With regard to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. In this blog series, Manhattan Prep’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.
Your business school application essays are critically important. Your GMAT essay? Not so much.
We do, though, have to write the essays first thing, before we get to the more important Quant and Verbal sections (or even the Integrated Reasoning section), so we do not want to use up too much brainpower on the essay. Still, we cannot just bomb this section; the schools do care about the essay somewhat. So how do we do a good enough job without expending so much energy that we are negatively affected during the multiple-choice portion of the test?
We need to develop a template, an organizational framework on which to “hang” our writing. The template will not, of course, tell us exactly what to write. For that, we need the actual essay prompt, which we will not see until we take the test. We can, however, determine how to organize the information ahead of time, as well as the general kinds of messages we need to convey at various points throughout.
The template will vary a little bit from person to person; the important thing is to have a consistent template for yourself that you have worked out in advance of the official test.
First, read the essay prompt. It will look/feel just like the critical reasoning arguments we see on the Verbal portion of the test, so analyze it in the same way! Take about three to four minutes to brainstorm, then pick your two or three best flaws; these will form the basis of your essay.
- Summarize the issue (make sure to note the conclusion)
- State a thesis; acknowledge that the other side does have some merit: “While the argument does have some merit, several serious flaws undermine the validity of the author’s conclusion that XYZ.”
- Introduce your examples (but do not give much detail)
- Three to five sentences total
Each flaw gets its own paragraph, so you will write either two or three body paragraphs of four to six sentences each. (I personally pick my two best flaws, so I write two body paragraphs. Remember, we just need to be “good enough!”)
- Introduce one flaw (do not repeat the exact language from the prompt)
- Explain why it is a flaw (how does this make the conclusion less likely to be true or valid?)
- Suggest ways to fix the flaw (you are fixing the flaw, not changing the conclusion; what could the author do to strengthen his/her argument?)
- Restate your thesis (using new words)
- Re-acknowledge the other side (using new words)
- Briefly summarize how your examples supported your thesis (using new words)
- Three to four sentences
You are not trying to pre-write and memorize actual sentences, but do know in general the kinds of points you want to make in each paragraph. Practice with the bullets we have provided here as a starting point until you develop something with which you are comfortable. Do not forget to leave some time to proof your essay; it is okay to have a few typos, but systematic errors will lower your score.