Kaplan GRE & GMAT Exams Writing Workbook, 3rd Edition (2008)

Chapter 6. GRE Sample Essays

Here are sample top scoring essays to five of the sample Issue prompts and five of the sample Argument prompts found in the previous chapter. Remember that an essay does not have to be perfect to receive a top score. Review these essays and note which qualities earned them a score of 6.


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

“Competitive athletics have a negative effect on student athletes, because sports engender an environment where students learn to win by any means necessary.”

The author of the prompt believes that students are worse off if they participate in competitive athletics because they learn to be cutthroat and to adopt a “win at all costs” mentality. However, there are also many benefits of competitive athletics that are not addressed: students athletes learn important physical and social skills; students athletes benefit from the mental refreshment that physical activity allows; students participating in team sports learn cooperative skills; and student athletes also enjoy significant health benefits. While it may be true that competitive athletics at times put too much emphasis on winning, the many benefits of competitive athletics far outweigh any negative effects such programs may produce.

Interscholastic and intramural sports offer students training in both physical and social skills that can be used throughout life. Programs such as AYSO soccer or Little League baseball teach grammar school aged children to enjoy outdoor, physical activities. At the same time, these programs allow these young students to interact and socialize several hours a week. Many people retain these tendencies their entire lives. Adults continue to enjoy the physical and social benefits of competitive athletics far beyond their student days. For example, the local newspaper devotes an entire page of the sports section to the many adult volleyball, softball, and basketball leagues in town; these leagues continue to entertain thousands.

Student athletes may also benefit from a clearer, more focused mind after participating in competitive athletics. On my college water polo team, the team GPA was much higher in season than out of season. When I mentioned this to a psychology professor, he noted that many studies show that the human mind can perform better, and thus learn better, after physical activity. If these studies are true, then competitive athletics actually produce better students.

While not every competitive sport is a team sport, the majority is. At my college, a full three quarters of the college-sanctioned sports are team sports such as football or lacrosse, rather than individual sports such as tennis or track and field. Any participant in a competitive team sport learns important lessons in teamwork and sacrifice for a common goal. These lessons are often applicable to future endeavors in life. For example, someone who learns to play selflessly on the basketball court to win more games will be a better team player when they move on to the professional ranks of business, law, medicine or other job. Even in the traditionally individual sports, many of these lessons can be learned. A close friend gave up the individual glory he might have attained as a singles tennis player because his college tennis team needed a strong doubles player. He did what was needed for his overall team to win and has carried those same skills into his career in strategic planning for a Fortune 500 company.

The health benefits of physical activity are a strong endorsement of competitive athletics. Numerous studies have shown that aerobic activity found in most team sports helps to improve circulation, reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, and build a metabolism that burns fat more quickly. Many people would not enjoy these health benefits if they did not participate in competitive athletics. Personally, I stopped most physical activity for a few years after I graduated from college and left my water polo team. Only by joining an adult water polo league have I been able to get back into shape.

Many would argue that the negative effect of a ‘win at all costs’ attitude would outweigh the benefits listed above. However, these people ignore the fact that many competitive athletics do not engender such an environment. When I was a high-school swimmer, I learned from my coaches to try to beat my best time, not the person in the next lane. Because of this, I never felt the need to cheat or do anything immoral to win. Other sports, such as Ultimate Frisbee, put more of an emphasis on spirit and moral than on winning at all costs. All disputes are settled on the field and awards are given to teams with the best spirit. All this coexists with the competitive aspects of the game.

It is not true that competitive athletics have a negative impact on student athletes because of a win at all costs environment. In fact, students gain important benefits from competitive athletics, such as better health; physical, social and team skills; and more focused minds. Also, many competitive student athletes are never subjected to a win at all costs environment—many of the best coaches and sports put more emphasis on personal betterment than on cheating to win.

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

“The perceived greatness of any political leader has more to do with the challenges faced by that leader than with any of his or her inherent skills and abilities.”

Perceptions of greatness in national and political leaders are largely determined by the seriousness of the problems that they face during their terms in office. Most national histories principally highlight individuals in the context of significant events in which the leaders played important roles. Most political leaders need to have large stores of inherent skill and ability just in order to become a political leader. However, history remembers those who lived in great times more fondly than those who did not. Examples of this are numerous and include the histories of Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Winston Churchill—all men who are perceived as great leaders largely because of the times in which they lived.

Abraham Lincoln is often considered the greatest of all the American Presidents. He graces two units of the currency and has one of the largest monuments built in his honor in Washington D.C. However, Lincoln is considered great largely because he faced a great challenge—the civil war between the North and the South in the 1860s. Lincoln led the United States to victory over the rebels and reunited the country and is therefore considered great. This is not to say that Lincoln was not skilled. Many know that he was born in a log cabin and progressed to law school and eventually to the presidency. He was also a skilled orator. However another man, James Buchanon, also was born in a log cabin, went to law school, gave good speeches and ascended to the presidency. However there are no monuments to Buchanon in the capital or pictures of his face on the five-dollar bill.

Woodrow Wilson was another talented man who ascended to the presidency of the United States. However his talents are not what make his perceived greatness. In this age, few remember if Wilson was particularly smart, a very good speechmaker, or a good arbitrator. Most remember that he led the United States to victory in the first World War and therefore perceive him as great. At the time, however, Wilson was rather unpopular. In fact, he had so little sway with Congress that he was unable to get the United States to join the League of Nations—a fact that many claim helped lead to the second World War.

Winston Churchill was another man that history views favorably because of the incredible challenges that he faced. However, Churchill was not very popular before the war. When Franklin Roosevelt first met Churchill before either was the leader of his respective country, Roosevelt wrote in his diary that Churchill was full of himself and far too talkative. Early in his term as Prime Minister, Churchill even faced a no-confidence vote in Parliament. However, the events of World War II gave him the perception of greatness.

Many might argue that these men and other men and women were already great before history gave them great challenges. While it is impossible to definitely disprove this assertion and it may be true that they had great skill and ability, otherwise they would not have been political leaders, most examples point to the fact that the times make the man or woman. If the presidencies of Buchanon and Lincoln were switched, we would very likely have the Buchanon memorial instead.

In summary, it is true that the perceived greatness of a political leader is more due to great challenges than great inherent ability. The historical examples of Lincoln, Wilson, and Churchill bear this out. All were talented, but so too are all political leaders. Only the leaders that live in eventful times are remembered as great.

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

“College students should be required to take a course in public speaking, even if taking such a course lessens the amount of time a student would spend on more academic subjects.”

While the ability to speak comfortably before a group of people can be a valuable skill, colleges should not require students to take a separate course in public speaking, especially if taking such a class comes at the exclusion of more academic subjects. Since public speaking is a valuable skill for some students, public speaking classes should be offered as electives. However, colleges should not make the classes a requirement because students should have the ability to choose their course loads for themselves, students pursuing careers that do not involve public speaking should not be forced to waste their time on irrelevant material, and even students who are interested in public speaking may be able to gain better experience outside of the classroom. may be able to gain better experience outside of the classroom.

Many students (or their parents) are spending large amounts of money or accumulating large debts to attend college. If a student decides that she does not want to take a public speaking class, then she should not be forced to spend her money on it. Ultimately the college should be tailoring curricula towards the wants of students, since the students are the paying customers.

Perhaps more importantly, students should not be forced to take classes that fall outside of the scope of their future employment. Most students are in school to train for a profession (even if they desire to be a professional academic). Therefore, a student’s course load should focus as much as possible on the skills and knowledge necessary for that profession. A pre-law student hoping to become a trial lawyer may need to take public speaking. However, a future statistician or surgeon may never need to speak in front of large groups. Why should these students be forced to waste their time and effort on a class that does not prepare them for their future life? effort on a class that does not prepare them for their future life?

It should also be considered that even students who are interested in public speaking or are pursuing careers where public speaking is a necessary skill may be able to get better experience outside of the classroom. Many students while in high school became involved in the school debate team so that they can hone their public speaking skills. Others become involved in speaking at church to get over their fears of public speaking. Still others may have a natural talent for public speaking that requires no further instruction. Each of these groups of people might also feel that they were wasting their time if they were required to take a public speaking class.

Some critics of this point of view may contend that public speaking is part of a well-rounded education and that students should be forced to be well-rounded. This critique holds little water, however, because it is certainly not clear what ‘well-rounded’ means. Because of this, it is much better to offer a variety of electives, including public speaking, so that students might pursue their secondary and tertiary passions while in school. For example, the future statistician mentioned above may have a passion for performing in plays and would love to take acting and public speaking classes. Schools should offer these choices instead of dictating them.

In summary, it is important that schools not require students to take a public speaking class. While it is important to offer such a class for those that are interested, many students will find a required class to be a waste of their time, their money, or both. Still other students will find that they will be able to attain public speaking skills more effectively outside of the classroom.

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

“Progress should be the aim of any great society. People too often cling unnecessarily to obsolete ways of thinking and acting because of both a high comfort level and a fear of the unknown.”

Keeping up with global progress is, doubtless, a desirable attribute of any society. However, to purport that the reasons certain societies may not progress at the same rate as "great" societies are its reluctance to break from its comfort zone and a fear of the unknown is to present an overly simplistic view. Such a view does not take into consideration the set of economic, political, and cultural constraints that affect every society’s ability to progress on a global scale. Before exploring these constraints, it would be useful to examine the use of the word "great" in the above context. The concept of what makes a society great is highly subjective; some may equate greatness with military might or economic dominance, while others would emphasize cultural achievement or progress in care for less privileged citizens. Whatever one’s definition of greatness, however, it is ludicrous to suggest that any society actively rejects the desire to be great. Many societies face the seemingly insurmountable struggle to maintain societal structure in the face of economic need and/or political upheaval; the desire for greatness can only come when a society’s basic structure is intact.

Societies facing severe economic challenges are virtually unable to progress in areas like medicine, militia, and agriculture even if they want to do so. Countries like Bolivia use a majority of their limited resources to maintain an agricultural status quo. Bolivian farmers are not afraid of the unknown or passively content with their current situation, but are using all of their resources to maintain a functional economic climate and structure. Given this situation, the luxury of advancements in medicine, economics and military power is simply not possible.

Also, societies embroiled in political upheaval, such as Bangladesh, are unable to send its young and talented members to university where they can spearhead progress; the most viable sector of the population are required to serve in the military and/or to care for their families through difficult economic and political times. Maintaining a societal structure amid chaotic conditions engenders a lack of globally accepted progress, but as we have seen throughout time, episodes of great drama in any given society can yield important works of art, one such example being Albert Camus’ The Stranger, written during the French Resistance.

Another point to consider is that in some cases, preservation of an entire society’s cultural history, including its artistic contributions, is preserved only through its living members’ rich oral tradition and active rejecting of progress in the worlds of technology, medicine, and science. This is evident when considering such so-called "primitive" societies as the African Masai or certain Native American tribes. The introduction of technology into the world of the Masai would inarguably lead to the demise of the entire society.

In conclusion, to devalue a society that isn’t among the most progressive in the world is to discount the contributions a so-called "unprogressive" society can provide, such as artistic and cultural phenomena unique to a given society. Progress is a valuable tool for the advancement of a society, but blindly reaching for greatness can lead to a society’s downfall just as much as ignoring it altogether can. The balance between accepting a society’s constraints and highlighting its strengths is what will ultimately lead to a society’s greatness.

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

“To achieve success, a person should set goals at an early age and continually measure him or herself against those goals.”

It is not true that a person needs to set goals at an early age and constantly measure him or herself against those goals in order to achieve success. While many people find it helpful to set goals and measure performance against them, this is not necessary for success. Many people find success by chance or through the actions of others, without ever setting goals. Others find that the goals of their youth do not match up with what they would consider success as adults. Still others find success with merely a periodic look at their goals and progress.

Many people capture the traditional measures of success, such as health, wealth, and happiness, by chance. A close friend won a large lottery while in Las Vegas and is now quite content to spend his time playing golf around the world. He is certainly healthy, wealthy and happy, but he made no such plans as a youth. Others may find that they are able to achieve success because a successful parent or other loved one has paved the way for them. For example, the son-in-law of a wealthy landowner may find a successful career in real estate development because of a chance marriage, not because of meticulous goal setting and performance measurement.

Other people may find that the goals they planned as a youth are no longer relevant when they reach adulthood. Personally, I wanted to be a private detective or a garbage collector when I was in grammar school. Those are careers that I now know would not make me happy or fulfilled. As perceptions of success change across a lifetime, so to do goals need to change. If I had stuck to my original goals and constantly measured myself against them, I would not be a success in my own eyes today.

Many people do not feel the need to review or measure their progress against goals constantly in order to achieve success. A person my have the goal to retire at age 50. That person may be very successful if she sets out her goals, such as a budget, savings plan and investment plan, and then only periodically monitors her progress. In fact, many investment professionals advocate this approach so that people are not tempted to tinker too much with their plans. Another example may be in the dieter that weighs himself everyday. If someone sets a goal to be more healthy and lose 15 pounds, but becomes discouraged when he does not lose weight the first four days, that person may not be as successful as someone else who measures his progress periodically.

Some would point to the world of business to show that successful companies set goals early and measure often to achieve financial success. While this may be true, it is not necessarily applicable to personal success. There are undoubtedly a few people out there who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, set goals, and achieved great success. However, this is more the exception than the rule. Many people who are successful did nothing of the sort. In fact many of these same people would not have been successful if they had clung to their early goals. Clearly, success can be achieved without early goal setting and constant measurement.


Discuss how well reasoned you find the following argument.

Recent studies have shown that the senior citizen population of Desert City is growing faster that that of any other major city in the country. It has also been show by medical researchers that 70% of seniors suffer from at least mild arthritis pain and that living in a warm, dry environment, like that of Desert City, can help to alleviate the pain of arthritis. In fact, more seniors suffer from arthritis than from any other single affliction. Therefore, seniors must be moving to Desert City in large numbers in order to enjoy relief from arthritis pain.

With the information provided, the assumptions leading to the conclusion drawn in this argument remain unfounded. The author uses the evidence that there has been a greater increase in the senior population of Desert City than in any other major city in the U.S., that 70% of all seniors suffer from at least mild arthritis pain, and that arthritis pain can be alleviated by a warm, dry climate, such as Desert City’s to conclude that seniors are moving to Desert City in such large numbers in order to alleviate their arthritis pain. However, the author makes a number of unproved assumptions that hamper a reader’s ability to believe the author’s conclusion. If the author were to provide more evidence to support these assumptions, the argument would be much more effective.

The primary assumption underlying the author’s conclusion is that Desert City has no attraction other than climate to draw seniors. It may be that there are outstanding geriatric physicians or state-of-the-art hospitals in Desert City that attract seniors, or that there is great entertainment that is geared towards the elderly in the city. Without evidence that these other attractions do not exist, it is difficult to conclude that seniors are moving in such large numbers solely for health effects related to the climate and arthritis.

Moreover, the author assumes that the large numbers of seniors moving to Desert City must be suffering arthritis pain severe enough to warrant relocation without any other motivation. The author cites a study that shows 70% of seniors have arthritis pain, but the reader does not know from this fact if there are sufficient numbers of seniors with severe enough pain that the increase in Desert City’s senior population can be explained. For example, if a senior citizen suffers from arthritis that is easily treated with over the counter pain medication, that person is unlikely to relocate for that reason.

The author further assumes that there has not been a general increase in people of all ages relocating to Desert City of which seniors are just a part. If Desert City is simply the fastest growing city in the country, it would not necessarily follow that seniors are moving there for arthritis relief. The seniors could be moving as part of a whole family moving to Desert City. A related possibility is that Desert City has the largest number of people in late middle age, and is developing its growth in seniors simply through aging.

To strengthen this argument, the author could show that Desert City has no attraction that would draw seniors in particular other than the climate. More specific evidence of the status of arthritis pain in Desert City seniors would also improve the argument. If the author could show that the influx of new inhabitants from other age groups has remained the same, the anomalous nature of the senior relocation would be heightened. Until the author provides real evidence connecting the individual choice to move to Desert City with desire to alleviate arthritis pain, the argument remains unconvincing.

Discuss how well reasoned you find the following argument.

The following appeared in a letter to the editor of the Sun City Post newspaper:

“The tourism tax revenues of Sun City will continue to fall unless the city government takes action to bring our health resort industry up to the standard of other tourist destinations in our region. Our main competitor for tourists,Warm Springs City, completed two state-of-the-art spa complexes last year, and their level of tourism increased by over 20%; Sun City’s tourist level actually declined for the fifth year in a row. If the city government does not sponsor the construction of a spa in Sun City, there is no chance that these trends will reverse.”

The author of this letter to the editor would have readers believe that the only way to reverse Sun City’s five-year trend of falling tourism is to have the city sponsor the construction of a new spa in the city. The author bases this conclusion mostly on evidence from the recent experience of Warm Springs—a city that rivals Sun City for tourism—and the new spas constructed there. The author’s argument remains unconvincing because of significant unsupported assumptions and because of poorly defined vocabulary. If the author were to provide more support for his unfounded assumptions and better define some of his terms, the argument would be more compelling.

The author makes a number of unsupported assumptions. First, he assumes that there is no other explanation for the increase in Warm Springs’ tourism other than the two new spas. To better validate this assumption, the author might have provided evidence showing that Sun City does not have other reasons for declining tourism, such as increasing crime levels, rampant disrepair, or construction projects that hamper a tourists’ ability to reach Sun City.

Furthermore, he assumes that the only cause of Sun City’s decline in tourism for the last five years is the lack of a new spa. This assumption is particularly difficult to accept since the only evidence provided is from Warm Springs in the very last year. The author provides no evidence that might explain the previous four years. In order to have a reader accept this assumption, the author might provide evidence such as a survey showing that tourists to Sun City have been disappointed by the lack of spas.

In addition, the author assumes that constructing one spa in Sun City will have the desired effect even though Warm Springs built two spas in the year that it enjoyed its increase in tourism. In order to convince his readers that one spa will be enough, the author might provide expert testimony showing that other, similar town have seen increases in tourism after building just one spa.

Finally, our author assumes that the city itself needs to sponsor the construction of a spa. To believe this assumption, the reader needs evidence that a spa will not be built using only private sources of capital. Finally, our author states that there "is no chance" that the trend will reverse without a new spa; implicitly this assumes that there is not another project that might draw more tourists. To believe this assumption, readers need evidence that tourists only want a spa in Sun City as opposed to a new amusement park or other tourist destination.

The author’s argument also suffers from two poorly defined terms, which cause some confusion. First, the author uses the term "state-of-the-art" when discussing Warm Springs’ two new spas. The author does not let the reader know what state-of-the-art means. If the spas in Warm Springs are so advanced that Sun City cannot replicate them, then the author’s conclusion is in jeopardy. Second, the author interchangeably uses the terms "tourism levels" and "tourism tax revenues." Because the author does not distinctly draw a connection between the two, the reader is left wondering if there is a firm correlation between increasing tourism levels and increasing revenues.

The author of the letter to the editor does not give his readers a well-supported argument. The argument contains a large number of assumptions that are not properly validated. In addition, the author does not take the time to properly define some terms that would increase the understanding of his argument. Because of this, the argument remains unconvincing.

Discuss how well reasoned you find the following argument.

The following appeared in a memo from the Beach City office of the National Environment Protection Agency to the Director of the Agency:

“The amount of pollution in Beach City Harbor is staggering. This year alone 500 used car tires, 40,000 aluminum cans, 60,000 cigarette butts, and 75,000 glass bottles have been picked up from the city’s beaches by our sanitation patrols. Additionally, the number of tourists visiting Beach City has grown by over 10% for each of the last 7 years, giving us reason to believe that levels of pollution will only grow in the future. If we cannot find a way to discourage the growth in tourism here, there is no chance of survival for the marine life in our harbor.”

The Beach City office of the National Environmental Protection Agency would have the Director of the Agency believe that the survival of marine life in the Beach City Harbor depends on finding a way to discourage growth in tourism in Beach City. As evidence for this point, the city office cites the large amount of car tires, aluminum cans, cigarette butts, and glass bottles collected and the 10% annual growth in tourism to the city for the last 7 years. The argument remains unconvincing because of a number of unproved assumptions made by the Beach City office and because of a few pieces of vocabulary that require further definition for increased clarity in the argument.

The first unproved assumption made by the Beach City office is there actually has been growth in the amount of pollution. The office cites the amount of trash only in this year. This is not proof of growth since there is no evidence given about the amount of trash collected in the past. It could be that this level of pollution is actually down from previous years. Also, the memo does not tell us anything about collection methods. If the sanitation patrols were more diligent in picking up trash this year over previous years, it would skew any statistical trend. In order for the National Director to believe the story of growth in pollution, she would need additional information on previous years’ pollution levels and on collection methods over the years.

The author’s statement that there is a connection between increasing tourism and levels of pollution is yet another unproved assumption. The Beach City office offers no evidence that tourists are the ones polluting the harbor. It could be that most pollution comes from locals, in which case there would be little effect on marine life if tourism were curtailed. To convince the National Director that there is a link, the Beach City office should have offered evidence that shows tourists are primarily responsible for the pollution.

An additional unproved assumption is that past growth in tourism is indicative of future growth. The Beach City office states that the past growth in tourism gives the office "reason to believe that levels of pollution will only grow in the future." The National Director needs evidence to show that there will continue to be growth in tourism. For example, it could be that Beach City has not increased the number of hotel rooms in the city and was completely full during last year’s peak tourist season. If the hospitality industry in Beach City has continued to grow its capacity, the National Director should know this.

Finally, yet another unproved assumption is that the growth in pollution insures the termination of all life in the harbor. The Beach City office offers no evidence that pollution is having an effect on the marine life in the harbor. If the National Director had evidence showing that marine life is slowly dying out with the increase in pollution or that similar harbors have had a complete loss of marine life with high levels of pollution, she would better be able to evaluate the argument.

The argument of the Beach City office of the National Environmental Protection Agency also suffers from ill-defined vocabulary. First, the office uses the term "staggering" to refer to the amount of pollution. The office only defines this term by giving examples of the numbers of certain pollutants collected in the last year. However, the term is largely out of context. It could be that 500 used tires or that 40,000 aluminum cans are actually small numbers to be collected from a harbor as large as Beach City’s. The office also uses the phrase "discourage the growth" of tourism in Beach City as a requirement to allow for the possibility of future marine life in the harbor. The office does not give a clear sense for what is required. The National Director does not know if it is acceptable that the level stays at present heights, if it is necessary that the level actually drop, or if it is acceptable to have the level continue to grow at a lower rate.

The Beach City office of the National Environmental Protection Agency paints a dire picture in its memo to the National Director. However, its argument remains unproved until it provides additional evidence to fill in the holes left by its unproved assumptions. In addition the office should be more careful with the vocabulary that it uses in order to ensure that its message is clear.

Discuss how well reasoned you find the following argument.

The following is a recommendation from the manager of Family Friendly Restaurant:

“Family Friendly Restaurant needs to improve its facility to remain competitive in our city’s restaurant market. Mega-Family Restaurant, recently opened in a suburb of our city, offers a video arcade, fine wood furniture, and 7 big-screen televisions. Due to a recession in our town, people report having less discretionary income for eating out. Therefore, if we are to hold our share of a shrinking restaurant market, we need to offer at least all the features of Mega-Family Restaurant.”

The restaurant manager’s argument is that Family Friendly Restaurant should upgrade its physical plant in order to remain competitive in a shrinking market for restaurants. However, the manager is not convincing because of the many unstated and unsupported assumptions that she makes and because of the ill-defined and confusing vocabulary that she uses. She presents only one real piece of evidence in support of her assertion that Family Friendly Restaurant must make improvements in order to remain competitive: people in town have less money for eating out because of a recession. Without further evidence, however, it is difficult to believe that Family Friendly Restaurant should engage in potentially costly renovations.

The argument is primarily plagued by a number of unsupported assumptions. First, the manager describes the different facilities Mega-Family restaurant provides as a starting level for improvements to Family Friendly Restaurant, indicating that the manager assumes Mega-Family restaurant is better equipped than Family Friendly Restaurant. However, no evidence is given to support this assumption. It could be that Family Friendly has other features that are valued by customers such as a salad bar or more booths so that waiting times are shorter. The manager also assumes that adding features such as big screen televisions will cause commercial success. The underlying assumption linking this evidence to the recommendation is that, all other factors being equal (quality of food, price of a meal), restaurant goers, having less money at their disposal, would base their dining decision on atmosphere—in this case, on a video arcade, fine wood furniture, and seven big screen televisions. However, we are given no reason to believe that this is true. If the manger were to offer evidence that the revenues and profits of restaurants with such amenities are higher, the reader would better be able to believe the conclusion.

Finally, the manager assumes that there are not other ways that Family Friendly restaurants can remain competitive. Perhaps Family Friendly could effectively compete with Mega-Family by having better food quality and lower prices. In all likelihood, people limiting their spending on eating out would generally place quality of food and price over purely atmospheric considerations. Further, even if food quality and prices were comparable, the additional expense that a video arcade might afford to consumers with children might make Mega-Family Restaurant less attractive during a recession. In this case, Family Friendly Restaurant would do well not to waste money on expensive improvements that would deter rather than attract customers.

The manager’s argument also suffers from ill-defined terms. Most notably, the manager describes Mega-Family’s new location as in a "suburb" of the city. The reader is not told if this location is actually close enough to be considered a true competitive threat. If the two restaurants serve completely different markets, then there may be no reason to upgrade Family Friendly. Also, if the suburban location is considered superior—perhaps it is closer to people’s homes—then upgrades to Family Friendly may not make any difference.

A second ill-defined term is the word "competitive". The manager seems to equate this to holding market share. However, the owners of Family Friendly may view competitiveness as retaining a decent return on investment. The manager gives us no information in the argument to determine if the potentially costly upgrades she suggests would offer a good return. It may be that lower levels of profit with the existing restaurant would be financially more attractive than keeping the same level of profits but spending a large amount of capital to do so.

In order to strengthen her argument, the manager would first have to prove that Mega-Family Restaurant, because of its greater success, is a relevant model for Family Friendly Restaurant. More than this, however, the manager must prove that Mega-Family Restaurant’s success has resulted primarily from its video arcade, fine wood furniture, and big screen televisions and not from better food, lower prices, better location, or some other reason. The manager must also add evidence that consumers carefully watching their money will choose a restaurant based on external trappings rather than quality of food and lower prices. Finally, the manager should better define the terms she uses to give her readers a clearer understanding. Only under these circumstances would Family Friendly Restaurant benefit from remodeling itself on Mega-Family Restaurant.

Discuss how well reasoned you find the following argument.

The following appeared in a memo to the Mayor of Norchester from the School Board:

“The city of Norchester has a student-to-teacher ratio of 25:1 in its elementary schools, a ratio in line with the national average. Recent research by educational leaders, however, indicates that the highest acceptable ratio for optimal child learning is 22:1.While the city’s ratio is slightly higher than the guideline, our town’s population has been shrinking. Therefore, Norchester can respond to its current budget deficit by putting in place a teacher hiring freeze for the next 3 school years and still have a student-to-teacher ratio that is acceptable for child development.”

The School Board of Norchester would have the city’s mayor believe that a three year freeze on the hiring of teachers would not have a deleterious effect on child development in the city’s elementary schools. On the surface, the school board’s conclusion seems reasonable based on evidence that the town is shrinking in population. However, the argument itself is not convincing as it now stands because it fails to supports a number of its assumptions and also uses vocabulary that requires further definition.

The first unsupported assumption made by the School Board is that the nature of the population decline is such that the number of elementary school aged children is also declining. It could be that Norchester is losing population because older people or couples without children are moving or passing away. Thus, it could be that the number of children in the elementary school system could increase as the population decreases. Without evidence to the contrary, the school board’s argument is weak. In a related manner, the school board assumes that there are not other factors that could contribute to an increase of children in the school system over the next three years. For example, the closing of a private school in the area might force more children into the public school system.

In addition, the assumption is that there will not be large changes in the other portion of the student to teacher ratio is unfounded. If the core of teachers in Norchester is reaching retirement age, there could be a large shift in the student to teacher ratio under a hiring freeze. Teachers might also leave for other reasons, for example a higher salary paid in a nearby town or the pressure and stress of increased class sizes. The school board gives no evidence to quantify the argument, thus making it difficult for the Mayor to evaluate the recommendation given.

The school board’s argument could also be made more sound by including better definitions of some of the terms used. First, the school board states that the current ratio is "slightly higher" than the guideline because it is at 25:1 instead of 22:1. However the board does not tell us if this "slight" difference is material in the eyes of recent research. It could be true that the extra three students indeed has a small effect on student learning, but it could be that an extra three students have a disastrous effect on the learning for all of the students. Second, the school board states that after the three year freeze, the ratio will still be "acceptable for child development." The board does not defined exactly what "acceptable" is. It could be that they expect that the ratio will remain the same in which case the Mayor still does not know if 25:1 is okay. Or it could be that the board expects some other ratio at the end of three years. Without specific and effective definitions, it is difficult to evaluate their proposal.

The school board could improve their argument significantly if they included more evidence to support the argument. Specifically, the Mayor needs more information on what exactly what effects the hiring freeze will have on both parts of the student teacher ratio. Also, the board needs to better define a few key terms, so that the Mayor can make an informed decision on the board’s recommendation.