Here’s my model for the 30-minute Analysis of an Argument question, arranged in the same five-paragraph structure I tend to use.
(Update 01 June 2007: I scored perfect 6’s for both my GMAT essays, which suggests these plans work!)
Write a topic sentence that sums up what the author is saying in a few words. State whether the argument is strong or weak, and state the main strength or weakness of the argument in plain simple language.
In the second paragraph, explore the strong side of the argument (if you think it’s strong) or the weak side (if you think it’s weak.) State the assumptions he makes, and whether it’s reasonable or not reasonable to draw his conclusion from these assumptions.
In the third paragraph, explore the use of evidence. State whether each piece of evidence directly supports, indirectly supports, or does not support the argument. Give counterexamples: could this evidence be used to support the opposite conclusion?
In the fourth paragraph, switch your viewpoint and explore the other side of the argument. How it could be stronger (if you think it’s weak) or what might make it weaker (if you think it’s strong.) State whether these reasons affect the ultimate strength or weakness of the argument and admit there’s room for doubt.
In the concluding paragraph, sum up why the argument is strong or weak. Finish with a pithy phrase, such as ‘beliefs are not evidence’, that sums up the main strength or weakness of the argument.