Here’s my model for the 30-minute Analysis of an Issue 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 states the general premise of the issue and whether you agree with it. State an example in plain concrete language that demonstrates WHY you take this side, in a context that links one of the author’s example with your own experience. Finish with a transitional sentence that introduces the main body of the essay: 3 paragraphs that build your case, explore the other side, and lead to a conclusion.
In the second paragraph, restate the author’s main example. Then add an example from your own experience that supports it (if you agree) or refutes it (if you disagree.)
In the third paragraph, explore the other side of the issue. State why the author’s viewpoint may be valid, and what situations or evidence might strengthen it. Then either state that this alone isn’t enough (if you disagree) or that it proves your point (if you agree). Add an anecdote from real life.
In the fourth paragraph, state the author’s assumptions and whether they’re valid (if you agree) or invalid (if you disagree.) Add a persuasive example of your own from real life.
In the summary paragraph, conclude that the reasons above are WHY you agree or disagree. Make one concession to the author, such as how his issue would be reasonable IF he did one thing. Finish with a pithy statement, such as ‘correlation is not causation’, that sums up your reason for supporting or refuting the issue.