The GRE begins with two writing assignments, one of which is an Argument Analysis essay. This essay involves 30 minutes of intense writing, and requires you to write an analysis of the stated argument's implied assumptions.

When working through the essay, be prepared to do the following:

  • Declare your position and support it with sound reasoning and examples.

  • Communicate clearly, so that your point can be understood by someone who doesn't know the topic.

  • Critically think about how the topic fits in the big picture.

  • Analyze the argument, and decide whether it hinges on flawed assumptions or missing information.

  • Clearly describe how the flawed assumption and missing information affect the validity of the argument.

Your challenge is to complete a quality essay within 30 minutes. Avoid these common pitfalls:

  • Not clearly describing your point of view (as if assuming the essay grader can also read your mind)

  • Taking too long to think about your topic, then rushing through the writing process and making all kinds of grammatical and spelling errors

  • Getting stuck on the essay and panicking, thus using up all of the energy that you need for the rest of the GRE

The following practice essay asks you to analyze an argument.

Essay question

  1. Write a response to the following argument that analyzes its stated or implied assumptions, reveals how the argument's position depends on the assumptions, and explains the effect of any flawed assumptions on the argument's validity.

    The increase in skiing accidents at the country's top ski resorts has many executives scratching their heads about the best solution. A study was conducted to find the causes of the increase, and a number of skiers were interviewed as part of the data collection process. The results showed that between the years 1995 and 2010, the number of injuries resulting from ski accidents jumped 33 percent from the results found in pre-1995 data. Interestingly, this result coincides with the advent of snowboarding and the opening of most of the mountains to snowboarders. Snowboards cut the snow differently than skis do, creating deep grooves that skiers get stuck in and making moguls more challenging. Thus, ski resorts should ban snowboarding on their mountains to reduce the number of ski injuries.

Answer and explanation

  1. The following essay is one possible response to the argument. Review it, and read the notes that follow.

    The author makes a large leap in his argument when he proposes that banning snowboarding from ski resorts would reduce skier injuries. Although the information presented seems to lead to that conclusion, there is much left out of this evidence, and further information is needed before a clear solution can be found.

    The blame the author attributes to snowboarding is nebulous at best. The data presented do show that more injuries have occurred since allowing snowboarding on the mountain, but there are no categories for the type and severity of the injury or the circumstances surrounding each incident. It is possible that the shapes of skis changed, creating more difficulty for skiers as they became used to the new style of skiing. It is also possible that snow conditions have worsened in the past decade, causing more extreme conditions on the snow. If injuries were resulting from other causes, such as these mentioned, the blame could not be placed entirely on snowboarders.

    Moreover, there is no way of knowing the full significance of the data. How many injuries does 33 percent equate to? If the sample population is small, then 33 percent may not be that significant of a number in the big picture. However, if the opposite were true, 33 percent more injuries would be a major problem. Merely providing statistics is not sufficient evidence without a context for those statistics.

    Finally, the author provides an example of how snowboarding affects the slopes differently from skiing. This example is used to show that skiers are at an increased risk of injury. However, the author does not link the example with injuries directly. He does not state that more challenging moguls lead to more injuries. Thus, the information is not quantified in the essay and serves no purpose beyond knowledge. The author would need to provide real evidence linking this cause to the effect to make a critical point with this information.

    It may be that snowboarding has negatively affected the skiing experience or skier safety. However, the author leaves many unanswered questions in his argument, and the conclusion is not valid based on the information given.

The essay author presents his case clearly. He takes the assumptions made by the essay prompt and logically shows the flaws in the assumptions. Even better, the writer provides examples of further evidence needed to address the flaws. Through the use of these examples, the reader is clearly able to understand what is missing from the argument.

A high level of language and proper mechanics makes this a top-scoring essay.

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