GRE写作十大内容问题汇总
发表于:2016-01-27 21:20     类型:GRE写作

tesolchina

寄托GRE作文版特约嘉宾,美国圣路易华盛顿大学本科(历史),牛津大学硕士(教育学),香港城市大学博士在读(英语研究)

通过在论坛上点评一些版友(包括Kssandra、锤先森G330、雲靉玥和dingchenchen)的习作,现总结出GRE写作中经常出现的十大内容层面的问题,在这里分别介绍并举例说明。希望以上四位同学及其他版友参考这里总结的问题(problem)结合自己的写作回答以下问题(question):

1. 针对这里的每个问题,你觉得这个问题在你的写作中是否存在?请结合你的写作体验谈一下对这个问题的看法。
2. 你觉得自己或其他版友在写作出现这个问题的主要原因是什么?结合你提出的原因,你认为有什么好的解决办法?  

问题一:未遵循写作指引  
我们都知道新版的GRE作文issue有6种写作指引,而argument有4种写作指引。不遵循写作指引的作文,无论文笔、内容多么出色,能取得的分数肯定会大打折扣。在issue的写作中,有一种写作指引要求我们讨论自己的论述可能受到的挑战:Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.
这里的要求其实是帮助考生更全面的看问题,在形成自己的论证过程中,考虑读者有可能怎样挑战自己,并主动在文章中作出回应,这样自己的论证即使做不到无懈可击,可信度也会大大增加。尽管这类题型在整个题库中所占比例不算高(152道issue中,只有28题),但这种思维和写作的策略是可以运用到其他issue以致我们今后的学术写作中的。事实上,在论文写作中,作者总会在结尾部分谈一下本研究的不足,不也是为了封住审稿人的嘴么? 

在argument的写作中,大多数题目都是问assumption,question或evidence,只有少量涉及到explanation。无论哪一种题型,一个基本原则就是必须遵循写作指引。如果题目问的是assumption,通篇都要讨论assumption,其他也是这样。当然,我在其他帖子中也讨论过,assumption, question和evidence这三类题型其实是想通的,可以在不改变思路和内容的情况下仅仅调整字眼来应对。这也是为什么有部分argument内容基本相同会配以不同的写作指引出现在题库里。

以下是我对这个问题的思考,为避免引导版友,设为回复可见。


总的来说,我觉得为遵循写作指引这个问题其实并不难解决,只要注意到这一点就可以了。可惜坊间不少辅导书作者和补习社老师对这个问题重视不够,仍然沿用老G的教学方法和材料,以致不少同学仍然在这个问题上栽跟头,需要引起注意。


问题二:未能关注题目中的关键词
题目中的关键词是写命题作文的根本所在,如果在写作中不能充分的回应关键词或者偏离了关键词所设定的讨论范围,这篇文章就有偏题的风险。从e-rater的角度来讲,我们写的文章里的单词会被转换为向量和不同分数的样品文章所转化的向量进行比对然后决定属于那一个档次的文章。要想我们用的词和高分文章用的词相类似,一个基本的原则和策略便是要紧扣题目中的关键词。以issue 57 为例: 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.

这里是某位同学写的某一段的主题句:

Moreover,  the study of history helps us to do even better in the future, and go forward  becoming different from what we are today. 这段话的内容主要是讨论学习历史的其他好处,但是作为统领全段的主题句并没有明确的指出这段的目的就是讨论其他的好处。 

在argument也有类似的问题,主要是对argument的一些关键字眼不够重视。

比如针对argument 62

"In a laboratory study of liquid antibacterial hand soaps, a concentrated solution of UltraClean produced a 40 percent greater reduction in the bacteria population than did the liquid hand soaps currently used in our hospitals. During a subsequent test of UltraClean at our hospital in Workby, that hospital reported significantly fewer cases of patient infection than did any of the other hospitals in our group. Therefore, to prevent serious patient infections, we should supply UltraClean at all hand-washing stations throughout our hospital system.”

某同学写的文章中没有回应文章中的serious这个关键词。这可是ETS在argument中故意留下的破绽,如果这种破绽都视而不见,要拿高分就真的只能靠人品爆发这种小概率事件了。

问题三:与题干内容不符
这个问题和前面两个相似,也是和审题有关的。比如说 issue 33 Aswe acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but morecomplex and mysterious 有位同学在讨论了关于small pox的医学知识时,写道 Therefore, people don’t be afraid of smallpoxanymore. 先不说这里的语法问题,原题讨论的是能否事物能否被理解还是变得更复杂或神秘,而作者在这里却讨论了对某件事(small pox)的恐惧。当然因为无知或不理解而导致恐惧也是可能的,但是不能将这两者关联起来,这里的讨论就脱离了题干的内容了。

而在argument 22中,题目清楚指出 During the past year, Quiot Manufacturing had 30 percent more on-the-job accidents than at the nearby Panoply Industries plant, where the work shifts are one hour shorter than ours. 而某位同学却在文章中写道:To begin with, the authorassumes that longer work shift is the reason why Quiot has 30 percent higheraccident rate (30 percent more on-the-job accidents) than Panoply. 很明显原文讲的是意外的数量,而这位同学却篡改题目变成了意外发生率。而事实上这正是需要探讨的问题所在。 

问题四:不合适的主旨句或主题句
总所周知,我提出的1+3模型是以开头段的主旨句和中间段的主题句为基本框架的。有些同学在运用这个模型时,对主旨句和主题句内容的设置上出现偏差。这种偏差的出现就意味着整篇文章基本上废掉了。因此,强烈建议初学者不要急于写全文,而应该先写提纲,找版友对提纲提意见结合我的范文思路修改提纲后再写全文。比如某同学写的issue 34 (In any situation, progressrequires discussion among people who have contrasting points of view)的主旨句是这样的: 

Whether the statement holds true depends onwhich area we are discussing here. In scientific research, it is absolutelytrue that progress often times requires discussion among people who havecontrasting points of view. Similarly, in politics, the eclectic solutionsbetween two parties holding contrasting views are often better than the eitherof the two extreme ones. However, in the business world, contrasting points ofviews would often times do more harm than good.

很明显这位同学在用1+3模型,这是值得肯定的。但是,接下来的中间段主题句是这样的:


To begin with, scientificresearch showed that taking in the contributions of two contrasting points ofviews often gives rise to a new and more accurate description of the fact. 

  这里的主题句是在回应主旨句中的第一个要点(已涂黑)。然而仔细看看我们会发现,两者之间并没有很好地呼应。主旨句讲的是在科研这个语境中这个命题是成立的,而主题句中却在讨论某个科研结果显示这个命题是成立的,而这个科研所研究的讨论是在何种语境下发生却未具体指明。这里附上我在博士论文中的一段讨论或许更清晰一些

In the thesis statement, the student writerclaims that the issue statement holds true in the context of scientificresearch. Yet, in the topic sentence, she suggests that the statement holdstrue according to some scientific research. These are two different claims as the one in the thesis statement is aboutscientific research whereas the one in the topic sentence is about some unknowntopics the discussion of which has been studied scientifically.  Therefore, there is a mismatch between thethesis statement and the topic sentence despite their seemingly similarcontents.  


问题五:不合适或不相干的例证

找到合适的例证论述和支撑自己的观点是GRE写作(尤其是issue)的重点和难点。坊间有些参考书脱离真题的具体问题而罗列出一些所谓的干货,看起来内容很丰富,但对于实际的写作没有太大的帮助。要想写出好的文章,首先要在开始写作前就想好合适的例证支撑观点,而不是一边想一边想。

这里是某同学写的 issue 65(Every individual in a society has a responsibility to obey just laws and todisobey and resist unjust laws)的其中一段的节选:


Other than just laws, one should alsocomply with unjust laws established in the society.… For instance, still on thefree way, a person exceeds the speed limit and is caught by a police needs topay a fine according to the law. In this case, the person might think the lawis unjust, as this person does not hurt anyone, but need to be punished.However, if everyone over-speed on the free way and not taking responsibilityfor the mistake, the road will become a mess.


这里作者讨论的是高速公路上超速罚款的法规,作为不正义的法律的例子。作者认为只要司机没有伤害到别人就不应该因为超速而受罚。所以把这条规则视作不正义。但是,我们要认识到超速受到惩罚不是因为超速一定会造成意外,而是这种行为增加了意外的风险,因此出于安全考虑需要惩罚这种行为。因此这里将超速的相关规则当做不正义的是很难成立的。所以这个例证在这里并不合适。

还有一位同学再写issue 33的时候提到一个很偏门的例子:Today,as people know more knowledge about sleep, they understand that sleep paralysisis a common disease caused by stress and can manage to recover. 这里sleep paralysis 也许是相关的例子但是由于读者可能没听说过,所以也不宜在考场上使用。 

问题六:缺乏支撑的细节
仅仅有合适的例证是不够的,我们还需要在文章中提供足够的细节来解释例子如何支持观点。比如某同学写的issue 65 (Every individual in a society has aresponsibility to obey just laws and to disobey and resist unjust laws)的其中一个中间段:

There will surely be concerns about the consequences of implementingunjust laws and forcing people to obey them. To address such concerns, thereshould be ways through which people can express their disagreement within thelegal framework. For example, laws once gave people different rights based ontheir race or gender, which was totally unjust. Martin Luther King Jr. and hisfollowers chose to express their disagreement in a peaceful way, to call forattention on the inequity and urge the improvements of laws. Similarly, withlegal pretests feminists expressed their requirements on equal pay, equalrights of vote and other social rights. In such ways, unjust laws would beabolished and replaced by just laws, without driving the whole society intochaos.


这里主题句里提到了consequences,但是后面的讨论中并没有具体指出是什么后果。例子中提到的laws once gave people different rights based on their race or gender, which was totally unjust这句话显得比较笼统,可能加上 in the US这个限定词会更好一些。总的来说这段写的不算太差,相信还有很多同学在写中间段的时候都面临没有很好地解释例证的问题。

再比如说某同学写的issue 78 (People'sattitudes are determined more by their immediate situation or surroundings thanby society as a whole)


As children begin to study in schools, they have more opportunities tointeract with the society but are still limited by their families, resulting inthe society and their immediate surroundings to equally impact their attitudes.On the one hand, as students, children can meet plenty of schoolmates and canuse the Internet to get more information from the society. For instance, theymay start to watch TV episodes and discuss with their peers. In this case, theywill form their own attitude towards fashion. On the other hand, they are stillconstraint by their families as long as they live with their family members. Aserious parent may not allow their kids to use drugs, or they may even taketheir kids to a higher-quality institute simply to avoid their kids to contactwith any drug.


注意涂黑的这句话讲的是电视剧影响了孩子们对时尚的态度。这本来是个很好的point,如果能接着写一些更具体的解释就更好了。可惜作者接下来就讲另一个point了。


问题七:肯定程度

这个问题主要是在Argument中出现。由于Argument里经常要在信息不充足的情况下讨论各种可能性,所以不能用很肯定的语气来写。具体来说,我们要多用might/could/ perhaps/ maybe这类词。

懒得写汉语版本了,直接摘抄论文的部分

In an essay by Cui for issue 15, the following sentence was found: “Their performance in academic or work can’t meet even the basic requirement of their fields, not to mention making huge success in them.” Here it is more appropriate to use “might not” instead of “can’t” to reduce the degree of certainty conveyed by the author.  In another essay by Cui for issue 13, a similar issue could be found here: “Finally, the reason why some people don’t agree with this statement is that studying course outside of students’ major will occupy lots of their time and therefore they can’t study their own major well. From my perspective, …”  Since the student writer is speculating about what others may think about this issue, it is more appropriate to use hedges here to reduce the writer’s commitment to such speculation.  


In an essay written by Karen for argument 84, the student writer discussed the likelihood of an outcome: “Additionally, even if the numbers and species of amphibians in the park were truly decreased, the introduction of trout would not be the only explanation of the declination.” Without more information to prove or disprove the claims, the modal verb “might” instead of “would” should be used instead.  In another essay by Yun for argument 31, the writer claimed that the assumptions did not hold when, in fact, nobody knows for sure whether this was the case: “However, some of the author’s assumptions are unwarranted and thus prevent us to correctly evaluate his or her argument.”


问题八 不靠谱的其他可能性

其实无论issue还是argument,GRE写作所要求的批判性思维的核心技能就是提出其他可能性。在同学的习作中,我看到了这个技能的使用,但也有误用的情况。比如argument 35提出的调节花洒的出水速度来节约用水。这个做法已经在部分公寓里实施,接下来要推广到该公司旗下的其他公寓。某同学写道


However, to decide if the conclusion and suggestion are reasonable, weneed first answer questions about the changes of amount for water that’sconsumed, the real attitude of the residents, and the possibility of expandingthe restriction to other buildings.

涂黑的部分似乎在说这个措施未必能推广到其他公寓。既然已经在部分公寓实施,为什么其它公寓就不行呢?这种其他可能性显然是不靠谱的。

 Flowerdew - 2013 - Discourse in English language education.pdf (2.57 MB, 下载次数: 9)


问题九 多余或冗长内容

正如Elements of Style中所提到,我们写文章要Omit Needless Words,做到every word tell。


Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

某位同学的issue 33(As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more complex and mysterious)是这样开头的:For years, the issue about whether obtaining more knowledge will make things more complex and mysterious, or will it make things more comprehensible, arouses much controversy among people with different backgrounds.


很明显这是在用模板。而这个模板用在这里实在是很不合适。因为这种对知识进行哲学层面的讨论是不太可能arouses much controversy among people with different backgrounds。因此,这样套用模板就写出了一堆废话。


再比如某同学写道:As far as I am concerned, Ihold the view that citizens should voice their concerns to the government in alegal way, which might let the government to revise the unjust laws.本来As far as...和I hold...其中一个放在这里都是可以的,但两个都放在这里就画蛇添足了。 很想知道这样的句子是怎么写出来的。


问题十 缺乏句子间的连贯和衔接

关于Coherence和Cohesion,自Halliday以降多少语言学大牛著书立说,在这里贴上我的导师Flowerdew的近作供大家参考。 重点请看第三章Cohesion及查阅Index里的cohesion及coherence。

其实所谓连贯与衔接就是说句子与句子之间的意思能否串在一起。要做到这一点,关键在于写一段话之前先确定自己的重点是什么以及以怎样的思路展开讨论,这样一般都能做到连贯。具体来说,要实现连贯往往要用到一些衔接词或者在后一个句子里提到前面句子里的词(reference)。


还是用罗素的经典散文为例


Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.


I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness--that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. Thisis what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what--at last--I have found.


这两段文字中love这个概念贯穿始终,并用了it这个代词不断的指代,实现了句子间的连贯。


再看看某同学的习作:


issue 13: Universitiesshould require every student to take a variety of courses outside the student'sfield of study.


I agreewith the statement and believe that both undergraduate and graduate studentsneed to be encouraged to take a variety of courses outside the students' fieldof study. For one thing, many courses outside of student's field of study willprovide relevant information thus largely benefit their study of their ownsubjects. For another thing, a broad perspective also better prepare studentsfor their future life and careers. There may be concerns that within thelimited amounts of time in school this will be too much work for the students, thusit's better for the universities to keep it as a recommendation instead ofrequirement and provide guidance on class registration.


一开始提到了本科生和研究生,读者会以为这个学生分类在后文的讨论中会继续使用。结果后面再没有出现这个分类了。再比如文中提到的broad perspective似乎是来自于courses的但是这句话和前面的衔接也不够明显。 

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总的来说,这里汇总的十个内容层面的问题值得引起大家的重视。接下来,希望前面提到的几位同学和其他版友能够针对这些问题提出自己的看法。我会根据大家的意见更新本帖,并尝试设计一些练习给大家。


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