GRE Argument Essay - Understand the Argument

Writing an effective argument essay for the GRE is contingent on your ability to understand exactly what the presented topic is all about. You'll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who: Is the argument about any one person, a group of people, a country, a city, voters, mothers, businessmen, etc.?
  • What: What is the central idea or topic? What is being discussed? Speed limits? Hunger? Immunization?
  • When: What is the time period in which the topic is based? The past, present, or future?
  • Where: Is the topic pertinent to only a specific location? If the argument topic is about coastal flooding, you'll need to raise different conclusions than if the topic were about high-mountain camping.
  • Why: Most importantly, WHY is this topic being discussed? Why does it matter?

Once you answer these and similar questions, you should have a good understanding of what the argument is about. More importantly, in answering and thinking about these questions, you should raise objections to some of the presented statements. It is these objections that you want to enumerate and discuss in your essay. Going over such a list of questions is exactly what being a discerning reader is all about. Not only do you read what you are presented with, but you think about and analyze the content of the text.

Analyze and critique the argument

Once you clearly understand the argument, you'll need to analyze how well structured and reasoned it is. Towards that goal, you may ask yourself a few questions, including:

  • What is the premise of the argument?
  • Are details given? If not, what details might have been added to help support the presented argument? If details are given, are they relevant?
  • Are conclusions valid? Are inferences made? If so, are they speculative?
  • If data is presented, are there details about how the data was collected?
  • Would the argument be stronger had it been supported with data and references?

Once you have acquired answers to some of the above-mentioned questions, you are ready to write your GRE argument essay. Use the answers to the questions regarding the logic and flow of the presented argument to argue in favor or to oppose the presented view.