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Manhattan - Tarquinia - Rate my essay and I'll do the same!

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Manhattan - Tarquinia - Rate my essay and I'll do the same! [#permalink] New post 12 Jan 2013, 15:10
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Hi, this is the first essay I've written. I used a prompt from the Manhattan GMAT IR/AWA book. I gave myself 30 minutes strictly, though I did not write particularly urgently. I was happy because my Flesch/Flesch-Kincaid scores came out really well, but I am uncomfortable with a number of issues, and would really appreciate your feedback:

1) In re-reading my essay, I found a number of grammatical errors (at least one that I would characterize as glaring).
2) As I wound down to 30 minutes, I decided I did not need a concluding paragraph. In re-reading, I believe I DO need a conclusion, and I could have accomplished it in just two sentences.
3) I did not use any of the few recommended structures/layouts that I've seen for AWA. I believe I have an established voice and style that I'd like to keep if possible. Do you believe, in contrast, that it would be much safer and better to just use a simple recommended structure I find on this forum? If doing so has very little downside but great upside, I would try to adopt the structure from "How to get a 6.0 AWA: My Guide" in this forum.
4) In the same vein, I did not use any of the recommended vocab (at least not purposefully) in tackling the prompt.

I have just started studying a few weeks ago and haven't been able to dive into AWA prep (and this AWA forum) deeply yet, but I would greatly appreciate if you could grade my essay, given your experience and the other essays you may have read and graded, or seen graded.

PROMPT:
The country of Tarquinia has a much higher rate of traffic accidents per person than its neighbors, and in the vast majority of cases one or more drivers is found to be at fault in the courts. Therefore, Tarquinia should abolish driver-side seatbelts, airbags, and other safety measures that protect the driver, while new cars should be installed with a spike on the steering column pointed at the driver's heart. These measures will eliminate traffic accidents in Tarquinia by motivating drivers to drive safely.

ESSAY:
This argument is not well-reasoned, reaching an extreme conclusion using both questionable premises and flawed logic extending from those premises.

Initially, the author of the argument establishes that the country of Tarquinia has a much higher rate of traffic accidents per capita when compared with rates of traffic accidents in neighboring countries. Because in the “vast majority of cases” the courts of Tarquinia find one or more drivers to be at fault, the argument presumes that, in fact, the drivers of Tarquinia are the key reason for traffic accidents. Here, the author’s argument fails to consider both what it means in a Tarquinian court to be a driver “at fault,” and whether the decisions made by the Tarquinian court should be treated as fact. Conceivably, to be “at fault” in a Tarquinian court does not indicate that a driver directly caused an accident through negligence or malice. Additionally, it’s possible that the courts of Tarquinia are untrustworthy, and their decisions unwarranted.

Even if the above premises are taken as true, the author of the argument fails to convincingly prove that his policy of increasing the likelihood of injury (really, of death) to drivers in the case of an accident would eliminate the behavior he assumes now causes many traffic accidents. The author ignores a number of other factors which influence driver behavior and ought to be considered in creating a policy to reduce Tarquinian traffic accidents – road and street quality, city planning, automobile quality, distractions such as mobile phones, and more. Instead, the author’s policy, to abolish in-automobile driver protections and add a spike to the steering wheel of each new car, assumes that the reason drivers behave in a manner which causes a higher rate of traffic accidents is because the drivers feel safe, and therefore empowered to drive more recklessly. If Tarquinians are humans without a dramatically different culture of life and death, it seems unlikely that the protections of seat belts and air bags would encourage drivers to behave in a manner that increases the likelihood of getting hit by thousands of pounds of steel and gasoline.

Perhaps, though, feeling protected does cause Tarquinian drivers to be more reckless. In that case, the author’s recommended policy adjustments still do not serve as logical solutions to the problem he has presented. First, the vast majority of cars on the road for many years would likely still be old cars, with seatbelts, airbags, and a noticeable lack of spikes-pointed-at-drivers’-hearts. The policy would presumably have no effect on the drivers of these cars. Second, it seems safe to assume that new cars under the author’s policy would not be very popular. If Tarquinian drivers decided instead to retain old cars – technologically inferior, run-down cars - for years longer than they used to, the policy could actually increase traffic accidents due to decreasing the average quality of car on the road. Finally, to severely endanger drivers might eliminate traffic accidents as new cars took to the road – by eliminating traffic! The ramifications of eliminating all traffic would certainly be as significant, if not much more so, as the currently elevated rate of traffic accidents.



Thank you SO MUCH!!!
- Calvin
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Re: Manhattan - Tarquinia - Rate my essay and I'll do the same! [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2013, 14:04
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My score is 5.0. This essay contains a well-developed critique of the argument and demonstrates good control of the elements of effective writing.

4.0. Identifies and capably analyzes important features of the argument


This strong essay clearly identifies several important features of the argument. The first paragraph of the analysis focuses on the expression "one or more drivers is found to be at fault in the courts". The analysis clearly explains that courts may or may not be objective, and that being "at fault" may have different meaning. The analysis then makes a strong transition by assuming that one or more drivers are usually directly at fault by negligence or malice (the analysis clearly implies this meaning), and proceeds to carry a further analysis under this assumption.

The second paragraph is a little weaker from a logical point of view.
Quote:
The author ignores a number of other factors which influence driver behavior and ought to be considered in creating a policy to reduce Tarquinian traffic accidents – road and street quality, city planning, automobile quality, distractions such as mobile phones, and more.

It cannot be said that the author ignores these other factors. He simply assumes that the fear of a spike in the center of a steering wheel would outweight the desire to use a cellphone or to drive quickly in poor weather.

Quote:
Instead, the author’s policy, to abolish in-automobile driver protections and add a spike to the steering wheel of each new car, assumes that the reason drivers behave in a manner which causes a higher rate of traffic accidents is because the drivers feel safe, and therefore empowered to drive more recklessly.

As far as I can see, there is no judgment in the original argument labeling drivers as reckless. Instead, the author simply intends to motivate the drivers to driver more safely, whatever the weather or the road conditions may be. Of course, "more safely" is relative.

The last paragraph, however, identifies and analyzes several more important features of the argument. Specifically, if the proposed measures would only affect new cars, then the drivers may keep using old cars and thus even increase the rate of traffic accidents. Note, however, that the old cars will still have no air bags and no seat belts. This regulation would apply to all cars.

The analysis ends with a very insightful observation:
Quote:
Finally, to severely endanger drivers might eliminate traffic accidents as new cars took to the road – by eliminating traffic! The ramifications of eliminating all traffic would certainly be as significant, if not much more so, as the currently elevated rate of traffic accidents.

The analysis demonstrates that the new measures may actually reduce the rate of the traffic accidents in an unexpected way - by significantly reducing the amount of traffic. However, the analysis does not develop this insightful observation, only noting that "The ramifications... would certainly be as significant..." The word "significant" is too ambiguous to draw any conclusions. For example, this observation may be followed by a suggestion that it is better to leave the current rate of traffic accidents as it is than to reduce it at this cost.

The paper still fails to identify several other key features of the argument. (This is why I consider it adequate in terms on identifying and analyzing important features of the argument, but not strong. Most other graders will probably consider it strong, "5.0. clearly identifies important features...", since the paper mentioned and analyzed so many nontrivial issues. It is just that the prompt it highly nontrivial and can be analyzed in great depth.)
    1. There is not enough evidence to assume that the rate of traffic accidents per person in Tarquinia is unreasonably high. Tarquinia may have a higher rate of accidents than its neighbors because of a different landscape, or simply because it has a stronger economy and thus more cars. The drivers in the neighboring countries may also be found at fault in their courts. In fact, it is reasonable to assume that any sensible country would try to establish such rules and regulations so as to minimize the rate of the traffic accidents, provided that all drivers are following the rules, not driving when they are tired, etc. (I am leaving aside the issue of the losses to the economy because of e.g. an unreasonably low speed limit slowing down the transfer of the goods.) Indeed, the Wikipedia article on "Traffic collision" cites a 1985 report based on British and American crash data that found driver error, intoxication and other human factors contribute wholly or partly to about 93% of crashes. Also note that we do not know how the rate of accidents is computed: it may include minor accidents that are of no consequence.
    2. The measures proposed in the argument are impossible to carry out in practice.
    The paper fails to point out the sheer absurdity of the proposal. If the government or some other authority tried to actually force the abolition of the seat belts, air bags, and particularly to install the spikes in the new cars, it is very likely that most people wouldn't comply. Such a proposal would have to be enforced with an army and may end up in street protests or even a revolution.
    3. Making drivers more dangerous does not necessarily motivate them to driver safely
    If serious traffic accidents are indeed a problem for Tarquinia, one would naturally assume that the drivers in Tarquinia and elsewhere would already be motivated to drive safely. (This was mentioned in the paper: "it seems unlikely that the protections of seat belts and air bags would encourage drivers to behave in a manner that increases the likelihood of getting hit by thousands of pounds of steel and gasoline".) Indeed, most people do not expect to get in a serious accident. Making driving more dangerous is probably not going to motivate the drivers to take smaller risks. Consider motorcycle drivers as an example of those who are less protected yet, it seems, often take much larger risks.

    The paper did address this issue tangentially by mentioning that the Tarquinians may have a very different culture of life and death - something I personally did not think about. However, this issue should've been developed in more detail instead of just leaving it as an unlikely border case. A more insightful analysis could consider how an increased danger would affect driver's behavior, concluding that the drivers are not necessarily going to be risk-averse even in a typical Western civilization. Indeed, the question is complicated even further when we are talking about some unknown country. (Then it is not even clear if we should be trying to reduce the rate of the traffic accidents.)


5.0. Develops ideas clearly, organizes them logically, and connects them with appropriate transitions


The development of the ideas is clear, logical, and easy to follow.
I can find only one sentence with questionable logic:
Quote:
The author ignores a number of other factors which influence driver behavior and ought to be considered in creating a policy to reduce Tarquinian traffic accidents – road and street quality, city planning, automobile quality, distractions such as mobile phones, and more.

It is not quite clear how, for example, city planning would influence driver behavior, particularly since city planning is something relative constant, yet driver behavior may be changing every day.
It appears that the author of the paper meant to say here that road and street quality, city planning, etc. may influence the rate of the traffic accidents, not the driver behavior, but then this point is not directly relevant.

Aside from this sentence, the writing is strong, cogent, and the ideas are developed clearly. Transitions are used masterfully. For example,
Quote:
Even if the above premises are taken as true, the author of the argument fails to convincingly prove that his policy of increasing the likelihood of injury (really, of death) to drivers in the case of an accident would eliminate the behavior he assumes now causes many traffic accidents.


However, the writing clearly lacks a definite conclusion. As was already explained, the last sentence mentions "significant ramifications" - not a particularly strong ending. This is the only reason why I am not giving it 6 points for development and organization.


5.0. Sensibly supports the main points of the critique


For example,
Quote:
Because in the “vast majority of cases” the courts of Tarquinia find one or more drivers to be at fault, the argument presumes that, in fact, the drivers of Tarquinia are the key reason for traffic accidents. Here, the author’s argument fails to consider both what it means in a Tarquinian court to be a driver “at fault,” and whether the decisions made by the Tarquinian court should be treated as fact. Conceivably, to be “at fault” in a Tarquinian court does not indicate that a driver directly caused an accident through negligence or malice. Additionally, it’s possible that the courts of Tarquinia are untrustworthy, and their decisions unwarranted.

Here the possibility that the courts of Tarquinia are untrustworthy sensibly supports the possibility that the drivers of Tarquinia may not be the key reason for traffic accidents: unfair courts may indeed misattribute the accidents. The second point could be made a little bit clearer. It is conceivable that "to be at fault" in a Taquinian courts does not indicate that a driver directly caused an accident through negligence or malice. However, the paper does not make explicit the consequences of this conceivable possibility. If a driver did not cause an accident through negligence or malice, it is unclear if the driver may still be a "key reason for the traffic accident". Thus, in this case the critique partially retains the same ambiguity that was present in the original argument. A more effective critique could explicitly connect the possibility that the drivers may not be guilty of negligence or malice with the possibility that the new measures (such as abolishing seat belts) may not rectify the situation with the traffic accidents.

The only factual mistake in the support of the critique that I could find is
Quote:
First, the vast majority of cars on the road for many years would likely still be old cars, with seatbelts, airbags, and a noticeable lack of spikes-pointed-at-drivers’-hearts.

In fact, it is clear from the original argument that the intention is to abolish the seat belts and air bags on the currently existing (old) cars. Hence the "while new cars..."


6.0. Demonstrates superior control of language, including diction and syntactic variety and the conventions of standard written English. There may be minor flaws


The language is rich, the sentence structure is varied, the control is masterful. For example,
Quote:
Here, the author’s argument fails to consider both what it means in a Tarquinian court to be a driver “at fault,” and whether the decisions made by the Tarquinian court should be treated as fact.

This is an example of highly varied sentence structure: in this case we have "...fails to consider both what... and whether..." As a sidenote, "treated as fact" should perhaps be changed to "treated as facts".

Quote:
Instead, the author’s policy, to abolish in-automobile driver protections and add a spike to the steering wheel of each new car, assumes that the reason drivers behave in a manner which causes a higher rate of traffic accidents is because the drivers feel safe, and therefore empowered to drive more recklessly.

Another great example. Note the correct use of the appositive: "policy, to abolish..., assumes". "the reason... is because" should usually be changed to "the reason... is that".

Quote:
Second, it seems safe to assume that new cars under the author’s policy would not be very popular

I'd say it would be nice to insert something like "produced": "...cars produced under..." I am not really sure.

Overall the paper is polished and almost free of errors, both major and minor. The vocabulary is rich and diverse: "recklessly", "empowered", . Which grammatical error did you characterize as glaring?







It looks like you are a very good writer with your own style. You know how to improve your own writing, so make sure to leave yourself a few minutes in the end to re-read and double-check everything, making sure that everything flows smoothly from the beginning to the end. (Do write a conclusion.)
I may be wrong, but if I were you, I would not use any templates. Practice writing a few essays, and you will be almost sure to get at least 5.0, or perhaps a 6.0.

Ask other experts, though. I did get 6.0 myself and 780 combined score, but this is about as much as I know about the exam. I have just solved through the official book, did the official two tests, wrote a couple of practice essays, and that was about it. So I don't know for sure.
_________________

Sergey Orshanskiy, Ph.D.
I tutor in NYC: http://www.wyzant.com/Tutors/NY/New-Yor ... ref=1RKFOZ

Re: Manhattan - Tarquinia - Rate my essay and I'll do the same!   [#permalink] 14 Jan 2013, 14:04
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