluded to by the writer. you've got to break a few eggs to make an omeletl"). a political theorist living in Renaissance Florence. and the aaoidance of anything inconaenient or painful. Kant had a basic rule of moral conduct that was a version of the Golden Rule. Kant. But if it refers to long-term it. one focusing on the definition of a key term. euen if the price is delayed gratification of our rnants and needs. then it is dfficult to justify paying any taxes at all using the utilitarinn rule [i.

which considers the goodness or badness clf the intentions behind an action. justification essays typically do not ask for definitions as much as reasons-specifically. Examples of topic statements of this type would include: "It is always wrong to lie. which judges an action in terms of its utility or the overall desirability of its outcomes. Many famous quotes are regularly misquoted or used for purposes other than the one intended by their originator. It is also not very constructive to say: "The moral agent's intentions were good. without quotation marks. but bear in mind that occasional errors in spelling are not marked down too hard--this is. to come full circle. or because they are unsure as to how his name is spelled. a chemical firm trying to develop a horribly effective nerve gas--but he accidentally discovers the cure for cancer. Therefore. reasons that make some action excusable or forgivable that otherwise would be unacceptable. bad results cannot be justified by good intentions." To maintain consistency and coherence in your argument of such essays. try expressing it as a paraphrase. a first-draft effort. Maybe a few hours thumbing through a collection of famous quotations. The two chief modes of justification are: (1) the Machiavellian. as part of your outside reading. regardless of what the writer calls "the intentions of the moral agent.when he or she acts". but if you can state its essence in your own words.. no matter whom he had to kill to get them.occur to you. they know what to watch out for. Here the Rule would read: If you could Copyright O by The Berkeley' Rer ie"r 133 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation . Rarely is the quote attributed to the famous Florentine. it is a good idea not to start justifying an action by one mode of justification at the beginning of the paper and then end up using the other mode of justification for your conclusion. but inadvertently finds a horribly effective nerve gas used to kill millions. violent revolution is never justified. so even though they are reading these essays very rapidly.. Quotations do look more impressive rwhen credit is given to a source (properly spelled). and on what basis is this judgment to be made? Pay attention to the dynamics implied because they occur frequently in many forms in normative in these so-calied "justification essays." and it doesn't fool anyone. The most prudent policy. Remember also that the scorers for this part of the MCAT very probably include a few editors and writing instructors who have seen their share of really good counterfeits over the years. but apparentiy because it is so easy to remember. however. One works long hours for little pay and seeks the cure for cancer. some version of the Colden Rule. regardless of the consequences." This is just playing around with the word "best. again. and (2) the Kantian or intentionalist mode." "In politics. The other sells his scientific know-how to the highest bidder. two scientists working side by side in adjoining laboratories. Jerome) is used more often than any other direct quote by students in our review courses when they are writing justification essays--not necessarily because everyone subscribes to it." and "No matter how oppressive a government is. as extreme examples. consequentialist. The thing that someone accused of bad actions must plead in their own defense in order to use the intentionalist mode of justification successfully is. Machiavelli's pithy little maxim (which is actually the reworking of a much older statement found in the letters of St. Imagine. will plant some choice words of wisdom in your mind. and as long as they are genuine and not fabricated. because he always intended to get the best results. is not to make up any quotes on the Writing Sample." writing. his actions are justified by the goodness of his intentions. so avoid it altogether. If you cannot recall the precise wording of a quote." "Killing is never justified. after all. either because students are unsure as to who uttered the phrase. The dilemma (and hence the Great justification Debate): Whose actions are to be judged the best. or utilitarian mode.

though. no other options. in fact. based on his mastery of language skills and his entertaining introduction and examples. If you can be forgiven for doing action X because you had insufficient knowledge. or were otherwise constrained by limiting factors beyond your control. insufficient time to act. a complete failure to engage with the thesis. If we define it this way. and adds almost as an afterthought: "This is not all we can say about the matter. try to answer eaery MCAT essay prompt by saying that everything hinges on how you define this term or that term in the topic statement--an indiscriminate approach that in some cases is only slightly less useless than saying for Task #3: "Well. the writer of this essay sees definition as one possible solution--to say that our agreement with the statement depends to a large extent on how we define the concept of "happiness"." and proceeds to outline the Great Justification Debate. Why go into all of this here? We do so because this particular topic statement is a pure distillation in one sentence of the philosophy that favors the consequentialist mode of justification over the intentionalist mode. collects his thoughts. and the writer was bright enough to understand on some level that this was what confronted him. This essay is excellent in terms of its depth and complexity. He could have taken the easy way out. then go with option A as the better way to understand the problem. and simply treated the matter solely as a "definition essay." Some people. wellcrafted paragraph. then you must excuse my behavior. If you would use lethal force to defend your own life. the exclusive reliance on this technique is to be avoided. then you must excuse my use of it to defend my life. But if we define it that way instead." one whose criterion in Task #3 always says: "The thing that determires whether option A or option B is more applicable is how we define term Y. then you must forgive me for doing the same action when constrained by the same limiting factors. as well as a completely different criterion for Task #3 in line with that. He could have stopped there and gotten a mark above the average score range. Copyright @ by The Berkeley Review 134 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation ." At any rate. Then he stops. Its unnecessarily litigious tone when used in some essays has won for this method of resolution the unflattering nickname of "the lawyer's escape hatch. all in a single.) And while some essay resolutions very clearly do rest on the way one defines or understands a certain word or phrase in the topic statement. it all depends on the circumstances!" or "It all depends on the individual!" (That kind of criterion statement for Task #3 would represent the abandonment of any obligation to think critically or to communicate clearly about the subject matter at all.use whatever my excuse is to justify your own behavior in the same circumstances. then option B has the edge.

Notes .