Tag Archive for 'GRE writing'

GRE Analytical Writing Overview Part II: Analysis of an Argument

Analyze the following Argument: "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit."

Analyze the following Argument: “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

The GRE Analytical Writing section can be a stumbling block for many students. However, with practice it can become one of the easiest sections on the test. Scoring on the GRE Analytical Writing  section is based on a 6 point scale that is broken down into half-point increments. The highest possible score would be a perfect 6, and the lowest would be a 0 (reserved for blank or completely off-topic essays). This score is determined based on your performance on the two essays that make up the Analytical Writing section: the Analysis of an Issue essay and the Analysis of an Argument essay. Today, we will focus on the Analysis of an Argument essay.

In the Analysis of an Argument essay, you are presented with a short paragraph in which an argument in favor of a certain point of view is made. A typical paragraph of this sort might resemble the following prompt (which was indeed used on the GRE exam in the past):

“Woven baskets characterized by a particular distinctive pattern have previously been found only in the immediate vicinity of the prehistoric village of Palea and therefore were believed to have been made only by the Palean people. Recently, however, archaeologists discovered such a “Palean” basket in Lithos, an ancient village across the Brim River from Palea. The Brim River is very deep and broad, and so the ancient Paleans could have crossed it only by boat, and no Palean boats have been found. Thus it follows that the so-called Palean baskets were not uniquely Palean.”

Success in responding to these prompts is dependent both on one’s general writing skills and on strategies specific to this kind of essay. With regard to general writing skills, it is important to try to maximize both your idea count per sentence and the variety of your diction and sentence structure. Essentially, this means you should avoid diffuse, wordy writing and try to make use of all the vocabulary words you have been studying for the Verbal section of the exam. At the same time, attempt to create a pleasing variety of simple, compound, and complex sentences so that the writing flows nicely.

Turning to strategies specific to the GRE Analysis of an Argument essay, the most important strategy is to memorize and practice all of the possible kinds of prompts you could be given. These prompt types are listed on the official GRE website, and are reproduced here:

  • Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
  • Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions, and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the advice and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the advice.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered 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.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the prediction and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the prediction.
  • Write a response in which you discuss one or more alternative explanations that could rival the proposed explanation and explain how your explanation(s) can plausibly account for the facts presented in the argument.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be addressed in order to decide whether the conclusion and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to the questions would help to evaluate the conclusion.

Essentially, you are being asked to determine the validity of the argument made in the paragraph in one way or another (note that this means the argument will always be logically flawed in some way: your goal is to find and explain these lapses in reasoning). Remember, the most successful essays are those that most directly address the specific task indicated by the prompt; less successful responses may be on topic but fail to address the specific task at hand. The official GRE website also lists past Analysis of an Argument essay topics that you can use to write practice essays. Remember, practice makes perfect, so you would do well to take advantage of these resources. For additional help, resources, and strategies that will prepare you for the Analysis of an Issue essay, consider studying with the experts at Test Masters. Until then, best of luck and happy studying!

GRE Vocab and the Seven Deadly Sins: Part I – Lust

An early sixteenth century Dutch depiction of the seven deadly sins, by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch.

An early sixteenth century Dutch depiction of the seven deadly sins, by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch.

Back in the day, everyone in Western Europe was Catholic. It should thus be no surprise that Catholic theology has left a profound impact on the English language, and has granted us many excellent, Latin-based GRE vocab words. In this GRE Vocab series, we will discuss words that describe the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues. Some of these words are easy, but others are more unusual, and all of them have synonyms and related words that are frequently tested on the GRE.

In Catholicism, the seven deadly sins are considered to be the root causes or motivations for all sinful actions, and include lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. Each sin has a corresponding heavenly virtue that was meant to strengthen the good catholic against the temptations of sin and the consequent risk of eternal damnation. The seven heavenly virtues are humility, charity, kindness, patience, chastity, temperance, and diligence.

The sin of Luxuria was often personified as a beautiful woman, much like the Roman goddess Venus.

The sin of Luxuria was often personified as a beautiful woman, much like the Roman goddess Venus.

You are probably familiar with the meaning of the word lust, which refers to excessive sexual desire. In Latin, the traditional language of the Roman Catholic Church, the word for lust is luxuria, from which our modern word, “luxury,” is derived. The English word “lust” is derived from the German word Lust, which simply means joy, pleasure, delight, or desire, and does not have the same sinful overtones as the English word. A word often used as a synonym of lust was the word lechery. lecherous person was a lustful person – a person given over to unrestrained sexual desires. If someone is lustful, you might also describe his or her behavior as wanton, licentious, libertine, promiscuous, libidinous, prurient, salacious, concupiscent, lewd, or lascivious. 

The word wanton means overindulgent, especially concerning sexual desires or material luxuries. It can also mean heedless or refer to an action done without regard for morality, justice, and all that’s right and good, as in “wanton destruction.” Licentious means sexually unrestrained as well. You might recognize the word “licence” hiding in “licentious.” We all know that a driver’s licence is something that gives you freedom to drive legally, but the word licence can also refer to freedom generally, like “poetic licence,” when poets or writers bend the truth in order to make their stories more compelling. Licence especially refers to an excess of freedom or abuse of freedom. So a licentious person is someone who allows him or herself excessive sexual licence.

The word “libertine” has a meaning derived from similar logic: you probably recognize the word “liberty” in “libertine.” This word has a particular association with the eighteenth century (the 1700s) and the age of the Enlightenment, a time when new ideas about democracy and freedom were circulating throughout Europe even as absolutist monarchies and privileged aristocracies maintained their hold on power. As new ideas about political freedom became more common, there was fear among some that these liberties would lead to an erosion of morality, especially sexual morality (even though aristocrats were the ones who were infamous for their sexual misbehavior).

A portrait of the notorious Casanova.

A portrait of the notorious Casanova.

Eighteenth century figures like the famous seducer Casanova and the twisted Marquis de Sade (we get the words sadism and sadistic from his last name, de Sade – he was turned on by causing women physical pain, and he wrote about it extensively. Masochism is the enjoyment of physical pain itself, hence the modern abbreviation “S&M”), stoked fears that too much political liberty would make everyone turn lustful and lecherous and would be the end of civilization as we know it. A libertine was thus a man who lived a life of unrestrained sexual indulgence, and perhaps also made a practice of seducing otherwise “virtuous” women (back then, a woman’s “virtue” consisted of only one thing: waiting until marriage to have sex and then only having sex with her husband and no one else). Another word for this kind of seducer is rake (the adjective form of the word rake, rakish, actually means debonair, fashionable, jaunty, and charming – just the qualities a successful rake might need)

The word libertine could also be used as an adjective to describe people who behaved like libertines or deeds that a libertine might commit. Perhaps the best example of the eighteenth century libertine is the legendary, fictional character of Don Juan, a Spanish nobleman who uses his aristocratic privileges and good looks to seduce thousands of women, until he is dragged to hell by the ghost of the father of a woman he attempted to rape. The Don Juan legend is famously portrayed in Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni (Giovanni is the Italian version of the Spanish name Juan, both of which are equivalents of the English name John).

The word promiscuous is an adjective that refers to casual and often indiscriminate sexual behavior with a number of partners. The noun form is promiscuity. It derives from the Latin word promiscuus, which literally meant “mixed-up” – you might notice the root misc in promiscuous is shared with the word “miscellaneous,” which means mixed and often uncategorized. Libidinous is derived from word libido, a Latin based word for one’s sex drive. Libidinous is thus a synonym for lustful.

I can post Titian’s famous painting of Diana and Actaeon on this website because it’s great art!

The word prurient is derived from the Latin word prurire, which means “to itch.” Over time it came to mean lustful as well. Prurient is a word that is often used in legal contexts; for instance, legally speaking, what is the difference between a picture of a naked woman in a pornographic magazine and a painting of a naked woman in an art museum? One explanation (which you may or may not agree with) is that the magazine appeals to “the prurient interest” whereas the painting apparently appeals to a more innocent appreciation of beauty. The phrase “prurient interest” is often used when there is suspicion that someone may be getting some kind of perverted pleasure out of something when they’re not supposed to. For example, some people might argue that the tortures beautiful women often go through in gory modern horror films might appeal to the sadistic prurient interest of some viewers.

A scarlet woman corrupts passers-by with her tentacles of sin in this Victorian public service announcement.

A scarlet woman corrupts passers-by with her tentacles of sin in this Victorian public service announcement.

Salacious is another synonym for lustful that derives from the Latin word salax, which in turn derives from the Latin verb salire, which, according to dictionary.com, can mean “to jump, move spasmodically, spurt.” No explanation needed there, methinks. The word concupiscent also means lustful; it derives from the Latin con- (with) cupere (desire). Lewd also means lustful or obscene, and it does not derive from a Latin word. It is a very old English word that originally meant common, uneducated, peasant-like. I suppose over time the assumption was that the lower classes had crude tastes, although as we have seen the aristocrats were just as guilty (if not more so). Lascivious is yet another synonym derived from the Latin lascivia, or playfulness.

The virtue meant to combat all this lust was, of course, chastity, or the quality of being chaste, pure, sexually restrained (from the Latin castus). Immaculate, intemerate, inviolate, celibate, and continent are all words related to the virtue of chastity. Immaculate comes from the latin word immaculatus, which breaks down into the prefix im- (meaning not) and the root macula (meaning blemish). The word immaculate thus means spotless, unblemished, perfect, and pure. In Catholicism, the Blessed Virgin Mary is often called the Immaculata, or “the immaculate one,” because she is believed to have been free of original sin from the moment she was concieved in her mother’s womb (this is known as the doctrine of the immaculate conception – as to what all that means, that’s another article). Because of the word’s association with Mary, it also has a strong connotation of sexual purity as well, although you can also use it to describe anything that is pure, spotless, clean, or perfect – like a neat freak’s living room.

Intemerate and inviolate have similar derivations and meanings. Intemerate derives from the latin in- (not) and temerare (to darken, violate), and inviolate derives from the latin in- (not) and violatus (hurt). Both mean not violated or not hurt, but more specifically they mean not raped or not defiled – pure, especially sexually. Celibacy is the quality of completely abstaining from all sexual activity. A person who practices celibacy is celibate or is a celibate (celibate can be either a noun or an adjective). It comes from the latin word caelebs, meaning “unmarried.” In the Catholic church, all priests, monks, and nuns take vows of celibacy, renouncing all sexual acts and relationships. Continent comes from the latin verb continere, meaning “to contain.” It refers to sexual restraint or self-control: the ability to “contain” one’s desires. In modern medical terminology, however, continence is the ability to control when one urinates or defecates – if a patient is incontinent, he or she may need an adult diaper.

Those are all the GRE words having to do with lust and chastity that I can think of for now. If you want extra help with GRE vocab from me or another GRE expert, remember that you can always contact Test Masters and get the best prep available. Next time, we discuss another deadly sin: avarice. Until then, avoid temptation, and keep studying!

By Calvin Dotsey

Sometimes it is Greek: Polysemous

Many people would argue abstract art is polysemous because it is open to multiple interpretations.

Each week, “It’s not GREek!” will discuss a new word likely to appear on the GRE.  We aim not only to give you a new word to memorize, but also to provide you with some background and etymological history to help you remember it.  At the end of the post, we will also give you a sentence with a few other new words to add to your flash cards.  By following this weekly series, you should be more prepared than ever to tackle the sentence completion, sentence equivalencies, and reading comprehension questions on test day.

This Week’s Word: Polysemous

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the variances of language or the myriad potential interpretations of a single word or sentence? Has a precise definition or explanation eluded you because of an intentionally opaque phrase or passage? Polysemous is an excellent descriptor when confronted with vague or abstract material.

Polysemous is the characterization of something as having many possible meanings; its etymological origins come from the Greek roots poly-, which means many, and sêma, which means signs.

Linguistically, a polysemous relationship is one in which a single word or phrase can be understood to have multiple meanings. Consider this example, “In my hands rests the only antidote ever developed, and the fate of the world.” In this example, the verb ‘rests’ refers not only to the antidote but also to the fate of the world, one resting physically and the other metaphorically, and is therefore polysemous.

More generally, polysemous may simply refer to a passage or word that is open to multiple explications; it is also a word that will surely wow any grader when used in the appropriate context. For example, when presented with a complicated or convoluted passage, one might argue the author has a polysemous relationship with his work or that the work itself is polysemous.

Sample Sentence:

Peter’s polysemous prose perplexed postmodernists with its potency.

Miss the last “Sometimes it is Greek?” Check it out here. Want more GRE vocabulary? Click here for the free Test Masters GRE vocabulary list with over 2,000 words!

 

 

 

 

Sometimes it is Greek: Panegyric

Each week, “It’s not GREek!” will discuss a new word likely to appear on the GRE.  We aim not only to give you a new word to memorize, but also to provide you with some background and etymological history to help you remember it.  At the end of the post, we will also give you a sentence with a few other new words to add to your flash cards.  By following this weekly series, you should be more prepared than ever to tackle the sentence completion, sentence equivalencies, and reading comprehension questions on test day.

This Week’s Word:  Panegyric Continue reading “Sometimes it is Greek: Panegyric” »

Don’t State the Obvious: How to Keep the Analytical Writing Section Interesting

Recognize this man? He's William Wells Brown, an abolitionist and the first African American published playwright and novelist

Pop quiz:What historical or contemporary examples would you use to support an argument agreeing or disagreeing with the topics below?

“Scandals are useful because they focus our attention on problems in ways that no speaker or reformer ever  could.”

“The well-being of a society is enhanced when many of its people question authority.”

“In any situation, progress requires discussion among people who have contrasting points of view.” Continue reading “Don’t State the Obvious: How to Keep the Analytical Writing Section Interesting” »

Sometimes it is Greek: New GRE Vocabulary


Starting next week, “It’s not GREek!” will be spotlighting a new vocabulary word–or words–that is likely to appear on the verbal section of the GRE.  We will not only give you a new word to study, but also give you some strategies for remembering the word so you can get a good score on the new GRE.  Before we get into that, though, let’s talk about some strategies for memorizing vocabulary.  Everyone has their own style, but this is what has worked best for me.

Continue reading “Sometimes it is Greek: New GRE Vocabulary” »

Free GRE Solutions Guide Download!

OMG free stuff!

Greetings, readers! Due to the popularity of our example problem posts, we have decided to release a free download of one of Testmasters’ GRE solutions guides to the ETS’s official study guide, “Practicing to Take the GRE General Test (10th Edition).” The solutions in this guide are a sample from our own best-selling solutions manual, “Test Masters Complete Solutions to the ETS Official GRE Book.” In this free download, you’ll find complete solutions to one test in the ETS’s book (the second test, GR90-16). Click on the link above or on the image on the right sidebar for your free download!

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GRE Writing Tips: 3 Pointers for the Argument Prompt

ORLY Owl knows how to question argument prompts (that's "oh, really?" for those of you not in the know)

Ah, yes.  There is a writing section on the GRE — almost forgot all about that, didn’t we?  The argument topic comes second, and you have 30 minutes to write it.  On the argument prompt, your goal is to analyze the efficacy of the argument presented, point out whatever flaws or deficiencies you can find, and suggest some alternate possibilities or improvements — basically, play lawyer.

When criticizing the solvency of an argument, here are some things you want to look for:

1. Correlation Does Not Mean Causation
This principle is the cardinal rule of statistics.  Any assertion claiming causation as a result of correlation is jumping the proverbial gun and is a big, fat no-no.