How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 13 (result: 690)

OK, I’ve hit the hump. Officially. Three 690s in a row, but I think I know why, and I’ve decided once again: those GMAT people are clever bastards.

Practice tests contain questions mixed in difficulty. To simulate the Computer Adaptive nature of the real GMAT – where questions get harder as you get more right in a row – many practice tests are split into sections in a way the real GMAT isn’t: six sections of reading comprehension, critical reasoning, sentence correction, two kinds of problem solving, and data sufficiency. One of these sections will be VERY HARD.

What this does is simulate your actual GMAT score rather accurately. Here’s why:

If all the questions in a section are above your ability, you’ll get a large number in that section wrong, and the method of working out your simulated score out of 800 – which involves ‘corrected raw scores’ – drives your score for that section down by a disproportionate amount. (To get a corrected raw score you take the number of questions you got wrong for Q or V in total, divide it by 4, subtract that figure from your total right, add 0.5, and ignore anything on the right of the decimal point. That’s your corrected raw score, at least for these on-paper practice tests.)

If all the sections were of equal toughness, then once your abilities reached a certain level you’d score basically 100% on every question, and the which means that figure divided by 4 plus 0.5 will decrease your corrected raw score by a higher amount… leading to greater GMAT accuracy. I think.

Today’s sentence correction questions were hard, and it shows: 3 wrong and a further 5 (which I’ll review tomorrow) I was very doubtful about, in just 22 questions.

Today’s essays…

ANALYSIS OF AN ARGUMENT

Directions: In this section, you will be asked to write a critique of the argument presented below. Note that you are not being asked to present your own views on the subject. Instead, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking, what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion, or what sort of evidence could help strengthen or refute the argument. Time—30 minutes

The following appeared in a magazine article on trends and lifestyles.

“In general, people are not as concerned as they were a decade ago about regulating their intake of red meat and fatty cheeses. Walk into the Heart’s Delight, a store that started selling organic fruits and vegetables and wholegrain flours in the 1960’s, and you will also find a wide selection of cheeses made with high butterfat content. Next door, the owners of the Good Earth Café, an old vegetarian restaurant, are still making a modest living, but the owners of the new House of Beef across the street are millionaires.”

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.

The merits of wholegrains over animal fats are worthy of crunchy debate, but the author fails to put his case convincingly. His position is that a snapshot of local retailers suggests consumers are not concerned about the health risks of cheese and meat – but economics may not correlate with attitudes.

Questioning his first point: how long has the Heart’s Delight been selling cheese? Perhaps longer than ten years? The store’s opening focus on wholegrains and organic produce may have coalesced out of the hippy movement, rather than the health boom; in this case, the store’s marketing strategy is about novelty, not health, and the varieties of cheese on its shelves may simply be a response to a fad.

Similarly, his second source, the success of a steakhouse, also looks at the matter from a questionable perspective. The economic success of one restaurant is no guide to the popularity of a cuisine; the House of Beef may be managed by professional managers and the Good Earth Cafe by well-meaning but confused bohemians. Or perhaps prime beef carries a much higher profit margin at retail. Comparing the two restaurants is comparing oranges and apples. (Or in this case, lentil soup and Porterhouse steaks.)

Finally, have people EVER been concerned about their ‘intake’ of red meat and fatty cheeses? Decades back, the West’s economy was weaker than today; for many people cheese and meat were expensive luxuries. (In 1960s Britain, ‘A chicken in every pot’ was the proud election slogan of a Prime Minister!) If consumers previously showed a preference for carrots and beans over Roquefort and fillet mignon, the decision may have been made by their pockets rather than their stomachs.

To sum up, a long economic boom in the West has led to higher disposable incomes and greater consumer choice. (Outside France and Italy, how many varieties of cheese were even obtainable on any 1960s High Street?) This increased choice may well have led to higher consumption of animal fats; it may even be attributable to a decline in concerns over health. But the pieces of evidence the author presents do not add weight to his argument. Correlation is not causation.

FAULTS: Quite a good essay; it uses more concrete language (naming cheeses and meats rather than using generic nouns, to add colour) and each point adds weight to the case against. But am I more concerned with beating the author up, rather than examining his evidence? Something to watch. I’ll give myself a 5.

ANALYSIS OF AN ISSUE

Directions: In this section, you will need to analyze the issue presented below and explain your views on it. The question has no “correct” answer. Instead, you should consider various perspectives as you develop your own position on the issue. Read the statement and the instructions that follow it, and then make any notes in your test booklet that will help you plan your response.

“The rise of multinational corporations is leading to global homogeneity*. People everywhere are beginning to want the same products and services, and regional differences are rapidly disappearing.” *homogeneity: sameness, similarity

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion expressed above. Support your point of view with reasons and/or examples based on your own experiences, your observations, or your reading.

It’s true that many High Streets look remarkably similar these days: a Gap, a Starbucks, a Barclays. And the business pages contain the same global names: Microsoft, Nike, CNN. But these world-girdling corporations are also driving economic expansion – and in a growing economy, variety and freshness can thrive.

Global names expand opportunities for smaller businesses, by creating an environment in which the niche and the customised can find markets. When Howard Schultz opened the first Starbucks, the idea of paying $3 for a coffee – let alone choosing from six bean-growing nations or an extra shot of espresso – seemed absurd. Yet a billion consumers have since been educated to appreciate great coffee. And the number of specialist coffee houses has grown massively on the back of this trend.

Similarly, would the world’s £67bn software industry exist without Microsoft? Like it or hate it, Windows provides a standard platform on which innovation can grow. If the market for a software application runs to 400 million people – rather than a hodgepodge bunch of enthusiasts all running different operating systems – that software application becomes a viable business, with a greater chance of attracting venture capital funding and motivated people.

And global corporations aren’t just about products; they’re about people, too. Global businesses create worldwide standards for jobs, professional qualifications, languages. Go to China for hardware engineers, India for software developers – they’ll all speak English, but none of them have lost their knowledge of Mandarin and Hindi to do so. Global corporations don’t necessarily crowd out local skills; in many cases they add to them, by providing people with economic opportunities their parents never had. The world’s middle class is growing rapidly, and that means more customers… for businesses of all sizes.

In summary: I believe the influence of global business is far from homogenising. They may take a large share of the pie, but in doing so, they grow the pie itself, providing a slice for the local, the fresh, and the new. Innovation thrives at the edges, and global corporations provide the platform without which that edge wouldn’t exist.

FAULTS: Ouch, ‘without which’ in the last para – should have fixed that. But using plenty of brand names makes this essay nice and concrete. I’m pretty sure this’d get a 6.

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