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从GRE Issue考试的官方陈述看issue写作素材的准备思路

2017-11-30 14:49

来源:GRE年度报告

作者:上海新东方 陈晟

  长期以来,对于GRE issue的素材准备是几乎所有考生永恒的难题。在过去的教学中,经常性的有很多同学来问如下述这样的问题:

  >>>点击查看2017-2018GRE年度报告

  “到底用中国素材还是美国素材好?”

  “到底什么样的素材会吸引考官的眼球?”

  “法律类的题目我实在没有例子怎么办?”

  “像牛顿、爱因斯坦的例子到底能不能用?”

  ……

  我个人认为,要回答上述问题,就要先仔细阅读一下ETS对GRE写作的官方陈述:

  “The Analytical Writing Measure tests your critical thinking and analytical writing skills. It assesses your ability to articulate and support complex ideas, construct and evaluate arguments, and sustain a focused and coherent discussion. It does not assess specific content knowledge.

  The tasks in the Analytical Writing measure relate to a broad range of subjects — from the fine arts and humanities to the social and physical sciences — but no task requires knowledge of specific content. In fact, each task has been tested by actual GRE® test takers to ensure that it possesses several important characteristics, including the following:

  ● GRE test takers, regardless of their field of study or special interests, understood the task and could easily respond to it.

  ● The task elicited the kinds of complex thinking and persuasive writing that university faculty consider important for success in graduate school.

  ● The responses were varied in content and in the way the writers developed their ideas.”

  上述的官方陈述中,我们可以看出以下几点:

  1)不考察专业背景。ETS明确指出:“It does not assess specific content knowledge.”“No task requires knowledge of specific content.”既然如此,素材是否足够专业,对考分是没有影响的。也就是说,专业性强的素材不一定能够为考试加分。而普通素材也不一定让考试减分。所以,我个人觉得,我们要彻底摒弃issue素材准备过程中对知识背景的过分依赖。

  2)着重考察辩证性思维(critical thinking)和分析性的写作能力(analytical writing skills)。ETS明确指出,GRE写作考试,其实更关注于:你的写作是否体现了辩证性思维,你的写作是否论证性强、具有说服力。因此,我们其实不应该花很多时间在素材上,大量的精力应该放在论证是否说服力强这一点上。

  以ETS所给出的官方范文为例,ETS在官方网站和官方指南上都给出了题库第一题的从1分到6分的官方范文。其中那篇6分的官方范文,我们通过剖析不难发现。全文所用的11个例证没有一个是学术性专业性很强的例子。相反,作者所举的例子都是很普通的、平时生活中非常常见的例子。以下段落摘自该文的第一段[注1]:

  “The statement linking technology negatively with free thinking plays on recent human experience over the past century. Surely there has been no time in history where the lived lives of people have changed more dramatically. 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, chances are high that the employee will interact with a computer that processes information on silicon bridges that are .09 microns wide. Upon leaving home, family members will be reached through wireless networks that utilize satellites orbiting the earth. Each of these common occurrences could have been inconceivable at the turn of the 19th century.”

  这其实是一个很值得推敲的issue开头。整个段落中,作者所使用了三个例子(car, computer, mobile phone),均属很平常很普通的素材。但是,语句的写作非常流畅,让读者阅读之后大脑中产生很强的画面感。由此可见,素材本身不分高低贵贱,用好生活中的很朴实的素材,也能够成就GRE写作高分。

  此外,还需要关注的是,普通例子还有一个极其重要的好处,那就是说服力更强。还是拿这个段落举例,作者用“A quick reflection on a typical day reveals how technology has revolutionized the world.”这样一句话把这三个例子串了起来,体现出这些例子的典型性和普适性。一定程度上,这样平常、简单的例子来例证,非但没有让文章“逊色”,反而让这种论证变得具有极强的说服力。相反,如果你在此举的例子很特殊很专业,反而不具有说服力。为什么呢?我们学习argument考试的时候应该都学过一个逻辑错误叫“hasty generalization”(以小推大)。事实上,所有的举例论证,都会有这个问题。Argument中我们要指出这个逻辑漏洞,而在issue写作中,我们就要尽量避免这个逻辑漏洞。如何尽量弥补?就是依靠朴实无华的日常生活中的例子。而尽量避免学术性强,专业性强的例子。

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