How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 24 (4th CAT test: 600)

A 600, for 38Q/38V corrected scores. Nowhere near. It’s odd that this week’s meltdown into depression is being reported so precisely; I’d never realised quite how debilitating the Black Dog could be. I may just scrape past 600 next week, some 160 points below my best. Still, it’s been an interesting month; pity it won’t lead anywhere. Today’s essay practice:

Analysis of an Issue

“It makes no sense for people with technological skills to go to college if they know they can earn a good salary without a college degree”

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement? Support your position by using reasons and examples from your reading, your own experience, or your observation of others.

To a technically skilled young person with excellent employment prospects, going to college may seem like a waste of time. Why spend four years in a classroom, when he could be earning money? And if his ambitions extend no further than performing a trade with competence, he may be right. But the value of a college degree extends beyond anything taught in the lecture theatre; the social networks and personal qualities developed at college will continue adding depth and colour over that person’s entire lifetime. So while I sympathise with the author’s tone, I disagree with his conclusion.

As an example, take a 19-year old computer programmer who learned his trade ‘hacking’ in his bedroom for a decade. He’s skilled, yes – and is capable of doing an excellent job at a software company. A job paying, perhaps, over £100,000 a year. If that’s all he wants, great – but even the most interesting jobs become routine. Perhaps in ten years, as he approaches 30, our programmer will feel restless and apply for promotion… but a requirement of progressing to managerial level is a degree. Like it or not, this is the reality of the employment market, and our 19-year old would do well to remember this maxim.

To go further, how much better could our programmer’s technological skills be if they were given a strong theoretical underpinning by a degree? By implanting in his mind the fundamental structures of his trade, he’ll be capable of learning faster, working harder, and doing better work. The best programmers aren’t merely twice as good as the average: they’re ten, a hundred times better. If our 19-year-old has ambitions to be the next Ray Ozzie, he’d be wise to consider taking a few years out for a degree before starting work.

This principle isn’t limited to professional, white collar trades either. The state of Alberta in Canada has low college enrolment figures despite its excellent educational infrastructure: it’s because young people are sucked up by a people-hungry oil industry, where driving a truck can pay a 17-year old over $60,000 a year. Great money for a teenager – but what happens in five years, when oil prices may be lower and the tar sands lie empty? That teenager may rue the day he decided to take the quick, easy money over the long but rewarding slog of college.

Finally, there are other benefits to college besides a degree certificate. The opportunity to play sports, build social networks, and make lifelong friends are a lot less ephemeral than a monthly paycheck. Being young doesn’t last very long; I believe the time is better spent reading and learning than in a striplit cubicle.

In summary, while I’d defend anyone’s right to take a job over college if they want, I strongly believe they should take that decision only after considering all the facts – not the immediate gratification of earning money, but the lifelong benefits a degree can bring.

FAULTS: howler of a typo in ‘opportunity…are’. Not too happy with this: I spent too long on the first para getting my thoughts straight, and had to rush the rest. Only a 4.

Analysis of an Argument

The following appeared as part of an article in a magazine on lifestyles.

“Two years ago, City L was listed 14th in an annual survey that ranks cities according to the quality of life that can be enjoyed by those living in them. This information will enable people who are moving to the state in which City L is located to confidently identify one place, at least, where schools are good, housing is affordable, people are friendly, the environment is safe, and the arts flourish.”

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. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

If a town is ranked highly for quality of life, any local council can feel justly proud. But without any context for the lifestyle article, the argument is weak. Anyone considering a move to City L needs more information on the survey’s judging criteria, editorial slant, and sample size.

The judging criteria would be most important. That they covered schools, housing, the locals and the environment is assumed – but not made explicit. Was the lifestyle magazine aimed at (and scored for) young adults, whose current priorities in life may not include a top-ranked junior school nearby? The survey may well have given strong weighting to all the right points, but the argument needs to make this clear.

Secondly, how many cities were included in the survey? Was the poll commissioned for an international magazine, ranking City L against other commonly-cited cities offering a high quality of life such as Vancouver, Copenhagen, and Stockholm? Or did it appear in a local newspaper, comparing City L with the nearby commuter suburbs of Cities A to Z? If so, coming 14th may not represent anything to be proud of.

Further to this, the argument makes no mention of whether other towns in City L’s state are included in the survey…. or if they’re ranked above City L. If even one nearby city is on the list, the author’s claim to be the ‘one place’ in which people moving to the state can have confidence is undermined. If this is the case, the argument is not merely flawed; it is inaccurate.

Finally, the magazine article is two years old… and the survey was presumably conducted several months before that. A lot can happen in two and a half years, and City L may have suffered a budget collapse, natural disaster, or population crunch. We simply don’t know, and by referring to outdated information, the author weakens his argument.

However, with the above caveats, it’s likely that being mentioned in a magazine survey does represent some sort of achievement for City L; the author’s biggest fault is that he doesn’t make the most of the survey. By providing more information about City L’s school situation, social mix, and arts scene, the author could have made his case watertight, especially if City L ranked higher than nearby cities. Accordingly, we must conclude that the author has not made his case effectively. One survey doesn’t make a city great.

FAULTS: This one’s okay, but surprisingly hard to write; anything that makes a decent argument is of course harder. You should have seen the original last para: ‘especially if City L ranked higher than nearby cities not ranked in the survey’ – spotted and edited in the closing seconds, whew. No typos I can see; had five minutes to proofread, much better paced. A 5.

3 thoughts on “How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 24 (4th CAT test: 600)

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