Once you have analyzed the argument properly, the next step is to organize your analysis into a template, just like we did with the Issue Essay. A template will allow you to organize your thoughts in a logical fashion, and it will aid the reader in being able to understand your writing.
The graders of your essay are not looking for any one particular way to arrange your thoughts in writing. There are any number of templates you can use, and any number of ways you might clearly and logically express yourself. The template offered here is simply one version of what you can use. It is simple, straightforward, and easy to remember.
In paragraph 1, you want to restate the argument in your own words– This demonstrates that you understand the prompt– and you want to outline your points of critique. In other words, list the assumptions that the author fails to delineate which make his argument weak. This will be the outline of your critique and will show the reader where you are going.
So, for our original prompt, we would say something like this for our first paragraph. We restate the argument:
“The author makes the claim that the citizens of Lakota should utilize both heating fans and central heating systems to save money on electricity.”
Then, we state that the author has made assumptions that undermine his argument, and we list them:
“First, he assumes that the sample population from the study is representative of Lakota as a whole. Second, he assumes that heating is the biggest factor in electricity usage. Finally, he assumes that employing these heating appliances would save an appreciable amount of money.”
These are exactly the assumptions we identified a previously in our analysis.
This is an excellent example of an opening paragraph because it demonstrates that we have understood the argument and it outlines the points of critique that our essay will discuss.
After we have composed our first paragraph, we want to develop in the next few paragraphs the various points of critique we just named. To do this, we want to use concrete, relevant counterexamples. This is just a simple way of supporting your critique with specific scenarios that call into question the assumptions the author has made.
If you will recall, one of the assumptions we pointed out in the argument was that the sample population from the study is representative of all of Lakota. In other words, the author assumes that what is the case for the sample population can be generalized to cover all of Lakota.
So, in developing our 2nd paragraph, we want to think of counterexamples, or scenarios which would question the assumption. In what scenarios might the sample population cited in the study not be representative of Lakota?
Well, for one, Lakota may have a diverse geographical layout. There may be people living in the mountains and people living on the beach. There may be people living on the sunny side of a hill or within a shaded forest. The study does not indicate where the sample population was taken from, so it may not have been a cross-section of geographical climates.
Also, people in the study may have lived in older, less efficient houses which would cause them to need these heating appliances more than the average citizen of Lakota. If the rest of Lakota rarely uses heaters in the first place, why should the recommendation be applied to everyone?
Lastly, the study in the original prompt mentioned “families” as the subjects of study. We are not told what this amounts to. Presumably, it excludes singles, and perhaps assisted living facilities or non-family communal homes. Thus, it cannot be applied to all of Lakota because it is probable that whole demographical categories were left out.
So these are three counter examples which question an assumption made in the prompt. We simply put this information into paragraph form for our second paragraph. And at the end of the paragraph, we restate the fact that we are calling into question the central assumption about the validity of the sample population. You don’t need to have 3 counterexamples as we did in this paragraph, but it is important to have at least 1 or 2 for each assumption you call into question.
So, essentially, you repeat the process of critiquing the assumptions by use of counterexamples in paragraphs 2-4. Simply address the assumptions one at a time and you will have PLENTY to write about. Remember, this essay is only 30 minutes long, so you need to address the assumptions simply, directly, and forcefully.
In your final paragraph, which you should get to only if you have sufficiently addressed the assumptions in the previous paragraphs, you simply restate the argument, recap your points of critique, and briefly mention the strengtheners you identified in your analysis step. This shows the reader that you really entered into the meat and potatoes of the argument and have considered it fully.
In conclusion, the author unjustifiably assumes that the sample population from the study is representative of Lakota as a whole, that heating is the biggest factor in electricity usage, and that employing these heating appliances would save an appreciable amount of money. This argument would have been strengthened if the author would have provided data showing the study to be generally representative of Lakota, and showing heating to be the biggest electricity usage. He might also have strengthened his argument by showing that his recommendation has been implemented and proven effective on a small scale for a notable reduction of electricity costs. Without these, however, we can remain unconvinced at the author’s recommendation.
So in the step by step process, we are almost finished. Once we have analyzed the argument, and we have organized the essay according to a template, the only thing left to do is to write and then proofread our essay. Don’t skip this last step, as the graders are looking for a good, polished essay. We want to leave a couple minutes at the end so we can fix any careless errors or grammar mistakes.
Lets review a pacing guide we can use to completing these steps in proper fashion.
As we have stated before, on the Argument Essay, you only have 30 minutes. Remember though, the graders are looking for the specific demonstration that you can understand an argument, take it apart, and critique it. That is why first of all you want to spend at least 8 minutes analyzing the argument and identifying its major features. This is the most crucial step in the process as it will dictate what you will write.
Then, spend 20 minutes writing according to your template.
Then, leave the last 2 minutes to proofread what you have written and make sure that paragraphs are properly divided, that you have written in complete sentences, and that you have fixed any typos.
The 30 minutes goes by very fast, especially since you will be writing this essay right on top of having written a 45 minute essay in the previous section.
The biggest thing to remember in the argument essay is to identify and critique the assumptions! This is simply the key to the entire essay. Getting a decent score on the essay is relatively straightforward if you do this, but is next to impossible if you don’t. Make sure you take time to practice on the prompts listed on the gre.org webite. Train yourself to analyzing the arguments until you can identify conclusion, evidence, and assumptions quickly and easily. It is a simple skill but one that is crucial for your success on this essay.
And also, keep in mind that you will always be undermining and criticizing the argument, not agreeing with it or endorsing it. You know you are going wrong on this essay if you think the argument is well-written and sound.