How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 9 (result: 690)

Whew, that was close. By one raw-adjusted point, I hit 690, maintaining my target of rising 10 points each practice test. I’m making fewer maths errors – my critical eye for question types is starting to become experienced – but dropped a few on the verbals. This test seemed more difficult than the last.

Today’s essay practice:

Analysis of an argument

The following appeared as part of an article in the business section of a local newspaper.

‘Motorcycle X has been manufactured in the United States for over 70 years. Although one foreign company has copied the motorcycle and is selling it for less, the company has failed to attract motorcycle X customers – some say because its product lacks the exceptionally loud noise made by motorcycle X. But there must be some other explanation. After all, foreign cars tend to be quieter that similar American-made cars, but they sell at least as well. Also, television advertisements for motorcycle X highlight its durability and sleek lines, not its noisiness, and the ads typically have voice-overs or rock music rather than engine-roar on the sound track.’

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

The argument as presented is incomplete – and therefore poorly reasoned. The author implies that engineering is the only factor affecting a motorcycle buyer’s decision. Yet the decision to buy a motorcycle – indeed, any consumer product – depends at least in part on something else: its brand image.

Motorcycle X has been around for seven decades; it has weathered wars, recessions, and cheaper Asian imports. Its buyers may value their machines at least partly for the romance of this story. Even if the copy is of equal engineering excellence, the copy will find it hard to compete with the original; perhaps a bike can be duplicated, but a fascinating company history can’t. Yet the author fails to take this into account.

Similarly, engine noise alone is attractive only in the context of brand personality. The USA’s Harley-Davidson, for example, has patented its machines’ exhaust roar, so obviously a distinctive engine note has value. However, even if a copy could reproduce the Harley engine note exactly, it would be unlikely to attract true Harley buyers – because a strong brand image builds customer loyalty. Customer are buying the lifestyle evoked by the engine note, not how loud it is.

Nor is the author’s argument advanced by the reference to quieter cars. Cars are not motorcycles, and car buyers aren’t motorcycle buyers; a motorcycle buyer isn’t thinking about his bike’s practicality for shopping or the school run. The buying decision for a motorcycle is highly emotional. (If the author narrowed his argument to refer to sports cars only – also an emotionally-led decision – it might have more validity.) Perhaps advertisements for Motorcycle X concentrate on sleek lines and a rock soundtrack, but both these things also contribute to emotionality, not practicality.

In summary: this argument neglects the importance of brand. In any buying decision where emotion plays a part, brand image cannot be ignored, and so the author’s argument needs to take account of further factors to be valid.

FAULTS: I’d seen this question before, so felt out of sorts writing another essay on the same thing… but it’s not bad for that. But did I not concentrate enough on the core point of the prompt, about engine noise? This should have been an essay about why engine noise means nothing, rather than brand image I think. The last para feels clumsy, but I can’t see any typos. I’ll score myself a 5.

Analysis of an issue

Some employers who recruit recent college graduates for entry-level jobs evaluate applicants only on their performance in business courses such as accounting, marketing, and economics. However, other employers also expect applicants to have a broad background in such courses as history, literature, and philosophy.

Do you think that, in the application process, employers should emphasize one type of background –either specialization in business courses or a more varied academic preparation – over the other? Why or why not? Develop your position by using reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

For a specialised job such as civil engineering or database programming, employers may well benefit from recruiting people with a narrow range of qualifications. But for an entry-level post, where the candidate is expected to develop fresh skills and knowledge on the job, I believe the opposite is true of his background: the broader the better.

This is because the employer is recruiting a person, not a set of qualifications. A candidate’s performance at work is only partly due to her functional competency; results are also dictated by her ability to work with colleagues, to absorb new information, and to make decisions. My view is that a candidate with a broad education – including, perhaps, knowledge of the great ideas of philosophy and literature – is more likely to function effectively in a team than someone with great technical ability but little experience of the world’s rich patterns. Knowledge is one thing; the ability to apply it is another.

Furthermore, my belief here is not limited to entry-level jobs, nor jobs exclusively in the business world. A medical doctor, for example, obviously needs specialist training – but think of the larger part of his job: interacting with patients, reassuring them, understanding their fears. A broad knowledge of the world will allow the doctor to empathise with patients of various cultures and backgrounds. If a patient feels his doctor is taking an interest in him as a human being (rather than as an abstract case study) the patient is likely to feel more positive about his treatment and recovery.

Finally, aside from any employer goal, the job seeker himself should value a broad education for the perspective it gives; a broad education results in flexible, well-rounded people. If he’s interested in a range of subjects, he will grow old well-rounded and interesting. And in the intervening decades, his performance at work will be well-rounded and interesting too.

FAULTS: A good essay, I think. I’d have changed the last sentence of the first para though, to ‘I believe the opposite is true: the broader his background, the better’. Taking the ‘entry level’ as my first point, it segues into the broader point about recruitment in general, and ends on a warm note. Can’t see any typos; I’ll score myself a 6 here.