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Student Issue Essay Analysis Part IX

This is Part IX of my Student Issue Essay Analysis series. I’ll be posting a prompt our Premium students have responded to over at the Magoosh product (under real exam conditions) and giving my analysis of the essay. If you want, have a look at the prompt first and try your hand at the essay, and see how yours stacks up.

Check out my past commentary:


Universities should require students to take courses only within those fields they are interested in studying.

Write a response in which you discuss your views on the policy and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.

Student’s essay

Attending university is a period of self-discovery and enrichment – both academically and socially – for most students. Although students may change their intended career paths and waver between majors during this time, universities should encourage students to take courses in the fields of study that students choose themselves. By allowing students to take the courses they wish to take, students will be able to avoid low grades, hone in on the fields they are most interested in, and help indecisive students search for their best career paths.

Often times, the requirements that a university places on its students include a wide range of courses that are not necessarily essential to a student’s learning or intended career. Although schools intend to help students grasp a general understanding of all subjects, such general requirements may actually hinder students from achieving academic success by lowering their GPAs. If a student knows she is particularly interested and strong in literature, a required course in mathematics or the sciences may actually adversely impact her academic plans. The student would be subject to taking a class in a course she is weak in and might harm her chances of getting into a competitive literature program due to her low overall grades. If the student were allowed to take only the courses she chose, she would be able to pick courses she know she can perform her best in to reflect the true nature of her knowledge.

In addition to avoiding unnecessarily lower grades due to difficult courses, students would be able to focus on the fields in which they are interested in and will continue to pursue into the future. Some students attend university with a very specific plan in mind. For example, a student who desires to pursue a profession in electrical engineering will specifically choose to attend a university that has a strong engineering program. For these students, the university should allow such students to choose their own coursework. By avoiding general requirements enforced by the school, students can hone in on developing their particular skills and save time and money in the end. If an engineering student was required to take multiple courses in the humanities and arts, such coursework would retract from the student’s overall academic and career plans.

Although some students may have their career paths blueprinted in mind before entering university, most students will use their time in college to discover what careers best fit their skills. For undecided students, the university should require the students to take courses in fields that they choose, based on initial interests and simply out of curiosity. Even indecisive students can find the most fitting career paths by exploring fields of interest. If the students were forced to take basic classes to fill university credits, they would not be able to enjoy their coursework and find a field that can be translated into a future profession. Since university is indeed a time of experience and discovery, students may perform poorly in some classes and excel in others. This process of allowing students to choose their own courses would allow them to naturally find their career paths without the pressure and stress associated with pursuing a career that one does not enjoy.

As students enjoy their time in school by taking the courses they excel in and actually have an interest in, the students will be more inclined to give back to the university in the future. If students have favorable memories of their time in college, they may be more inclined to donate or pay tribute to their alma mater schools. Students who are forced to take classes that they do not enjoy and receive low grades in are less likely to hold their respective schools in high esteem. Thus, after graduation, students will not be inclined to contribute to the school in the future. If the university gives students a relatively stress-free and effective academic experience by allowing students to choose their own courses, the university can benefit from the future contributions of their loyal students.

Universities will find it within their best interest to require students to take courses only within the fields that students choose for themselves. The students will be able to have higher grades, focus on their careers, or discover new careers along the way.

My analysis

Score: 5.5
This is a strong, well-organized essay that effectively argues a position: Students should be free to choose their own courses, and not be required to take predetermined courses.

The essay addresses the instructions, instead of glossing over them—or totally ignoring them altogether, as some students are wont to do. Notice the exact wording in the instructions:

“consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.” The final body paragraph discusses the positive consequences of allowing students to choose their own courses: students will be happy and successful, and thus more likely to give back in the future.

What prevents this essay from getting the highest score of a‘6’ is that it only looks at the positive consequences—the university is helped out by happy students who give back in the future. To me this is all too one-sided. Had the essay shown that there may be some downside to not having any required curriculum—but then addressing that downside and showing how it holds true only in some instances—then this essay would have had the nuanced analysis worthy of a ‘6’.

As it stands, this essay is a well-reasoned and thorough (notice the length) piece of writing. Thus it warrants a ‘5.5.’

A note about essay grading

While I’d love to grade everyone’s practice essays, that’s just simply not possible. Unfortunately I won’t be able to grade new essays, as students’ essays have already been chosen in advance. Instead, if you’re wondering how to get feedback on getting your practice AWA essays graded, check out this page:

How to Get Your AWA Practice Essays Graded?

If you have any questions about my analysis, let me know in the comments below!

By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

One Response to Student Issue Essay Analysis Part IX

  1. Azarafza October 6, 2015 at 6:22 am #

    Dear Chris,

    First off, thank you so much for your nice job! It is so helpful that I can’t find the apt words to appreciate you. Let me ask you a question regarding this essay. You got a 0.5 score off this essay because you find the analysis not nuanced enough. Taking a look at several sample essays with the high score of 6.0 given by ETS, for instance, the one about technology and its consequences on people’s attitude of thinking” As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorates.” you can simply see the the author received a 6.0 without going taking a nuance position; the author has a one-sided response toward the prompt. The author only goes against the statement and launches several reasons and criticisms to the issue without changing its position to the statement, even in the concession point or conclusion sections. This is, however, in contrast with your suggestion of taking a nuance position toward the issue. this arises a question in my mind: Do we always have to take a nuance position toward the issue or even we can choose to be one-sided? To make it more clear, let me give another example. Today I ran into another prompt through ETS’s issue pool with this statement: “Some people believe that college students should consider only their own talents and interests when choosing a field of study. Others believe that college students should base their choice of a field of study on the availability of jobs in that field.” To response this prompt, I can find several supportive and reasoning cases why one should pursue the field according to its talents and interest, which is more important from my view; however, there is another cogent, yet formidable reason that other people think is correct. I mean students should base their fields on the job opportunity. In my essay, I chose this later one as the “concession point”; nevertheless, I am equivocal if this strategy would mar the whole structure of my essay’s logic. It seems that choosing the field of study based on job would be more convincing! In this way, don’t you think that the concession point is actually even more tangible and reasonable than the position I first chose and dropped a couple of paragraphs!
    It would be highly grateful to hearing your precious viewpoints.
    Thanks in advance

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