GRE: Analytical Writing Sample

Read the following question and the sample analysis that follows, looking for the strengths of the writer's response and considering how you would approach the same topic.
More than half of the Americans recently surveyed expressed approval of the use of flogging to punish young offenders guilty of crimes such as vandalism. Opponents of flogging argue that the punishment is cruel and barbaric and that it leaves both physical and psychological scars.

Do you believe that flogging should be used in this country? Explain your position with support from your observations, readings, and/or experience.

Sample Issue Response

In light of the disturbing increase in crime in our cities and suburbs in recent years, many Americans have expressed an interest in the use of flogging to punish young offenders guilty of crimes such as vandalism. I am opposed to the use of flogging as punishment based on humanitarian, psychological, and moral grounds.
While I share the frustration of other law-abiding citizens who are trying to stem the tide of senseless destruction of personal property, I believe that flogging is a cruel and uncivilized form of punishment that has no place in our country. The public infliction of painful physical punishment was banished from civilized countries years ago with the disappearance of the stocks, pillories, and public whippings. As witnessed in the case of the American teenager who was sentenced to a caning for vandalism in Singapore, most civilized countries around the world objected vehemently to the severity and barbarism of this form of punishment for a nonviolent crime.
On psychological grounds, inflicting physical punishment to teach a lesson has been frowned upon for years by child psychologists and behavioral experts. Spankings, beltings, and beatings are all considered forms of abuse and have been proved to have only very negative affects on behavior. Studies have also supported the conclusion that violence begets violence, and it would seem very probable that the use of flogging to punish a young person who committed vandalism may well lead to a more violent expression of anger next time. The troubled individual whose antisocial behavior was directed toward property may well be incited to take his anger out in a physically violent way against people after being subjected to such treatment.
Finally, on moral grounds, we need to make the distinction between crimes against persons and crimes against property. In terms of the Biblical injunction of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," inflicting physical injury on an offender who committed damage to property is hardly equitable. What is the lesson we are trying to teach? In the 1970s, the movie "A Clockwork Orange" dealt with the issue of violent crime in a futuristic setting and society's increasingly cruel methods of "rehabilitation." It left the viewer questioning which was more barbaric, the crime or the punishment?
In conclusion, we must continue to search for ways to reduce the incidence of crimes against property as well as persons, but we must above all keep sight of our humanity. Flogging is not the answer.

Evaluation of Issue Response

This excellent analysis would probably receive a score of 6. The writer takes a stand and develops it with apt examples, referring to current events, a psychological film, and personal attitudes. Though writing a five-paragraph response is not necessary, this one shows you how easily and effectively you can organize such a response. The introductory paragraph lists three grounds of opposition (humanitarian, psychological, and moral), and each of the next three paragraphs develops one of these. The final paragraph sums up the argument. The response is gracefully written and syntactically varied. (The last paragraph, for example, plays a long sentence against a short one.) Though its mechanics are not perfect (affects in the third paragraph should be effects), the writer's command of standard written English is first-rate.