David Grinsfelder - Practice GRE Analytical Essay

Hi all!

I’ve just finished writing a Practice Essay for my GRE Prep, and I’d love any and all feedback this community can provide! The AI grading algorithm says this essay received a 4/6:

Prompt: Write an essay in which you agree or disagree that the main benefit of the study of history is to dispel the illusion that people living now are significantly different from people who lived in earlier times.

"The main benefit of the study of history is to dispel the illusion that people living now are significantly different from people who lived in earlier times.

Human beings are constantly undergoing metamorphoses in their own lives. From childhood to adolescence, through adulthood, and into old age, the individual person continues to change superficially, and psychologically. However, when one studies the arc of humanity over the course of centuries, and even millennia, it becomes clear that human beings are, in fact, quite constant in their nature. This historical study of humanity demonstrates that at the most fundamental level, humans do not transmogrify over the course of recorded history. Because human nature is the essence of humanity, it is clear that one of the main benefits of the study of history is the rejection of the illusion that people living now are significantly different from people who lived in earlier times.

Human nature does not change when we compare humans of history to those of the present day. For example, since time immemorial, (mostly male) human beings have engaged in violent warfare. Although the geography, technology, and tactics of warfare have varied over the millennia, the fundamental defensive instinct to protect one’s territory and resources, or the offensive urge to attack and conquer another group, have been an essential facet of life on this planet. People living now continue to uphold this bellicose tradition. The theme of in-group amity and out-group enmity permeates all eras of people on this planet, and thus demonstrates that people living now are not significantly changed from people living in earlier times. In addition, there is ample evidence that childrearing has been an essential element of communities around the globe and throughout history. Though historically, this role may have been traditionally occupied by female members of a tribe, such a distinction is superficial in nature and does not suggest that people have radically changed simply because contemporary men and women share the duty of childrearing more equally in some cultures. Ultimately, the propagation of the human race is the fundamental, evolutionary drive of our species. While there may be superficial changes in our military tactics or lifestyles, we are still inextricably akin to people who lived in earlier times.

Moreover, one need only observe the historical scientific record to see that human nature does not change. Beginning with the earliest iterations of “Homo sapiens,” human beings have possessed an innate curiosity about the world, and a resourcefulness that is nearly unrivaled in the animal kingdom. This innate curiosity is the through line that connects most great discoveries of our species. From the Bronze and Iron ages inventions of fire, the wheel, and new agricultural technologies, to the Industrial Revolution technologies of locomotives, steam power, and later petroleum, human beings demonstrate their ability to think in new and creative ways about how to solve problems limiting the success and growth of the species. After all, these technologies have, in general, allowed people to live healthier, longer, and more productive lives. Thus, whether people were or are aware of it or not, human beings in earlier times and people living now are similar in that their curiosity has contributed to the longevity of the human race. Furthermore, it is humanity’s resourcefulness that truly links successive generations of our species. The cranial capacity of a human being skyrocketed with “Homo sapiens” to roughly 1,400cc, allowing for more dynamic problem solving and critical thinking. This phenomenon made it clear that human beings would outpace their animal counterparts, their dominance of the planet rivaled only by other members of the same species. Although human beings today do not have a life or death dependence on this resourcefulness, our quick thinking and ingenuity are still on display everywhere one looks.

Some who dispute the similarity between people living now and people living in earlier times might argue that over the course of history, people have actually changed substantially based on simple, observable physiological changes. They will point to long-term increases in the average height of human or disease prevalence (or lack thereof). For example, as human diets changed from hunter-gatherer fare to a more stable diet in settled agricultural communities, the average height of people in individual communities, as well as across the globe, began to trend upward. Even today, with the onset of highly processed foods less than 100 years ago, humans are still seeing increases in average height all around the world. One might also point to the abolishment of various diseases that once plagued humanity as proof that people living now are significantly different from people who lived in earlier times. The Bubonic Plague, which killed somewhere between one-fourth and one-third of Europe’s population in the 14th century, has been all but eradicated in modern times. Even recently deadly diseases like Spanish Flu (1919) or Polio are largely maladies of the past. However inspiring these changes are, one must keep in mind that while studying history might initially suggest vast chasms of difference between modern humans and their counterparts of antiquity, in reality the changes used to substantiate this argument are epigenetic or superficial in nature. The core of what makes humans, human, has not changed substantially. Despite our superior technology, improved disease prevention, and a plethora of other technologies and inventions, human beings themselves still think, behave, and reason the same way. Although there is much to be gained from the study of history, one of its main benefits is that it actually demonstrates how similar people living now are when compared to people who lived in earlier times."

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Hi @Geneva_Torphy, thanks for reaching out! I agree with the e-grader on this one and would score it about a 4/6.

Your writing is generally good, with a solid vocabulary and varied sentence structure. However, the main issue is the lack of structure. Make sure to follow the 5-paragraph essay format!

Your essay should begin with an introduction that clearly states your position. You add your position at the end of the first paragraph in a roundabout way… it would be better to simply say that you agree or disagree. Following that remark, you should then introduce three points supporting your position, and use those as the foundation for each body paragraph. Finally, your conclusion paragraph should reaffirm your thesis and briefly restate the supporting points.

Keep in mind that the essay is scored both by an e-grader and a human grader. If you make it too scientific-sounding or pack it too full of complex vocab, it might end up resulting in a lower score because it was more difficult for them to follow along. Ensure your thoughts are well-structured, and aim for a slightly formal tone like you’d take if you were making a presentation to your teacher or classmates.