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GRE Issue Essay #2 Critique


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Hi GradCafe,

I'm applying to PT school this year and will be taking the GRE for the first time in one month. I've just written my first practice GRE "Issue" essay and would really appreciate if you could help me critique it! I turned off spellcheck and wrote it in 30 minutes to simulate test day conditions. Thanks in advance! I'd appreciate any help you could offer me. You don't have to look at the scoring guide if you don't have time, just feel free to offer any critique or anything I can improve on.

Here's the prompt:

 The best way to teach—whether as an educator, employer, or parent—is to praise positive actions and ignore negative ones.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.

Here's my essay:

While I agree that it is best to praise positive actions as a teacher, I do not agree that negative actions should be completely ignored. Although I do believe that praising is much more effective than punishment, negative actions should nonetheless be kindly addressed so that the student or learner can improve on their mistakes.

People respond more positively when they are praised rather than punished. With praise, people gain the confidence to believe that they can achieve the goal that they want to achieve, thereby motivating them to do the best they can to achieve that goal. If one is always punished for their negative actions and never praised, then the learner will lack confidence and believe that they don’t have what it takes to learn or be excellent in their craft. Confidence as a learner is important, because in order to take on a goal and to learn something, one needs the confidence to believe that they can do it. If the bar is set too high and the learner does not have the confidence that they can do it, then the learner will not try, and thus not achieve their goal. On the other hand, if bar is set even higher, but the learner is given the confidence that they can achieve that goal, they will be motivated and do everything they can to achieve that goal. As a teacher, it is important to make sure that your learner has the confidence that they can achieve their goal, which is why praise is beneficial, and punishment is not. For example, if a student is constantly praised for their good math skills, they will believe they are a good math student, and thus have the confidence and motivation to do well on their math tests. Because the bar for this student is set high, and the student believes they can achieve it, the student will work hard to achieve their goal. On the other hand, another student can have the same skill in math in the beginning, but if they are constantly punished for every question they get wrong, they will start doubting their math ability. They’ll begin believing that they won’t be able to get that A on the math test, and will either be extremely nervous during the test, continue doubting themselves, and thus not do well, or not even try, because they believe they’re not good at it. Thus, praising is much more effective than only punishment. However, this does not mean that negative actions should be completely ignored.

Being a teacher of any kind implies that the person you’re teaching is depending on you to learn something. As a learner, it’s very common to make mistakes and to do something wrong or negative. One would be remiss as an educator to ignore everything that their student does wrong, because the student would never be able to improve or learn anything. If you only praise what they do correctly, they will learn nothing from their mistakes, which is often where the most valuable lessons lay.  

Instead of ignoring negative actions, it would be more effective to kindly point them out and let the person know that they did something that could be improved on. However, instead of punishing or harping on the negative, it would be most effective to let them know that their skill can be improved upon with some change, and to give them the confidence that they can do it. For example, if a person is a tax accountant and they made a lot of mistakes on their first time filling out a tax form, it would be ineffective to only praise them for the things they filled out correctly, and ignore everything they filled out incorrectly. This would cause the fledgling tax accountant to believe that they are perfect, and they will continue to fill out tax returns incorrectly in the future. Instead of punishing, it would be more effective to point out the things they can improve on, and at the same time praise them for the things they did good. Showing compassion by letting them know that it’s okay to make mistakes, and instilling the confidence in them that they have the ability to be great in the future will give them the motivation they need to improve.

In conclusion, it is best to praise positive actions while pointing out negative actions in a compassionate and kind way. This approach instills the confidence in the learner that they have the ability to be great, while letting them know concretely where they can improve.


Scoring guide: https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/analytical_writing/argument/scoring_guide



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