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GRE Argument: Hospital Statistics On Roller-skating Accidents - With A Free Essay Review

"Hospital statistics regarding people who go to the emergency room after roller-skating accidents indicate the need for more protective equipment. Within that group of people, 75 percent of those who had accidents in streets or parking lots had not been wearing any protective clothing (helmets, knee pads, etc.) or any light-reflecting material (clip-on lights, glow-inthe-dark wrist pads, etc.). Clearly, the statistics indicate that by investing in high-quality protective gear and reflective equipment, roller skaters will greatly reduce their risk of being severely injured in an accident. - Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted."

The given argument claims that statistics indicate the necessity to invest in protective gear such as knee pads for skaters. This is because most of them who visited the emergency room due to injuries were currently found to be not wearing any. However, this reasoning suffers from a number of flaws due to certain unwarranted assumptions.

Firstly, no information or details are given regarding how the statistics were obtained. Was the survey conducted in only a single hospital or numerous ones? Was the hospital near a skating rink, park or a playground? If these situations are considered, certainly the number of people visiting the hospital are going to be considerably different depending on the situation and cannot be generalised.

Secondly, the argument assumes that all the people who went to the emergency room suffered severe injuries. It may have happened that people with minor bruises or scratches also went to the hospital, in which case, the situation would not be considered that serious.

Along with this, it is also assumed that the number of people is large. Since the actual number is not explicitly mentioned, there is no way of knowing whether this was a substantial amount. It could be that the actual number of people was smaller, comparable to 10 or 20. Of those, people with severe injuries may be even fewer. Concurrently, of the people not wearing protective equipment, those with grave injuries may have been very fewer. In such circumstances, investing in high quality protective equipment would be of no big consequence.

The argument also assumes that only by wearing protective equipment like knee caps, helmets and reflectors can one reduce the risk of severe injuries. However, other factors can also play a major part in this. If people skate in an area where there is less traffic or other hindrances, and novices do not attempt difficult and advanced stunts, the risk of injuries is automatically reduced.

Thus, the argument clearly relies on some basic assumptions and falls apart once the assumptions are challenged.


Essay Review

Your first argument (about the lack of information concerning the gathering of statistical data) is largely irrelevant because it is not focused on analyzing the assumptions of the argument.* In any case, your explanation of the possible implications of uncertainty over the nature of the data is very vague.

The second argument is better in that it directly addresses the question. You do not explain, however, why you think the argument assumes that "all the people who went to the emergency room suffered severe injuries." The instructions do ask you to explain this. And, again, your discussion of the consequences for the argument in the case that the assumptions prove unwarranted is much too vague. You need to write sentences that are like the following: "If that assumption proves unwarranted, and most injuries are minor injuries, then the cited statistics would not support the conclusion that skaters etc."

The next argument again does not explain why you think the argument depends on the assumption that "the number of people is large." You need to say something like: "If the absolute number of injuries relative to the population of rollerskaters is very small, then the risk of injury would be small whether one wears protective gear or not. The argument suggests that the risk of injury is high, therefore it assumes that the number of injured persons is relatively large." That's the kind of thing you need to say in order to explain how the argument depends on the assumption. Of course it also needs to be true, which I do not think is the case here. If wearing protective gear reduces one's chance of serious injury from, say, one in a thousand to one in ten thousand, then that might count as a significant reduction in risk (which is what the argument claims) even though the risk of serious injury without protective gear is already very small. But I suppose it is possible to claim that the tone of the document implies that the risk of injury is not small, but that would be a relatively weak claim.

I will leave you to figure out why the last argument has similar problems to those discussed here and note finally that the essay misses one of the more significant assumptions of the argument. We know that 75 percent of those who had accidents at the hospital had no protective gear. The argument suggests that that is a significant percentage in that it implies increased vulnerability to injury among skaters without protective gear. That suggestion is only true if, and therefore assumes that, the percentage of all roller-skaters who don't use protective gear is significantly smaller than 75%.

Best, EJ.

*Note: I've changed the prompt from the one you submitted because I could not find your version of the prompt on the ETS site and because your essay does not at all answer the version of the prompt that you included (which called for a discussion of the evidence needed to evaluate the argument). Your essay does ultimately address the current prompt (discussion of assumptions). If I'm incorrect in thinking you were in fact responding to the prompt that asks you to discuss assumptions, then I apologize for the change, but the essay in that case would need to be completely rewritten.
Submitted by: Anuja

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