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Sample Response to Real GRE Argument Questions

Topic # 9: In a study of reading habits of Leeville citizens conducted by the University of Leeville, most respondents said they preferred literary classics as reading material. However, a follow-up study conducted by the same researchers found that the type of book most frequently checked out of each of the public libraries in Leeville was the mystery novel. Therefore, it can be concluded that the respondents in the first study had misrepresented their reading habits.

This argument is based on two separate surveys of the citizens of Leeville, conducted by the University of Leeville. In the first survey, most respondents said that their preferred reading material was literary classics. A follow-up study by the same researchers found that mystery novels were the most frequently checked out books from each of the public libraries in Leeville. The arguer concludes that the respondents in the first study therefore misrepresented their own reading habits. This argument does not follow the facts and is therefore unconvincing due to several flaws in logic.

First of all, it is possible that none of the citizens who responded to the first survey were participants in the second survey. Statistically speaking, it is entirely possible that the first survey contained a greater majority of literary classics readers than are present in the general population of Leeville. The difference in the first study and the study of the books that were actually checked out from the library may purely be that the respondents had different interests in literature, therefore disallowing the arguer's conclusion that the first group misrepresented its preferred reading material.

Secondly, it is possible that the difference in the survey results could be attributed to the lack of availability of literary classics in the Leeville public libraries. Simply put, the library may have thousands of mystery novels available for checkout but very few literary classics in their collections. Leeville citizens may actually prefer to read literary classics - the public libraries simply may not have them for the citizens to check out and read. Another possibility is that the Leeville public libraries restrict the checkout of literary classics - perhaps treating the books as a type of "reference" material that must be read inside the library and cannot be checked out. Furthermore, it is possible that no matter how many literary classics the Leeville public libraries have, the citizens have read them all in the past, perhaps many times over, and they are therefore not checked out. These possibilities further weaken the argument that the first respondents misrepresented their reading habits.

Thirdly, literary classics are the type of book that people tend to buy for personal collections rather than checking them out of a library. It is a distinct possibility that the citizens of Leeville purchase literary classics to read and then keep in home libraries rather than checking them out of the library. Leeville citizens may prefer to read literary classics and therefore buy them for their own personal collections, thus checking other types of reading materials out of the library rather than buying them to own forever. The arguer's conclusion that the first set of respondents misrepresented their reading habits is critically weakened by this possibility.

Finally, this argument does not account for the possibility that the survey samples themselves were flawed. There is no indication given about how many people were surveyed, the demographics involved, or the specific locations involved. For example, richer people would tend not to visit public libraries but they are possibly more predisposed to reading literary classics. Similarly, people who visit public libraries may be more predisposed to reading mystery novels than literary classics. Without knowing the relationship between those first surveyed and those who visit the public libraries, it is not possible to draw a proper conclusion about the accuracy of the first group's statements.

In summary, the arguer fails to convince by jumping to a conclusion that fails to hold up to analysis. To strengthen the argument, the arguer needs to find further research that eliminates these other possibilities that preclude the judgment that the first group of respondents misrepresented their reading habits.

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