How to Approach the Argument Essay on the GRE

By Ron Woldoff, Joseph Kraynak

When you write an essay for the Analyze an Argument section of the GRE, the essay prompt presents a paragraph that states a position and provides several reasons in support of it. Your job is to analyze the argument and its reasoning and evidence and describe why the argument is either faulty or sound. (Usually, though, the argument is faulty.) Check out the following example:

“Many considerations point to the conclusion that Flint’s restaurant should be changed from a youth-oriented, family-style restaurant to a Western-style saloon serving alcoholic beverages and featuring country bands. First, few families live in the area surrounding the restaurant; most have moved farther out into the suburbs. Second, Flint owns and operates two other saloons that have liquor licenses, making him experienced in the field. And finally, alcohol has a higher profit margin than does food.”

Directions: Write a response to the preceding 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 clock’s ticking, so you need to work fast, but you also need to analyze the argument before you start writing. By having a plan of attack and a structure in place, you’re better equipped to produce an outstanding essay in the allotted time. The following steps will help you to write a good argument.

  1. Read the prompt and understand what it’s instructing you to do.

  2. Identify the position stated in the argument.

  3. List the reasons given to support the stated position.

  4. Identify any flawed assumptions behind each reason.

  5. Write a four- or five-paragraph essay using the following outline as your guide:

    • Introductory paragraph demonstrating your understanding of the position stated in the argument and whether you think the evidence provided supports that position

    • Two or three paragraphs, each of which refutes a faulty assumption/conclusion presented in the argument or, if you agree with the stated position, provides additional evidence to support it

    • Concluding paragraph that recaps your essay and reinforces why the argument is or isn’t valid

The Analyze an Argument essay isn’t based on your opinion. It’s based on your analysis of the argument. For example, in this essay, your personal preference of family restaurants to saloons shouldn’t affect what you write.