Sample Issue Topics
In August 2011, the GRE test pattern underwent a major change. The total score for the General Test was brought down to 340 from 1600.
The Issue task consists of an issue statement which is followed by specific instructions that instruct you on how to respond to an issue. The ETS website lists over 200 topics on their website. While it might be a pretty overwhelming task to prepare for each of them individually, one can easily go through them leisurely - a few topics each day - and practice the ones that seem the most challenging. It's amazing how much easier things can get on exam-day by just being aware of the topics that one might come across. The good news is, all these topics fall under 6 broad categories:
Educational institutions have a responsibility to dissuade students from pursuing fields of study in which they are unlikely to succeed.
Some people believe that government funding of the arts is necessary to ensure that the arts can flourish and be available to all people. Others believe that government funding of the arts threatens the integrity of the arts.
- Technology and society:
As people progressively rely more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate
- Government and power:
The well-being of a society is enhanced when many of its people question authority and tyrannical leaders.
- Intellectual endeavours:
In any field of inquiry, the beginner is more likely than the expert to make important contributions
The greatness of individuals can be decided only by those who live after them, and not by their contemporaries
Let us consider an issue statement and look at an essay capable of scoring a perfect 6.0 and compare it with one that would be likely to score around 4.0:
“As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate”
Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.
Essay response- Score 6
Surely there has been no time in history where the daily lives of people have changed more dramatically over a single lifetime. A quick reflection on a typical day reveals how technology has revolutionized the world. Most people commute to work in an automobile that runs on an internal combustion engine. During the workday, the chances are high that the employee will interact with a computer that processes information on silicon bridges that are 14 nanometres wide or even less. Upon leaving home, family members can be reached through wireless networks that utilize signals from artificial satellites orbiting the Earth. All of these common occurrences were nothing short of inconceivable at the turn of the 19th century.
The statement attempts to bridge these dramatic changes to a reduction in the ability for humans to think for themselves. The assumption is that an increased reliance on technology negates the need for people to think creatively to solve previous quandaries. Looking back at the introduction, one could argue that without a car, computer, or mobile phone, the hypothetical worker would need to find alternate methods of transport, information processing, and communication. Technology short circuits this thinking by making the problems obsolete.
However, this reliance on technology does not necessarily preclude the creativity that marks the human species. The prior examples reveal that technology allows for convenience. The car, computer, and phone all release additional time for people to live more efficiently. This efficiency does not preclude the need for humans to think for themselves. In fact, technology frees humanity to not only tackle new problems but may itself create new issues that did not exist without technology. For example, the proliferation of automobiles has introduced a need for fuel conservation on a global scale. With increasing energy demands from emerging markets, global warming becomes a concern inconceivable to the horse-and-buggy generation. Likewise, complete dependence on oil has created nation-states that are not dependent on taxation, allowing ruling parties to oppress minority groups and women. Solutions to these complex problems require the unfettered imagination of maverick scientists and politicians.
In contrast to the statement, we can even see how technology liberates the human imagination. Consider how the digital revolution and the advent of the internet have allowed for an unprecedented exchange of ideas. WebMD, a popular internet portal for medical information, allows patients to self-research their symptoms for a more informed visit to the physician's chamber. This exercise opens pathways of thinking that were previously closed off to the medical layman. With increased interdisciplinary interaction, inspiration can arrive from the most surprising corners. Jeffrey Sachs, one of the architects of the UN Millenium Development Goals, based his ideas on emergency care triage techniques. The unlikely marriage of economics and medicine has healed tense, hyperinflation environments from South America to Eastern Europe.
The last example provides the most hope with how technology actually provides hope to the future of humanity. By increasing our reliance on technology, impossible goals can now be achieved. Consider how the late 20th century witnessed the complete elimination of smallpox. This disease had ravaged the human race since prehistorical times, and yet, with the advancements in inoculation technology, free-thinking humans dared to imagine a world free of smallpox. Using technology, battle plans were drawn out, and the disease was systematically targeted and eradicated.
Technology has always distinguished humans from other living beings, from the discovery of fire to the implementation of nanotechnology. Given the history of the human race, there will be no limit to the number of problems, both new and old, for us to tackle. There is no need to retreat to a Luddite attitude to new things, but rather embrace a hopeful posture to the possibilities that technology provides for new avenues of human imagination.
Essay response- Score 4
In all actuality, I think it is more probable that an over-dependence on technology will cause our bodies to deteriorate long before our minds do, in any significant amount. Who can't say that technology has made us lazier, but that's the key word, lazy, and not foolish. The ever-increasing amount of technology that we incorporate into our daily lives makes people think and learn every day, possibly more than ever before. Our abilities to think, learn, philosophize, etc. may even reach limits never dreamed of before by average people. Using technology to solve problems will continue to help us realize our potential as a human race.
If you think about it, using technology to solve more complicated problems gives humans a chance to expand their thinking and learning, opening up whole new worlds for many people. Many of these people are glad for the chance to expand their horizons by learning more, going to new places, and trying new things. If it wasn't for the invention of new technological devices, I wouldn't be sitting at this computer trying to philosophize about technology. It would be extremely hard for children in much poorer countries to learn and think for themselves with out the invention of the internet. Think what an impact the printing press, a technologically superior machine during its time, had on the ability of the human race to learn and think.
Right now we are witnessing a golden age of technology, using it all the time during our everyday lives. Inventions like the washing machine, microwave and air-conditioner have made life considerably more convenient and comfortable. However, we aren't allowing our minds to deteriorate by using them, we are only making things easier for ourselves and saving time for other important things in our day. Think of the brain power and genius that was used to come up with and improve on every single invention that has conceptualized across the globe.
Using technology to solve our continually more complicated problems as a human race is definitely a good thing. Our ability to think for ourselves isn't deteriorating, it's continuing to grow, moving on to higher though functions and more ingenious ideas. The ability to use what technology we have is an example.
The 6.0 scoring essay presents a very insightful position on the issue and follows the instructions by presenting reasons to support the position. The essay also effectively links ideas effortlessly and substantiates all clams with relevant examples. The essay makes use of grammatically correct, idiomatic English, and has a logical structure. The second essay too develops a clear position and supports it with simple but relevant examples. The essay as a whole flows smoothly and errors are minor, however, being more concise, the ideas aren't as elaborately presented as in the first essay and the linking of ideas isn't as seamless as the first essay. Moreover, the conclusion seems abrupt and leaves a lot to the imagination.