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Sample Issue Task

Following is a sample Issue task that you might see on the test:

As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate.

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.

Strategies for This Topic

In this task, you are asked to discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement. Thus, responses may range from strong agreement or strong disagreement to qualified agreement or qualified disagreement. You are also instructed to explain your reasoning and consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true. A successful response need not comment on all or any one of the points listed below and may well discuss other reasons or examples not mentioned here in support of the position taken.

Although this topic is accessible to respondents of all levels of ability, for any response to receive a top score, it is particularly important that you remain focused on the task and provide clearly relevant examples and/or reasons to support the point of view you are expressing. Lower level responses may be long and full of examples of modern technology, but those examples may not be clearly related to a particular position. For example, a respondent who strongly disagrees with the statement may choose to use computer technology as proof that thinking ability is not deteriorating. However, the mere existence of computer technology does not adequately prove this point; e.g., perhaps the ease of computer use inhibits our thinking ability. To receive a higher level score, the respondent should explain in what ways computer technology may call for or require thinking ability.

This topic could elicit a wide variety of approaches, especially considering the different possible interpretations of the phrase "the ability of humans to think for themselves." Although most respondents may take it to mean problem solving, others could interpret it as emotional and social intelligence; i.e., the ability to communicate/connect with others. With any approach, it is possible to discuss examples such as calculators, word processing tools such as spell/grammar check, tax preparation software, Internet research and a variety of other common household and business technologies.

You may agree with the topic and argue that:

  • reliance on technology leads to dependency; we come to rely on problem-solving technologies to such a degree that when they fail we are in worse shape than if we didn't have them
  • everyday technologies such as calculators and cash registers have decreased our ability to perform simple calculations, a "use it or lose it" approach to thinking ability

Or you may take issue with the topic and argue that technology facilitates and improves our thinking skills, arguing that:

  • developing, implementing and using technology requires problem solving
  • technology frees us from mundane problem solving (e.g., calculations) and allows us to engage in more complex thinking
  • technology provides access to information otherwise unavailable
  • technology connects people at a distance and allows them to share ideas
  • technology is dependent on the human ability to think and make choices (every implementation of and advance in technology is driven by human intelligence and decision making)

On the other hand, you could decide to explore the middle ground in the debate and point out that while technology may diminish some mental skill sets, it enables other (perhaps more important) types of thinking to thrive. Such a response might distinguish between complex problem solving and simple "data maintenance" (i.e., performing calculations and organizing information).

Other approaches could involve taking a historical, philosophical or sociological stance or, with equal effectiveness, using personal experience to illustrate a position. One could argue that the value or detriment of relying on technology is determined by the individual (or society) using it or that only those who develop technology (i.e., technical specialists) are maintaining their problem-solving skills, while the rest of us are losing them.

Again, it is important for you to avoid overly general examples or lists of examples without expansion. It is also essential to do more than paraphrase the prompt. Please keep in mind that what counts is the ability to clearly express a particular point of view in relation to the issue and specific task instructions and to support that position with relevant reasons and/or examples.

For more information, see the "Analyze an Issue" Sample Essay Responses and Rater Commentary.