Please help rate this AWA (ISSUE) - can i do it like this? : Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)
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17 Jan 2011, 11:12
I am wondering if I can write my essay like the below versus those standard pros and cons types . . .Will it score badly under the GMAT scoring system? Your ratings will be very much appreciated! Thks~!

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"In making a complex decision, one should trust experience more than instinct."
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.
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Some people think that in making a complex decision, one should trust experience more than instinct. Others think that in a similar situation, one should trust instinct more than experience. This issue is a controversial one but on closer examination reveals that in making a complex decision, one should trust experience more than instinct or vice-versa based on the context of the complex decision. Hence, I disagree with the position stated above.

There is a subtle link between instinct and experience in a sense that instincts are developed through experience. Without experience, one's instinct may not be as sharp as another’s. In this sense, instincts and experience are two sides of the same coin - that is acquired decision logic. The nuance lies in that decision based on instinct is usually immediate and less thorough whereas decision based on experience is usually slower and more thorough.

On one hand, there are certain complex decisions that are better based on instinct than on experience. Examples of such complex decisions are found in sports. Many sportsmen rely on instinct to make decisions that determine the outcome of a particular game. For example, in basketball, sportsmen make decisions, such as to whom should the ball be thrown to, based on instincts because the sportsmen are required to make these decisions instantaneously most of the time to gain leverage in the game. They do not have the time to reflect on their experiences in a fifteen-minute game.

On the other hand, certain complex decisions are better based on experience compared to instinct. Examples of such decisions are usually found in court cases. Judges based on experience and thorough examination of precedence to melt out punishment to criminals to ensure that the punishment is consistent for most criminals committing similar crimes. For example, a Poyang district judge’s punishment, which jailed the criminal for 10 months, for a criminal who stole from the elderly, is consistent with that of another similar criminal who also stole from an elderly. Without experience and solely basing their decision on instinct, judges would be melting out punishments rather randomly. This will not be fair to criminals who committed similar crimes. Imagine the Poyang district judge jailed the criminal for only 2 months but jailed his predecessor for 10 months under similar circumstances. Clearly in such context the complex decision is better based on experience than on instinct.

In summary, while there are arguments to be made in support for whether one should trust experience more than instinct or vice-versa, looking at the issue in this manner limits one's decision making capability. One's decision making capability can be stretched if one also considers the context of the decision and then decides whether to trust more of experience or instinct. Therefore, I disagree with the position stated above.
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20 Jan 2011, 11:17
Hmm. A very interesting question.

First of all, the standard answer to your question, in terms of advice that we (as those trained to teach GMAT prep) give to students studying for the test, is "No. Do not write your essay this way."

However, in the interests of full disclosure: Just to see what would happen, I wrote my GMAT essay similarly to this, where I insisted that the issue was more complicated and elaborated on that basis. And I received a 6.

What to make of these conflicting facts?

First of all, your essay is extraordinarily well-written, as I think my own was (I was a literature student in college and am a Ph.D. student now, so I am a very well-practiced expository writer). That does matter. You give tremendous examples and tremendous elaboration. If you really did do all this in 30 minutes (starting the timer from when you first read the prompt), then kudos to you, and I think you'll do fine on test day. If you didn't ... be very wary. Starting off this way and having to cut yourself short due to time will result in a low score, as opposed to the tried-and-true formulaic pro or con essay that, even if it's short, will always score a 4 minimum, a 5 usually, and that's good enough for anybody.

Second of all, despite committing the cardinal sin of "changing the topic," you really do make an effort to stay on topic. You state correctly that you disagree with the prompt because the prompt says "x is always true" and you believe that "x is sometimes true." IF you'd written this essay simply to say that "well, sometimes yes, and sometimes no," I'd say that you never took a clear stance on the Issue and I'd give you a 4. However, by consistently tying it back to their prompt and reiterating that your "sometimes" answer was meant as a response in disagreement with the prompt, you avoid this pitfall.

So, my conclusion is this:

Yes, you can write your essay this way, in theory. This particular essay is a clear 6.

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME if you cannot do just as good a job as ohfred did here, and do so in 30 minutes, in terms of clear writing, clear examples, and solid logical reasoning in the essay body.

The essay is ONLY acceptable because, despite taking a middle-of-the-road position, it continues to reference the topic and a clear stance on the topic. If the same essay left out those key sentences, it would drop immediately to a 4.

Finally: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. On test day, even to you, ohfred, I highly advise that you pick one of the two clear, extreme sides. It's just easier to do so. No, you don't "have" to ... but unless you're strongly compelled to attempt what you did here, why risk it? If you can do this so well, you can certainly do that well. The Green Bay Packers of the 60s ran power-sweep left and then power-sweep right. No one ever called them creative. We just called them Champions.
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21 Jan 2011, 04:51
Thks very much ! Yup, I am wary that I may go off track because of the position I took. And yes, it did take me longer than usual - the full 30 mins instead of the 25 - 27 mins - to write this essay. But I couldn't resist it. It's such a great topic to pass. I will play it safe on test day But just in case, I got carried away by my emotions (yup, I feel a lot for certain topics) on test day, at least I wouldn't be worrying so much during the 2 week-period before GMAT sends me my AWA score. Once again, thks a lot!
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