How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 1 (result: 640)

Today’s the first day of my plan. A practice test with 113 questions, 61 verbal and 52 quant. I get a raw scores of 51 and 39, corrected to 49 and 36. The combined corrected 83 gives me a projected GMAT of 640. Okay from a cold start I suppose.

Post mortem of the questions I got wrong comes tomorrow, but here are the sample (unscored) essays:

Analysis of an issue

“Business relations are infected through and though with the disease of short-sighted motives. We are so concerned with immediate results and short-term goals that we fail to look beyond them.”

Assuming that the term ‘business relations’ can refer to the decisions and actions of any organization – for instance, a small family business, a community association, or a large international corporation – explain the extent to which you think that this criticism is valid. In your discussion of the issue, use reasons and/or examples from your own experience, your observations of others, or your reading.

I disagree with the author – but not completely. His concerns about short-sighted decisions obscuring an organization’s long-term strategy are valid. But I believe he’s working from a false premise: that long-term relations exist independently of actions taken today.

Any ‘Strategy Document’ setting out a company’s long-term goals tends to be written by management or marketers – not the far larger number of people whose daily actions and attitudes directly affect customers, corporate culture, and the bottom line. Indeed, the existence of such a document can have a negative impact on the workforce – a ‘commandment from on high’, something to be sneered at, rather than guided by.

In the USA today, the average worker stays in a job less than seven years; to Mr Smith from Sales, ‘long-term’ may mean no more than hitting his targets this quarter – especially if failure means his family will go hungry. Making that Friday afternoon sale is far more important to him than acting in strict accordance with a mission statement. It’s an immediate need – with an immediate action. Long-term business goals are driven by thousands of decisions like these, bubbling up from the shopfloor. They’re not independent entities.

Besides, who can decide what’s ‘long-term’ and what isn’t? In Japan in 2006, a family enterprise, Kongo Gumi, closed its doors – after being in business for more than fourteen centuries! Kongo was in the business of building temples, and had been since 578 AD. But even that long-term strategy wasn’t enough to save it: decisions taken in the 90s, which doubtless seemed like sensible long-term planning at the time, drove it into bankruptcy.

However reluctantly a CEO might admit it, long-term goals – in any organization – are simply the side-effects, over time, of the actions of the organisation. This isn’t a bad thing. After all, it means they can change.

FAULTS: Too much confusion about business goals and business relations here. Should have put ‘in the 90s to invest in land’ in Kongo para! The last paragraph is hurried and does not tie up the essay effectively. I’d score myself 4 or 4.5 out of 6.

Analysis of an argument

The following appeared as part of a campaign to sell advertising time on a local radio station to local businesses.

“The Cumquat Cafe began advertising on our local radio station this year and was delighted to see its business increase by 10 percent over last year’s totals. Their success shows you how you can use radio advertising to make your business more profitable.”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. You can also discuss what, if anything, would make the argument more sound and persuasive or would help you to better evaluate its conclusion.

Radio advertising works for many companies – and seems to have worked for the Cumquat Cafe. But any business thinking of driving sales with jingles and scripts should do its homework before making a decision – because an ad, created to portray the station in the best light, will never give the full story.

Firstly, the ad doesn’t say anything about the local economy. How fast has business as a whole been growing this year? Several world economies are growing at over 10%. If the Cafe’s in a certain region of China or India, its little slice of the economy may actually be shrinking.

Secondly, assuming that 10% figure is accurate, has the ad itself – paid for by the station, not the Cumquat Cafe – driven much of the new business at the Cafe, merely by repeatedly mentioning it on air? If the market value of this ‘free’ advertising is higher than the 10% growth spurt the Cafe enjoyed, it suggests radio is actually a poor media choice – with the campaign’s cost exceeding the incremental business generated.

Thirdly, the ad implies any business can benefit from radio advertising – quite a claim. If the station is a drivetime favorite, and the Cafe is located on a street used by 60% of local workers between 5 and 8pm, it may well be capable of bringing hordes of hungry workers through Cumquat’s doors every evening. But would those same people be as hungry for engineering parts?

Finally, the ad claims business ‘increase(d) by 10 percent over last year’s totals.’ This may refer to turnover – not profits. If costs increased by 11 percent, the Cafe lost money. In addition, when did the Cafe start up in business? If this is only its second year, a 10% hike in business would be far from sizzling; many new businesses double in size annually in their early years.

Radio advertising may well be an excellent way for local businesses to drive sales. But anyone encouraged to advertise their business by this method needs more information about both Cumquat Cafe and the radio station – because correlation does not mean causation.

FAULTS: Did I analyze the line of reasoning – which was that advertising on this station would drive new business for you? It’s not even clear this was a radio ad – I assumed it. Should I leave lines between paras, or indent paras? Will ask on test day to make sure. But for 30mins work, I think this essay is reasonable, and probably a 5.

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