The Unconventional Guide To Writing For The GMAT

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Prepare to think on your feet

Structure gets all the limelight.  Structure is undoubtedly a huge deal on the GMAT AWA. After all, you are being graded in part by a computer. But there is still much to be said for content, and the more you think about what to say before you say it, the less likely you are to run out things to say, besides simply repeating, “the argument is also weak because it fails to substantiate a number of points.” Remember, only one of the graders is a computer. The other grader will be very aware if your content is lacking.

Content is king

Much of the content, believe it or not, will come from your brain. All the advice you get about the structure and the exact wording will only help you so much. Generating ideas on the fly, though, can be difficult—especially on test day. A good tactic is to practice using the arguments in the back of the Official Guide. Your job: identify several assumptions and ways that those assumptions can be strengthened or disproven.

Official prompt from GMAT webpage:

“The following appeared in a memorandum from the business department of the Apogee Company:

“‘When the Apogee Company had all its operations in one location, it was more profitable than it is today. Therefore, the Apogee Company should close down its field offices and conduct all its operations from a single location. Such centralization would improve profitability by cutting costs and helping the company maintain better supervision of all employees.’

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.”

The first step is to identify possible assumptions. This process might seem difficult at first, but with a little practice, you’ll become more adept at it.

Generating ideas means generating content

Questionable assumptions

1.  Profitability had one cause: having all operations centralized in one location.

2.  Even if that were the case, returning to a centralized operation does not ensure profitability.

3.  Supervision of employees is desirable and will lead to profit.

I probably could have come up with a few more assumptions, but I’d be stretching. The point of this exercise—indeed, the whole point of the AWA Argument task—is not to identify every questionable assumption, but to identify the main assumptions. From these few assumptions, you can build your essay. Remember, the instructions explicitly tell us to do the following:

“…what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion.”

Therefore, we need to take those first three assumptions and build off of them by offering alternative explanations and/or counterexamples.

1.  Profitability had one cause: having all operations centralized in one location.

Alternative explanation:

Profitability could have resulted from a number of different factors.

Counterexample:

For instance, Apogee could have focused on just one product, one that did well in the market and boosted company sales. The fact that operations were all under one roof did not impact the success of the company’s product. Indeed, Apogee could have continued to be profitable when it expanded its operations. We only know that at some point it was no longer profitable.

At this point, I could list another counterexample for the alternative explanation and house it under the same paragraph. This will help you add the much-needed length that many students struggle to provide in the essay. By coming up with realistic counterexamples, you can not only write a longer essay, but also a more persuasive one.

A good approach is to repeat the above for each of the questionable assumptions so that you are able to come up with five paragraphs (introduction, three bodies, and a conclusion). First, practice writing one solid paragraph, containing alternative explanations and realistic counterexamples. Once you can confidently do that, repeat two more times and you will be well on your way to a competitive essay score.

Takeaway

You must be able to pinpoint questionable assumptions upon which the argument hinges and you must generate original counterexamples. No amount of learning cookie-cutter language (“the argument is unconvincing because it fails to account for several notable….”) will help you think of ideas specific to the argument you see on test day.

MBA 5 Fatal Flaws

This post was written by Chris Lele, resident test prep expert at Magoosh and a leader in GMAT prep. For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog.

Related Resources:

• The GMAC, the GMAT, and the MBA Degree
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• Analyzing Your GMAT Score: 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

To GRE Or Not To GRE? That Is The Question

Listen to the show!Before your dream of getting accepted to graduate school comes true, you’ll have to face – and conquer – the GRE.

Listen in on our conversation with Dr. Lydia Liu, Managing Senior Research Scientist at the ETS and Tom Ewing, Director of External and Media Relations, for GRE advice, their perspective on the GRE vs GMAT debate, and more.

00:03:22 – An overview of the GRE.

00:05:18 – Don’t stick with your first instinct: The GRE’s changing score feature and how it helps you snag a higher score.

00:09:13 – Paid and free GRE study tools.

00:12:16 – The GRE as a predictor of success in b-school.

00:13:18 – Why MBA applicants should take the GRE and not the GMAT.

00:17:24 – GRE prep strategies.

00:19:57 – Ongoing research studies at ETS.

00:21:09 – The latest news from ETS (and it doesn’t reflect well on US grad students).

00:25:58 – Tips for graduate school applicants.

Listen to the show!

Related links:

ets.org
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Related Shows:

The GMAC, the GMAT, and the MBA Degree
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6 Tips for Applying to Business School with Low Stats

Webinar: Get Accepted to Top B-Schools with Low Stats!

Can you show the adcom an upward trend?

For most business school applicants, “low stats” are GMATs and GPAs at the lower end of or below the mid-80% range for a given school. It may be difficult to find average GPAs, but if you have a 2.6, you know it’s low for almost any MBA program. Except for the most elite schools, where the number is higher, a GPA below 3.0 warrants a deliberate effort to counterbalance.

Here are 6 tips for applying with low numbers:

1. Analyze your situation. Which numbers are low – test score (GRE or GMAT), GPA, or both? If your GPA is low, did you have an upward trend that would show the committee you improved during college? Did you have one bad semester that pulled you down? If the problem is your test score, is there one section that is stronger than the other?

2. Address low quant scores (GMAT/GRE and transcript) by: taking additional courses for higher grades; highlighting your quant-oriented achievements in your essays; and asking recommenders to confirm your quantitative ability.

3. Address low verbal scores (GMAT/GRE and transcript) by: writing fantastic essays; taking additional courses that focus on business communication or involve substantial writing; and asking recommenders to comment on your communication skills.

4. Make your essays count! Draw on examples of your accomplishments, leadership skills, and exceptional impact to counterbalance the low scores.

5. Pick the right schools to apply to. Some schools are more focused on numbers, while others are known for a more holistic review.

6. Consider the optional essay. If your scores are below the 80% range, you’ll probably want to acknowledge and provide context for your situation. The optional essay provides an opportunity to briefly explain the circumstances behind your scores. If you write the optional essay, make it short and straightforward. Provide a brief explanation, take responsibility, and focus on evidence of your talents that counters the impression made by the low stats. Also, explain (or, ideally, show through example and anecdote) that either you have dealt with the problem causing the poor grades, or the circumstances no longer apply.

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs

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The GMAC, the GMAT, and the MBA Degree

IV with Rich D'AmatoAdmit it. You just can’t stop thinking about the GMAT.

If you are a b-school student (present or future), then Rich D’Amato, Vice President of Global Communications at GMAC, has some important info to share with you.

Listen to the full recording of our conversation with Rich for the scoop on new GMAT features, the MBA Alumni survey, the relevance of the MBA degree, and more.

00:02:44 – The low-down on GMAC’s Enhanced Score Reports and how they can help you prepare effectively and score higher on the GMAT.

00:08:17 – The new Score Preview feature: how it works and how it can help you.

00:11:22 – Featured Applicant Question: Can I retake the GMAT, and then cancel the score and reinstate the original score?

00:12:08 – The case for the GMAT in the GMAT vs GRE battle.

00:15:24 – The role of “entrepreneurial traits” (and an MBA education) in career success.

00:19:16 – Is the end of the MBA degree in sight?

00:21:54 – The growth of specialized business degrees.

00:26:36 – Rich’s awesome advice for future test-takers.

Click here to listen to the show!*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.

Related Links:

• The Official GMAT Website 
GMAT NEWSFLASH: GMAT to Feature Score Preview
• GMAT’s New Enhanced Score Report
GMAT Unofficial Enhanced Score Report FAQs
Control Your GMAT Experience with These Three Features

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• The GMAT, the GRE, and the Guy Who Knows them Well
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• GMAT, GRE, SAT, and All Things Test Prep
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Leave a Review for Admissions Straight Talk:

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