Sure, I wrote a knock-out GMAT essay example, but I’m not the only one in our Bobrow GMAT prep class who could write well. (Just in case you were wondering, I don’t get any deal for mentioning Bobrow prep classes; I’m just sharing with you what I did to help prepare myself for the GMAT, and get accepted to the MBA program of my choice.)
My fellow classmate Lili Ghavami-Azimi also wrote an outstanding GMAT sample essay. Here was her prompt taken from the CliffsTestPrep GMAT CAT, 8th Edition that we used in our class:
“Individuals are responsible for protecting our environment, not the local, state or federal government.
Do you agree or disagree with this opinion? Support your point of view with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations or reading.”
Lili’s response (with minor edits I made to the original):
“In recent years, Americans have shown more interest in learning about environmental issues and possible solutions to lower the impact of humans on our environment. The federal, state and local governments have undoubtedly helped by creating more strict regulations as well as enforcing the existing laws on corporations. However, when it comes to our planet, individual responsibility is by far the most important factor that makes a difference in protecting our environment. Individuals can take responsibility and create a society in which everyone lives a healthy lifestyle in the most efficient, cost-effective way, and at the same time, fulfill a moral obligation to future generations.
Awareness is the first step toward living a healthy lifestyle. The media and some politicians have made environmental issues more visible and urgent in the past few years, which led to education in our schools. As a result, more and more people are learning that as individuals, we can make a difference. For instance, if we set an example by demanding more environmentally-friendly products, the market will respond by developing technologies that create these products to meet our demands.
Current economic hardships have made us all watchful of our spending. Small changes in our daily lives make a big impact not only in our pocketbooks but also in our environment. For example, last year I decided to take advantage of our sunny days in California and dry my clothes outside in the sun instead of using the dryer. This simple change has reduced my electricity bill by 30 to 40 percent. There is no limit on ideas of what individuals can do in their own home to help protect the environment.
Finally, let’s not undermine the moral obligation we have to our children and future generations to pass onto them a healthy and sustainable environment that they can enjoy for many more generations just as we have when it was passed on to us by previous generations.
The time has come for all of us as individuals to take responsibility for our own actions and protect our environment. It is not only the right thing to do but the only way to make real change.”
Our professor Gregg Heacock’s analysis of her essay from an email to the class:
“Notice that the first sentence is general, giving the general context (solutions to environmental problems) and why this is important now.
The second sentence, with the words, ‘have undoubtedly helped,’ leads naturally to a, ‘yes, but …’ affirming what various levels of government have done but suggesting that more is needed.
The third sentence following this up with, ‘However …’ Now, we can see that government has helped but that ‘individual responsibility is by far the most important factor.’ Notice how emphasis is given with, ‘by far.’
You don’t need to write much to write well. The last sentence states the thesis and does so in a way that the audience can see the commitment this writer has to this idea.
All in all, the writer lays out the issue, says why it is important right now, tells what has helped in the past, and says what is more important right now. Then, the writer spells out what the essay will explore to show why this second approach to the problem is more important right now. This gives the, ‘So what!’ of the essay, telling that what the writer is about to say is important. It also addresses the questions remaining in the reader’s mind: So what do I need to tell you that would appeal to your imagination so that you could see what I see?
The second paragraph creates a narrative. Notice how key ideas are placed in key positions. ‘Awareness’ comes first. We have the media and the government using the schools to make us aware. ‘As a result’ tells us that this narrative involves cause and effect: The message learned is that individuals can make a difference. The last sentence provides an example and a conclusion about how the market will respond — a conclusion we are more likely to accept because we see how active the media and the government have already been in raising awareness. Perhaps, there is also the notion that the audience would accept the idea that the market is driven by what the public demands.
Sensing that the public may not be able to pay for what it demands, this writer acknowledges, ‘current economic hardships’ that are now affecting us and presents a personal narrative about how easy it is to use solar energy when drying clothes. Turning innovation on its head, she takes an old idea and makes it new. Then, she tells how much she saved on her electric bill.
Lastly, she steps beyond this one example to state the idea that follows. By incorporating ‘individuals … protect … environment,’ she empowers and inspires her readers, letting them know there are no limits to the ideas they can carry into action.
Her fourth paragraph states a moral imperative. The support for this point is historical: ‘It was passed on to us by previous generations.’ The key here is knowing when you hit ‘pay dirt.’ So far, each paragraph has stopped with a sentence that people tend to accept. That is always the best time to move onto the next paragraph.
Her concluding paragraph brings together all the examples above under the two headings ‘take responsibility for our own actions’ and ‘protect the environment.’ These are core beliefs shared by most people. She finishes with a surprise that is compelling, taking individual action is ‘the only way to make real change.’ At a time when the audience might want to resist the point being made by raising the challenge, ‘Oh, yeah?,’ she shows us that the core values at the heart of her examples are values we all share. Thus, she turns the challenge into a statement of enthusiastic acceptance: ‘Oh, yeah!’
Normally, I would recommend writing more sentences for each paragraph, but, truly, all that is needed to write a good essay is to show how your ideas relate to each other and how they connect with readers and the situation that readers are in …
Remember not to confuse having thoughts with thinking. Thinking involves connecting thoughts so they move forward with a certain momentum. See how many of the world’s problems you can solve this week just by thinking about them hard enough. I hope this is a help to you.”
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