The AWA section of the GMAT is made up of one short piece of writing called the “Argument” essay. It essentially asks you to evaluate an argument, usually a type of proposal. The main qualities that the readers look for are the organization of your ideas, the quality of the ideas themselves, the strength and relevance of the examples, and your grasp of standard written English. According to GMAC, the “Analysis of an Argument tests your ability to formulate an appropriate and constructive critique of a specific conclusion based on a specific line of thinking.” With that, let’s take a look at a few helpful tips:
- Don’t make up data. Made up statistics and facts won’t impress the GMAT graders, but strong organization, logical arguments, and specific supportive examples will. Don’t be tempted to make up data because you are not an “expert” in the subject matter. It doesn’t matter, in fact, what the subject matter of the Argument is! You’re always “right” because the argument is always flawed! Sound logic will get you to a “6”.
- Aim for cogency. Focus more on conveying your argument succinctly and forcefully than on pedantic word choice and construction. Don’t include long-winded sentences that go nowhere in the hopes of sounding more scholarly. The argument essay needs to be formal, but more importantly, forceful. These essays are, let’s face it, pretty boring. Let’s not make the readers suffer more than they have to.
- You already know your thesis. No matter what the prompt, your thesis is essentially, “the argument is flawed.” All you have to do is come up with solid logic backed by specific examples that show why.
- Attack diction. An easy way to find fault in the structure of the argument is to pick apart its very wording. Just how much is “too much”? Exactly what does the author mean by “certain”? Look for vague wording and qualifying language to critique. It will be there!
So, what about the pacing? You are given 30-minutes to complete the essay, so pacing and time management is crucial. Plan to spend 5 minutes planning out your essay fully, followed by 20 minutes of writing, and 5 minutes of revising. Here’s what to do in each phase:
- Plan. In this phase you will thoroughly take apart the presented argument, construct your thesis, choose your three examples (flaws), and lay out your main points. Give yourself a clear “road map” before you start writing.
- Write. 20 minutes may not sound like a long time, but with a solid template structure under your belt, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can get your thoughts down. Use this template for guidance.
- Revise. Always leave time to proofread your essay. You’re looking to correct grammar and spelling, as well as clarify the “flow” of the essay.
Ready to try one out? Get the list of official Argument Essay prompts here!
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Vivian Kerr is a regular contributor to the Veritas Prep blog, providing tips and tricks to help students better prepare for the GMAT and the SAT.
I'm sorry guys -- I really didn't use a template for issue essays! I did those far more on the fly since those were more question-specific than argument essays.
I guess a general template would be
P1 - Intro and a thesis
P2 - Example 1 (usually in depth)
P3 - Example 2 (in depth)
P4 - Exploring the nuances of the question -- ie, why the opposing position is not entirely wrong. This shows I understand that the issue is not black and white.
P5 - Conclusion
I'm sorry, I really structured issues essays loosely and didn't go as in depth with them as I did with arguments. I've attached an issue essay below and hopefully that might help some of you guys? If you have specific questions let me know.
"Despite the convenience of distance learning and online educational programs, they will never replace in-class instruction."
Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the position stated above. Support your viewpoint using reasons and examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.
With an increasingly globalized world, and the advent of ever-improving technology that allows people to go as far as to project a holograph of themselves sitting in a chair in Tokyo from their office in San Jose, California, we are starting to reexamine the ways we structure learning. Gone are the days on the one-room schoolhouse, where all learning is completed between eight and three p.m. More and more often, schools are utilizing the significant technological tools that have been developed in order to redefine the way we teach and the way we learn. Indeed, we can now learn math from an online recorded voice while we sit on the couch in our pajamas. In the statement above, the author claims that though distance learning and online educational programs offer convenience, in-class instruction is irreplaceable. Though, distance learning and online educational tools can provide fantastic aids to traditional classroom learning and a great deal of benefit to certain students, as the author claims, they cannot entirely take the place of in-class instruction.
The main reason that distance learning cannot take the place of traditional in-class instruction is that the primary benefit that in-class instruction provides is spontaneity. Students can learn from the questions another student asks, which can make them realize that they do not understand a subject as well as they thought they did. In debates with other students surrounding, perhaps, the Cold War, students can learn from each other based on their give-and-take, something impossible to duplicate in online educational programs. Many programs through reputable universities, such as Johns Hopkins' CTY program or Stanford's EPGY program provide distance learning to secondary school students. In such programs, students complete assignments, email them back and forth with their teachers, receiving comments each time, learn primarily from books or prewritten tools, and only hear their teacher speak through phone or web based tools. Studies show that humans communicate over 90% of their emotion through body language, yet this interaction is nonexistent in distance learning. CTY students cannot see the imperceptible body shift or raised eyebrow that let them know they are moving off track. Because they can only communicate with other students (generally) through discussion boards or chat rooms, they are not as spontaneous in their student-to-student interaction. By writing down what they say, they have time to read it over, think about it, before posting it. In a typical classroom, however, students bounce ideas off each other, and often, the exchange of ideas is far more free than if they are given the chance to self-censor. Because distance learning lacks the spontaneity of conversation that in-person teaching provides, by definition, it cannot perform the exact same function.
Another issue with the replacement of in-class instruction with distance/online learning is that the two serve often drastically different populations. In-class instruction generally caters to students in a specific geographical area, whereas distance learning allows for interactions with students around the world. In-class instruction might utilize specific community examples such as a proposed city ordinance to teach a concept, while distance learning, by definition, must include more universal examples that are easily understood by people with a variety of backgrounds. This lack of personalization and tailoring of teaching to specific students makes distance learning fundamentally different than in-class instruction, and therefore, beneficial to different people. MIT recently launched an open courseware system where lecture notes, Power Point slides, essay questions, and assessments are provided to anyone with an Internet connection. Yet the act of attending MIT is substantially different than the act of using the courseware to take the same classes MIT students take. The students one would interact with at MIT are generally at the top of their high school classes, have been preselected by the university as able to do the work, whereas though the MIT courseware allows for online discussion of the material, any person can log in and utilize it - a significantly different population than the population that attends MIT. Because the two modes of teaching by definition must serve different populations, they cannot act (fully) as substitutes for one another.
Though distance/online learning may not replace in-class instruction, we cannot go so far to say it is not valuable or that a student cannot learn a great deal from them. Many colleges, particularly community colleges, have launched distance learning and online educational systems to better serve their largely commuter population. The student who takes, for example, Calculus I through distance learning will likely leave with a similar understanding of the mathematical principles as the student who takes Calculus I through a traditional, in-class teaching system. The key point, however, is that their experiences will not be the same. Distance learning/online education and in-class instructions provide substantially different experiences to the students (and teacher) involved, and different students will prefer different methods of course instruction. Distance learning has value, can teach a student a great deal, but not all students learn best in such an environment. Distance learning will never replace in-class instruction, since many students learn better through in-class instruction than through distance learning (and vice versa), but that is not to say it will not continue to expand and provide value for the students who utilize it.
In sum, distance learning and in class instruction provide different modes of learning, and neither can exist as a substitute for the other. Neither can replicate the other so completely as to say they are the same, and thus, neither can replace the other. While distance learning will likely to continue to expand, better serving populations that likely otherwise would not have access to the types of information the courses disseminate, in-class instruction will remain, primarily because it offers benefits that distance learning does not. Distance learning provides convenience and an ever wider net of people willing to be educated, but in-class instruction provides a spontaneity of interaction that distance learning cannot duplicate. Therefore, distance learning will never truly replace in-class instruction worldwide, though it will surely continue as a supplement to such instruction and beneficial program on its own merit.