After we have demonstrated our clear understanding of the prompt, the next step is to take a position. The GRE graders are not looking for a right or wrong answer on the topic you have chosen. Rather, they are looking for you to take a definite perspective on the topic and they want to see how well you can organize, support, and express the position you take. Because of this, you can take several different positions on any given topic.
For example, we previously discussed the topic pertaining to matters of health, and the issue presented was whether human health was a matter of the individual or of society as a whole. If this is our issue, we could take the position of YES human health is a matter of society as a whole and not just individual. Or NO, human health is not a matter of society but only of the individual. Or, human health is a matter of BOTH individual well being, and society as a whole. Or, in some cases human health is a matter of the individual, and in some cases society as a whole.
Again, it does not matter what position you take as long as your position is stated clearly, supported logically, and expressed properly. You could take any one of the positions we just delineated.
But, because the graders are looking for you to take a definite position and provide relevant support, our advice is to pick one side and argue it. Even though you theoretically can take both sides of an issue, it is best to take one side because of the specific criteria the graders are looking for. Pick the side you will argue based on the examples that come to mind.
If you are having trouble taking a position, consider making a short hand chart with all your examples in it (Sign-in to our GRE Course to view the chart!). In our example, we have two basic positions, saying that health is a matter of individual health only and saying health is a matter of society too. On the individual health side, maybe we could think of the fact that nursing homes are concerned with helping individuals in their final living days, and so it is recognized that individual well being is paramount.
Perhaps that is the only example we could come up with, though. We don’t want to spend all our time here. We only want to spend about 5-6 minutes coming up with good examples to support our side. If these were all we could come up with, we would definitely want to pick the side with the most support we could generate. By the way, we want to aim at having at least 3 good examples for the position we are going to argue.
Since we have three examples for one side, we should argue that well being is a matter of society, and not just the individual. We do this because it is an expressed position for which we know we have an ample supply of support. Perhaps now we are able to write clearly what our position is.
Upon reflection, it becomes obvious that the health of a society must be considered as a whole, and not merely as individuals, because individual well being is most often connected with other people.
We demonstrated our understanding of the prompt and clearly stated our position… Now we outline the support we will develop in the rest of our essay.
A mother must be healthy so her child can be healthy, a troubled neighbor affects an entire neighborhood, and an independent rich man does not necessarily help the plight of the poor. In these cases, it quite apparent that human beings are interconnected, and that no concept of “human health” could be complete apart from considering “society as a whole”, or more precisesly, the relations between humans.
Again, just to reiterate a few things about these sentences. First, a position is clearly taken. Remember that our prompt was regarding individual human health or society as a whole. In the first sentence, a position is clearly taken. You could think of this as our thesis statement.
Second, we listed our main points of support for our position in the second sentence. This gives the reader an introduction not only to our position, but also to the points we will develop in the following paragraphs. It is these two components that will help your organization. If you combine this with the restatement of the prompt we did previously, we have a robust introductory paragraph.
So you see, the essay almost writes itself if you follow these steps!