How To Improve Your Issue Analysis Writing

UPDATE: Some of this article's advice is now outdated due to changes in the GMAT. An updated article on the exam can be found here.

Although the "Analysis Of An Issue" is specific to the GMAT, the essay writing tips below will help you on any standardized essay writing prompt.

This is the first of two writing prompts, and you will have 30 minutes to complete your essay.  You will be given an issue – typically a business-related or general interest topic – and you have to argue for or against it.  Graders are really looking for your typical 5-paragraph essay with an intro that states your opinion, 3-4 paragraphs of examples to support it and a conclusion to wrap it up.

As promised, here is a walkthrough of how to nail the Analysis of an Issue Section.

Example prompt from Admissions Consultants: People often complain that products are not made to last. They feel that making products that wear out fairly quickly wastes both natural and human resources. What they fail to see, however, is that such manufacturing practices keep costs down for the consumer and stimulate demand."

Which do you find more compelling, the complaint about products that do not last or the response to it? Explain your position, using relevant reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

Here’s a walkthrough to nail this essay:

First paragraph: Firmly state your opinion. For example: major manufacturers have a much higher responsibility – well beyond simply turning a profit and stimulating demand – the responsibility of preserving our environment. Manufacturers need to ignore their myopic, fiscal demands and make products that last a long time, thus using a minimal amount of natural resources.

Add another dimension to your argument: Instead of just writing how it’s environmentally responsible, write about how companies that make an effort to preserve resources receive tons of positive publicity. That could attract new customers, which could lead to more units sold, more revenues and ultimately greater profit margins.

Second paragraph: You’re applying to business school; so use a business example. For this prompt, you could write about how Toyota focuses on creating more reliable, longer-lasting cars. People buy Toyotas instead of Volkswagens, Nissans or other brands because they believe they are going to get more value for what they spend. You could even bring in how the Toyota Prius brings lots of positive publicity to Toyota, increasing its customer base. This supports the point because Toyota has increased its units sold by creating cars that last longer, reducing resources. Toyota can then operate with a smaller profit margin and still keep costs low for consumers.

Third paragraph: Use an inverse example. Instead of writing about another company who manages resources responsibly, write about one who does not. For example, you could use Dell Computers, which is known for using tons of resources to create computers that don’t last more than a couple years, forcing people to purchase another unit – wasting even more resources. But, be sure to mention how Dell is losing ground to other computer manufacturers – like Apple – which produces longer-lasting computers. This supports the previous point because Dell is not only wasting resources, but losing customers because of it.

Fourth paragraph: This is the part where you make up a really inspiring or sad story. Seriously, you can take your essay to the next level if you add an emotional component. Something about how your brother’s company guarantees every tire they produce will last at least 70,000 miles, and how it tracks the saved resources and money. And if you’re really feeling up to it, you could mention how your brother donates the extra resources or money to a charity, bringing in positive publicity. This supports the point by showing how your brother increases revenues by saving on resources and through more customers, who are attracted by his positive publicity. Again, more customers = lower profit needed per unit = lower prices for customers.

Fifth paragraph: Simply restate your belief and how the examples you give confirm it. Bring in all the levels and aspects of your argument. In this case, write about how saving production resources can not only save money through lower costs, but can also provide an environmental benefit, create an opportunity for philanthropy and most importantly build positive publicity, which could yield more customers and higher revenues.  So, the belief of saving money by skimping on resources is actually a very narrow-minded business practice, and companies are wasting money by trying to save it. Always try to conclude your argument with how your opinion could create higher profits – because that’s what business is all about.

Practice with a tutor: This is one example for one essay prompt. To really master the formula, work with your tutor and have him/her give you prompts and grade your essays. This is best way to learn the formula and structure.