How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 7 (result: 680)

My fourth practice test gave me 680. Also, I scored my first ‘perfect’ sections – reading comprehension and critical reasoning – so I’m up to snuff on 2 of the 5 basic question types (reading comprehension, sentence correction, and critical reasoning for verbal; problem solving and data sufficiency in quant.)

Here are the essay practices; wrong questions post-mortem’d tommorow.

Analysis of an argument

The following appeared in a memorandum from the directors of a security and safety consulting service.

‘Our research indicates that over the past six years no incidents of employee theft have been reported within ten of the companies that have been our clients. In analyzing the security practices of these ten companies, we have further learned that each of them requires its employees to wear photo identification badges while at work. In the future, therefore, we should recommend the use of such identification badges to all of our clients.’

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.

This argument confuses correlation with causation. The policy recommendation itself may be sound, but additional research would strengthen the directors’ case. So to properly evaluate the argument’s validity, the following questions should be answered.

First, we need to review the context of that zero-theft-in-six-years statistic. Are all the company’s clients in the same market sector, with broadly similar business models? It’s relatively easy to control theft in a coded-entry office building, but much harder in an open warehouse employing casual workers. (Even if those workers are issued with ID badges.) The argument gains validity if the security firm’s clients share common characteristics, so like can be compared with like.

Second, identification badges alone may not prevent theft; they identify, but they don’t necessarily prohibit anything. Companies mandating the use of badges may well use them as part of a broader security strategy, in conjunction with coded entry doors, CCTV cameras, and plain locks and keys. Without the rest of the infrastructure, badges alone may be useless, and the directors needs to ascertain whether such infrastructure is important.

Third, just how big a problem is employee theft? Company A recording two thefts a month may have twice the problem of Company B, with a single theft each month. But if Company A has four times as many employees, its problem may be negligible. For the recommendation to be valid, it needs to take account of whether the cure is really better than the disease. The cost of an ID badge initiative – in staff unease, administrative overhead, and actual money – may be much higher than dealing with the occasional light-fingered worker. Sour as it may sound to an honest director, many businesses treat a low level of employee theft as a tolerable expense. (The retail sector even has a term for it: ‘shrinkage’, the unexplained difference between stock loaded onto a delivery vehicle and stock placed onto the shelves, often as high as 10%.)

In conclusion: this argument lacks solidity. Statistics without context cannot be used as the basis for a business recommendation, since without such support they’re meaningless. The directors of the security service will need to do more research to present a sound policy recommendation – and so will their clients.

FAULTS: I timed and paced myself well here, having the structure of the essay in place within five minutes and leaving five for proofreading. I can’t see any typos, and there’s a nice flow to it. I think this deserves a 6.

Analysis of an issue

‘As technologies and the demand for certain services change, many workers will lose their jobs. The responsibility for those people to adjust to such change should belong to the individual worker, not to government or to business.’

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your position with specific reasons and/or examples drawn from your reading, your observations, or your own experience.

I agree with the author’s opinion, on the basis it shows a pragmatic attitude towards the realities of today’s global economy. A hundred years ago, when there were only a few industrial powers and most jobs had changed little in generations, government guarantees or laws may have protected workers; in today’s fast-changing world, they often do the opposite.

For the individual worker, a government guarantee fosters complacency; why work hard, if your salary’s secure no matter what? Such beliefs, multiplied by millions of workers, drain businesses of dynamism. In a global economy, where jobs can be exported to the countries that want them most, such an attitude would reduce the worker’s job security, not protect it. In the UK during the 1980s, coal workers tried to force the British goverment to guarantee their jobs: the outcome was that Britain now buys much of its energy overseas, and the mining towns of the Northeast lie in poverty. This is the fundamental reason for workers to take personal responsibility for their livelihoods: nobody else can.

Government guarantees also reduce the number of jobs available, again making the ‘protected’ worker less secure than he might think. One example is France, with jobs so thickly protected there is no incentive for companies to create them. This brake on entrepreneurial expansion has held France’s economy back: for over 25 years its unemployment rate has been above 10%, among the highest in Europe.

Finally, if a worker knows his job is open to competitive pressures and carries no guarantee, he is more likely to develop an individual sense of responsibility – valuable qualities in any citizen. Look across Africa and Asia, the developing world: in every country are millions of hard-working, entrepreneurial people earning enough to feed their families despite great hardships. They work as hard as they can, because there’s no safety net; such people make fewer demands on the public purse, and are genuine contributors to the economy, not parasites on its back.

In conclusion, government guarantees tend to weaken national economies; therefore the individual worker has not only a responsibility, but an obligation to provide for himself, including retraining or relocating if necessary. In doing so, the national economy will grow and provide more opportunities – making it less likely he will ever need a government guarantee. As in other areas of life, taking personal responsibility is the best guarantee of all.

FAULTS: not a bad essay, but for some reason I felt panicky writing it. Is it weak on why the worker should take responsibility, and too heavy on his attitude’s effect on the broader economy? Hmmm. Not sure about this one. I’ll score myself a 5.

Wither the Government?

With John Reid jumping before he gets pushed by Brown, it’s easy to forget that Blair hasn’t actually set a date yet… although it’s all over bar the shouting. This is more good news, setting the scene for a Conservative comeback in two years.

First, Brown hasn’t got many friends with the balls to handle a Cabinet post – actually, Ed Balls is one of the few. And there’s a growing realisation in Labour ranks that they won’t actually be in power much longer. Brown’s Cabinet will be incompetent.

Which brings us to the second problem. Not being a team player, Brown’s decisions will be made by a tiny cabal of (mostly Scottish) people close to him, the same way he co-opted countless government policies by commissioning ‘independent spending reviews’ of other departments’ plans whenever someone had a policy he didn’t like. This will alienate whatever Cabinet he puts together. No Cabinet Minster in a Brown government will be in the job for long.

With last week’s local elections handing another 12 councils to the Tories (and handing Scotland to the SCOTS, what a concept!) he won’t have the power base in town halls that Blair could always rely on. The countrywide network of people able to push things through no longer exists; his decisions won’t have the authority to be carried through or bedded down.

Britain’s hard-pressed middle class – the group of voters that gave New Labour a chance – has now HAD ENOUGH, and won’t fall for the same line again. Taxes are too high, public services offer too little value, and EVERYONE knows it. But with massive spending pledges still in effect from Brown’s Chancellor years, there’s no room to cut taxes to appease us. Brown is trapped.

Finally, with New Labour’s support in freefall, Brown’s favourite tricks – disappearing whenever the heat’s on, sneaking new policies in through the backdoor – will be used even more often, and become even more obvious to the electorate. Making it even less likely that he’ll win a term on his own mandate.

Altogether, a good week for European politics. Conservatism is taking its rightful place as the natural party of government once more.

Sarkozy wins!

Well done Nick! Now France, that most amazing of countries culturally and geographically, will retake its rightful place as a forward-looking economy. At last, Britain will have some competition in Europe, after decades of France on its knees thanks to decades of feckless socialism.

What happens next? Well, the right-wing, American-admiring Sarkozy will abolish the ridiculous web of thickly layered social contracts that stifle employment and act as a disincentive for companies to grow. Then, he’ll attack the spending ministries, and get France’s budget down to something less than suicidal levels. After that he’ll rebuild France’s relations with the USA, and break the backs of the unions. And on Friday, he’ll leave early and relax with a glass of wine. He’s still French, after all.

France today looks a lot like Britain in 1979, with somewhat better food. Assuming Cameron can wing it through the next two horrible years of Gordon Brown, there’s space for an incredible France-UK partnership between Sarkozy and Cameron. The next ten years are going to be interesting…