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This is timed and using no spell check. Any feedback is much appreciated! Here is the prompt:

Universities should require students to take courses only within those fields they are interested in studying.


Education-the great equalizer-is an opportunity for individuals to expand their horizons. Universties are institutions of learning, discussion and inventions. If they were to limit the courses students get to choose from, it would greatly impact intellectual thought and discourse. The average age of students entering university is usually among 17-19 years. Do we expect adolescents, who until very recently had to ask permission to use the restroom, pick a career and stick to it? The very notion seems absurd. There are numerous reasons for why universities should not mandate students to only take course within their own field.

There may be a few children who knew from the age of 5 what they wanted to pursue for the rest of their lives and start working towards it early. Nonetheless, the majority of individuals do not fall into that category. People need time to explore different subjects, understand their interests and skills; only then can they make informed decisions about their future. For example, a life of academia and research might seem appealing to a high schooler who has come across relatively few professions at their age. What they may not realize it the mundaneness of research-of repeating the same experiment over and over again till some increment of success is achieved. Such a student might not have even heard of cryptography or urban planning, but might have the affinity, aptitude and skills for it. By forcing students to only study courses withing a particular field, you can limit their outlook and restrict their chances of finding a career that makes them happy.

Even if a student has picked a field and is certain that field is for them, by branching out and studying other subjects disparate from their majoy, it gives them perspective. A math major can take a music course and by understanding time and rhymth, could apply the skills to his own major. A biology major can take a literature course and by learning about how Frankenstein created his monster; learn about the perils of science and the plight of patients. Sometimes connections are made and inspiration is found in the most bizzare places. Our place is not to question why such things happens, but to create a place where such inspiration is facilitated.

There are also certain required courses that no matter what field you are pursuing, they are vital and must be a requirement. This generally is a year of english (or the equivalent dominant language), a year of math and some kind of basic science. Scientists need to write research papers, office workers will need to write memos or emails, artists will need to write about their art. Writing, or some adaptation of it is used by everyone. The same holds true for math. Everyone has to pay taxes or calculate tips. And some basic form of science is required to understand our own bodies so we know what is good for it and what isn't; how to tell when something is wrong.

There are certain advantages for only studying major specific courses such as university becomes cheaper, students cangain specialization earlier etc. Nevertheless, the negatives far outweight the benefits. Therefore, universities should make a vast number of electives available for students.

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I would check out an English grammar website and make sure you read over some of the more basic rules. This is not intended to be an unkind criticism of your writing, merely, there are several obvious errors and places where the phrasing is awkward and clunky. 

Secondly, answer the question. Your conclusion says it all really; "universities should make a vast number of electives available for students". This is the closing statement for an essay throughout which you have justified a certain view. Unfortunately, whether or not universities should make a vast number of electives available for students was not the question. 

The question was Universities should require students to take courses only within those fields they are interested in studying. Not, should students only take courses in their major, nor, should the university provide a wide range of electives. My major may be economics, but I took a series of advanced mathematics courses and an elective in economic history because I was interested in studying those. They were outside of my 'major'. However, a course on modern political discourse is outside of my major, was an offered elective, but was something I had no interest in studying. So I didn't. The university did not make me. 

So what is the counterfactual to the question above? Universities should require students to take courses only within those fields they are interested in studying? Well, can you think of a circumstance in which the university should require students to take courses outside of those fields they are interested in studying? Note, no mention of majors is made in the question.

What about concerns over merit goods? Students may not place value on certain courses, but the university may feel they know better than an eighteen year old student what is good for them. In this case they can behave paternalistically and require a certain number of core credits. It isn't about studying inside or outside of majors - after all, students can double major, take minors etc. The question is whether or not there is any benefit to forcing students to study things that they are not interested in studying. Perhaps students do not wish to challenge themselves? Perhaps they only wish to study those things they are good at? Perhaps the university wishes to force these students to display a basic competency for many disciplines. Perhaps a basic advanced math component should be mandatory, because those wishing to go on to grad school in a STEM subject or the social sciences must have this, but incoming freshmen may not know that, or may not yet know whether they wish to do so? Perhaps the university wishes to prevent students only taking introductory classes in many disciplines, and graduating with a 4.0 for which they have not had to work very hard.

If I was marking the essay my first impression would be that you have some interesting ideas, but had in fact rewritten the question in order to answer the question that you wanted to answer.

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Thank you very much! I did not realize I changed the question and your feedback has given me a lot to reflect upon.  This was tremendously helpful. I'm going to continue working to reduce the "clunkiness". If you do happen to have the time, would it be possible to go over another one? I would really appreciate it!! Am sending good karma your way!

Technology, while apparently aimed to simplify our lives, only makes our lives more complicated.

Ever since man walked out the cave and discovered fire, we have continued our explorations across the earth and into space. The technological revolution has made the world a smaller place-we have easy access to ancient texts as well as the latest news article, we can communicate with people across the world, can travel thousands of miles in hours-but at what cost? Technology is an insidious ailment that has become pervasive in our society.

Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Whatsapp is burgeoning. Facebook has over 1 billion members whereas whatsapp has 500 million. These members are from all sectors of society. They differ in their economic status, geographical regions, political and religious points of views, only binded together by a common platform that is Social Networking Sites. While this may sound like a good thing, the negatives far outweigh the positives. Research has shown that Social Networking sites create a phenomenon titled "Fear of Missing Out" or FoMo.Such a phenomenon materializes as a feeling of sadness or anxiety when you are browsing social media, because no matter how much you've acccomplished, you cannot have done enough as all of your friends combined. Social media is reflection of the highlights of everyone else's life and few or none of the depressing parts are posted on there. When a young girl of 13 years old goes online, she is made to feel inadequate and insecure which sometimes leads to a number of mental illnesses.

Eating disorders are on the rise, so much so scientists are now considering treating body image issues as a normal part of a young teens life. The link between technology and eating disoders might not seem obvious but if you were to reflect upon it. Images on films, televisions, magazines, instagram posts, facebook pictures are all doctored using technology like Photoshop. This makes both men and women aim for an ideal that is near impossible to achieve and instead results in disordered eating.

Technology is a massive invasion of privacy. Whether you wish to or not, the sites you visit is all stored and your information could be sold or is sold to advertising companies. The posts you view on social media or the news articles you browse on the web are all suggestions made specifically to suit your tastes and opinions. It has led to the rise of a phenomenon called "Fake News". Since there are enumerable news websites available, all competing for the endorsement of viewers, news has become "eye catching" or tantalizing, more calumny than fact. Due to free speech, no one is monitoring the websites online and the onus is on the user to decipher whether or not the articles they are reading is fact or garbage. With the increase use of technology in every day life, it has also become increasingly easier for hackers to gain access to your private information as evidenced by the Panama leaks or the images of private pictures of celebrities. For mindless games and entertainment, you end up sacrificing control over your own personal life.

Granted, technology has many advantages. The development of new Artifical Intelligence has many uses such as creating socially assistive robots or virtual therapy. Nevertheless, it is becoming more and more apparent that technology is being treated to fix the issues old technology has caused. In the end, we must all ask ourselves this, the technology we use is it causing more harm than doing good?


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I appreciate the kudos, but in terms of the second essay, I would ask you to read what you have written again and ask yourself; have you answered the question? In reality, I think you only managed to begin doing so in your concluding paragraph. I shall ignore the grammatical errors in this case, because I realise that the past few hours are not sufficient time for you to suddenly possess a better grasp of the structure of the English language. 

"Technology is an insidious ailment that has become pervasive in our society." Beginning with this is a mistake. You have not yet provided any justification for this whatsoever; all this tells the examiner is that you are predisposed to hyperbole, and unsubstantiated claims. Not exactly conducive to performing well in a grad school test... 

Secondly, immediately after your introduction, in which you describe improvements in transportation technology, you launch into a segue against the ills of social media. Social media, online news platforms etc. all fall under the remit of information communication technology - and you do not once point that out. You conflate technology in general with one specific type of technology, and then discuss the negatives of only that one type of technology. You also do not once mention the positives, especially in regards to online news media - given all the of the arguments you levy against it can also be used to decry print media, and one of the benefits of online news sources, is that it gives access to a wider array of sources than traditional print media. That is not to say the negatives you mention are unfounded - they are good arguments against the prevalence of online communication services and media in our daily lives, and the lack of regulation of content. But it is not a balanced essay. Furthermore, I would worry that you conflate content with the technology itself. 

Sure, a lack of rigorous journalism and no regulation of online news print is concerning. But that does not assign an inherently negative connotation to the technology supporting the provision of said information. All that tells me is that unregulated information communications technology is a concern. Consider; does the fact that my favourite news site hosts an article saying vaccines are bad mean that web-server technology is bad? No, of course not. It means that the lack of regulations concerning content is a problem. 

Furthermore, "technology is a massive invasion of privacy", are you still talking about online web-services and social media here? Let me tell you, I really do not think my microwave is a massive invasion of privacy. Or the new SpaceX rocket. Or self-driving cars. Again, you are not specific as to what kinds of technology you are referring to. Even if I assume that you are still talking about web-based ICT technology, I still have not seen an alternative view. Sure, google analytics monitors my social media posts, the websites I view etc. and this information is sold to advertising companies to build a comprehensive portfolio of my online activity. Ask yourself; why? It is, of course, to better target advertisements. Now, is that necessarily a bad thing? I have to say, ten years ago I was a young teen and it rightly annoyed me all of those pop up adds trying to sell me a new car, a home on some fancy estate etc. Why? Because they had literally nothing to do with me or my interests, and were never going to generate click through sales etc. Now I get advertisements telling me when my favourite clothing webstores are having sales, when a journal like the Economist that I read regularly has an offer on subscriptions. The ad I see at least five times a day at the moment? The University of Glasgow's business school. Apparently if I apply now, I'll be given a £1000 scholarship. Much more useful than an advert for some fancy home that I will never be able to afford in today's housing market!!

You finally get around to addressing more than just web based ICT technology in your concluding paragraph. Which is silly, quite frankly, as your conclusion is not the place to introduce new ideas. It is where you come to some sort of judgement based on the things you have already discussed.

I think the key issue here however, is your concluding sentence; "we must all ask ourselves this, the technology we use is it causing more harm than doing good?" Firstly, why on earth is your conclusion a question? The point of this essay was supposed to be to answer a question. Not to come up with a question that you would rather answer. Furthermore, I am not sure where you got the idea from that a good concluding sentence might be to ask whether technology is doing more harm than good; as that was not the question you were asked.

The question you were supposed to be answering was "Technology, while apparently aimed to simplify our lives, only makes our lives more complicated." Not 'is technology good or bad', 'is technology causing harm'. What the question asks, is for you to consider scenarios in which technology may have made life simpler - i.e. robotic vacuums reducing the time needed to perform domestic tasks, self-driving cars and sat-navs, which are supposed to remove human error from road use, mechanised production equipment for use in factories to simply the production process, development of faster and more convenient air transportation - not only for moving people, but also for the international shipping of goods. I quite like broccoli, the kind I buy in my supermarket is flown in from Spain so I can still enjoy it out of season. What are the alternatives? Where technology has made life more complicated? Sure! Web-based social media platforms are one kind of information technology that has made our lives more complicated! Arguably so are smartphones - which means your boss can always reach you by email even when at home and away from your desktop. Or on vacation. Other complications may arise from those same technologies that confer a benefit in one scenario; I quite like the development of cars. I dislike walking. Unfortunately we now have traffic congestion, and rising pollution levels in major cities - reducing air quality and so our quality of life.

Consider; you did not once define technology, and you have again taken a single viewpoint and run with it, only considering the alternatives within your concluding sentence. Even then you have not considered the alternative view of the type of technology you chose to analyse, instead finally getting around to addressing alternatives types of technology and acknowledging they may not possess the same ills as social media. I think what would help you in future essays is to begin with a statement of purpose. Work out what the question is actually asking and write it down. This will force you to focus your answer and your thoughts, rather than letting them run away from you. 

tl;dr; Great essay on the ills of ICT and web-based media; unfortunately that wasn't the question.

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Hi Sara, 

Thank you for your feedback. I'm trying my best to work out what the question is asking and then come up with examples. Please keep in mind I only have 30 minutes to do so and the GRE needs you to pick a side. I've written another issue essay with the topic below. It would be very beneficial if you could go over it and see if there has been any improvement. 

Governments should place few, if any, restrictions on scientific research and development.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.

Science the field of reason and logic. The field of Aristotle and Galileo. Since the beginning of time, science and scientists have brought about change by looking through the telescope, the microscope, using math and philosophy, theories have been established. Theories that that the majority have almost always disagreed with. Scientists have often been heretics and outcasts but they stuck to their knowledge and eventually the rest of humanity saw it too. But does science need to advance at that pace? The ponderous path that relies on government sponsorship where resources are given to those that agree with the ruling majority. It would be best if governments did not place any restrictions on scientific research and development so that science can advance free of any constraint.

Science and religion are often at war with the other despite the fact they are two sides of the same coin. In the past, in Italy, when the leaders in power were Catholic, Galileo was locked up for his beliefs. Now, our Christian leaders place restrictions on stem cell research. While we may not know for certain, but if scientists were allowed to conduct stem cell research without qualifications, it is possible that they may attain a breakthrough for growing skin, or tissue or even organs. Despite the government restrictions on the type of stem cells scientists can work with, they have managed to grow skin which has been used to reduce the suffering and increase the likelihood of survival for burn victims. The possibilitis of advancement using all types of stem cells may be endless. So should the changing governments with their different religious views, different alliances and different priorties be the ones making the call.

 If it is an ethical concern, would it not be better to let the scientists and the people decide? In the United States of America, the Institutional Board of Review (IRB) oversees all the research being conducted. Scientists are required to submit their proposal for review and can only begin conducting research after the IRB has deemed it acceptable. The members that review the proposal are educated individuals from different fields. If we already have a system in place that decides whether or not research is ethical, why do we need additional government review.

History is witness to the times governments have been complicit in unethical scientific research. Take Nazi Germany for example, Jews and individuals with disabilities were subject to number of cruel and inhumane experiments in the name of scientific research. Such research has even been used to advance the fields of astronomy and travel in space. This is not anomaly. In the United States, there have been a number of such horrific practices. There is the Stanford Prison Experiment or the case of Little Albert. There is also the infamous Tuscany trials where government officials and health care professionals were aware of the experiment and let it happen anyway. Therefore, the onus of restrictions should not fall on the governements but rather on the scientific community. With transparency and awareness, we can advance science faster while realizing our ethical boundaries.

Granted, the Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted by scientists who decided it was acceptable to subject humans to such trauma. The experiment was conducted without oversight and perhaps government restrictions could have prevented trauma. But the same would be true if other members of the scientific community were aware that such an experiment was taking place.

In conclusion, government restrictions on science and development tend to be uninformed and biased. If there are restrictions to be placed, it should be determined by the scientific community and the majority of the general population.

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Better!!! I would still make sure you directly answer the question; "in light of the issues raised above, I am of the opinion that governments should place few, if any, restrictions on science and development; because such restrictions tend to be uninformed and biased."

Just stating that government restrictions on science and development tend to be uninformed and biased, does not, in and of itself, mean that they should not occur. Someone else sitting the same exam may argue that the very fact Government representatives are not experts is a good thing; they are removed from the scientific process, have nothing to gain in terms of funding and recognition if something unethical is pushed through, and can take a step back and look objectively at whether just because something can be done, whether it should be done. I agree with, you don't get me wrong, but you have to be aware that your closing statement must directly refer back to the question - because the same piece of evidence that you use against something, someone else may use in favour of something. Just restating that evidence alone is not enough to answer the question. This is your opinion. State it. Defend it. Be explicit. 

The only thing I would watch in terms of the content of the arguments you made in this essay, is the last sentence. Remember that government is made up of elected representatives, who have sovereignty conferred upon them via the voting mechanism - meaning they represent the will of the majority. Any action that government undertakes is considered to be sanctioned by the majority of the population. The voting mechanism in the US is not perfect, I am not from the US and I am all too aware of how awful their electoral process is, but it is something to bear in mind. If you state that government action does not represent the majority will of the people you either need to justify this claim, or recognise that the marker will presume you do not know how the voting process works and how sovereignty is conferred. A minor error though, and one specific to this essay. 

This was a much better attempt overall. The only major thing I would see improved, is that the instructions detail you should conclude to what extent you agree or disagree with the statement. It is not asking for a black or white judgement. You do not do this. 

You very easily could do this, however, by slightly rewording your final sentence. "If there are restrictions to be placed, it should be determined by the scientific community and the majority of the general population."

Consider something along the lines of whilst you do not think science should be entirely unregulated, because of ethical concerns, you do not think that Government are the best placed individuals to make such recommendations; as they are non-specialists. Instead, if there are restrictions to be placed, those should be determined by the scientific community as a whole. 

One final thing, and a more general issue; do not make excuses for yourself. That is not constructive. You may only have thirty minutes to come up with arguments and examples etc. but of all the replies I have written to you so far, I have composed these in around ten minutes. Push yourself harder if you want a better mark, don't make excuses. I wouldn't be replying to you if I was an asshole who didn't care about how well you did or did not perform. I would simply ignore you. 

Similarly, it is true that you have to pick a side. But picking a side does not mean providing only one side of the argument - if you thought that it did, you have fundamentally misunderstood what the GRE is asking of you. Picking a side means you consider both the proposal in the question, and the counterfactual, and then come to some sort of judgement about which, ultimately, is more important using examples.

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2 hours ago, zara-barnes said:

One final thing, and a more general issue; do not make excuses for yourself. That is not constructive. You may only have thirty minutes to come up with arguments and examples etc. but of all the replies I have written to you so far, I have composed these in around ten minutes. Push yourself harder if you want a better mark, don't make excuses. I wouldn't be replying to you if I was an asshole who didn't care about how well you did or did not perform. I would simply ignore you. 

Thank you! I do sincerely appreciate your feedback and am trying to use your advice and improve. I'm really grateful for your replies as you're picking faults no one else noticed. I'll keep pushing myself to get a better score. 

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I've attached an argument AWA essay. Any feedback is much appreciated. 

The following appeared in a letter from the owner of the Sunnyside Towers apartment building to its manager.

"One month ago, all the showerheads on the first five floors of Sunnyside Towers were modified to restrict the water flow to approximately one-third of its original flow. Although actual readings of water usage before and after the adjustment are not yet available, the change will obviously result in a considerable savings for Sunnyside Corporation, since the corporation must pay for water each month. Except for a few complaints about low water pressure, no problems with showers have been reported since the adjustment. Clearly, restricting water flow throughout all the twenty floors of Sunnyside Towers will increase our profits further."

Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.


The conclusion is based on a number of tenuous connections between the restriction of the flow of water and saving money for the Sunnyside Corporation. The facts appear to be distorted to present a profitable conclusion for Sunnyside Corporation. However, if these assumptions were to be examined and found to be false, then the argument completely falls apart.

The first five floors of Sunnyside Towers had the water flow to their showerheads modified to one third of its regular flow. The author assumes this will result in less water being used by the residents and in turn mean waned expenditure for Sunnyside Corporation. It fails to take into account that if residents of the building are dissatisfied by the water flow of the showers, they might opt to take baths instead. A bath requires a considerable larger quantity of water than showers and if a number of residents make the switch to a bath, the water use of the first five floors of Sunnyside Towers would not decrease but have the opposite effect-it would increase. Residents might also choose to have longer showers or might try opt for autodidact fix by replacing the shower head or adding additional ones. Without the hard evidence, the actual readings of the water usage before and after the restriction, any conclusion is simply conjecture.

The argument does not give a specific number or percentage of complaints. If there is only one apartment per floor in Sunnyside Towers and the management has received five complaints, the restriction of water floor has caused problems to 100% of the tenants affected by it. Without fully understanding the consequences, the extent to which the restricted water floor has affected the lives of tenants, the plan to extend it to the rest of the building should be tabled. If the majority of the people living on the first five floors have had their lives adversely impacted, it is most likely that the same rule will be true for the rest of the building. It could cause the tenants to take serious steps in retaliation perhaps even opting to live in a different place. This would cause Sunnyside Corporation a loss instead of the predicted profit. The argument would have been much clearer if the complaints had been explicitly stated.

In conclusion, the argument is seriously flawed because of its’ illogical assumptions and therefore is unconvincing. It could be strengthened if the author mentioned actual results and gave numerical evidence to back the conclusion. Without the information, the argument remains unsubstantiated and thus, the Corporation should not act on it.

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