Sunday, August 19, 2007

My version of the Analyze an Arguemnt task of GRE

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument.

"The University of Claria is generally considered one of the best universities in the world because of its instructors' reputation, which is based primarily on the extensive research and publishing record of certain faculty members. In addition, several faculty members are internationally renowned as leaders in their fields. For example, many of the faculty from the English department are regularly invited to teach at universities in other countries. Furthermore, two recent graduates of the physics department have gone on to become candidates for the Nobel Prize in Physics. And 75 percent of the students are able to find employment after graduating. Therefore, because of the reputation of its faculty, the University of Claria should be the obvious choice for anyone seeking a quality education."

My response :

University of Claria (UC) may be generally considered one of the best universities in the world. The author has gone at length to claim the superiority of the university and in this process has made a number of unsubstantiated claims that might belie the actual credibility of the university as a good place to study. Moreover, she has boldly concluded that UC has to be the obvious choice for anyone seeking a quality education.

It is of utmost importance to first of all ascertain the correctness of the statement that "UC is generally on of the best universities". Are there any previous statistical studies that put UC in the top universities list? What does the author mean by saying 'general'? This is a strong but vague and unsubstantiated statement.

The author then goes on to reason that UC is among the 'best' by saying that it has instructors of good reputation based on research and publishing record. Are these factors sufficient to title an instructor whether he/she is of good reputation or not? Don't we have to consider whether the instructors are good teachers? What if all the paper-producing geniuses of UC have nightmares while facing the students?

Thirdly, the author states that several faculty members are internationally renowned as leaders in their fields. But what consitutes 'several'? Instead of this term, it would be reasonable to give a rough percentage of the faculty members who are leaders. Moreover, saying that they are renowned as the leaders in their fields is a fuzzy description. A faculty member may be termed as leader based on the contributions he has made to the field. Further reasoning by the author would severly benefit her arguement, which is missing.

Fourthly, the author has considered only two departments in her examples - English and Physics. What about the other deparments? Do the other departments have excellent faculties just like English deparment. Yet another question to ask is whether these faculties are available for the students in the home university at all? What if they are busy in going around the globe? It is commendable that two recent physics graduates have been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics. But are the other students of different deparments win such high-value laurels? And moreover, is this a trend that has been continuing for a long time or is it that this is the first time that two alumni have been lauded? The analysis is missing in breadth (in terms of various departments) and the depth (in terms of the time).

Finally, the author of the above argument, is providing a valuable data - that 75% of the students are able to find employement after graduating. But what is the significance of this figure "75%" ? Is it high enough when compared to other universities? What if normally many of the universities produce more than 95% employment rate? And the data about whether the students are employed in the firms of their choice has to be furnished.

Despite the number of flaws in her argument, the author would well benefit by substantiating her claims with facts. She must give results of any statistical ranking surveys and the position of UC in those surveys. Also, a discussion about the performance of instructors and students of all the deparments of the university, and a detailed analysis of the placement results of the students would be a welcome change in considering whether UC is the obvious choice for anyone seeking a quality education.

The response that got 6/6:

While the University of Claria appears to have an excellent reputation based on the accomplishments and reputations of its faculty, one would also wish to consider other issues before deciding upon this particular institution for undergraduate or graduate training. The Physics and English departments are internationally known, but these are only two of the areas in which one might study. Other departments are not listed; is this because no others are worth mentioning, or because no other departments bothered to turn in their accomplishments and kudos to the publicity office?

The assumption is that because English and Physics have excellent brains in the faculty offices, their teaching skills and their abilities to pass on knowledge and the love of learning to their students are equally laudable. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. A prospective student would certainly be advised to investigate thoroughly the teaching talents and attitudes of the professors, the library and research facilities, the physical plant of the departments in which he or she was planning to study, as well as the living arrangements on or off campus, and the facilities available for leisure activities and entertainment.

This evaluation of the University of Claria is too brief, and too general. Nothing is mentioned about the quality of overall education; it only praises the accomplishments of a few recent graduates and professors. More important than invitations to teach elsewhere, which might have been engineered by their own departmental heads in an attempt to remove them from the campus for a semester or two, is the relationship between teacher and student. Are the teaching faculty approachable? Are they helpful? Have they an interest in passing on their knowledge? Are they working for the future benefit of the student or to get another year closer to retirement? How enthusiastic are the students about the courses being taught and the faculty members who teach those classes? Are there sufficient classes available for the number of students? Are the campus buildings accessible; how is the University handling all those cars? Is the University a pleasant, encouraging, interesting, challenging place to attend school? What are its attitudes about education, students, student ideas and innovations, faculty suggestions for improvement?

What about that 75% employment record? Were those students employed in the field of their choice, or are they flipping burgers and emptying wastebaskets while they search for something they are trained to do. A more specific statement about the employability of students from this University is needed in order to make the argument forceful.

The paragraph given merely scratches the surface of what must be said about this University in order to entice students and to convince them that this is the best place to obtain a quality education. Much more work is needed by the public relations department before this can be made into a four-color brochure and handed out to prospective students.

The response that got 1/6 :)

Is true that University of Claria is generally consider one of the best university in world. Because instructors reputations. Because research and publishing record. Because teach in other countries. Because win Nobel prizes. Because find empolyment after graduating. But other school good just as Claria. Can be little money. Can be good teachers too.

My version of the Issue writing task in GRE

Present your perspective on the issue below, using relevant reasons and/or examples to support your views.

"The best ideas arise from a passionate interest in commonplace things."

In today's highly competitive world, where it has become very difficult to get a place of your own in a community, where fame is a highly valued commodity, it is very much essential that you are different from others.
Ideas are everything. Alique Padamsee, one of the best advertising gurus in India said clearly "An Idea is worth a million rupees". He is right. Ideas differentiate you from the plebeian man, who does what his boss says him to do, without giving second thoughts or coming up with a new solution of his own, that would guarantee his promotion. This pedestrian lives a very monotonic life surrounded by similar people. He is not known outside his group. He is afterall common. He doesn't have ideas. He is simply vacuous.

Newton, when he was young, was sitting under a tree when an apple hit him. Any pedantic scholar or even any common man, if he was reading a book under the tree would have thrown the apple away in rage, but Newton did the opposite. He invested his thoughts to such a common incident - why did the apple fall? I would argue that Newton's time, this might have been considered the dumbest of all questions though no one knew the answer. This vehement interest in such a trivial and commonplace thing led to a ground-breaking scientfic theory about Gravitation. Newton is unparalled now and the good he did to human beings is implicitly prodigious.

At the beginning of the twentieth century there was this young guy working in a patent office who used to get simply obscure ideas, as his friends would say. Once he asked (paraphrased) : "What would happen if I sit in a rocket that travels at the speed of light? Will light still travel at the same speed and hit me?" This thought process, however trivial it looks, led to a remarkable theory - the Special theory of relativity. And the young man was none other than Albert Einstein.

If you argue that this is twenty-first century and that all ideas have been exhausted, then you are terribily wrong. Ideas are never ending. New ideas keep coming every now and then. Newspapers are proof of that.

The world is shaped by great ideas. The greatest of the ideas have moulded the history and has taken the human community a giant leap everytime. The world is advancing each day at a snail's pace. The greatest of the ideas strike rarely but when they strike they advance the human community by a giant leap.But what triggers such greatest ideas? Who comes up with such mind-blowing ideas?

The solution to the above questions is best addressed by this statement "The best ideas arise from a passionate interest in commonplace things". Everyone of us must remain grounded, have a passionate interest towards even the trivial of things. On the first place, many of us don't give sufficient thoughts, and on the second place, whenever we try to come up with an idea, we essentially start thinking high, give interest to the most complicated ideas. Ideas cannot be forced out, they come naturally. Children must be thought to appreciate the commonplace things. The solution to a trivial problem might help trigger the best of ideas. Remove your glasses and see the world with passion.

One response that got 6/6 is :

Even the most brilliant thinkers, from Socrates to Satre, live lives in time. A childhood, an adolescence, an adulthood; these are common to me and you as well as the greatest writers. Furthermore, many of the great thinkers we esteem in our Western culture lived somewhat unevetful lives. What distinguished their life from say a common laborer was their work. Therefore, what provided the grist for their work? One might say that they were brilliant and this alone was sufficient to distinguish their lives from the masses. Intellect alone can not devise situations or thoughts from no where; there must be a basis and that basis is most common, if not always, observation of the common, of the quotidian. Critics of this idea may argue that these thinkers were products of fine educations and were well schooled in the classics. This, they may point to, is the real basis for their knowledge. I would agrue that although it may be a benefit to study classics and be well schooled in diverse disciplines, these pursuits merely refine and hone an ability each and every person has, the ability to study human nature. Where best to study human nature than in the day to day routine each one of us can witness in him or herself or those around us.

I propose that the two best disciplines to understand this power of the commonplace and its ability to cause a groundswell of thought are philosophy and literature. Every school of philosophy, from the Greeks to our day, share a common mission or intent and that is to understand and explain human existence, with all of its concommitant features. Generally speaking, the Greek philosophers, epitomized in Aristotle, attempted to set down rules for human behavior founded on logic. These rules applied not only to the rare forms of human behavior but largely focused on the more mundane motions of daily life. Many of Aristotle's rules were based on his observations of others as well as himself. Contrast this venture with the existentialists of our century who attempted to look behind the real motivations of human behavior as well understand man's relation to the Universe. To do this, what did these philosophers do? They studied those around them; they submerged themselves in the commonplace, in cities with hordes of annonymous people. While the existentialists, as well those philosophers before, exploited their uncommon eduation and intellect, the basis for their movement was ordinary human behavior and existence.

Finally, literature is similar to philosophy in that it seeks to explain and understand human behavior and therefore rooted in the commonplace. Nevertheless, its relative strength over philosophy is literature's ability to emotionally and spiritually move the reader through the use of contrived situations and fictional characters. It can do this when even the central theme of a piece maybe love between a man and a woman (e.g.commonplace). Literature also distinguishes itself from philosophy in that the breadth of the fiction may be huge. The plot and the detail can be quite ordinary or fanatastic. However, this does not mean that the central themes of all literature, whether ordinary or fantastic, deal with human beings and the problems they find in the world, something which we all share.

In conclusion, I hope it has been shown that a passionate desire to understand and explain human behavior, the significance of our existence and deal constructively with the challanges of life are the centerpieces of at least in two of the most influential areas in human thought. What is more commonplace than the existence of man.

The response that got 1/6 :)

The best ideas arise from a passionate interest in commonplace things because they are from places in the heart. These iseas draw you to learn more about them. The idea or ideas have become passionate to you by either personal experience or by observation. It catches your attention and causes you to examine why or how the occurance /idea exsists. Institentively the desire to know more about the idea pushes you into futher research of the subject. The idea can be something you don't understand to be acceptable or unacceptable. The drive to understand leads to passion and that passion drives you to develope a great idea.