While the different prompts for the AWA argument tasks may seem different, the strategy for responding to them is essentially always the same. You need to (1) understand the argument and (2) identify the holes in the argument. These 'holes' are logical fallacies. If you have a Magoosh subscription, you can watch our lesson video on Logical Fallacies. Chris also wrote a sample argument essay that shows how find and address these logical errors.
Addressing the holes in the argument is the backbone of any argument essay. Each paragraph of your essay should address one of the logical fallacies in the argument. Now, the way the prompt is worded implies that we should address these holes in slightly different ways. But no matter what, our basic job is always the same. Let's take a look at some examples.
1. Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
The "evidence" is going to be information that helps to address a logical fallacy. For example, is a certain assumption valid? Or is a cause-and-effect relationship the argument depends correct? Your job is to find the holes in the argument and then, in each body paragraph, explain what one of them and what you would need to know (what evidence you would need) to fill that hole.
2. Write a response in which you discuss one or more alternative explanations that could rival the proposed explanation and explain how your explanation(s) can plausibly account for the facts presented in the argument.
Here, your job is to explain the logical fallacies in the argument and how they might lead to a different conclusion than the one given. Here, you don't need to address what evidence is needed to correct the logical fallacies.
3. Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
This is very similiar to #1. Here, though, your job is to identify "questions" instead of "evidence" and to evaluate a "recommendation" instead of a "conclusion." A recommendation is a type of conclusion.
4. Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
Here, your job is to discuss the assumptions of the argument. Each body paragraph should address one assumption. Why must that assumption be true in order for the conclusion to be valid? What happens to the conclusion of the argument if this assumption is proved invalid?
In all of these prompts, each body paragraph deals with a logical problem. Sometimes you need to present the problem and discuss what information is needed to resolve the problem. Sometimes you only have to point out the problem. Sometimes, you need to explain how the logical problem could lead to a different conclusion than the one in the prompt. But the key part of your analysis — identifying the logical problems in the argument — is always the same.
We have a series of blog posts on the AWA section with examples:
For the issue essay specifically:
For the argument essay:
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