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Sample Response to Real GRE Argument Questions

Topic # 3: The following is a letter to the editor of the Atticus City newspaper

"Former Mayor Durant owes an apology to the city of Atticus. Both the damage to the River Bridge, which connects Atticus to Hartley, and the traffic problems we have long experienced on the bridge were actually caused 20 years ago by Durant. After all, he is the one who approved the construction of the bridge. If he had approved a wider and better-designed bridge, on which approximately the same amount of public money would have been spent, none of the damage or problems would have occurred. Instead, the River Bridge has deteriorated far more rapidly over the past 20 years than has the much longer Derby Bridge up the river. Even though the winters have been severe in the past several years, this is no excuse for the negligence and wastefulness of Durant."

The author of this letter concludes in his or her argument that former Mayor Durant should apologize to the city of Atticus because he is at fault for damage that has occurred over a twenty-year time span to the River Bridge. The author also blames Mayor Durant for long-time traffic problems on the bridge, stating that Durant actually caused these problems twenty years before because he approved the construction of the bridge and did not approve a wider and better-designed bridge. The arguer may have a personal vendetta against Mayor Durant but the elements stated in the argument do not support such an accusation.

First of all, the author squarely places blame on Mayor Durant for the simple act of approving the construction of the bridge. There is no evidence presented that merely approving the building of the bridge had anything whatsoever to do with the damage that has occurred or the traffic problems on the bridge. It is entirely possible that Mr. Durant simply approved the idea of constructing the bridge and not the design of the bridge or the contractor that built it. Simply approving the construction of the bridge does not in and of itself cause damage to that bridge or any resulting traffic problems.

In addition, the arguer concludes that if Mayor Durant had approved a wider and better-designed bridge that there would be no damage or traffic problems, an argument for which there is no basis of proof offered. It is a well-known fact that bridges are subject to deterioration, particularly over a period of twenty years, no matter how well designed they may be. The author also fails to offer any supporting evidence to show that a more durable bridge with fewer traffic problems could have been built for approximately the same amount of public money. It seems likely that a wider bridge would have more damage problems rather than fewer, and probably would have cost more as well, whether public or private funds were used.

Furthermore, the arguer mentions that the River Bridge has deteriorated much more rapidly than the much longer Derby Bridge up the river. This groundless argument fails to take into account other possible reasons for the discrepancy in the deterioration of the two bridges such as traffic loads, location and other environmental variables. It is possible that the Derby Bridge was much more protected from the elements and rarely used by heavy truck traffic, for example. The author gives no basis for a direct comparison between the two bridges other than his or her personal opinion.

Finally, the letter writer refers to the "negligence and wastefulness" of Mayor Durant. The only action cited by the author is the approval of the bridge in the first place, which proves neither neglect nor wasting of anything. The sentence itself contains a non sequitur - firstly discussing the severe winters of the past several years, and then accusing Mr. Durant of waste and neglect. This accusation is unwarranted as well as unsupported in the author's argument.

In summary, the author simply makes groundless accusations without providing any real support for his or her argument. To make the argument convincing, the author would have to provide evidence that Mayor Durant approved a faulty bridge design or an unqualified construction company that caused the bridge's damage and traffic problems. The author should have also provided supporting details that show that the damage to the bridge is out of the ordinary and directly caused by Mayor Durant's decision to use inadequate construction materials or a poor design. Without more support, the author's point of view is unconvincing and not well reasoned.

(605 words)

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