GMAT Essay and AWA Tips
Top Essay & AWA Tips for the GMAT
1. Be sure to include brief introductory and concluding paragraphs, which are consistent with each other and with the paragraphs in the body of your essay.
2. Your essay must at least appear to be well organized. Use transition words and phrases to help the reader follow the flow of your discussion. For ideas, check out the transitional devices I’ve used in my sample Issue essays and sample Argument essays.
3. Compose your introductory paragraph last after you’ve completed the rest of your essay. Why? Because you essay might evolve somewhat from your initial plan; if you’ve composed your introduction first, you might need to rewrite it.
4. For every point you make in a GMAT essay, always provide a reason and/or an example to support that point!
5. Pay close attention to writing mechanics, grammar, sentence construction, word usage and diction (whether you’ve used the right word for the right job). It doesn’t matter if your essay contains brilliant ideas if you can’t express them. In short: It’s form over substance!!
6. It’s okay to refer to yourself in your essays at your option. Just don’t overdo it. Phrases such as “I think,” “it is my opinion that” and “in my view” are superfluous and a waste of your typing time.
7. Don’t try to impress the reader with your vocabulary. There’s nothing wrong with demonstrating a strong vocabulary. Just don’t overdo it; otherwise the readers will suspect that you’re using big words as a smokescreen for poor content.
Here are some Quick Tips for tackling the GMAT “Argument” writing task:
Spend 4-5 minutes brainstorming and jotting down the logical problems you intend to identify and discuss in your essay. Then number these problems from most serious to least serious. Present them in that order in your essay.
Each argument in the official test bank contains 2-4 major logical fallacies or other logical problems. (That’s how the test-makers design them.) To score high you must identify and discuss each major logical problem. Here are the ones that appear most frequently among the arguments in the official test bank:
Generalizing from particulars (relying on a small number of particular cases too small to reach a reliable general conclusion) Confusing chronology with causation (because one event occurs after another, the earlier event caused the later event) Drawing an unfair analogy (ignoring relevant dissimilarities between two things when comparing them)
Go for breadth, not depth. Try to cover every major logical problem with the argument. Don’t dwell on one point! (This is the #1 essay blunder committed by GMAT test-takers.) As a rule of thumb you shouldn’t devote more than 3 or 4 sentences to discussing any one point of your critique.
Avoid Intro-itis. Do NOT begin your essay by rehashing the argument that you intend to critique. A brief introduction in which you indicate the thrust of the argument and that it is problematic for several reasons will suffice. Your time is far better spent delving directly into your critique of the argument. (Just as with the Issue essay, intro-itis will wave a “red flag” to the GMAT readers who will assume from the outset that you lack ideas of your own.)
In addition to identifying each major logical problem with the argument, always discuss what additional information is needed to better evaluate the argument, and/or what additional evidence (facts) would serve to strengthen the argument.
Include these points in your essay’s final paragraph.
Analysis of an Argument
(1 Question–30 Minutes)
The following appeared in a recent report by the Fern County planning commission:
“In light of the increasing percentage of our nation’s population turning to the Internet as a source of reference material, Fern County should close the ancillary branch of its public library, and convert that facility into a computer training center for use by county residents. The converted facility would fill what is certain to be a growing need among Fern residents for computer training.
At the same time, since the county library’s main branch already contains more volumes per resident than any other county library in the state, it will adequately serve the needs of Fern County residents. Moreover, Fern residents are sure to support this plan; after all, in nearby Mesa County only a few residents have objected to that county’s plan to close all but one of its public libraries in the near future.”
Discuss how logically convincing you find this argument. In your discussion, you should analyze the argument’s line of reasoning and use of evidence. It may be appropriate in your critique to call into question certain assumptions underlying the argument and/or to indicate what evidence might weaken or strengthen the argument. It may also be appropriate to discuss how you would alter the argument to make it more convincing and/or discuss what additional evidence, if any, would aid in evaluating the argument.
Below is a sample response to this Argument. As you read the response, keep in mind : This response meets all the official criteria for a score of 6 (the highest possible score). I didn’t compose this response under timed conditions, so don’t worry if yours isn’t as lengthy or as polished. Take comfort: You can attain a top score of 6 with a briefer and less-polished essay.
Sample Response (550 Words)
In this argument the Fern County planning commission recommends converting a library into a computer-training facility. However, the committee’s recommendation rests on numerous unproven, and dubious, assumptions–about the impact of Internet access on libraries, about Fern County residents, about the adequacy of the main library, and about Mesa County and its residents. As a result, the committee’s argument is unconvincing at best, as discussed below.
To begin with, the committee’s argument rests on two unsubstantiated assumptions involving the cited national trend in Internet usage. One such assumption is that increasing use of the Internet as a reference source will necessarily result in decreased use, or demand, for public libraries.
While this might be the case, the commission must provide firm evidence to substantiate this assumption; otherwise, it is equally plausible that the cited trend will actually enhance the popularity of libraries by stimulating intellectual and cultural interest. A second such assumption is that Fern residents reflect the national trend. The committee provides no substantiating evidence for this crucial assumption; lacking such evidence, it is entirely possible that Fern residents have little interest–for whatever reason–in using the Internet for this purpose, and therefore that the proposed plan is not in their best interests.
Another problem with the argument involves the report’s assertion that that there is certain to be a growing need in Fern County for computer training. In context, this claim appears to be based on the national trend in Internet usage. Yet even assuming Fern residents reflect this trend, it is entirely possible that Fern residents as a group are already highly proficient in using computers and the Internet. If so, Fern residents might very well prefer the status quo, and would not support the proposed plan.
Yet another problem with the argument involves the fact that Fern County’s main library boasts a large number of books per resident. This fact alone is scant evidence that the main branch is adequate to service county residents. The committee overlooks the possibility of a future influx of county residents. The committee also ignores that the library’s value lies not just in the quantity of its books but also in the quality of its books. Thus without reliable demographic projections and detailed information about the main library’s inventory vis-a-vis the needs of Fern’s residents, the committee cannot convince me that the main branch alone would serve the needs of county residents.
A final problem involves Mesa’s plan to close all but one library. We are not informed whether Mesa residents are yet aware of the County’s plan. Even if the plan has been made public, the fact that it has met little opposition does not necessarily mean that residents as a whole support the plan. Perhaps Mesa residents as a group are not inclined to voice their opinions. Or perhaps as a group they are far less concerned about library access–for whatever reason–than Fern residents are.
In sum, the argument is unconvincing as it stands. To strengthen it, rather than relying on a dubious analogy between Fern and Mesa counties, the commission should provide better evidence–perhaps by way of a countywide survey–that Fern residents will increasingly use the Internet as a substitute for the ancillary library branch, and that they would benefit from a new computer-training center.