A week or two before my GRE, I had the idea to start this blog to practice writing on topics that could appear on test day. At lunchtime during my day, I would steal off to the library and take 30 minutes to develop an essay on a randomly chosen Issue or Argument topic.

I took the GRE on November 2 and scored a 5.5 on the essay part … 98 percentile. YAY! 🙂 So I highly recommend this method of daily practice through blogging on real topics that may appear on the GRE.

You can find the pool of Issue topics ETS has published here and the pool of Argument topics ETS here.

Blogging makes the practice more fun (you can also share your essays with your friends or teachers and get feedback), and doing it daily or every few days builds your writing and critical-thinking-in-30 minutes muscle. The more you do it, the better you get, and the better you get, the better you feel. And the more confident you are on test day, the better you just might do.

If you’re reading this, I wish you best of luck on test day and beyond. I promise you I am no genius, and I never imagined I would do this well on the GREs. And so if I did it, I am certain you can do it too!

Signing off,
Aspiring Grad Student 🙂

Issue 8: Government Restrictions

Governments should place few, if any, restrictions on scientific research and development.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.

Should governments place few, if any, restrictions on scientific research and development? The benefits of few restrictions are obvious: With few restrictions in their way, scientists could adopt a “sky is the limit” type of thinking, which would help boost creativity and risk-taking in research and development. Scientists could try to create things they didn’t think would ever be patented before. In addition, if there were few restrictions on research and development, more innovations would hit the market faster. The sheer increase in new ideas and creations would further fuel innovation, inspiring other scientists and researchers to build off what’s newly created, further optimize inventions, and advancing many fields.

However, there is a danger in governments placing few, if any, restrictions on scientific research and development. For one, left unchecked, scientific research could focus on furthering inventions that are deleterious to humanity. For example, a group of researchers  could decide they want to create weapons of mass destruction. Without restrictions, their work could go on until they have perfected their weapons, which would then spell disaster for much of the world. What’s more, with few restrictions, any amateur scientist with some knowledge of chemistry could design, patent, and produce their own weapons. Doing this could have many unfortunate consequences, such as increasing shootings in schools.

Second, without restrictions on scientific research and development, even scientists working on research that has ethical ends could use unethical means to get there. A good example is Stanley Milgram’s experiments from the 1950s. Milgram designed them to test to what extent humans would harm other people in order to stay obedient to a higher power. In the experiments, participants were asked to deliver a shock to another person in another room with increasing intensity. Under the instructions of experimenters, participants were urged to continue delivering the shocks even if the receiver in the other room screamed or called for help. To Milgram’s and his colleague’s surprise, under the pressure of the experimenters, most of the participants delivered shocks that reached the maximum intensity. These experiments helped advance our understanding of the effect of pressure on humans. However, while the experiments had no harmful physical effects on anyone (the people “receiving” the shocks in the other room were actually actors), they took a psychological toll on many of the participants who delivered the shocks. After they were debriefed and understood the purpose of the experiment, it was difficult for them to know that they were the kinds of people whose drive to obey was stronger than their will not to hurt someone. Obviously this kind of experiment would be unethical today, thanks to restrictions placed on research and development to ensure that it has no harmful effects on anyone participating.

In conclusion, restrictions on scientific research and development are important: They can help ensure not just the well-being of those participating in them, but also that of humanity. Without restrictions, much of innovation could turn out to hurt more than help society.