The SBC GMAT Files

General Strategy – Necessary But Insufficient

Lewis Carroll wrote “Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves”,, punning on the aphorism “Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves.” Today”s post however, defies that wisdom and urges you instead to look to Marshall McLuhan”s famous coinage: “The Medium is the Message.” Applied to the Analytic Writing Assignment on the GMAT, I would translate this as “Form is (also) Content,” “Structure is (also) Reason.” “Style is (also) Persuasion.” What do I mean by this? You may have very good ideas, but if you can’t cast them in a neat form that sounds good, is appealing to the intellect, and is also readily assimilated by the reader, your essay may fail to communicate your intentions.

The form, style, and structure of your essay provide the scaffolding for your content and reasoning. Certainly, form is not sufficient for getting a good score on the essay assignment, but it is necessary. Therefore, do the best that you can to maintain good form in your essay. One way to do this is to use essay templates, that provide ready-made solutions for effecting transitions from one point to the next (either a complementary or contrasting point, or an example). Some test-takers feel confident enough not to rely on an template, or else feel stifled or constricted by the template. If you are such a test-taker, bear in mind, that by loosening the constraints, you may also let some of the structure of your essay go slack. Don’t let that happen!

Here are a few things to avoid, so as not to anger the muses of form and style:

Do not use contractions
Contractions are the use of an apostrophe to contract two words, e.g. it is => it’s; do not => don’t; will not => won’t; etc.
Contractions are considered ugly in formal writing. When you copyedit the essay before submitting it, eliminate any such contractions if they somehow found their way into your essay.

In Your Own Words!
Do paraphrase, but do not lift verbatim expressions from the essay question.
Paraphrase demonstrates mental agility and comprehension. Repetition signals mental dullness and laziness.

Tend to your transitions
Use effective transitions to lead from one sentence to the next, and at the beginning of each new paragraph. Examples of transition words/phrase are: “Consequently,” “therefore,” “secondly,” “thirdly,” “despite,” etc. However, do not shuffle these words around randomly: make sure they make sense in context.

Clean up
Leave 5 mins. to copyedit your essay before submitting it.
You won”t be penalized dramatically for a few insignificant typos, but if you pass the threshold into actual sloppiness, this will be registered by your score.


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