“[A] quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business.” – A.A. Milne
Chances are you too know a few famous quotes, but you probably don’t use them. I know so, because I’m guilty of neglecting quotes on the GRE.
So, why should you use essay quotes on the GRE? To start with, the right use of quotes in essays augments the power of your arguments and makes your essays appear more convincing. Plus, essays with quotes tend to score better than essays without them, because of the initial impact the use of quotes create on the reader, and help strengthen your point.
But we need to exercise prudence. Only use quotes as is, if you are convinced that paraphrasing would lower the impact or change the meaning of the original author’s words or when the argument could not be better expressed or said more succinctly.
Here is how you make sure you are doing it right.
How do I incorporate quotes into my essay?
At times, an essay can appear painfully discorded if the quotations are out of place or if the essay is too stuffed with quotes.
So, what should you do to avoid this?
A great quote plays one or more roles from the following:
- creates the initial impact on the essay grader
- makes your essay look more promising and interesting
- establishes credibility
- concludes the essay with a point to contemplate
If the quote doesn’t serve any of the above then you are forcing it into the essay and this could do more harm than good.
You should start writing your essay with a quote that lays foundation to the main idea behind the essay. This can have a major impact on the evaluator. You can also comment on the quotation in this introductory paragraph if you wish. Either way, to get a perfect score on the GRE essay, use a relevant quote strategically but don’t force it into the essay.
Can I alter the structure of the quotation?
Using the exact words from the original source is called quoting. You should quote when you believe that the way the original author expresses an idea is the most effective way to communicate the point you wish to make. If you want to borrow an idea from the author but don’t put the idea in their exact words, then it’s called paraphrasing. (but remember that you still have to cite the original author even when you are paraphrasing)
For example, Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” You can alter the quotation on your own according to the passage, by saying: ‘To paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s famous quote, “It is easier to trust when you can verify.”‘ By doing this, you are not only citing the original author, but also gaining extra points for using your own version of the quote.
How many quotes should I use?
If you deploy a lot of quotations in your essay, it appears as though several people are talking about the topic apart from yourself. This would downplay your own voice and leaves little room for your own ideas. It is your essay and it should be your voice that needs to be heard, not some notable/famous person’s. Quote as infrequently as possible. So, don’t cram every quote you know into the essay. As a rule of thumb, refrain from using more than 2 quotes in any essay. (One in the introductory paragraph and the other if necessary in the conclusion)
How do I introduce the quote in my own words?
The last thing you would want is get your score cancelled on account of plagiarism. It’s highly recommended that you cite the author of the quotation. If you don’t cite, you may give the impression that you claim to be the original author and that could result in plagiarism. You should place the quote in double quotation marks. Here is an example usage citing the author:
Thomas Jefferson once said “The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.”
Categorization of GRE Essay Topics
The fascinating thing about the GRE essay topics is that they’re already published on the official ETS website. This may sound crazy because giving out the questions in advance is not normal. Now, use this to your advantage. You can find all the GRE essay topics on the official ETS website.
But there’s a catch! You were expecting a few, right?
Well, there are close to 200 topics in all – far too many to practice responses in advance. Also, practicing each of these topics is not advisable as it is going to take a lot of time and effort and there is no point in mugging them up. You could as well spend this time on learning some math. However, there’s a good news. Just scanning through these two lists will give you an excellent idea of the types of issues and arguments that show up on test day.
I just made things a bit easy for you, though. Most of the topics that show up on the GRE essay section can be broadly grouped into five categories.
- Sciences and Technology
So, next time when you practice writing an essay response, make sure you write at least one essay from each of these categories. And memorize a few quotes related to each one of these topics, as they will be handy.
List of most useful essay quotes
I’ve compiled a list of easy-to-digest quotes that should help you write the perfect essay. Bookmark this page NOW for future reference.
The following quotes from great thinkers have been selected based on their relevance to common GRE essay topics and for their ease of usage.
- The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance – Socrates
- A people that value its privileges above its principles soon loses both – Dwight D. Eisenhower
- In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is – Yogi Berra
- A little inaccuracy can sometimes save a ton of explanation – H.H Munro
- Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction – E. F. Schumacher
- A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually – Abba Eban
- Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good – Mohandas Gandhi
- Whatever government is not a government of laws, is a despotism, let it be called what it may – Daniel Webster
- Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws – Plato
- Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing – Theodore Roosevelt
- It is dangerous to be right, when the government is wrong – Voltaire
- The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object – Thomas Jefferson
- No nation is fit to sit in judgment upon any other nation – Woodrow Wilson (28th U.S President)
- The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work – Emile Zola
- The world is full of educated derelicts – Calvin Coolidge
- A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a change to get its pants on – Winston Churchill
- It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog – Mark Twain
- Life contains but two tragedies. One is not to get your heart’s desire, the other is to get it – Socrates
- If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning – Aristotle Onasis
- Men are not disturbed by things, but the view they take of things – Epictetus
- As a rule, men worry more about what they can’t see than about what they can – Julius Caesar
Now, these are a handful of quotes. The goal is to memorize 5 or 6 of your favorite quotes so you’ll be able to contextually fit one into the essay on the test day. While practicing, you may look at the list of quotes found above however, if you can remember a specific quote apposite to your essay topic, try to use it – one quote for every essay.
For those avid writers, who believe the number of quotes above are too low, we have the right tool for you. Ellipsoid created a random quote generator tool that draws 5 famous quotes from Goodreads every time you reload the page. The good news is these 5 quotes are always theme based so you know where to use them.
Writing essays isn’t all about the substance. It’s the basics that many of us forget. If you are going to put in the time to practice writing essays, might as well maximize the score you could get by deploying a quote in your essays.
So, what’s your favorite quote?
These quotes require students to write what they think the quote or idea means and then write how the idea applies to their lives.
- “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” – Julian of Norwich
- “Normality is a fine ideal for those who have no imagination.” – Carl Jung
- “Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Einstein
- “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay
- “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” – Einstein
- “I made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short.” – Blaise Pascal
- “God wisely designed the human body so that we can neither pat our own backs nor kick ourselves too easily.” – Unknown
- “It takes no more time to see the good side of life than it takes to see the bad.” – Jimmy Buffet
- “There is a part of me that wants to write, a part that wants to theorize, a part that wants to sculpt, a part that wants to teach…. To force myself into a single role, to decide to be just one thing in life, would kill off large parts of me.” -H. Prather
- “Dance as if no one is watching. Sing as if no one is listening. Love as if you have never been hurt.” -Unknown
- “Maturity is the ability to do a job whether or not you are supervised, to carry money without spending it, and to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.”- Ann Landers
- “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill
- “Success is a journey, not a destination.” – Ben Sweetland
- “Success is knowing what your values are and living in a way consistent with your values.” – Danny Cox
- “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy
- “I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.” – Mark Twain
- “Remember, happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have; it depends solely on what you think.” – Dale Carnegie
- “Find a job that you love doing and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius
- “May you live all the days of your life.” – Unknown
- “Natural abilities are like natural plants; they need pruning by study.” – Francis Bacon
- “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” – Mark Twain
- “I’m never bored anywhere; being bored is an insult to oneself.” – Jules Renard
- “Life is short; art is long.” – Hippocrates
- “Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When you don’t know what harbor you’re aiming for, no wind is the right wind.” – Seneca
- “The greatest discovery is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.” – William James
- “If there is no dull and determined effort, there will be no brilliant achievement.” – Hsun-tzu
- “He who could learn to fly must first learn to walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” – Nietzsche
- “Live every act fully, as if it were your last.” – Buddha
- “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary
- “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” – John Donne
- “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton
- “Those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
- “I dislike arguments of any kind; they are always vulgar and often convincing.” – Oscar Wilde
- “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” – Vince Lombardy
- “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers.” – Unknown
- “Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind.” – Unknown
- “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt
- “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”- Eleanor Roosevelt
- “Millions say the apple fell, but Newton was the one to ask why.” – Bernard M. Baruch
- “There can be no surer sign of decay in a country than to see the rites of religion held in contempt.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
- “When I look back on all these worries I remember the story of the old man who said on his death bed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.” – Winston Churchill
- “One of the most dangerous forms of human error is forgetting what one is trying to achieve.” – Paul Nitze
- “People want to know how much you care before they care how much you know.” – James F. Hind
- “There are good men everywhere. I only wish they had louder voices.” – Louis L’Amour
- “I don’t believe in pessimism. If something doesn’t come up the way you want, forge ahead. If you think it’s going to rain, it will.” – Clint Eastwood
- “What we must decide is how we are valuable rather than how valuable we are.” – Edgar Z. Friedenberg
- “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” – Albert Einstein
- “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo Buonarroti
- “All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal
- “Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb.” – Pythagoras
- “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abe Lincoln
- “A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu