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Sample of a GMAT Essay Scored a “5”

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Analysis of Issue Prompt: Of all the manifestations of power, restraint in the use of that power impresses people most.

Displays of great strength are misguided attempts to gain ground or leverage over another party. In school, children are taught to respect the “strong, silent type.” And for good reason: those able to hold back the use of power should be held in the highest regard. “Heroes” more than willing to throw themselves into harm’s way before all facts are known should not be held up on a pedestal. Instead we should honor those who walk quietly and hold a big stick.

Private citizens aren’t the only ones who benefit from this modest mindset. Governments should strive to restrain the use of their power, in both domestic and international affairs. Leaders must make sure that we exercise caution and humility before diving into something for which we are not ready—not just in war or war planning, but in everyday decisions. Just because a nation can exercise its power to gain leverage over another nation or an individual, doesn’t mean it should. The world already knows the United States of America is the most powerful nation on earth. We should let it be known that the lives of our soldiers are far more important than the displaying of our strength.

The Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s is one the most well known example of a Presidential restraint in the face of possible calamity. President Kennedy could have sent the message to the Soviets that America would not back down in any way.  He didn’t and instead chose a deal unpopular even among his own cabinet. The United States showed restraint by removing missiles from Turkey, and the Soviets followed our example and pulled back from Cuba. Almost undoubtedly, this restraint stopped World War III.

This is not to say that America always uses restraint. For example, the current financial crisis happened because people believed that “might is right.” Gain all you can, as quickly as you can, and step on anyone in your path—for years this was the American motto. Just because a company can destroy its competition doesn’t mean they should. We do not need corporations flaunting there power for everyone to see. We need safe, transparent markets. The wealthy and powerful should use only honest practices in the business world.

History has judged that restraint will always gain the most respect and admiration from one’s peers, and enemies. We are impressed by greatness, but, perhaps more importantly, we cherish and honor humility.

Reasons why this essay was scored a 5.

This is a strong essay that is very good in almost every respect, but not excellent at anything in particular. For example, the introductory paragraph does a tremendous job of staking out a clear position, but does not necessarily set up the subsequent body paragraphs.

Organization-wise, this essay does well to follow the intro-body-body-body-conclusion 5-paragraph model. The supplementary paragraphs are strong examples of the author’s main point—that we are all better served by showing restraint. The only small problem here is that each of the examples comes from the realm of history, and we are often better served by a more eclectic suite—comprised of literary, personal, scientific, historical, and/or cinematic examples—of supporting points.

The writing is generally good, but is sometimes choppy. The author is able to express himself/herself very succinctly without feeling the need to include ornamental words or ideas. Nevertheless, there are a few grammatical blips, including the use of a plural pronoun for “company” and the use of the wrong “there” in the second-to-last paragraph.

Lastly, the conclusion does a nice job of summing up the thesis and the body paragraphs, but remains a sentence or two short. It is, admittedly, difficult to repeat the thesis and surmise the essay without sounding repetitive, but we should strive to do so in at least three sentences.


Written by Knewton

September 23, 2009 at 1:03 PM

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