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Syrus J.
PhD Student at UChicago
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GRE
TutorMe
Question:

How can I improve my writing score on the GRE? I have the most trouble with the argumentative essay.

Syrus J.
Answer:

Without having access to your "Analyze an Issue" essay, I will say that the biggest issue that students face with this essay is with coming up with compelling evidence. Students can come up with their point of view on the issue, but without preparation, have few reasons to support their view. My quick advice for this is: leverage your background and interests. For example, with my history background, I like to see if I can think of a few historical examples that prove or disprove my point. Another example might be if you are a student with a natural sciences background who is asked to write an essay agreeing or disagreeing with the statement: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." While I (a history student) might be able to easily think of how beauty standards have changed throughout history and craft an argument that way, this STEM student could consider how natural monuments have impressed viewers for centuries. The point is, scour your own expertise to find applicable evidence. Above all else, practice really makes perfect with this. Practice taking at least five to eight minutes brainstorming before beginning writing.

Writing
TutorMe
Question:

Hello, how can I improve the following two sentences? "St. Mary's High School's annual theater production will begin next week. This year, based on the novel Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, the musical is Cabaret. I was lucky enough to see a dress rehearsal, I thought that everything about the production--the acting, that the orchestra played well, and the stage design--were excellent."

Syrus J.
Answer:

Here are some suggestions for how to tighten your writing. "Next week, St. Mary's High School will stage its annual theater production. This year the play is Cabaret, based on the novel Goodbye to Berlin to Christopher Isherwood. I was lucky enough to see a dress rehearsal, and I thought that everything about the production--the acting, the orchestra, and the stage design--was excellent."

World History
TutorMe
Question:

I would like to improve upon an essay that I wrote for a history class earlier this term. The instructor's main criticism was that my argument was not original, and I instead seemed to regurgitate the information we had already learned in class. Since we can't go to archives ourselves to find new evidence, how can I make an original argument for a history class when all we are doing is reading published books?

Syrus J.
Answer:

Originality is an important component of good history scholarship. However, you are right! It can sometimes feel odd to try and craft an original argument when you yourself have not done primary source research. In fact, if you become a history researcher, you will find that originality becomes much less difficult to obtain after you've done all the difficult work of primary source research. Without extensive information about your class structure, I assume you have read one or more texts by authors who have made arguments about the topics of the course. Now, your instructor asks you to make an argument about those class topics. Obviously, we want to do more than simply saying "I agree with Professor X's argument in Book Y." We need to demonstrate that we understand the complexity of the historical topic. Speaking very generally, here are just two options for how you can proceed. You could compare and contrast arguments made by different texts that you have read. This way, you can demonstrate your own line of thinking or posit a compromise. Alternatively, you could use the historical evidence presented in those texts to argue in favor of your own, original argument derived from theories learned in class. This way, you will not regurgitate another author's argument--instead, you can use the historical facts that they have researched as evidence for your own thoughts.

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