How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 5 (result: 670)

Time for my third practice test. 113 questions, 52 quant and 61 verbal. 13 wrong quants and 10 wrong verbals – whoooo, slipped up on my English there, although there were more questions in the test. Corrected raw scores of 36 and 49 lead to a combined 85, equalling 670/800. Still on target!

Here’s the pair of essays:

Analysis of an issue

“None of the major problems confronting the world can be contained within the borders of a single country, and no country can, through its own efforts, be protected from these threats. Therefore the United State must work, on an equal basis, with all other countries of the world to try to lessen the impact of the many global threats that confront us in the twenty-first century.”

Discuss whether you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Provide supporting evidence for your views and use reasons and/or examples from your own experiences, observations, or reading.

While I agree with the author’s premise – that global threats need international responses – I disagree with his conclusion: that the USA should work on an ‘equal basis’ with all other countries from Britain to Bhutan. Because solving any complex issue requires leadership as well as collaboration … and for all its faults, the USA is well placed to provide that leadership.

Climate change is one such issue. A six degree rise in average temperature would destroy all plant and animal life on Earth – and on some projections, it’s less than three decades away. Surely the most global issue of all. Americans may be the world’s biggest polluters per head of population, yet this air-conditioner loving, gas-guzzling nation is a leading developer of biofuels and has given birth to the Tesla, an all-electric sports car which can be charged from a normal power socket. By bringing innovative technology to the world, the USA is positioned to offer practical solutions rather than endless talk and hand-wringing.

Islamic terrorism is another such issue. With 500m people educated principally in religious matters rather than the practical subjects that build better economies (over 80% of the curriculum in Saudi Arabia is religious!) the Middle East is a box of dynamite too close to the fire. The European Union, composed of 27 nations with differing beliefs, has been unable to assimilate its large Muslim population – unlike the USA, where most people think of themselves as Americans first. Despite the horrendous mistakes made in recent years – which were, after all, made by a relatively small and now falling number of neoconservatives – the USA can still provide leadership in fighting terrorism, wherever it happens.

In conclusion, I believe that while the USA must work (and think of itself) as part of a team comprising all nations, within that team, it’s the best candidate for the leader’s role.

FAULTS: Too rushed at the end – finished with only 2sec to spare – so not a great last para; the sentences are too clumsy. Climate change and terrorism are the obvious global issues, so no time wasted dreaming up examples. In the third para, I should have explained why Muslims thinking of themselves as ‘Americans first’ is important: i.e. demonstrated that this ability to assimilate is a quality providing useful leadership.

The paragraphs are unusually big by my standards. But I can’t see any typos, and the grammar’s varied and correct. So it’s a reasonable essay that I’d score myself a 4 or 5 for.

Analysis of an argument

The following appeared as part of an editorial in a business magazine:

“Studies show that Americans with PhDs in the humanities and social sciences earn less than Americans with MBA degrees. The average amount of time that it takes to earn a PhD in one of these fields is five years after college graduation, while an MBA can be earned in just two or three years. It is, therefore, a waste of time and resources to have some of America’s brightest young people studying subjects such as literature and philosophy when they are destined to earn less money and pay less in taxes than a person with an MBA. The government should discontinue all funds directed towards students pursuing PhDs in the social sciences and humanities since this is a waste of taxpayer money.”

Examine this argument and present your judgement on how well reasoned it is. In your discussion, analyse the author’s position and and how well the author uses evidence to support the argument. For example, you may need to question the author’s underlying assumptions or consider alternative explanations that may weaken the conclusion. You can also provide additional support for or arguments against the author’s position, describe how stating the argument differently makes it more reasonable, and discuss what provisions may better equip you to evaluate its thesis.

This argument is exceptionally poorly reasoned. The author’s position is that money is everything – that the amount of tax a graduate pays over his lifetime is the sole indicator by which the value of a postgraduate degree should be judged. The author completely neglects the non-monetary value of the humanities and those who study them – most notably their contribution to the vibrancy and intellectual culture of the USA, without which MBA programmes would find it much harder to thrive.

The author’s argument fails first at the individual level. For those taking a doctorate in literature or social science, postgraduate salary is less important than the chance to develop great intellectual concepts. Graduates will create and disseminate new insights into the great ideas that underpin civilisations … adding fresh contours to the USA’s intellectual landscape. This is a valuable contribution to the nation – but it is not measured in a tax return form.

The argument also fails at a higher level: that of the US economy as a whole. A broad and diverse aspect to a country’s intellectual life will attract fee-paying students, economy-strengthening businesses, and a high quality of immigrant. In addition, it will equip US citizens (PhDs or not) with the cultural and social knowledge that makes them more effective at their jobs (and hence better able to achieve high salaries and pay high taxes.) All increasing the amount of revenue going to the US government in total.

A country’s intellectual diversity is critical in one final sense: it adds to that country’s standing in the world. The USA’s universities are admired worldwide, and some 40 of the world’s top 50 business schools are within its borders. It can be inferred that top MBA programmes can only exist in parallel with a broad and diverse intellectual life – of which the social sciences and humanities are a part.

The author’s case is poorly reasoned, and does not make the case for abolishing PhD programmes in the softer sciences. MBAs are not everything!

FAULTS: Another one rushed at the end, but I think I get away with it. However, am I banging on about ‘intellectual diversity’ too much and missing other points? I hope not. My fourth para isn’t quite complete; there should be something about how this ‘standing in the world’ creates more money for the US Treasury. The point would have been easy to make: about humanities creating the bedrock for further economic activity.

I don’t see any typos, and I’ve used varied grammar in my sentences. Can I dare to think this would be a 6?

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