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Writing Sample Introduction to MCAT Essay Composition Essay Topic Statements For Writing Practice Essays Sample Essays With Commentary BERKELEY L/r-e*v«i»e-w® Specializing in MCAT Preparation ERKELEY E i • V E • W P.O Box 40140, Berkeley, California 94704-0140 Phone: (800) 622-8827 Internet: MCATprep@berkeleyreview.com • (800) MCAT-TBR http://www.berkeleyreview.com The Berkeley Review and The Berkeley Review logo are registered trademarks of The Berkeley Review This publication for The Berkeley Review® was written, edited, and composed on a desktop publishing system using Apple Macintosh® computers and Microsoft® Word Pages were created on the Apple LaserWrite® Pro Line art was created using numerous graphics programs designed tor use on Macintosh computers The majority of the text type and display type was set in Times Roman and Palatine Cover Design by MacGraphics Copyright ©2012, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2001,1996,1995,1994,1993,1992 by The Berkeley Review All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner Writing Sample Contents Introduction to MCAT Essay Composition The MCAT Writing Sample How to Use This Manual What You May Not Know about the MCAT Writing Sample Origins 9 What the Writing Sample is Designed to Assess Topics for Writing Sample Essays 10 How the Writing Sample is Structured: A Brief Overview 10 Grading of MCAT Writing Samples 11 Scoring 12 Description of Point Scale 13 What Does All of This Mean? 13 What You Already Know: Essays 14 The Writing Assignment 16 "It is Always Wrong to Lie." 16 Task One: Explain what you think the statement means 17 Task Two: Describe a specific situation in which it might not be wrong to lie 19 TaskThree: Discuss what you thinkdetermines whether it is ever wrong to lie 20 Preparation for the Writing Sample 21 Practice 22 HI Contents Essay Topic Statements for Writing Practice Essays Instructions / 25 27 "That action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number." 29 // The role of a scientist is to explain the natural world, not to impart values 33 /// The only argument for capital punishment is that "justice equals revenge." 37 IV Journalists should always be strictly objective 41 Freedom of expression should be absolute 45 Limited terms of office would make elected officials more accountable to those 49 V VI who elect them VII Governing with the consent of the governed is more effective than governing 53 by decree VIII Health care is a right, not a privilege 57 The responsibility of public education is to teach skills, rather than values 61 The mass media have a duty to cover all sides of a news story 65 XI "A liar should have a good memory." 69 XII The person who buys pornography harms no one by doing so 73 XIII One has an obligation to report the irregular behavior of a coworker to a supervisor 77 XIV "Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil." 81 Killing is never justified 85 XVI A good citizen votes in every election 89 XVII The price of something will not always reflect its value 93 IX X XV XVIII Violence in films is unnecessary for making an artistic statement 97 XIX Freedom is the greatest desire of every individual 101 "The secret to being a bore is to tell everything." 105 XX IV Contents Sample Essays with Commentary Sample Essays I "A good citizen votes in every election." Commentary // "The only argument for capital punishment is that 'justice equalsrevenge'." Commentary /// "The true test of courage is not to die, but to live." Commentary IV "The goal of our legal system should be to administer due process under the law, not justice." Commentary V "Art, like science, is more process than product." Commentary VI "The price of something will not always reflect its value." Commentary VII "That action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number." Commentary 109 \ \[ 113 114 116 117 120 121 122 123 125 126 128 129 131 132 Introduction to MCAT Essay Composition BERKELEY AJr-e-v-i^e-w® Specializing in MCAT Preparation Political and legal issues, philosophy, and anything dealing with the arts are the things toward which most pre-med students in our review courses voice an aversion,both for reading Verbal Reasoning passages and for composing Writing Sample essays But this essay could have been written by anyone who had an eighth-grade civics class on the separation of powers in American government, plus a little time invested in reading the newspapers to stay abreast of current issues Copyright ©by The Berkeley Review 124 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation "Art, like science, is more process than product." Art can be defined as pretty much any form of creative expression-visual, dance, music, poetry, etc In all cases, there are no absolutes Art is a personal process of drawing on one's own human experience and playing with it It can be therapeutic, totally entrepreneurial, or anywhere in between Its point is often not the product, but the process of creativity Science can be viewed in a similar vein Butwhere art is about totally subjective personal experience, science is about uncovering the universal truths of our world It is completely objective, yet it also encompasses the same concept of process One can never truly predict the outcome of scientific endeavor, just as one can never predict the final product of an artistic outpouring Scientists must always strive to uncover new knowledge, an experientialquest So again, science is really a processof discovery When either art or science sets its goal to production alone, something is lost from the process For art, the process becomes turned into craft and the personality of the artist as creator is lost Similarly, science becomes technology, and the scientist is now a technician For example, in designing a better car engine, one is not really looking to uncover any universal truths about thermodynamics The scientist/technician is merely trying to meet the demands of the car company to find a better engine However, we must give time to the rebuttal of this argument, which quite naturally is that without product, how will the rest of the world ever know about one's creative artistic or scientific endeavors? In the case of the artist, there is a manifest need to express something within, and the medium of expression is the product One may be the world's greatest composer, but without a symphony to show one's talents, the world will never appreciate this fact The inspiration for artists is, naturally enough, often the work of other artists, which is to say their products The same applies for science Discovery for personal satisfaction can be very rewarding, but only by some tangible product, such as new methods or inventions, can this discovery be conveyed to the rest of the world For science, the product can come in the form of papers and similar condensations of the scientist's progress In the end, we see that both science and art need both process and product Process alone leaves the creative endeavor as a personal experience with no means of transmission to other people Product without process is not really art or science, but just craft and technology Copyright © by The Berkeley Review 125 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation Commentary on the essay "Art, like science, is more process than product." The thing that determines whether art or science is more process than product is whether we view either discipline from the perspective of personal satisfaction or general utility From the perspective of personal satisfaction: "Art can be defined as any form of creative expression a personal process of drawing on one's own human experience and playing with it It can be therapeutic, totally entrepreneurial, or anywhere in between Its point is often not the product, but the process ofcreativity Science can be viewed in a similar vein, [asa personal striving] to uncover newknowledge, an experiential quest a process ofdiscovery." From the perspective ofgeneral utility: "When either art or science sets its goal to production alone, something is lost from the process For art, the process becomes turned into craft and the personality of the artist as creator is lost Similarly, science becomes technology, and the scientist is now a technician." Artists need products toshare their talents and to inspire others, while scientists also find the products of scientific research useful to give new goods and inventions to the world The criteria used to carry out the third task of this essay are not all found together in one place (although they are shown that way on this page, above), so one might fault the writer for a lapse in coherent presentation style The counter-examples also could have been more specific; e.g., the third sentence of the fourth paragraph could have begun: "Beethoven might have been the greatest composer of his age " But these criticisms are small, weighed against the much greater strengths of this essay They probably would not be enough to deprive the writer of a score of 6, and he certainly should not be awarded anything below a This is, after all is said and done, a very fluent treatment of a topic where one can easily lose their footing Many essays ask the student to contrast art and science, rather than to compare them with each other The differences in their methods and in their goals offer only two obvious examples of that contrast And the writer here does acknowledge the dissimilarity between the "totally subjective" realm of art (where "there are no absolutes") and the "completely objective world" of the scientist, in which one attempts to unveil "the universal truths of our world." But he wisely emphasizes their similarities more, as the wording of the topic statement indicates he must He talks, for example, about the unpredictability and the personal nature of a quest in both artistic creativity and scientific research Throughout the essay, the same structure is repeated: A point is made about artistic pursuits, followed by a comparison to science: "Science can be viewed in a similar vein Similarly, science becomes technology The same applies for science," and soon Through skillful use of this recurrent structure and a nimble writing style, the writer seems to loop effortlessly back and forth, moving from art to science, and from process to product, without ever falling into a superficial treatment of the topic The writer's mental agility is reflected in the paragraph structure as wellsix brief ones, with smooth transitions starting each new idea, rather than the typical three- or four-paragraph method one comes to expect as the standard in Writing Sample essays If we follow the logic offered in the sentences of this essay, we can gain some clarity about the way we use the terms "art" and "science" Copyright © by TheBerkeley Review 126 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation in our own everyday speech Thus, saying that "Rembrandt was devoted to his art" means the Dutch painter was devoted to the process of perfecting his painting style with each new canvas he worked on; but saying "Rembrandt left the world a magnificent legacy of art" makes a statement about the tangible products he left in homes, galleries, and museums around the world, still enjoyed by collectors and studied by novices centuries after his death The same statements carry a similar value, if we substitute "Einstein" for "Rembrandt," and the word "science" for "art" both times Copyright © by The Berkeley Review 127 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation "The price of something will not always reflect its value." Saying that the price of something will not always reflect its value means that the cost you pay for a thing is not necessarily the same as what that thing is worth to you In fact, certain items with exceedingly high personal value, like the dried flower pressed in a high-school yearbook, might be absolutely free When we say something is "priceless," we don't mean it is "worthless." We mean it is invaluable or possesses a worth too great to be assigned any price On the other hand, you often hear people say: "You get what you pay for." There are good reasons why you pay more for a Rolls Royce than for a Yugo: the extra material, the better-quality material, more testing and engineering that went into its creation, and the years of craftsmanship devoted to producing its distinctive design And a Rolls Royce has a universal reputation among car fanciers and the general public as one of the finest automobiles ever made But it's not the aesthetic value or the prestige you are paying for, exactly, when you buy a Rolls Royce or any other expensive car, because if it were, then people who know the most about cars and can most appreciate those kinds of values in them would have to pay more than someone who doesn't Rather, all anyone pays for are the many pounds of metal in it, the many hours of effort that it represents-the quantifiable units that are the basis for assigning an objective value to anything It's like saying the price of a medical education is so many dollars, so many years of training and study, so many ATP molecules of energy expendedthose are roughly the same costs paid by any med student Butwhat that education means to anyone personally, how much they value it subjectively, only that person can say Other clues that you are dealing with the objective, rather than the subjective, value of something: Has the value been established by market pressures of supply and demand, i.e., scarcity and abundance? Is the item in question easily replaceable or interchangeable with other items of the same kind, rather than being unique or irreplaceable? Is it possible to state the value in absolute, rather than only relative, terms? That is, can it be said that item A is exactly 3.26 times more valuable than item B? If the answers are yes, then it's likely this is the kind of value that is approximated by a price In the end, the thing that determines whether the price of something reflects its value is the kind of value you are referring to If you mean the subjective value, then price doesn't reflect it It can't, because price is essentially always an objective consideration But the objective value of things can often be approximated by a price People may have subjective reasons for setting a price, but once set, a price is the same for anyone willing to pay it Similarly, the objective value of a thing is the same for anyone utilizing it: A gold ring has the same cash value, regardless of who wears it; a hammer has the same instrumental value, regardless of who wields it; a sandwich has the same number of calories or vitamins, the same nutritional value, regardless of who eats it But a gold ring that belonged to my grandmother cannot have the same meaning-the same subjective value~for a stranger that it has for me Copyright © byTheBerkeley Review 128 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation Commentary on the essay "The price of something will not always reflect its value." "The thing that determines whether the price ofsomething reflects its value is the kind of value you are referring to Ifyou mean the subjective value, then price doesn't reflect it It can't, because price is essentially always an objective consideration But the objective value of things can often be approximated by aprice." The writer of this essay has produced what some of us regard as the standard treatment of one of the perennial favorites of normative essayists: the difference between subjective and objective experience Very often-far too often-students with a rigorous scientific education come to think of the word "objective" as a synonym for "true," "real," or "undistorted," while they think of "subjective" experience as "biased," "illusory," or "opinionated." Taken to its logical extreme, this way of looking at experience has put more than one scientist in the bizarre philosophical position of denying the existence of his or her own consciousness or personality, declaring that both of these subjective constructs are merely "epiphenomena" or collectively shared hallucinations that float like foam on the sea of chemicals in each of our brains! We would invite these skeptics to hook themselves up to a device that registers pain in the human nervous system and thendrop a bowling ball from a tableonto their ownbare feet Can theyseriously maintain that only the objectively measurable read-out from the machine used in this experiment is real, and that what they seem to feel is only an illusion? For the sake of reasonable, persuasive, common-sense argumentation in essays like the ones required for this part of the MCAT, it will be much simpler to adopt the definitions for "objective" and "subjective" experience offered by this writer here, and to use them any time the same distinction is called for: "objective" just means "the same for all observers and participants," and "subjective" means "different for each observer or participant." We made the same distinction in our commentary about the subjective nature of justice in the essay about capital punishment in this series of sample essays Other practice essay topics dealing with the same distinction are the ones asking about whether a journalist should always be strictly objective, and about whether a scientist should stick to explanations of the natural world, without imparting any personal values to social or political discourse Here we have an essay where task #1 is begun well with a simple paraphrase of the topic statement: "Saying that the price of something will not always reflect its value means that the cost you pay for a thing is not necessarily the same as what that thing is worth to you." The writer follows that up with a supporting example (the sentimental value attached to something that is absolutely free of charge) Then comes a clever bit of deductive logic: If "price does not necessarily equal value" means the same as "cost does not necessarily equal worth," according to the paraphrase, then by substitution we can say that "pricedoes not necessarily equal worth." And by negating both halves of this equation, we get: "priceless does not necessarily equal worthless." In fact, we know from ordinary usage of these terms that they are antonyms This is more than mere word-play; it tells us something about the deeper levels of meanings embedded in language Quite a lot to pack into four short sentences! Copyright © by The Berkeley Review 129 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation In the next paragraph, beginning the discussion of task #2 that continues into the third paragraph, the writer explores some of the same issues that have perplexed economic theorists since the days of Adam Smith and Karl Marx: How can we assign a dollar value to anything? What determines this kind of evaluation? What is the semantic content of ads that tout a product as "a $5.00 value, now only $3.99"? And what is the real difference between terms like "cash value," "resale value," and "property value" on one hand, and "historical value," "artistic value," "personal value," and "symbolic value" on the other? The writer decides by the beginning of paragraph that the broadest terms we can use to describe these two categories of value are "objective" value and "subjective" value~and then goes on to offer the reader a three-part test to decide which kind of value is under discussion in any given situation The criterion for Task #3 is thus simple: Price, being objective,can be reflected only by objective value, never by subjective value Notice that the writer manages to steer clear of the reef upon which some students founder: At no point is either kind of value called the "real" value of something As we explained at the outset of this commentary, the tendency of science students might be to say that objective value is the only "real" value a thing can have, because it is empirically assessable This would leave them in the uncomfortable position of saying that children have no "real" value to their parents other than the dollar amount that has been spent to rear them, or perhaps the market value of all the raw chemical compounds in their bodies Another noteworthy thing about this essay is the apparent ease with which the writer takes a crack at some of the most profound aspects of the problem under discussion, such as what we mean by the word "meaning" itself (look at the final sentences of the second and fourth paragraphs) This essay is rich in examples (one of them, the gold ring in the last paragraph, is even used twice-once to show what is meant by objective value, and again to suggest subjective value) It is focused and direct in its analysis of a complex topic, and it could not be clearer in its definition of essential terms or in the wording of its final criterion It is a paper to study and learn from, an exemplar of concise essay writing style, a model worthy of imitation Copyright © by The BerkeleyReview 130 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation "That action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number." What makes any action the best one to in a given situation? If we rely on the advice of religious authorities to answer this question, they might direct us to the words of the Bible, the Koran, or some other sacred text They would say the best action is the one that most pleases God Politicians or businessmen might tell us that the best action is the one that produces thebestresults, regardless of how they are attained or how much we mustbend the rules to get them Usually, theirsacred text is the pollster's survey or the bottom lineof a financial sheet But a philosopher might advise us touse the power ofreason to find the answer, and for some philosophers the most reasonable guideline is that the best action isthe one that makes as many people as possible as happy as possible This was an especially attractive solution to many eighteenth-century European intellectuals, as the traditional authority of priests and kings began to erode and the new authority of science and reason increased Philosophers like Jeremy Bentham actually tried to formulate a moral calculus to assist any rational individual confronting the problem ofchoosing the best course ofaction in any situation Bentham said the ultimate goal of society and of the individual should be to bringabout the greatest happiness for the greatest number He called this philosophy "utilitarianism." In practice, one could just sit down and weigh the costs versus the benefits to everyone that were likely to result from choosingany availableoption, and whichever column had more checks in it would dictate the correctaction to take It is said the German philosopher Immanuel Kant decided whether to marry a particular woman of his acquaintance by a similar method! It must be admitted, however, that there are many actions whose consequences we would deem desirableeven the best-although those actions make most people angry, frightened, or unhappy For example, nobody likes a tax increase (although everybody likes roads without potholes and a responsive fire department); or getting a flu shot (although everybody likes getting through the winter without a sniffle); or putting money into a retirement account, where it stays until you're 65 (although most retired folks seem to enjoy taking those sunny vacations) Somaybe what helps us decide whether the best action is the one that procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number is how we define "happiness." If it means the immediate gratification of every appetite and desire, and the avoidance of anything inconvenient or painful, then it is difficult to justifypaying any taxes at all using the utilitarian rule, let alone bothering with flu shots or retirement funds But if it refers to long-term satisfaction, even if the price is delayed gratification of our wants and needs, then the utilitarian guide has much to recommend it This is not all we can say about the matter, though Sometimes the goodness of an action is judged not by how good its outcome is, but by how good the intentions of the moral agent are when he or she acts, regardless of the outcome People are fallible and cannot predict the future with certainty Some carefully thought-out, wellintended actions make everyone involved very unhappy, even in the long run If we use goodness of intentions as our criterion for determining the best action, then the utilitarian principle will often be insufficient for guiding us toward making the best decision in many situations, especially those whose outcome is hard to foretell, because it justifies all actions only in terms of their results, regardless of intentions Sometimes all we can is pick the lesserof two evils, and sometimes the worst choiceof all is to nothing Copyright © byThe Berkeley Review 131 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation Commentary on the essay "That action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number." The writer analyzes the topic statement two ways, one focusing on the definition of a key term, and the other focusing on different ways of justifyingany action: The thing that determines whether the best action is the one that procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number is how we define the word "happiness." "If it means the immediate gratification ofevery appetite and desire, and the avoidance ofanything inconvenient orpainful, then it is difficult tojustify paying any taxes at all using the utilitarian rule [i.e., the philosophy expressed by the topic statement], let alone bothering withflu shots or retirement funds But if it refers to long-term satisfaction, even if the price is delayed gratification ofour wants and needs, then the utilitarian guide has much to recommend it." And: The thing that determines whether the best action is the one that procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number is the extent to which one believes that the goodness of any action is justified by its results, regardless of the intentions of the moral agent when they took that action "If we use goodness of intentions as our criterion for determining the best action, then the utilitarian principle willoften be insufficientforguiding us toward making the best decision in many situations, especially those whose outcome is hard toforetell, because it justifies allactions only in terms of their results, regardless of intentions." This essay is an excellent specimen showing you what happens when you actually bother to pay attention in all those history, philosophy, and religious studies electives you have had to take over the years The specific references to Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant may look like nothing more than name-dropping or showing off on the writer's part, but they are very much on the mark as far as naming the men whose philosophical writings were most absorbed with the question of weighing intentions against outcomes as the yardstick to be used in ethical discourse Kant, by the way, may (or may not) have used the rather utilitarian method for selecting a wife alluded to by the writer, but he was one philosopher who gave greater weight to good intentions, rather than maximum utility, in his evaluation of the goodness of any and all actions Like Jesus or Nazareth (the Christ) and Gautama Siddhartha (the Buddha), Kant had a basic rule of moral conduct that was a version of the Golden Rule, except he claimed his rule was logically demonstrable, rather than divinely inspired Opposed to them is Niccolo Machiavelli, a political theorist living in Renaissance Florence, the patron saint of everyone who believes that "the ends justify the means" (or in its modern incarnations: "By any means necessary!" and: "Hey, you've got to break a few eggs to make an omelet!") All of this is leading to the practical point, often raised in class and in officehours, as to whether it is a good idea to use quotes in the essays Generally, there is nothing wrong with this practice, as long as they are effectively placed to highlight a key point in your argument and not stuck in wherever they happen to Copyright © byThe Berkeley Review 132 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation occur to you, and as long as they are genuine and not fabricated Machiavelli's pithy little maxim (which is actually the reworking of a much older statement found in the letters of St Jerome) is used more often than any other direct quote by students in our review courses when they are writing justification essays-not necessarily because everyone subscribes to it, but apparently because it is so easy to remember Rarely is the quote attributed to the famous Florentine, however, either because students are unsure as to who uttered the phrase, or because they are unsure as to how his name is spelled Quotations look more impressive when credit is given to a source (properly spelled), but bear in mind that occasional errors in spelling are not marked down too hard-this is, after all, a first-draft effort If you cannot recall the precise wording of a quote, but if you can state its essence in your own words, try expressing it as a paraphrase, without quotation marks Many famous quotes are regularly misquoted or used for purposes other than the one intended by their originator Maybe a few hours thumbing through a collection of famous quotations, as part of your outside reading, will plant some choice words of wisdom in your mind Remember also that the scorers for this part of the MCATvery probably include a few editors and writing instructors who have seen their share of really good counterfeits over the years, so even though they are reading these essays very rapidly, they know what to watch out for Themost prudent policy, again, is not to make up any quotes on the Writing Sample Justification essays typically not ask for definitions as much as reasons- specifically, reasons that make some action excusable or forgivable that otherwise would be unacceptable The two chief modes of justification are: (1) the Machiavellian, consequentialist, or utilitarian mode, which judges an action in terms of its utility or the overall desirability of its outcomes, regardless of what the writer calls "the intentions of the moral agent when he or she acts"; and (2) the Kantian or intentionalist mode, which considers the goodness or badness of the intentions behind an action, regardless of the consequences Imagine, as extreme examples, two scientists working side by side in adjoining laboratories One works long hours for little pay and seeks the cure for cancer, but inadvertently finds a horribly effective nerve gas used to kill millions The other sells his scientific know-how to the highest bidder, a chemical firm trying to develop a horribly effective nerve gas-but he accidentally discovers the cure for cancer The dilemma (and hence the Great Justification Debate): Whose actions are to be judged the best, and on what basis is this judgment to be made? Pay attention to the dynamics implied in these so-called "justification essays," because they occur frequently in many forms in normative writing Examples of topic statements of this type would include: "It is always wrong to lie," "Killing is never justified," "In politics, bad results cannot be justified by good intentions," and "No matter how oppressive a government is, violent revolution is never justified." To maintain consistency and coherence in your argument of such essays, it is a good idea not to start justifying an action by one mode of justification at the beginning of the paper and then end up using the other mode of justification for your conclusion It is also not very constructive to say: "The moral agent's intentions were good, because he always intended to get the best results, no matter whom he had to kill to get them Therefore, his actions are justified by the goodness of his intentions." This is just playing around with the word "best," and it doesn't fool anyone, so avoid it altogether The thing that someone accused of bad actions must plead in their own defense in order to use the intentionalist mode of justification successfully is, to come full circle, some version of the Golden Rule Here the Rule would read: If you could Copyright ©by The Berkeley Review 133 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation use whatever my excuse is to justify your own behavior in the same circumstances, then you must excuse my behavior If you would use lethal force to defend your own life, then you must excuse my use of it to defend my life If you can be forgiven for doing action X because you had insufficient knowledge, insufficient time to act, no other options, or were otherwise constrained by limiting factors beyond your control, then you must forgive me for doing the same action when constrained by the same limiting factors Why go into all of this here? We so because this particular topic statement is a pure distillation in one sentence of the philosophy that favors the consequentialist mode of justification over the intentionalist mode, and the writer was bright enough to understand on some level that this was what confronted him He could have taken the easy way out, and simply treated the matter solely as a "definition essay," one whose criterion in Task #3 always says: "The thing that determines whether option A or option B is more applicable is how we define term Y If we define it this way, then go with option A as the better way to understand the problem But if we define it that way instead, then option B has the edge." Some people, in fact, try to answer every MCAT essay prompt by saying that everything hinges on how you define this term or that term in the topic statement-an indiscriminate approach that in some cases is only slightly less useless than saying for Task #3: "Well,it all depends on the circumstances!" or "It all depends on the individual!" (That kind of criterion statement for Task #3 would represent the abandonment of any obligation to think critically or to communicate clearly about the subject matter at all, a complete failure to engage with the thesis.) And while some essay resolutions very clearly rest on the way one defines or understands a certain word or phrase in the topic statement, the exclusive reliance on this technique is to be avoided Its unnecessarily litigious tone when used in some essays has won for this method of resolution the unflattering nickname of "the lawyer's escape hatch." At any rate, the writer of this essay sees definition as one possible solution-to say that our agreement with the statement depends to a large extent on how we define the concept of "happiness" He could have stopped there and gotten a mark above the average score range, based on his mastery of language skills and his entertaining introduction and examples Then he stops, collects his thoughts, and adds almost as an afterthought: "This is not all we can say about the matter, though," and proceeds to outline the Great Justification Debate, as well as a completely different criterion for Task #3 in line with that, all in a single, wellcrafted paragraph Thisessayis excellent in terms of its depth and complexity Copyright ©by The Berkeley Review 134 The Berkeley Review Specializing in MCAT Preparation Notes Notes Writing Sample If you study it, it will come! SM
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