Analytical Writing Analyze an Issue

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Analytical Writing

Analyze an Issue

A masterful essay can be written in 30 minutes.

To what extent do you agree with the claim above?  As you develop your thesis, make sure to consider circumstances under which this claim would prove to be true and circumstances under which this claim would prove to be false.  Explain how these considerations have informed your point of view.
Welcome to the analytical writing section.
This essay prompt presents an issue and asks you to take a position on that issue. Notice that the prompt also asks you to consider both sides of the issue—showing that you understand arguments for and against the position that you have chosen.
You will have 30 minutes to write this essay. How can you possibly write an incredible essay in 30 minutes?
The good news is that ETS knows they’ve given you a challenge, and they’ve told their graders (humans and a computer) to value your ideas and reasoning over perfect grammar and mechanics. They know that this is a draft. Any errors that make your ideas hard to comprehend will lead to a loss of points, but minor errors are not a problem.

  • Use the scrap paper that you will be given to write down 3-5 points that strengthen your position, and 2-3 points that weaken your position.


The student is able to draw from experience and learning he/she has already had in order to answer the question.-

The student has not practiced connecting an issue to his/her learning or experience.

The essay is a draft, allowing the student to focus on ideas and make more superficial changes later.

The essay is about to be published in a magazine.

The student limits himself/herself to 5 paragraphs.

The student limits himself/herself to 5 paragraphs (length is arbitrary—few of our best essays are just 5 paragraphs long)

  • Take about 2 to 3 minutes to consider the issue and then take 5 minutes to develop a plan:

Thesis: A compelling draft of an essay can be written in 30 minutes, but few pieces could be masterful in such a short time.

  1. The time limit would limit the number of paragraphs that a student can write to 4 to 5 paragraphs.

  1. Some readers argue that this limited amount of paragraphs prevents people from exploring topics in depth.

  2. With a limit, however, students needs to choose the strongest examples to support their points and has time to explore more than one side of an issue.

  1. If the student has practiced reflecting on current events, personal experiences, and reading, he/she will have trained himself/herself to connect them to larger issues/ themes—and see how larger issues and themes connect to these ____.

  1. An issue question about ____ could be linked to ___, ___, and ___.

  2. My improv troupe called that part of the brain that was worked through practice, and this is a form of improvisation.

III. A masterful essay should be ready to be published.

A. A paper written in 30 minutes gives most writers no more than 5 minutes to revise and edit.

B. A masterful essay should also be fact-checked, and a person’s experiences may not be completely based on fact!

Conclusion: Restate thesis in new words and then add the kicker – a line that challenges our thinking or shows us why this topic matters.

Tips for Preparing:

    • Read nonfiction written by professors and articles from papers that explore issues in depth.

    • Keep a journal on the issues they explore. You can then review that journal before the exam.

    • If writing is a weakness, do one timed essay per week and submit it to the writing lab for review.

    • For timing, stick with our fast-food version of writing: the 5-paragraph essay

  • When thinking of support for your argument, do your best to draw examples from history, literature, and current events.

+ One Caution:
Do not use examples that have drastically different degrees of seriousness.
Here’s an example:
Thesis: One cannot be a great leader without humility.

    1. The Nobel Prize winning researcher started his acceptance speech with humility, explaining that he had only been an average student with a concern about a disease that had taken his cousin’s life.

    1. My dog is the pack leader at our local park. Onlookers believe that this is due in part to his humility. When I toss Bark Mulligan a Frisbee, he will always catch it, but that dog never celebrates in front of the other dogs; instead, he quietly walks off and buries the trophy.

Though Bark Mulligan’s feat is impressive, the one human test reader might not think that it is appropriate to the dog’s trick to a scientist’s work on researching a disease.

Analyze an Argument
You constructed an argument in the last essay and now have the chance to take one apart. The passage is usually 1 to 2 paragraphs long.
Here’s a sample:
Standardized tests determine the extent to which you will succeed in your chosen profession. Since students take so many different courses in college that are graded with varying levels of leniency, colleges rely on standardized test to show each student’s ability to think critically and solve problems under pressure. Those skills are required to make progress in every well-paying profession. Celebrities like Jodie Foster and Robert Norton did extremely well on their SATs, so it is no coincidence that they are sought-after performers in Hollywood. In order to be a successful CEO, one also has to be able to make vital decisions that are under scrutiny by the company’s board, the media, clients, and employees. Because the CEOs of fortune 500 companies show the ability to solve problems and make sound judgments, there is no way that a multiple choice question could ever stump them. So, make sure to value standardized test scores over any other work that you have done.
PROMPT: In your response, discuss what questions the author would need to answer in order for this argument to be considered logically sound.

This argument has many flaws—so many, that it is hard to know where to begin when pointing them out.

Tips for the Writing Process

    • For timing, stick with the McTemplate for writing: the 5-paragraph essay.

    • These questions usually can be answered with some form of this thesis: A conclusion cannot be accepted as sound unless the reasoning that supports it is logical and strong -- On the GRE, the conclusion in the sample argument will not be acceptable because the argument has flaws.

    • The argument that ETS presents will always have flaws.

    • Pay attention to the exact directions in the prompt before jumping into the analysis. The question may ask you to point out assumptions, discuss evidence that the argument needs, questions that the author still needs to answer, or other plausible explanations that need to be considered.

    • How can you analyze an argument in such a short time?

    • Use the question to develop a plan:

PROMPT: In your response, discuss what questions the author would need to answer in order for this argument to be considered logically sound. Explain how the author’s answers would help one determine whether or not the conclusion is logical.

  1. Thesis: Conclusion cannot be sound if it is based on faulty or questionable evidence.

  1. Question 1 for the author

  1. One possible answer and how that would shape my opinion

  2. An alternative answer and how that would shape my opinion.

  1. Question 2 for the author.

  2. Question 3 for the author.

  3. Conclusion: Review your main points and add a compelling final line. This line might answer one of the following questions:

      1. Why does this issue matter to the reader?

      2. How can we use your analysis to improve our own skills with rhetoric?

The 4 terms below show you some key ways to analyze an argument:

1.  Look for Assumptions

2.  Look for Alternative Explanations

3.  Develop Counterexamples

4.  Evaluate Support

These prompts often ask test takers to look at the argument through one or more of these lenses. You can see the lesson on analyzing an argument for more information about each approach.

1. Use the scratch paper to take notes about the flaws for 3–4 minutes.

2. Develop your plan based on the question in 2–3 minutes

3. Write 15–18 minutes

4. Revise 5–7 minutes

5. Edit in 1–3 minutes (or as time permits)

During the Writing Process:

  1. Make sure that your thesis responds to the question that they are asking.

  2. Stop yourself from overanalyzing in order to pace yourself:

  3. Remember that you already have a version of the thesis ready to go.

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