I remember when I was a philosophy student about to face my first "real" exam. It was a high-pressure situation.
We had to create and deliver three arguments. Each one needed to be two pages long. And each needed to be clear and well-reasoned.
The lecturer gave us advice. Even now, years later, I remember it clearly. This advice helped me then. If you have a speaking or writing test, this advice can help you too. Here it is.
- Examiners are stupid.
- Pretend they know nothing. You have to show them exactly how your evidence supports your claim. Clearly explain why you have reached this particular conclusion.
- Examiners are blind.
- Pretend they can’t see. So, show them where you’re connecting your points.
- Examiners are forgetful.
- Pretend they’re your grandmother. Repeat your claim at the end and leave her with something she won’t soon forget.’
I still use my lecturer’s words to check that my arguments flow logically. But they’re not just useful to me; they’re useful to you as well.
Reasoning is what makes or breaks your argument. A well-reasoned argument is what gets higher logic scores in the GBC and what could convince your next client to follow your advice.
Reasoning: What is it?
Reasoning is what makes or breaks your argument.
Simply put, reasoning is the way you connect two ideas together. It answers the questions "How?" and "Why?"
Pretend they know nothing
Take this question, for example: "What is the best type of food in the world?"
- Sushi is definitely the best food in the world. Mainly because it’s delicious.
- How is it delicious?
- The main reason is Sushi has a great deal of umami. To tasters, umami is the depth of flavor. It fills your mouth, and it leaves you feeling satisfied.
- Why is this important to the argument?
- As a result of this, umami is considered by food critics to be the most complex of all flavours. It's found in meat, in some well-cooked vegetables, and, of course, sushi.
- Accordingly, sushi is recognised internationally by critics as one of the world’s best foods. It's absolutely delicious and it's filled with umami. This is why it should be called the "best" food.
Note, the word umami has recently been adopted into English.
Pretend they can"t see
As well as answering "How?" and "Why?", well-reasoned arguments make it clear to examiners where connections are made. Usually, this is done by using adverbs and adverbial phrases.
When I answered the question "How?", I used the adverbial phrase, "For instance," to show a connection between my claim and evidence. I could have used:
- "An example is ..."
- "For example..." or even a sentence like,
- "Surely, you’ve heard of sushi and its powerful taste of umami," as well.
I also used adverbs and adverbial phrases to answer the question, "Why?"; for example, I used "As a result of this," to explain why my evidence related to the claim.
In the conclusion, "accordingly" and "This is why" were then used to connect my "Why?" to the claim.
What other adverbs or adverbial phrases could I have used instead?
Pretend they're your grandmother
Finally, examiners are like your grandmother—repeat what you’ve said and leave them with something they won’t forget.
In the example argument, I repeated "world’s best food" in my conclusion, as it was part of the claim. Notice that my wording was slightly different to the claim’s. Making the wording of your conclusion different to your claim's shows variety.
After summarising, finish with a bang. For my example, I could have said: "Wow. All this talk of sushi’s made me a little hungry. I think I’ll get some, after the exam." Whatever you say, make it relevant and make the examiner remember it. Make sure that your answer has an ending—a "So what?"
But you are enlightened, aware, and mindful
If you follow the above suggestions, you should find that your reasoning skills improve.
Just be sure to remember: Examiners are stupid, blind, and forgetful. So, explain everything to them.