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how to tackle AWA Questions - with examples

Author Message
Board of Directors
Joined: 17 Jul 2014
Posts: 2692
Location: United States (IL)
Concentration: Finance, Economics
GMAT 1: 650 Q49 V30
GPA: 3.92
WE: General Management (Transportation)
how to tackle AWA Questions - with examples  [#permalink]

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28 Dec 2015, 10:54
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It is no surprise that AWA essay is based on an argument, which you have to prove that it is flawed.
How can we tackle such an argument? How do we find the flaws? Under time-pressure, the brain sometimes refuses to work, and thus, even flawed questions might seem difficult.
Well, AWA argument can be cracked easily, just the way any CR flaw is.

First of all, any flaw type of question can be categorized in one of the below:
1. improper comparison;
2. false causality;
3. use of limited sample;
4. failure to see the "big" picture.

Let's speak more of each category in detail.

1. Improper comparison.
A question with a flaw from this category will, usually, compare two entities that can't be compared, or that can be compared only in certain conditions.

Example:
Q from GMAT OG 2015:

“While trucking companies that deliver goods pay only a portion of highway maintenance costs and no property tax on the highways they use, railways spend billions per year maintaining and upgrading their facilities. The government should lower the railroad companies’ property taxes, since sending goods by rail is clearly a more appropriate mode of ground transportation than highway shipping. For one thing, trains consume only a third of the fuel a truck would use to carry the same load, making them a more cost-effective and environmentally sound mode of transport. Furthermore, since rail lines already exist, increases in rail traffic would not require building new lines at the expense of taxpaying citizens.”

Here we have trucking companies and railways.
the comparison is between these two types of businesses. One does not pay property taxes for the highways it uses, while the other one spends billions of dollars per year for railways. It is illogical to compare highways with railways. Highways are used not only by the trucking companies, but also by regular people. On the other hand, railways are exclusively used by a handful of companies (ex. BNSF/Santa Fe/etc.). Moreover, a load can be shipped by truck immediately, while it would take weeks, if not months, to wait until the load is shipped by railways.

2. False causality
A question that falls into this category tries to establish a cause-effect relationship of two or more unrelated events.

Example:
Q from GMAT OG 2015:

“Twenty years ago, only half of the students who graduated from Einstein High School went on to attend a college or university. Today, two-thirds of the students who graduate from Einstein do so. Clearly, Einstein has improved its educational effectiveness over the past two decades. This improvement has occurred despite the fact that the school’s funding, when adjusted for inflation, is about the same as it was 20 years ago. Therefore, we do not need to make any substantial increase in the school’s funding at this time.”

The argument states that more students attend college or university because the educational effectiveness of the Einstein High School has improved.
Cause - improved educational effectiveness
Effect - more students attend colleges or universities.

Based on this cause-effect relationship, the argument makes some deductions.

Note that we cannot attack the premises, as it is a fact that more students are attending colleges/universities. Nevertheless, we can attack the intermediate conclusion - E has improved educational effectiveness over the past two decades.

To solve this cause-effect questions, we can:
1. present alternate explanation of why the number of students who attend colleges/universities went up;
2. show that effectiveness happened after the number of students who attend colleges/universities went up;
3. it is the increased number of students that caused the effectiveness of the school, and not effectiveness caused the increased number.

as you can see, we already have at least 3 ideas to write about in the essay

3. Use of limited sample
A question falls into this category when the argument tries to generalize something based on a limited sample.

Example:
Q from GMAT OG 2015

“The common notion that workers are generally apathetic about management issues is false, or at least outdated: a recently published survey indicates that 79 percent of the nearly 1,200 workers who responded to survey questionnaires expressed a high level of interest in the topics of corporate restructuring and redesign of benefits programs.”

The argument cites a survey. 79% of 1,200 workers who responded expressed high level of interest in the topics of corporate restructuring and redesign of benefits programs.
We have a survey, that's a fact, we can't deny it. Nevertheless, the argument can be flawed because of those 1,200 surveyed workers, a majority, if not all, might be directly involved into these programs. Thus, if they are responsible for all the restructuring and redesign, of course they will present high interests in these topics. We can weaken the argument by mentioning the fact that the sample used for the survey is not representative, and thus the results of the survey is not representative.

4. failure to see the "big" picture.
In this type of question, the argument's assumption can be negated by providing additional information, which the author of the argument failed to take into consideration when writing it.

Example:
Q from GMAT OG 2015

“When the Apogee Company had all its operations in one location, it was more profitable than it is today. Therefore, the Apogee Company should close down its field offices and conduct all its operations from a single location. Such centralization would improve profitability by cutting costs and helping the company maintain better supervision of all employees.”

The argument claims that by centralizing the operations, the company would be more profitable as it was before. We can show that the conclusion is flawed by providing additional information such as:
1. the overall economy is in recession, thus, it is not the way how the company operates the key factor that led to worse profitability.
2. field offices's sales consist a huge part of the overall sales;
3. field office's costs are lower than costs of having 1 centralized office;
4. presenting the benefits of the field offices (direct relations with the customers in the areas), etc.

If one of the the above is true, then the argument is less believable.

I hope this helps
Board of Directors
Joined: 17 Jul 2014
Posts: 2692
Location: United States (IL)
Concentration: Finance, Economics
GMAT 1: 650 Q49 V30
GPA: 3.92
WE: General Management (Transportation)
Re: how to tackle AWA Questions - with examples  [#permalink]

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07 Dec 2016, 10:25
still good though
Re: how to tackle AWA Questions - with examples &nbs [#permalink] 07 Dec 2016, 10:25
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