Getting To The Point – GRE Essays

April 4, 2012
Boris Dvorkin

GRE blogIn this post I shared with you some powerful advice from my ninth grade English teacher. Unfortunately, not everything that English teachers teach us is useful on the GRE.

One particularly unhelpful thing I learned from Ms. LaMuth was something she called “The Funnel Approach.” Perhaps an English teacher of yours taught you something similar. The Funnel Approach works like this: in the first paragraph of your essay, you don’t just come right out with your point. First you talk about the universe. Then you talk about the galaxy, then you bring up our solar system, and then, finally, you introduce the point of your essay — planet Earth.

Let’s say I’m writing an essay to argue that Monopoly is a terrible board game. The Funnel Approach would produce a clunker of an opening paragraph like this one:

In today’s modern world, people who crave entertainment have many things to choose from. They can watch movies, play video games, enjoy the great outdoors, or even learn how to dance. Another beloved pastime of many people is playing board games, and there are many of these to choose from as well: Risk, Clue, Cranium, and countless others. One of the most popular board games ever made, though, is Monopoly. Few are the families in the United States who don’t own a copy or two of Monopoly in their house. And that’s sad, because Monopoly is a bad board game.

This example may seem silly, but I’ve seen many student essays bite the trap it exemplifies: meandering pointlessly before getting to the point. If you have a habit of rambling in your introductory paragraphs, here’s what you should do instead: get to the point. Right away. The paragraph above should instead begin like this:

Monopoly is a terrible board game.

The GRE essay graders don’t care how artfully you set the context for your thesis. They’re looking for a logical essay, not a creative one. So get to the point. Save your flowery exposition for your ninth grade English class.

Boris Dvorkin Boris scored in the 99th percentile on the PSAT, was a National Merit finalist, and went on to earn two degrees from Case Western Reserve University. As a two-time Kaplan Teacher of the Year, Boris has helped many students achieve their goals and is known for his sense of humor in the classroom. When Boris isn’t helping students tackle tests, he loves playing strategy board games.

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