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Crack the GMAT: Analytical Writing
IV Ranga Rao
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September 25, 2007

The GMAT is divided into three sections, each designed to test various aspects: analytical writing, quantitative abilities and verbal prowess.

In the first part of this three-part series covering the sections of the GMAT, we will discuss analytical writing assessment and also present some examples of the kind of questions you should expect.

Analytical writing assessment
This is the first section in the GMAT and requires you to write two short essays which assess your analytical abilities and of course your grammar and English skills.

Analysis of an Issue: In this part there will be a short paragraph, which will discuss an issue. You will have to provide critical analysis of the issue.

The first task is to comprehend the question. If one fails to understand what is the issue to be discussed the response will be totally irrelevant. Then one should express her/his opinion on the issue and cite relevant examples or instances that support your arguments. The purpose is not only writing your view but also why you subscribe to that view.

It might also be a good idea to also point out certain factors that might influence you to change your view or what other people may say to counter your views. The time allotted for this section is 30 minutes.

An actual "analysis of an issue" question
"In some countries, television and radio programs are carefully censored for offensive language and behavior. In other countries, there is little or no censorship."

In your view, to what extent should government or any other group be able to censor television or radio programs?

Explain, giving relevant reasons and/or examples to support your position.

Analysis of an argument: In this section you are presented with a statement or fact and then an argument that attempts to justify a position. You have to write an essay explaining how well reasoned you find that argument.

You should be able to highlight the strong points in the argument and also the weaknesses in it. The purpose is to see whether you can identify what are the flaws in the argument and where the argument stands on strong ground -- essentially, if you can analyse the argument in a balanced manner. The time allotted for this essay is 30 minutes.

An actual "analysis of an argument" question
The following appeared in a memorandum issued by a large city's council on the arts:

"In a recent citywide poll, 15 percent more residents said that they watch television programs about the visual arts than was the case in a poll conducted five years ago. During these past five years, the number of people visiting our city's art museums has increased by a similar percentage. Since the corporate funding that supports public television, where most of the visual arts programs appear, is now being threatened with severe cuts, we can expect that attendance at our city's art museums will also start to decrease. Thus some of the city's funds for supporting the arts should be reallocated to public television."

Discuss how well reasoned, etc.

It is suggested that you first jot down a few points about these essays on a piece of paper, organise your thoughts, rearrange the points to flow in a logical manner and then start typing your answer on the PC. Please note that it helps to have decent typing skills to enable you to finish the essays within the allotted time.

Part II: Tomorrow

The author is the Director - Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, India.

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