We’re going to explore one type of question, claim and reason, from the GRE Issue bank, which is about how teachers should specifically design courses for the interests of their students since doing so makes them motivated learners.
If you have been diligently at work writing practice essays from our list of GRE writing prompts, you may have noticed an interesting species of Issue question, one in which there is a claim and reason. (To see the full prompt, head to the pool of issue topics and search for “when planning courses”.)
Let’s pretend for a moment that you only examine the claim—as would be the case in your typically Issue prompt. Your essay could take several different perspectives, as the examples below illustrate:
Students are more aware of what is relevant in their lives and what is important for them to learn.
Students may find certain subject material boring, and so their feedback in shaping the curriculum is important.
Teachers know what is best for their students and should not blindly acquiesce to the collective will, especially if what the student wants runs contrary to what the teacher knows is best.
Even though students may initially express little interest in a subject, they often can be drawn into the subject and go on to cultivate both an appreciation and a deeper interest in that field.
For each position, agree or disagree, one of the excerpts totally disregards the reason. Can you guess which one? The key to the “Claim and Reason Essay” is to make sure not to forget the reason. See, the reason narrows the scope of the essay, and it is this important qualification that the GRE wants you to consider. By ignoring the reason and merely focusing on the claim, you’re not answering the question, which instructs you to pay attention to the reason.
In the excerpts above, the first instance for the “agree side” and the first instance for the “disagree side” would both be problematic theses, because they ignore the reason. You are basically putting a ceiling on your essay score, of maybe a ‘4’. Though I’m not sure how accurate that assessment is since I’ve never had a student tell me they did just that but otherwise wrote an excellent compelling essay. Perhaps, the graders will penalize you even more drastically for outright disregarding the instructions.
The thing is this type of Issue can be more challenging since the scope is more restricted. That shouldn’t translate to a shorter essay, however. In the example above, the one from the “disagree side”, you could develop one body paragraph that discusses what happens when a student remains bored with a subject.
Oftentimes, lack of interest doesn’t translate to a waste of time. Students may be unaware of what will be applicable in the future. A student yawning during Econ 101, but who still studies for the exams and does well, might find him- or herself using some econ knowledge later in life when he or she goes into investing. Letting students influence the Econ 101 curriculum could very well lead them to focus on something relatively trivial, say sports gambling, and miss out on a more fundamental lesson—a lesson the educator knows will be of greatest use to the students.
Of course after taking the pro-educator side, the essay above would be wise to include a paragraph considering those instances in which students may actually shed some useful insights that could help an educator provide an even a more comprehensive and edifying classroom experience. Because really, does an educator always know what is best for his or her students?
Just like that you have two body paragraphs, and I’m sure it would be easy to come up with another perspective on the issue in a final body paragraph. Keep your sentence structure varied, your vocabulary interesting, and your grammar mistake-free and you should get at least a ‘5’.
One final note is to avoid the following pitfall: responding to the “Claim and Reason” Issue as though it were the Argument Task. Just because you see two sentences does not mean you are no longer in issue territory. Anyhow, argument prompts tend to be much longer, usually a paragraph in length.
Now, here are 5 example Claim and Reason prompts that I’ve come up with:
1) “Claim: Universities should place a limit on how many classes a student can enroll in during a given academic term.
Reason: Students, especially those who are in their early years of university schooling, frequently overestimate the amount of coursework they can commit to.”
2) “Claim: There should be laws against farming crops and livestock in the central districts of large cities.
Reason: The pollution typically found in highly urban areas damages food crops and farm animals, causing them to produce contaminated or substandard food.”
3) “Claim: Art museums should charge little or no money for admission, and should be as open to the public as possible.
Reason: Artists create their work because they want to show it to an other people, and art museums are the best venue to give artists an audience.”
4) “Claim: A person in authority should always encourage those under him or her to share their thoughts and ideas.
Reason: A leader’s main goal should be to promote innovation and change.”
5) “Claim: Happiness comes through seeking out new and different experiences.
Reason: People have a natural desire to learn and explore.”
For your own edification—because I don’t always know best—every single “Claim and Reason” Issue that could come up test day is listed in the pool of issue topics on the ETS website. Just search for the phrase “Claim:” to find all of these. I encourage you to at least look at a few and come up with a mental outline of what your body paragraphs would look like. That way if you get a “Claim and Reason” Issue test day there will be no surprises.
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