The writing section is usually the first section to appear on the GRE. You need to finish two writing tasks in one hour for this section. There is an “issue” and an “argument” that you need to analyze. In this article, we analyze an argument that is given on the official GRE website.
The following appeared in a letter to the editor of the Balmer Island Gazette.
“On Balmer Island, where mopeds serve as a popular form of transportation, the population increases to 100,000 during the summer months. To reduce the number of accidents involving mopeds and pedestrians, the town council of Balmer Island should limit the number of mopeds rented by the island’s moped rental companies from 50 per day to 25 per day during the summer season. By limiting the number of rentals, the town council will attain the 50 percent annual reduction in moped accidents that was achieved last year on the neighboring island of Seaville, when Seaville’s town council enforced similar limits on moped rentals.”
Write a response in which you discuss what questions need an answer in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
The part in bold presents the argument and the italicized part gives instructions
Now, before you start thinking of a response, understand what is to be done. Re-read the part in italics, it says “what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result” and “explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation”.
Try to figure out what the “recommendation” and “the predicted result” is.
The recommendation is “The town council of Balmer Island should limit the number of mopeds rented by the island’s moped rental companies from 50 per day to 25 per day during the summer season” and the “predicted result” is “50 percent annual reduction in moped accidents”.
QUESTIONS THAT NEED AN ANSWER
Now, start jotting down the questions that would need to be answered.
Is the editor of the gazette an authority who can make decisions?
If the editor is not an authority who can enforce the recommendation; then address the letter to a person who can make decisions.
The population increases to 100,000 in summer months every year or was it in a particular year because of a particular event?
If the population had increased only in a particular year, then the recommendation will have no effect on the number of accidents. An analysis of the population in summer months needs to be carried out for multiple years to arrive at any conclusion.
How many of these hire a moped?
This question asks how many of the 100,000 people rent a moped. It is possible that most of the extra people are tourists and prefer to walk. The mopeds belong to the people who live in Balmer Islands. If this is true, again the recommendation would have no effect. The town should be certain that a majority of these extra people hire a moped.
The mopeds that are involved in accidents, do they belong to the rental company or are privately owned?
In case the mopeds involved are privately owned, the recommendation would not have the desired effect of reducing accidents. The number of accidents would change only if a majority of the mopeds involved in accidents are from the rental company.
Do accidents happen because of the moped driver’s error or the pedestrian’s error?
If accidents are happening because of pedestrian error, better traffic management would reduce accidents. Designated points for crossing, speed limits would help reduce accidents. Reducing mopeds would not produce significant effects. The town should do a thorough analysis of the nature of accidents.
Approximately how many mopeds does the town have?
If 25 is a small fraction of the total number of mopeds, it would not have a significant impact on the number of accidents.
What is the distribution of accidents according to months, the paragraph implies that 50% of accidents occur in the summer months?
The paragraph presumes that a majority of the accidents happen during summer. The monthly distribution of accidents needs to be studied to validate this. If a majority of accidents do not happen in summer, the town might not see a 50% reduction in accidents by enforcing the recommendation.
Is there a direct correlation between the number of mopeds on the roads and the number of accidents? Or are other factors playing a role?
This question asks for a correlation between the number of mopeds and accidents. If they are not directly proportional (i.e. halving the number of mopeds will halve the number of accidents), then the recommendation would not have the desired effect.
Is reducing the number of mopeds by 25 going to produce significant results?
The town should carry out a study which can link the number of mopeds on the roads to the number of accidents. It is possible that a change of 25 would not be significant enough to reduce the number of accidents.
Is Seaville similar to Balmer Island in terms of population, number of mopeds, etc?
This question asks for a comparison between Balmer Islands and Seaville. It is possible that Balmer Islands and Seaville are very different in terms of population, number of mopeds, number of pedestrians, etc,. In such a case the recommendation is unlikely to have the predicted results.
These are just some of the questions that come to mind. You need to use the answers to these questions in order to evaluate the recommendation. That is, whether the town should enforce the recommendations or no.
This article is just an outline to structure the argument. Your argument needs to have an introduction, the main body and a conclusion to it. You get marks depending on how well you have understood the question and how accurately you have responded to it. The evaluation also considers sentence construction and vocabulary while evaluating the argument.
Building writing skills takes time and I suggest you perform one writing task at least once in three days. There are a lot of sample arguments available online which can help you learn to structure your argument.