AWA Essay Guide Chapter 1: AWA Introduction Chapter 2: Analysis of Argument Chapter 3: About the E-Rater Chapter 4: Improving Your Writing Chapter 5: Real Essay Questions 5a. Argument 5b. Additional Essays 10 Most Common Errors
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Chapter 5 Section 1 Analysis of Argument

Analysis of Argument

 #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10

These essays are not "perfect" answers, but represent what could be done in a 30-minute period to get a score of 5 or 6.

Analysis of Argument # 1: Olympia Foods

The author argues, using facts from the color-film processing industry's downward trend in cost over 24 years, that Olympic Foods will be able to cut costs and thus maximize profits in the future. The author bases his conclusion on the generalization that organizations learn to reduce costs over time and, since Olympic Foods has 25 years experience in the food processing industry, its costs should have declined considerably. There are two serious flaws in the argument.

First, the argument uses a faulty analogy between the color-film processing industry and the food processing industry. Analogies drawn between the two fields are highly suspect because there are many serious differences. While the film processing industry faces a relatively simple processing challenge, food producers must contend with contamination, transportation and farm production (much more serious challenges). Thus, it is likely much more difficult to wring efficiency improvements in the food industry.

Second, the author uses a sweeping generalization. The author's prediction of margin improvements relies on the optimistic assumption that Olympic Foods' 25 years of experience will automatically result in operational efficiencies. The problem with this is that improvements in processes do not occur automatically over time, they require tremendous effort at continuous improvement and they require potential room for improvement. It is possible Olympic Food has limited room for improvement or lacks the managerial will to improve its operations. Thus, there is no guarantee of improved operational efficiency over time.

The author's argument has two seriously flawed assumptions. The author could strengthen his or her conclusion by providing examples of how the company has learned how to improve its operations over 25 years and implemented those changes.

Analysis of Argument # 2: Centralization of Sales

The argument concludes that the Apogee Company should shut down its field offices and use a centralized location because the company was more profitable when it had a single central location. The argument has two serious flaws.

First, the author commits the "After This, Therefore, Because of This" fallacy where the author assumes that because a decline in profitability occurred after the field offices were created, the field offices were responsible for the decline. However, there may be other factors that could have caused the decline. Could an industry-wide decline, poor management, or poor marketing have caused the decline? Without ruling out other factors or presenting stronger evidence, the author cannot conclusively blame the field offices.

Second, the author assumes that eliminating the field offices would improve profitability by streamlining the management of employees and cutting costs. There is no evidence to support this assumption. Perhaps the field offices cut travel costs from the central office and allowed better management of sales to far-flung clients. The author could support his assumption with cost-cutting and or profit-enhancing strategies.

In summary, to strengthen the conclusion that Apogee should close field offices and centralize, this author must rule out factors other than decentralization that might be affecting current profits negatively and demonstrate how decentralization would cut costs.

Analysis of Argument # 3 : Funding of Arts

The author concludes in this argument that the city should shift some of its arts funding to public television for two reasons. The author argues that public television is being threatened by severe cuts in corporate funding and attendance at the city's art museum has increased proportionately with increases in visual arts program viewing on public television. There are a few problems with this argument.

First, the argument assumes that a correlation proves causality. Simply because there was an increase in television exposure to the visual arts, mainly through public television, the author assumes that this exposure caused a similar increase in local art museum attendance. The author uses the statistical relationship between increased art museum attendance and similar increases in television viewing of visual arts programs to establish causality. However, a statistical correlation does not mean causality, there may be other factors driving the increased art museum attendance, such as new shows, a new wing added to the museum, or a possible rise in the interest in art in society.

On the other hand, the author makes a fair assumption that television programs have an impact on behavior. This is a common sense assumption. After all, advertisers spend billions of dollars on television ad time because they trust this assumption as well.

In conclusion, the author's reasoning is somewhat persuasive. The author could strengthen his or her argument by eliminating other potential causes that could increase visits to the local art museum.

Analysis of Argument # 4: Declining Revenues and Delays

The report recommends replacing the manager of the purchasing department in response to a relationship between falling revenues and delays in manufacturing. The grounds for this action are that the delays are traced to poor planning in purchasing metals. The cause of the poor planning might be the purchasing manager's lack of knowledge of the properties of metals. The author suggests that the position of purchasing manager should be filled by a scientist from the research division and that the current purchasing manager should be reassigned to the sales department. The report supports this latter recommendation, pointing out that the purchasing manager's background in general business, psychology, and sociology equip him for this new assignment. The report's recommendations have two serious questionable assumptions.

The first problem is that the report fails to establish a causal connection between the falling revenues of the company and the delays in manufacturing. The fact that falling revenues coincide with delays in manufacturing does not necessarily prove that the delays caused the decline in revenue. The report's recommendations are not worthy of consideration if there is no compelling evidence to support the causal connection between these two events.

Second, the report assumes that knowledge of the properties of metals is necessary for planning in purchasing metals. No evidence is stated in the report to support this crucial assumption. Moreover, it is not obvious that such knowledge would be required to perform this task because planning is essentially a logistical function.

The author could strengthen the argument that the manager of the purchasing department be replaced by demonstrating that the falling revenues were a result of the delays in manufacturing. Additionally, the author would have to show that knowledge of the properties of metals would improve planning the purchasing of metals.

Analysis of Argument # 5: Increasing Circulation

The publisher of the Mercury newspaper is suggesting that the newspaper's price be reduced below the price of The Bugle, a competing newspaper. The circulation of the Mercury has declined during the 5-year period following The Bugle's introduction. The publisher believes that lowering the price of The Mercury will increase its readership, thereby increasing profits because a wider readership attracts more advertisers. The publisher's reasoning has two serious problems.

First, although it is obvious that increased circulation would make the paper more attractive to potential advertisers, it is not clear that lowering the subscription price is the most effective way to gain new readers. The publisher assumes that price is the only factor that caused the decline in readership. There is no evidence given to support this claim. In addition, given that The Mercury was the established local paper, it is doubtful that the large-scale drop in circulation would be explained by subscription price alone.

It is possible that other reasons exist for The Mercury's decline in readership. The Bugle could have much better writing and layout than the Mercury. It is also possible that readers may not be satisfied with the news reporting's accuracy, or the balance of local to national/statewide news coverage. Either way, it is unclear that lowering prices will drive up readership.

In conclusion, this argument depends on a simplified assumption about the price of the paper and its popularity. The author could strengthen the argument by discussing other factors beyond cost before concluding that lowering subscription prices will increase circulation and, thereby, increase advertising revenues.

Analysis of Argument # 6: City of Helios

This advertisement for the city of Helios makes several arguments for locating companies in Helios. The advertisement states that Helios is an industrial center and enjoys a lower than average unemployment rate. In addition, the advertisement states that the city is "attempting" to expand its base by attracting companies that focus on technologies. This argument is problematic for three reasons. Moreover, it is argued that efforts are currently underway to expand the economic base of the city by attracting companies that focus on research and development of innovative technologies. This argument is problematic for several reasons.

First, the argument presents no reason to believe that the city is equipped to handle non-manufacturing related businesses. The status of the city as a manufacturing center will likely mean that the city is equipped to handle manufacturing businesses. Its labor supply, energy resources, regulatory environment, support businesses, and infrastructure are likely well suited to manufacturing companies. However, there is no reason to believe, based on the argument, that Helios offers any attractive benefits to technology companies.

In addition, since the city lacks any specific benefit for technology companies, the use of the statement "Helios is attempting its economic base" is a non sequitur in the context of the overall argument. The statement offers no benefit to technology companies to move there other than an expressed interest in attracting those companies. This argument could be strengthened if they actually provided real benefits to technology companies

Another ineffective argument made is that of the city's low employment rate. The low unemployment rate during a recession suggests that the city has a labor shortage. This means that companies moving to the city probably have to pay above average labor rates to attract labor in a tight market.

The advertisement for the city of Helios fails to provide any compelling reason for non-manufacturing businesses in Helios. The low unemployment rate actually suggests that the city is a poor place to locate a business. Based on the advertisement, the only companies that could plausibly benefit from the city are manufacturing companies.

Analysis of Argument # 7: Aspartame or Sugar

The author in this argument is trying to establish that people are better off trying to lose weight with sugar rather than with the artificial sweetener aspartame. This conclusion is based on the assertion that aspartame can indirectly cause weight gain by triggering food cravings, while sugar benefits weight loss by enhancing the body's ability to burn fat. The details of the claim, however, prevent making an effective generalization about aspartame's weight-loss benefits.

The argument states that "high" dosages of aspartame are required to deplete the brain chemicals responsible for registering a sense of being sated, or full. The problem is that "high" dosage is not defined. Is this high dosage reached during normal consumption? Without the dosage defined, it is impossible to determine how often or how significant of a side effect the food craving is.

The second statement, that sugar burns fat, is also qualified and not universally applicable. In this instance, the benefits of sugar only arise after at least 45 minutes of continuous exercise. However, it is a fair assumption that many exercisers will not actually exercise for 45 minutes. Thus, the author cannot make the generalization that all exercisers should prefer aspartame over sugar after exercise.

In conclusion, each of the studies cited in the argument cannot be extended to make a generalization that aspartame is preferable to sugar. Instead, the exercise claim must be qualified by "after 45 minutes" and the dosage indicated by "high" must be defined.

Analysis of Argument # 8: Worker interest

This argument uses a survey of workers to show that workers are indeed interested in management issues. The argument is solely based on a survey of 1200 workers that showed that 79% of the workers surveyed expressed interest in the topics of corporate restructuring and the redesign of worker benefits. This argument has several flaws.

The first objection to this argument is the validity of the survey. The statement is incomplete because it does not adequately describe the conditions of the survey. One issue is the sample. Were the workers chosen for the survey chosen randomly or did they volunteer for the survey? This question is relevant here since apathetic workers would obviously not respond to a survey of worker apathy!

In addition, it is unclear whether the 1200 people used in the survey are representative of the company's employees and are an adequate sample size. Perhaps the 1200 workers are part of a major company with several hundred thousand employees. Or, the workers surveyed may not be representative of the company at large. For example, what if they were part of a management trainee program for workers who wanted to move into management positions?

Aside from any issues relating to the quality of the survey, the argument makes a false generalization about the results of the survey. The survey asks specifically about the worker's interest in corporate restructuring and redesign of benefits programs. These issues could be reasonably construed as worker's issues since they would directly impact worker benefits and job security (restructuring often implies layoffs). Thus, the survey cannot be extended to demonstrate an interest in management issues.

In sum, the conclusion about worker interest in management issues cannot be reasonably drawn from the survey's information. The survey's accuracy is not adequately explained and the survey's results are illogically extended to draw an unsupported generalization.

Analysis of Argument # 9: Consumer demographics

The author argues that department store sales will increase significantly over the next few years because their core market of middle-aged people will increase in size over the next decade. The author uses the statistic that 39 percent of the retail expenditures of middle-aged people are through department stores. The author additionally argues that stores should take advantage of this trend by carrying more products aimed at middle-aged customers. This argument has two serious flaws.

The argument falsely assumes that an increase in middle-aged people will automatically translate into an increase in sales. The argument errs because it does not acknowledge that the younger generation consists of a different population cohort, which may not favor department stores. Indeed, this generation may favor stores, such as the GAP, that became prominent in the 1980s. Thus, the younger generation's preference for non-department store retailers may be a generational phenomenon rather than an age-related issue.

The argument further suggests that department store's inventories should be changed to reflect the tastes of middle-aged Americans. This is problematic because the younger population, although preferring non-department stores, may be growing at a faster rate than the middle-aged Americans and therefore represents a more attractive market. In addition, it is possible, as stated in the prior paragraph, that the younger generation's tastes have indeed changed and that when they age, they will not shop at department stores.

In sum, this argument is not strong as it currently stands. The argument needs more information about the growth rates of the younger market and their tastes.

Analysis of Argument # 10: Funding cuts

The argument states that the state legislature does not have to consider the views of protesting students. The author supports this conclusion by pointing out that only 200 of the 12,000 students actually went to the state capitol to protest the cuts in college programs. The author concludes that since an overwhelming majority of the students did not take part in the survey, they must not be interested in the issue. This argument has two serious flaws.

The author attempts to make a statistical inference from the fact that only 200 out of 12,000 showed up for the rally. This is not a valid statistical survey. If, for example, the students had been randomly surveyed to get a fair sample of the overall population, this would have been a valid survey.

Second, the author uses the fact that 12,000 students stayed on campus or left for winter break to show that they were not concerned about education cuts. In fact, if the protest was during winter break, it suggests a large level of inconvenience for the students to protest the cuts (since many could return home to distant locations). A low turnout does not suggest a low level of interest, but instead implies a high level of organizational opposition since students could be recruited during their vacation time.

As it stands, the argument is not well reasoned. To make it logically acceptable, the author would have to demonstrate that the protesting students had some characteristic in common that biases their views, thereby nullifying their protest as representative of the entire college.

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