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DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ISSUE AND ARGUMENT ESSAYThe Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) Section of the GRE contains two writing tasks namely the Issue Essay and the Argument Essay. Both of them are allotted 30 minutes each and are scored on a scale of 6 which is where the similarity between them comes to an end. The major errors that students commit in this section are due to the confusions that exist between the two Essays. GRE Issue Essay and GRE Argument Essay are as different as night and day starting with the primary contrariety that GRE Issue Essay requires your opinions about the given prompt whereas the Argument Essay requires you to validate the authenticity of the given argument without letting your opinions interfere with the task.
ISSUE VS ARGUMENT ESSAY - FIRST GLANCE:
- Issue Essay deals with your ability to present an argument with your views, your ability to convince the reader to agree with your point of view. On the other hand, the Argument Essay tests your ability to pick apart an argument written by another author, your ability to effectively critique the argument by providing proof.
- In an Issue Essay, the debatable topic ( is general in nature and can be from any field, does not require complete knowledge to write about) is given as a statement, your job is to choose a side, stick to it and present it suitably. In an Argument essay, the author presents a case with his supporting evidence in the form of a paragraph, and your task is to check the soundness of this argument, to effectively critique it.
- The directions for answering these essays are also different
- In an Issue Essay, you must introduce the issue at hand in your words briefly whereas, in an Argument essay, the given argument must be introduced from the author's point of view using his conclusion.
- The second paragraph in the Issue Essay involves stating your chosen side and your reasons for standing by it whereas in an Argument Essay, the flaws in the author's presented argument must be identified and how his conclusion overlooks these flaws must be discussed.
- In an Issue Essay, the body paragraphs involve relevant real world examples that support your chosen claim whereas, in an Argument essay, the identified flaws must be stated with explanations and solid proof.
- Conclusion in an Issue Essay involves agreeing with the opposing viewpoint in one or two statements to show your emotional maturity level, whereas an Argument essay is concluded on a note of doubt which claims that the argument may have one or more valid points but is deprived of more plausible explanation, requires more proof to be valid.
ADDITIONAL IN-DEPTH DIFFERENCES:
- The Argument Essay requires a critical analysis of the presented claim rather than your perception as is the case of an Issue Essay where your opinions and views form the core of the
- In an Argument Essay, you should only prove that the evidence supporting the conclusion is inadequate, not that the conclusion is wrong, unlike an Issue essay where you could use anything and everything to support your claim.
- While the Issue Essay depends on outside, credible facts, the Argument Essay focuses on the evidence provided in the paragraphs
- The Issue Essay is always presented as a contestable topic like a coin with two sides where you opt for the side you can present best. The Argument Essay does not have two sides from which you could choose a side, but a single claim which must be analyzed and discussed upon.
In the GRE, AWA Section is crucial as it shows off your communication skills and writing abilities. Looking out for these common mistakes and preventing them through a better understanding and practice will help you score high in this section.
The GRE Argument Essay does not need to be difficult. It certainly does not need to inordinately tax you before you even begin the test itself (remember both the Argument and the Issue come before the verbal and math sections).
To make sure you finish the essays with confidence—and not a racing pulse and heavy breathing—you want to learn what to do, and what not to do, for the GRE Argument Essay.
1. Do not agree with the argument
The Argument essay gets its name not only from the fact that you must analyze an argument, but also because you must provide your own argument. Specifically, you are arguing how the argument is terrible (in a scholastic manner, of course!) and filled with logical fallacies. You must in no way agree with the argument. It is there for you to skewer with your logical and rhetorical abilities.
2. Don’t belabor the introduction
The intro should be short and sweet. Many forget this and instead try to craft an eloquent and attention-grabbing first sentence. Do not be seduced by such a temptation! Instead, be as dry and formulaic as possible (the Issue statement, it should be noted, allows for a little more flair).
3. Follow a rigid organizational scheme
Organization is key to scoring well on the GRE AWA. The good news is that the Argument has an even more cookie-cutter template than the Issue. Essentially, you want to open with a quick intro stating how the paragraph is weak for a variety of reasons. You can mention those issues, before elaborating on them in the body paragraphs.
Begin each body paragraph with a topic sentence that states the specific fallacy you are attacking. The second sentence should provide your reasoning. The third sentence can elaborate on the second sentence by providing specific examples. Your fourth sentence can be something like, “Had the argument taken into account…”, “Had the argument not assumed X…then….”
The final sentence can recap the paragraph (think of it as a mini-conclusion that is paragraph-specific).
4. Find the right balance
The GRE argument paragraph is a bar of Swiss cheese, the holes gaping logical fallacies. It is easy to get carried away and try to enumerate all of the logical inconsistencies in the paragraph. Doing so, however, detracts from your ability to develop your criticism of any one logical inconsistency or questionable assumption.
At the same time, you could just as easily pick out one of these glaring assumptions and write a really long paragraph, describing why an assumption is unwarranted and ways to make the argument stronger.
The key is finding the right balance between highlighting specific fallacies and developing a thoughtful and sustained (but not too sustained) dismantling of one of the holes in the bar of Swiss cheese.
The magical number is three. Make sure you find three separate logical fallacies in the paragraph. These fallacies of course should be the ones that you feel detract most from the legitimacy of the argument.
5. Brainstorm/outline before you write
Simply rushing through the paragraph and writing whatever comes to mind is probably not going to end well. Take a few minutes to digest what the argument is saying. Often, one of the most glaring assumptions, the one that the argument really hinges on, might escape you on first reading.
Once you’ve written down a few of the logical fallacies think to yourself how you might develop a sustained attack. One great way is to consider how the argument would have been made stronger had it not assumed X, Y, and Z.
Finally, thinking about what you write before you write will help you score big points for organization—a critical part of your AWA score.
Check out this breakdown of a sample argument essay.