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First tries at AWA - please feel free to tear to shreds! :-)

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First tries at AWA - please feel free to tear to shreds! :-) [#permalink] New post 19 Oct 2010, 12:33
Hi, I've done a couple of practice AWAs and am pretty sure I'm off track but not quite sure where. I've read the guide on here and the tips in one or two books but still feel a bit short of understanding what's required. If anyone has time to look at any of these and point out obvious ways I'm going wrong I'd really appreciate it.

Cheers,

Matt



Analyze Argument #1

ESSAY QUESTION:
The following appeared as part of a campaign statement for Velazquez, who is seeking election as alderman in the town of Barchester:

“Under Police Commissioner Draco, the city of Spartanburg began jailing people for committing petty crimes such as littering, shoplifting, and spraying graffiti. Criminals in Spartanburg must have understood that lawlessness would no longer be tolerated, because the following year Spartanburg saw a 20% drop in violent crimes such as homicide. Our town should learn from Commissioner Draco’s success, and begin a large-scale crackdown on petty crime.”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument, etc....

YOUR RESPONSE:
The campaign statement highlights a 20% drop in violent crimes in the city of Spartanburg and asserts that this outcome was achieved by adopting a policy of jailing people for committing petty crimes. It argues that there is a causal relationship between the policy and the drop in violent crimes, and therefore that Barchester can achieve the same outcome by adopting the same policy.

In order to evaluate this argument, it is therefore necessary to evaluate the evidence for this causal relationship. In order to demonstrate a causal relationship between an action and an outcome, one needs to show that there could have been no other cause of that outcome. However, the campaign statement does not address potential alternative causes of the drop in violent crimes.

Such an alternative cause could be, for example, a state-wide change in legislation on gun ownership. If such a change in legislation was effective, we may expect to see a drop in violent crime in all cities in the state or nation. To rule out such an alternative explanation it would be helpful to know whether rates of violent crime dropped in other cities that did not adopt the policy of jailing people for petty crime.

It would also be useful to know more about the situation in Spartanburg specifically, in order to see if there were any other policy or socio-economic changes that could provide an alternative explanation for the drop in violent crimes.

Without such evidence to hand, the argument is weak. The reader is left in a position where they must guess as to the legitimacy of the asserted cause and effect relationship.

Finally, the argument may be criticised on other grounds. It implies that the goal of reducing violent crimes is worth the cost of significantly curtailing people's liberty for minor crimes. This is a view that many people would disagree with, as it is widely recognised that one's freedom not to be imprisoned without good reason has such value that it can outweigh almost anything. A relevant example of this is the recent threat to civil liberties posed by anti-terror legislation. Although that legislation is designed to ensure people's safety, many people feel that the curtailment of their liberties is not a price worth paying for that extra safety.

In summary, the argument does not rule out alternative explanations for the drop in violent crimes in Spartanburg, and therefore does not establish causality between the policy and the drop in violent crimes. This means that it is not persuasive in drawing the conclusion that Barchester should follow the same example. In addition, the argument make assumptions, about the value of reducing violent crime at almost any cost, that many people would question or reject. It is not, therefore, a convincing argument.

(462 words)
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My debrief: 750-q48-v44-105269.html


Last edited by mattdrummer on 19 Oct 2010, 12:42, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: First tries at AWA - please feel free to tear to shreds! :-) [#permalink] New post 19 Oct 2010, 12:35
Analyze Argument #2:

ESSAY QUESTION:
The following appeared in an article in a medical journal:
"The major increase in new cases of adult-onset diabetes during the past decade is the result of poor nutrition, which is itself the result of a lack of government control over the quality of foods available at low prices. If the government placed more emphasis on proper nutrition by requiring that food manufacturers include more vitamins and minerals in their products, the rate of adult-onset diabetes would be reduced significantly."

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument, etc....


YOUR RESPONSE:
The author concludes that the rate of adult-onset diabetes would be reduced if the government were to enforce food manufacturers to include more vitamins and minerals in their products. However, he or she does not provide sufficient evidence for this conclusion.

Firstly, the author fails adequately to establish a cause and effect relationship between government control of food standards and the increase in cases of adult-onset diabetes. The argument relies upon the assertion that poor nutrition, which leads to diabetes, is the result of lack of government control over the quality of low-priced food. However, no evidence is provided for this. Perhaps poor nutrition is a result of lifestyle choices that lead to a lack of variety in one's diet, rather than a result of poor quality food. Equally, perhaps it is not only low-priced food that results in poor nutrition. In order to strengthen this part of the argument, the author should provide evidence that links the lack of government control of food quality to poor nutrition.

Secondly, the author proposes a solution that equates high levels of vitamins and minerals with good nutrition. However, no evidence is given to support this. In order to show that regulating vitamin and mineral content in food will lead to better nutrition the author needs to provide evidence that establishes that link, otherwise the proposed solution will not necessarily solve the identified problem.

In summary, the author has failed to provide sufficient evidence for his or her conclusion. Without further support for these key inferences, the argument is ultimately unconvincing.

(258 words)

___________________________________________________
(Had a mental block and got to 10 mins to go with nothing to say - that's why it's so short)
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My debrief: 750-q48-v44-105269.html


Last edited by mattdrummer on 19 Oct 2010, 12:46, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: First tries at AWA - please feel free to tear to shreds! :-) [#permalink] New post 19 Oct 2010, 12:37
Analyze Issues #1

ESSAY QUESTION:
“Since no business can be all things at once, companies that specialize in one product or service are more efficient than those that offer a diverse product mix.”

From your perspective, how accurate is the above statement? Support your position with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

YOUR RESPONSE:
The statement makes a very general point that is supposed to apply to all businesses. It therefore can be quite easily refuted by a small number of counter-examples. I will go on to give such a counter-example, which demonstrates that the statement is far too general to be very accurate. However, some of the reasoning behind the statement offers insight that is indeed applicable to many businesses. I will address this first.

To some extent it is true that it is very difficult for a business to be all things at once. Many businesses grow and are successful because they specialise in a particular product or service that they master through experience, research and development, and specialist knowledge of their market. From an organisational perspective, one can argue convincingly that it is generally easier to obtain this deep level of knowledge and experience by focusing on a particular area. No organisation has limitless resources, yet there is a limitless amount that one can learn about a particular product or service and its associated market. There are many examples of businesses that have tried to move into a new market area, where they do not have that depth of knowledge, at a cost to the core business.

On the other hand, there are also companies that have crossed product and service boundaries and been extremely successful. A very good example of this is Virgin. The Virgin brand is associated with a huge range of products and services, from fizzy cola to transatlantic flights to music and much more besides. The success of the company is in large part down to the fact that the brand could transcend these boundaries. In this case the specialist knowledge of the company in one particular business area was not all-important and was overcome by the strength of the brand, which allowed the company to acquire the specialist knowledge in each new business area as it went along.

So there are examples on both sides. It also depends on how the argument is framed. Take the example of Google. Google has been very successful in diversifying to offer a range of products and services beyond simple search functionality. It has a calendar service, a map service, a social networking service, it has moved into online books, mobile telephones, and much more. In this sense it has been very successful by crossing product boundaries. However, these products are all within a single category. If Google decided to start building cars, for example, we may doubt whether or not this would be a successful move. In that sense Google is constrained by its expertise and experience in the same way discuessed above. In the case of Virgin one may also argue that the company does indeed specialise, in that it is a specialist in branding. If it tried to become a global leader in manufacturing, for example, it would most likely fail. Therefore, the issue is quite complex and depends upon how one chooses to define the boundaries.

In summary, the issue is too complex for the above statement to be accurate. While it carries some interesting insight that is applicable to many companies, it is far too generalised and therefore not accurate.

(535 words)
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My debrief: 750-q48-v44-105269.html


Last edited by mattdrummer on 19 Oct 2010, 12:44, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: First tries at AWA - please feel free to tear to shreds! :-) [#permalink] New post 19 Oct 2010, 12:40
Analyze Issues #2


ESSAY QUESTION:
“As technological development continues to intensify business competition, the quality of customer service is likely to become the only sustainable source of competitive advantage.”

Explain what you think this quotation means and discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with it. Develop your position with reasons and/or specific examples drawn from history, current events, or your own experience, observations, or reading.

YOUR RESPONSE:
The quotation describes a situation in which it is difficult to find sustainable sources of competitive advantage. The author of the quotation clearly believes that the quality of a company's customer service in some sense stands outside of this difficult situation and is still a viable source of competitive advantage in the long run. The author contrasts this with technological development, which serves instead to intensify business competition.

In one sense, the author is correct to emphasise the difference. Technology develops very quickly and is easily replicable. For example, a company may manufacture a mobile phone that has a special new feature, but it is likely that its competitors will be able to replicate that within a relatively short period of time and possibly even improve upon it. Customer service, however, typically develops more slowly and is arguably more reflective of a company's ethos, attitude towards its customers and quality of staff and systems. Customer service is more personal, and therefore more difficult to replicate or establish very quickly. The companies with the best reputation for customer service have often built this up over a long period of time and it is hard for their competitors to replicate this. Therefore, there is some logic to what the author is saying.

However, the author is mistaken in other ways. This can be illustrated through current examples that undermine the author's assertion that customer service is likely to become the only sustainable source of competitive advantage.

Take Google, for example. Google has established significant competitive advantage through the quality of its technological development. The ongoing success of Google as it develops new products and expands into new areas of technology is directly attributable to the quality of its technological development. The past decade has shown that this competitive advantage is sustainable for Google and that it is not easy for competitors to replicate this.

A second example that undermines the author's assertion is Apple. Apple has succeeded in differentiating itself from its competitors through unique technological development, high levels of product integration across its range and exceptionally strong branding. None of these contributors to Apple's competitive advantage is dependent upon customer service, and the author gives no evidence to suggest that this could not continue.

In conclusion, while the author may be correct in identifying a trend towards intensified competition based on technological development and may also be correct in suggesting that customer service may provide a good potential route for gaining competitive advantage, he or she draws a conclusion that is far too strong. There is no good reason to agree with the assertion that customer service is likely to become the only sustainable source of competitive advantage.

(447 words)

___________________________________________________________
(p.s. I know, I used Google in both essays... lame, but nothing else came to mind. Would using a cliched example really matter?)
_________________

My debrief: 750-q48-v44-105269.html

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Re: First tries at AWA - please feel free to tear to shreds! :-) [#permalink] New post 20 Oct 2010, 09:31
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The essay is missing the remedial part.

Your points
1. "weak" cause and effect relationship between the drop and the legislation

2. without ruling out any other plausible factor we cannot evaluate the persuasiveness of the conclusion

3. Last point. Fab :-)
Freedom is the fundamental right of the people and cannot be surrendered for the sake of little incremental safety.


Revisions on 1 - 3 points :
The argument relies on the weak analogy between city of Barchester and the city of Spartanburg. The argument does not provide evidence to prove that city of Barchester and Spartanburg are comparable in size, population density or the crime rate. Unless the argument cites evidence to establish beyond doubt that the two cities are comparable, any advice to reduce the crime on the basis of incarceration will amount to poor advice. It is entirely possible that the sampled areas in Spartanburg have experienced a drop in population size, which has caused the overall crime percentage to drop without actually reducing the crime.

The argument relies on the weak cause and effect relationship between the legislation and falling crime rate in Spartanburg. It provides no evidence to substantiate the claim that legislation is the sole and the only cause of the reduction in crime rate. It is entirely possible that the argument has confused a mere correlation with cause and effect or there might be a third and unknown factor responsible for the reduction in the crime rate. Without completely ruling out any other plausible cause the advise that the crime can be curbed just on the basis of legislation looses its merit, whatsoever.

Finally, the advice given by the argument is tantamount to giving up the right to freedom. Freedom is the most fundamental and cherished virtue of the American constitution and cannot be surrendered for the sake of incremental safety, especially when the outcome of the legislation is unknown.

The first flaw – the weak analogy between city of Barchester and Spartanburg can be fixed by offering data or citing statistics to prove that the demographic trend, the population density and the factor like the crime rates are comparable in the two cities. The second flaw – the vague cause and effect relationship between the legislation and the falling crime rate can be remedied by providing studies or data to prove that legislation is the sole cause of crime reduction in the city of Spartanburg. Lastly, the argument should take a poll and concurrence from the residents of the city Barchester to prove beyond doubt that they are in favor of such legislation. Since it is not the legislation but it is the compliance with the law that is more important in curtailing the crime rate. All and all the argument is weak, vague and relies on several questionable assumptions. Hence it is not completely sound.

mattdrummer wrote:
Hi, I've done a couple of practice AWAs and am pretty sure I'm off track but not quite sure where. I've read the guide on here and the tips in one or two books but still feel a bit short of understanding what's required. If anyone has time to look at any of these and point out obvious ways I'm going wrong I'd really appreciate it.

Cheers,

Matt



Analyze Argument #1

ESSAY QUESTION:
The following appeared as part of a campaign statement for Velazquez, who is seeking election as alderman in the town of Barchester:

“Under Police Commissioner Draco, the city of Spartanburg began jailing people for committing petty crimes such as littering, shoplifting, and spraying graffiti. Criminals in Spartanburg must have understood that lawlessness would no longer be tolerated, because the following year Spartanburg saw a 20% drop in violent crimes such as homicide. Our town should learn from Commissioner Draco’s success, and begin a large-scale crackdown on petty crime.”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument, etc....

YOUR RESPONSE:
The campaign statement highlights a 20% drop in violent crimes in the city of Spartanburg and asserts that this outcome was achieved by adopting a policy of jailing people for committing petty crimes. It argues that there is a causal relationship between the policy and the drop in violent crimes, and therefore that Barchester can achieve the same outcome by adopting the same policy.

In order to evaluate this argument, it is therefore necessary to evaluate the evidence for this causal relationship. In order to demonstrate a causal relationship between an action and an outcome, one needs to show that there could have been no other cause of that outcome. However, the campaign statement does not address potential alternative causes of the drop in violent crimes.

Such an alternative cause could be, for example, a state-wide change in legislation on gun ownership. If such a change in legislation was effective, we may expect to see a drop in violent crime in all cities in the state or nation. To rule out such an alternative explanation it would be helpful to know whether rates of violent crime dropped in other cities that did not adopt the policy of jailing people for petty crime.

It would also be useful to know more about the situation in Spartanburg specifically, in order to see if there were any other policy or socio-economic changes that could provide an alternative explanation for the drop in violent crimes.

Without such evidence to hand, the argument is weak. The reader is left in a position where they must guess as to the legitimacy of the asserted cause and effect relationship.

Finally, the argument may be criticised on other grounds. It implies that the goal of reducing violent crimes is worth the cost of significantly curtailing people's liberty for minor crimes. This is a view that many people would disagree with, as it is widely recognised that one's freedom not to be imprisoned without good reason has such value that it can outweigh almost anything. A relevant example of this is the recent threat to civil liberties posed by anti-terror legislation. Although that legislation is designed to ensure people's safety, many people feel that the curtailment of their liberties is not a price worth paying for that extra safety.

In summary, the argument does not rule out alternative explanations for the drop in violent crimes in Spartanburg, and therefore does not establish causality between the policy and the drop in violent crimes. This means that it is not persuasive in drawing the conclusion that Barchester should follow the same example. In addition, the argument make assumptions, about the value of reducing violent crime at almost any cost, that many people would question or reject. It is not, therefore, a convincing argument.

(462 words)

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Re: First tries at AWA - please feel free to tear to shreds! :-) [#permalink] New post 21 Oct 2010, 08:16
Thanks nusmavrik that's really useful. I can see how both the style and content are different to what I'm used to, and can see the need to be a bit more methodical and explain my points in a clearer (more businesslike) way. Will definitely try to work more on giving potential remedies to flaws, I like what you did with my points!

Many thanks!
_________________

My debrief: 750-q48-v44-105269.html

Re: First tries at AWA - please feel free to tear to shreds! :-)   [#permalink] 21 Oct 2010, 08:16
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