Starting an Argumentative Essay

Before one begins writing an argumentative essay, it’s quite helpful to have a research question that provides a framework for further investigation. Here is one such question: In the United States, should admission to four-year colleges be based solely on one test score, as is done in China where the gaokao (pronounced “gow-kow”) exam serves that purpose?

Usually, the research question results from information gathered from previously done research. For example, one source for this article is a piece that appeared in The New York Times titled “Inside a Chinese Test-Prep Factory.” Its author, Brook Larmer, an America expatriate, focuses on the costs to the students who attend a “cram academy” in Maotanchang, China, “a memorization factory” with “20,000 students, or four times the town’s official population,” China’s version of an American college-preparatory school, excerpt the school day there runs from “6:20 in the morning” to “10:50 at night,” seven days a week with a three-hour break on Sundays.

The research question can also be used as the starting point for additional questions, such as these:

  • Why does China use the gaokao as its sole admission measure?
  • What happens if someone “fails” the gaokao?
  • What effect does it have on China’s college hopefuls?
  • What are common admission requirements in American colleges?
  • Do any American colleges only have one admission measure?

The goal at this point is to build a personal knowledge base about college admission requirements in both the United States and China—and their effects.

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