How to Write an Effective Argument Essay for the GRE

EssayThe Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, has three sections. One of those sections measures a student’s analytical writing skills. For this section, students are required to write both an issue essay and an argument essay. GRE graders look closely at the evidence included in a student’s argument essay as well as the organization of all of the various components. Learn what an argument essay is and get some tips on how to write an outstanding one for the GRE.

What Is the GRE Argument Essay?
The argument essay on the GRE requires students to evaluate an argument put forth by an author. A student’s job is to examine the author’s reasoning and evidence as well as the overall organization of the argument.

Ultimately, a student must decide whether the author’s argument is logical. If a student decides that the author’s argument is illogical, then they must give specific reasons to support that analysis. For example, a student may point out unanswered questions or faulty pieces of evidence in the argument. Alternatively, if a student decides that an author’s argument is logical, then they must offer evidence supporting that analysis.

When writing this essay, students should not reveal whether they agree or disagree with the author’s argument. Furthermore, students should not share their views on the subject being discussed. The purpose of this essay is to reveal a student’s skills in analyzing and evaluating an argument.

Tips for Writing GRE Argument Essays
There are many useful tips that can help students write an excellent argument essay. GRE test-takers may want to begin by jotting down notes on a scrap piece of paper as they read the author’s argument. The few minutes that a student dedicates to taking these notes can ensure that they include all of the important points in the final essay.

Students should always read the instructions paired with each GRE argument task before starting to write. Not every argument essay has the same set of instructions – for example, some instructions require students to focus on an author’s assumptions, while others ask that students focus on unanswered questions in the argument. These are just two examples out of many types of instructions given to students tackling the GRE argument essay. It’s also a wise idea for a student to draft an outline for the essay before beginning to write it. Following an outline can increase the clarity and organization of an argument essay.

Our GRE courses at Veritas Prep provide students with the tools and strategies they need to craft a notable argument essay. Our instructors have taken and mastered the GRE, enabling them to pass on valuable tips to students. We offer several tutoring options, including online and in-person instruction, to make GRE preparation as convenient as possible for our busy students.`

Preparing for the Argument Essay
Most students want to do everything they can to write a clear, organized argument essay. GRE prep should include essay-writing practice. Students can write a practice argument essay, then dissect it sentence by sentence to make sure it contains all of the necessary elements. As a note, the GRE gives students 30 minutes to write an argument essay, so it’s a good idea for students to time themselves when they complete their practice essays. That way, they know how much time they can spend on making notes, drafting an outline, and writing the essay.

It’s also helpful for students to study essays that received a high score on the GRE. An outstanding argument essay contains vocabulary words that add to the clarity of the writing. Students can expand their supply of vocabulary words by reading online articles, newspapers, and magazines. They may want to jot down some words commonly used in these publications. Flashcards are helpful study tools for students who are learning unfamiliar words and their definitions.

Our instructors can teach students how to write a GRE argument essay. We offer practical advice and guidance that students can use as they move through the steps of writing a convincing essay. Also, our instructors give valuable encouragement to students to help them have a confident mindset on test day. Contact Veritas Prep today and let us help you boost your essay-writing skills!

Want to jump-start your GRE preparation? Register to attend one of our upcoming free online GRE Strategy Sessions or check out our variety of GRE Course and Private Tutoring options. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Understanding the ACT Essay Grading Rubric

writing essayThe writing test is one of the five sections that make up the ACT. Each student’s writing test is evaluated based on the elements in the ACT essay scoring rubric. The ACT writing rubric features four areas or domains. The four domains are ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions. The scores a student receives in each of these domains contribute to a student’s total score on the essay.

Let’s examine the scoring process for the writing test and take a closer look at the ACT essay scoring rubric:

The Scoring System for the ACT Essay
Each student’s essay is evaluated by two individuals who are familiar with the ACT essay rubric. A score of one to six points is given for each of the four domains in the ACT writing rubric. The scores of both graders are added together to get a total score for each domain. If there is a discrepancy of more than one point between the individual scores of the two readers, then a third reader is brought in to re-evaluate the student’s essay. Otherwise, an essay receives a total score based on the domain scores awarded by the two readers.

Ideas and Analysis
The first item in the ACT essay rubric concerns ideas and analysis. Essay graders evaluate a student’s ability to understand and express the ideas contained in the given issue. In order to achieve a high score on the essay, students must also be able to understand the different perspectives offered on the issue. An essay should contain relevant ideas expressed in a clear, succinct fashion.

Development and Support
Students who achieve a high score in this domain offer solid evidence to support their points of view. In fact, they provide specific examples that help to support their perspectives. Students are able to convey their ideas in a way that is easy to understand. They take their audience into account as they craft their arguments. At the end of the essay, the reader should be able to see a student’s way of thinking regarding the given issue.

Students receive a score for the way they organize their essay. Their ideas should be organized in a logical way that lends to the reader’s understanding. A student must transition from idea to idea in a smooth way. An essay should have a clear purpose and end with a conclusion that sums up the student’s thoughts on the issue. A typical format for an ACT essay includes an introduction, three or four paragraphs in the body, and a solid conclusion.

Language Use and Conventions
Essay graders evaluate a student’s skill at using written language to clearly express ideas. A student’s grammar, spelling, and mechanics all play a part in a grader’s final evaluation of the essay. Incorrect punctuation and misspellings are a distraction for essay readers. A student who can use vocabulary, phrasing, and sentence style to convey ideas in an effective way will receive a high score in this domain.

Tips for Writing an ACT Essay
Students who want to excel on the ACT writing test should practice their essay-writing skills on a regular basis. This is all the more effective if a student studies high-scoring ACT essays. They can practice including all of the components necessary for an essay worthy of a high score.

Another tip for writing a convincing ACT essay is to learn new vocabulary words. Students can use these vocabulary words to fully express the ideas in their essay. Plus, learning these words can also be useful in answering questions in the reading section of the ACT. Students can also benefit from making practice outlines. A solid outline can help students organize all of their ideas and supporting evidence. Furthermore, an outline is a helpful guide if a student loses their train of thought while writing the essay on test day.

Our encouraging instructors at Veritas Prep can provide students with guidance on the essay portion of the ACT. Also, we can advise them on the various components of the ACT essay rubric. We hire instructors who achieved a score of at least 33 on the ACT: Veritas Prep students learn from tutors who have real-life experience with the exam! Choose from our in-person or online prep courses and gain the confidence you need to ace the ACT.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Use These 2 Kobe Bryant Strategies to Address Failures in Your MBA Essays

kobeBasketball superstar Kobe Bryant ended his 20-year NBA career last Wednesday, and many fans of the sport are using this time to reflect on, and learn from, his past highlights. Kobe’s career can be used for more than advice pertaining to basketball – we’ve imagined how he might have used his past accomplishments and failures to answer some common MBA application essay questions.

In this entry, we will discuss the ideal way Kobe could use the Failure Essay if he were to apply to business school. A staple of many MBA essay requirements and interviews, this prompt asks the applicant to relate a story of personal or professional failure that impacted his or her life. In answering this question, an applicant needs to demonstrate genuine reflection and self-awareness, while also showcasing leadership potential. Let’s examine how Kobe might answer a question like this:

Address the “Elephant in the Room”
In Kobe’s case, instead of mentioning missed shots, bad plays, or lost games as failures, it would be best to instead identify the failure to maintain a longer-term partnership with fellow superstar Shaquille O’Neal as his major failure. Aside from being an interesting topic – with rich layers and dimensions – this “failure” would help Kobe address concerns about his ability to collaborate with peers. As with all MBA essays, we want the Failure Essay to be interesting, relatable and vivid. Sharing specific details such as an argument that escalated, or personal thoughts from both superstars’ perspectives, will make for a powerful read for the Admissions Committee.

For example, Kobe could identify the double-edged sword of his incredible competitiveness and obsessive work ethic at that stage in his career, and contrast this compassionately with Shaq’s fun-loving personality and the physical challenges he faced due to his unique size, mobility, and the focus of opponents to wear him out. Displaying a high-level perspective and understanding will show the maturity and honesty that can serve him well post-MBA.

Lesson: Using an interesting situation, or identifying an “elephant in the room” in your profile, will serve the dual purpose of both addressing a red flag in your application, and displaying your self-awareness and personal development, all of which the Admissions Committee will want to see.

Show What You Learned
After setting up the context of the failure, Kobe can then highlight how he put the lessons he learned from this failure to good use. He can cite how this failure taught him to better manage relationships with teammates who shared some of Shaq’s qualities, such as the immensely talented Pau Gasol, the fun-loving Lamar Odom, and the physically dominant but oft-injured Andrew Bynum. Kobe can also share how learning from his previous experience with Shaq helped him build better relationships with his teammates overall and leverage their unique personalities to lead the Lakers to two more NBA championships.

Providing specific details as to how he built these bonds through sharing interests and communicating better with his team (whether through bonding over family activities, or by brushing up on his Spanish) would provide real insight into his world and allow the Admissions Committee to relate to him and appreciate his growth. Displaying his ability to lead and collaborate with talented peers would also prove that there is more to Kobe than just his basketball skills, and that he is ready to succeed in his future business ventures and social causes.

Lesson: Choose to discuss qualities or realizations that relate to your failure and would be transferable to future endeavors, rather than limited to a single situation. You can identify how your failure taught you to channel your inherent traits and use specific tools and techniques to proactively address potential problems. Show how you learned to leverage your personal qualities and background to collaborate towards common goals so that the Admissions Committee can conclude that the failure you experienced has helped put you in a better position for future success.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

How to Prepare for College-Level Writing

writing essayI’ve written previously on how to make the transition to college writing once you’re already in college, and that’s important. What’s also important is using your time in high school to prepare yourself early for the rigors of college writing.

I know that when you’re in high school, college can seem light-years away. It’s hard to see how your high school assignments will really help you be a better student in college, but trust me, they can. If you use your time in high school right, especially in regards to writing, you can get a strong head start towards producing college-quality work.

Here are 3 tips that you can start using right away to prepare for your future college writing:

1) Create your own topics on assignments.
Or at the very least, alter the prompts given to you. Often times, papers in college will either have no prompt or will have very generic prompts – you have to be creative enough to come up with your own question and then have enough evidence to answer it.

In high school, paper topics are often clearly delineated, and students just go along with what their teacher says. While this might be easy to do, it won’t help you down the road. By practicing going out of your way to confect unique topics that you can explore in depth, you won’t be intimidated when the only instruction your college professor gives you is, “Go write a paper on the book we just read!” (Just be sure to clear this creative topic change with your teacher before submitting your paper!)

2) Ask your high school teachers for feedback, even if you did well on an assignment.
Many high school students just look at the grade on their essays and then move on with their lives. However, knowing that you got an A or a B doesn’t let you know how you can continue to improve your writing. By looking at your teacher’s feedback, you’ll start to see your strengths and weaknesses in writing and be able to raise the quality of your work. What’s more, you can go above and beyond by meeting with your teacher to ask for ways that your writing could better fit college-level writing. After all, your teachers have gone through college already and it’s their job to get your ready for the rigors of the next phase of your academic journey.

3) Focus on argument, not exposition.
In high school, you can sometimes get by with writing a paper focused on who did what, what an idea means, or what techniques someone used. This is exposition (or description) and it is only one part of writing. Good college papers make arguments – they don’t just explain what a character did or what an author’s idea is. So, even if a high school assignment asks you only a simple question, it’s good practice to go above and beyond to make a more complex argument. This mode of thinking will prepare you for the rigorous analysis you must do in college.

I know it can be tempting to just skate by on high school assignments. However, there are certain ways you can use your time in high school to solidly prepare yourself for college writing, and doing this will be well worth your time. Even if this requires more ingenuity and diligence from you now, it will set you up for abundant future success in college and beyond.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

How to Maximize Your MBA Application Essay in 2 Simple Steps

writing essaySo much to share and so little space to use – this is often the case for MBA application essays. Transforming all the unique details of who you are as a candidate into a flowing personal and reflective essay is essential to stand out as an authentic and engaging personality to the Admissions Committee. A great business school essay will be able to present a multi-dimensional candidate without coming off like an unrelated checklist of highlights.

With the limited space you’re given to write these application essays, it can be quite a challenge to fit in all of the key character traits, substantiated and vivid career highlights, fit with the target MBA program, achievable career goals, and passions outside work that you want to demonstrate to the Admissions Committee. How can you ensure that you maximize the word limits you are given while still creating something that flows naturally and is easy to read? Follow these two guidelines:

1) Do not repeat details
The most common way applicants tend to break down the task of working on multiple essays is to complete them one at a time – after finishing one essay, they review it and then start off on another one. The problem with this writing process is that details from one essay often end up being repeated in another, such as background information on the company a candidate worked for or the candidate’s role within a particular organization. These sentences and phrases, usually in the introduction of each essay or as an added description along the body of the essay, not only waste precious space, but also negatively affect the flow and readability of your essay as a whole.

Keep in mind that each essay you write for the same school is part of a single application package, like chapters of a very short book. In order to create the best applciation possible, you must review your complete set of essays in one sitting to ensure that they complement each other well and provide a multi-dimensional personal profile with the right tone for the particular school you are applying to.

2) Use different settings
Just as a Tom Cruise kept viewers engaged during the Mission Impossible series by showcasing his superhuman physical stunts in various locations such as an opera house in Vienna, a power plant in Morocco and a train station in London, among others, an MBA applicant’s essay would be much more captivating if the candidate’s personal qualities were highlighted through different contexts.

This does not necessarily mean you need to use various geographic locations as the backdrop of your essays (not all of us are as free to travel the globe as Tom Cruise), but rather, to choose to highlight defining moments from your life across various work situations, extra-curricular activities, passions and stories.

By default, most applicants are a bit bias in choosing to use examples from their current work situations, as this is where they spend the majority of their time and where their most recent experiences have occurred. Thus, without careful thought, applicants often end up answering many or most of their essay questions with examples pertaining to only their most recent employment. However, this wastes the opportunity to show the admissions committee your diverse experiences and interests.

Before writing your essays, it is essential to carve out the time to take an inventory of experiences you’d like to highlight and outline your whole set of essays. Afterwards, identify for each essay the settings you can use to display a particular talking point. Doing this saves you time, and puts forth a richly textured personal application.

Following these two steps ensures that you’ll make the most of the limited  essay space you are given so that your overall MBA application package stands out from the competition.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Write a Good SAT Essay

SAT Tip of the Week - FullEven though you get a whole 25 minutes to piece together your SAT essay, the grader who reads it will only take around 1-2 minutes to evaluate it. You might think this is annoying or unfair – after all, you probably put a lot of thought into your essay and want the reader to appreciate your hard work. However, this is the reality of the situation, and it’s your (and our!) job to figure out how to take advantage of it. So how should you go about doing this? The answer is simple to understand, and not much harder to do: Clarity.

In your high school essays, you might have been taught to write with nuance, to “show not tell.” This is good advice for other writing assignments, but not for the SAT essay. The rushed graders are unlikely to notice detailed intricacy in your essay, but they will recognize a clear, direct argument.

The best way to make a clear argument (in my words) is to “hit the reader over the head” with the point you’re trying to make. Going over the top in restating and explaining your main argument – which will show up in your thesis statement – is a foolproof way to ensure the reader will know exactly what you are attempting to say. My advice is to start with a strong thesis in the intro paragraph, but also include a restated version of that thesis statement in all of your body paragraphs. The goal of the examples in your body paragraphs should be to relate them back to your thesis, so framing the thesis in each of those paragraphs leads the grader to make that connection naturally.

It’s key to make sure that your examples are clearly related to your thesis, as well. The more it’s clear why you chose those examples, the better the argument the grader will think that you’re making. The best kind of example is an obvious one that is well explained, not a subtle one that requires a ton of confusing exegesis.

Alright, so now you know you have to be clear, but you may be asking, “What exactly does being clear look like?” Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging. Here’s an example of a recent SAT essay prompt with a corresponding clear and unclear thesis:

Prompt: Do good intentions matter, or should people be judged only according to the results of their actions?

Clear Thesis: It is most fair to judge people based on the goodness of their intentions because humans cannot absolutely control the effects their actions have on the world.

Unclear Thesis: Since the results of our actions are shaped by factors that may or may not be outside of human control, it is best in most cases to judge people based on what we perceive their intentions to be, although it is often difficult to accurately tell what people’s intentions really are.

The clear thesis gets right to the point. It doesn’t beat around the bush, introduce ambiguous claims, or contradict itself. The unclear thesis wavers, and it’s difficult to even follow what argument it is trying to make. As is evident in these two examples, the clearer your thesis is (and the more clear your examples are) the better the grader’s understanding of your essay will be. And of course, the better the grader’s understanding, the better your score!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

Success Story Part 4: "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the essays of our lives…"

(This is the fourth in a series of blog posts in which Julie DeLoyd, a Veritas Prep GMAT alumna-turned-instructor, will tell the story of her experience through the MBA admissions process. Julie will begin her MBA program at Chicago Booth this fall. You can also read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 to learn Julie’s whole story.)

Since the time this business school idea first occurred to me on that Texas highway, the GMAT had been my main concern and the only real hurdle I had anticipated. Now with that hurdle behind me, I realized there was a whole new challenge ahead. Choosing schools, and writing essays upon essays upon essays

What Counts as Significant International Work Experience?

For international experience to be significant it has to be something that you can write about at length and appropriately in a b-school essay.

  1. Can you articulate how you lead a team in a multi-national or cross border environment? This is what the adcom would want to see if you were writing an essay. A lot of applicants have worked occasionally overseas. More important is what you learned, how it changed your perspective, how you overcame an obstacle and how you produced a positive team outcome.
  2. That is, what you got out of it and what you can put down on paper is what will set your experience apart from other applicants. That is where I consider the line drawn with respect to whether or not an experience is significant.
  3. With respect to any extracurricular international experience (start-up, professional volunteerism, etc.), if you can write about it effectively as part of your positioning then it