Articles


Analysis of an Argument

By Amar Singh

"It has become almost impossible to eat a balanced, healthy diet. Television news programs are constantly providing new, sometimes contradictory information about what is healthy and what is not. The average consumer cannot make informed decisions from this kind of scanty information and is generally overwhelmed upon entering increasingly larger supermarkets with more and more brands to choose from." Discuss how logically convincing you find thisargument. In explaining your point of view, be sure toanalyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence inthe argument. Also discuss what, if anything, would makethis argument more sound and persuasive, or would helpyou to better evaluate its conclusion.

This is an example of an essay that was scored a "6." Look for a successful analysis of the argument, and the use of style, grammar, and organization. Why was this essay given the top score?

The author's conclusion that it's almost impossible to eat a balanced, healthydiet depends heavily on two principles: misleading information provided by television news programs, and the increasingly wide selection of brands available at supermarkets. That these points are the main factors contributing to the average diet is disputable, and consequently, so is the author's position. The argument rests on numerous questionable assumptions and vague, incomplete evidence.

The premise concerning the new, "sometimes contradictory" information provided on TV news programs may be valid. This evidence is only relevant, however, if it is true that average consumers watch television news programs, and, moreover, use the information to plan their diets. Clearly, if people are unaware of the information provided, the contradictions in the information won't affect their eating habits.

Even if it is accepted that consumers watch news programs, the premise of the author's argument is flawed, as it rests on the assumption that viewers actually rely on these programs to determine their diets. It is likely that people use other, readily available, sources of information, such as nutritionists, doctors and literature, for this purpose. The conclusion that it is “almost impossible” to eat a healthy diet is therefore completely unfounded.

The author's second premise, pertaining to supermarkets, is debatable, and thus also results in questionable assumptions. The author does not explicate the assertion that there is a correlation between having many brands to choose from and the impossibility of dieting healthily.

Presumably, the intended contention is that consumers, upon entering the markets, are overwhelmed by the sheer volume, and consequently are unable to make sound, informed choices. This is certainly an unfounded assumption. It is, in fact, arguable that the greater choice makes it easier to find healthy brands. The author fails to mention that in this wide selection of brands comprise many healthy food choices. It is entirely possible that government regulations ensure a high quality of food despite the large number of brands.

The author's statement about supermarkets, furthermore, is only relevant to an analysis of people who shop in supermarkets. Consequently, yet another weakness in the argument is the failure to account for alternative sources of food products, such as specialized health food stores, local markets, which may supply only healthy food.

The argument would be more persuasive if it addressed some of these questionable assumptions. A validation of the stated conclusion necessitates evidence that the majority of consumers shop in supermarkets and use no source of nutritional information other than television news programs. Additionally, the author should demonstrate that the diverse selection of brands includes largely unhealthy products. Another method by which the argument could be strengthened would be a limiting of conclusion to refer to people who shop in supermarkets and rely on television for diet information.

Content:
The essay analyzes the argument fairly thoroughly, pinpointing the premises and the conclusion, and the flawed logic. It offers several options by which the author could strengthen the argument, including the most direct method – limiting the conclusion to consumers who only shop in supermarkets and base their purchasing decisions on information provided by the television news.

Organization:
Notice the systematic analysis of the argument. Each paragraph focuses on a specific aspect of the argument, and each contains an individual introduction and conclusion.

Analysis of an Issue

By Amar Singh

"Some people claim that space exploration should not be funded by the government, arguing that it is too costly and provides little benefit for most of the population. Others disagree, claiming that fundamental scientific knowledge is valuable in and of itself, and that, additionally, knowledge gained through space exploration is often later used by industry and research scientists for purposes not foreseen by those who planned the exploration."

Which do you find more convincing, the argument that space exploration should not be funded by the government or the response to it? Explain your point of view using relevant examples based on your experience, observations or readings.

This is an example of a "6," or "outstanding" essay. Notice its strengths and weaknesses and compare your ideas to the critical comments that follow the essay.


Space exploration and research are important because they offer practical technological advances. For example, weather satellites and communications technology would not have reached nearly their advanced stages were it not for the information acquired by space programs. Perhaps with continued research further advances in these or other fields will develop.

Secondly, because scientists are certain of relatively little about the universe in comparison with, for example, human anatomy, space exploration is a field wide open for scientific thought. Such research not only encourages intellectual thinking and new research, but also provides a format in which theoretical physicists can test abstract hypotheses.

Furthermore, the knowledge gained through exploration of space is of immense scientific and, potentially, philosophical interest, and could not be learned elsewhere! Continuing this research is the sole method by which the human race can continue to learn about its place in the Universe.

Naturally, the objections that can be raised about space exploration, particularly concerning its financial costs, are substantial. It is true that money is badly needed elsewhere in society. However, it seems likely, though unfortunate, that there will never be a time that funds won't be required to improve the lot of the destitute. The time is right for governments to capitalize on what public support there is for space exploration, and for space research programs to build on what progress has been made.

While the funding of space exploration is an issue that must be considered carefully, the scientific and technological advances that may be within the grasp of our research, compounded with the short-term benefits, provide ample support that governments should continue to support the space program.

Content:
Both sides of the issues are addressed. One is chosen. The author supports his or her position with three reasons: that space research has practical technological advances, that it encourages scientific thought, and that there are no other available methods by which this information will become available. The counterargument is acknowledged and, not dismissed, but refuted. Notice that the grounds for this refutation are perhaps not perfectly sound, but they are elucidated as thoroughly as possible considering the time constraints.

Organization:
First of all, note the structure of the first paragraph. The issue and its complexities are clearly identified. The author then presents the stance to be taken in the ensuing paragraphs.

How to crack Reading Comprehension

By Amar Singh

Reading Comprehension (RC) section is very important for examinations such as SAT, GRE, GMAT,CAT, etc. In this Article, let us talk about this section in detail:

Types of Passages: Any RC passage can be divided into three categories:


Rapid Reading:For doing better in RC, we should make a habit of reading faster. This should be practised on a daily basis. Here we will discuss two techniques for completing the RC section within stipulated time:


Attacking the passage: Reading a newspaper with a cup of tea in the morning and attempting RC Section during the examination are entirely different affairs. And the latter should be taken more seriously. We should ATTACK the passage during the exam. And following points must be kept in mind while doing it:


Thus, we can see that if one practises in a systematic way, Reading Comprehension Section of any Examination (SAT, GRE, GMAT, CAT, etc.) can be approached more confidently. All the best...


Thus, we can see that if one practises in a systematic way, Reading Comprehension Section of any Examination (SAT, GRE, GMAT, CAT, etc.) can be approached more confidently. All the best...


Let's Play With Words

By Amar Singh

Having good vocabulary is very important for many Tests such as SAT, GRE, CAT, etc. and learning the ' Word Lists' is a big problem for students. Here, we can discuss and follow some strategies and become a wordsmith. First of all, don't go for the rote learning or. Always try to understand the meanings of the words. Most of the words may have more than one meaning. Study all the meanings minutely as many of them can be tricky. Keeping all the meanings of a certain word in mind may be a real challenge, but DON'T run away. Take the bull by its horns instead. Plan and follow a well-defined strategy. You can form sentences mentally in order to remember different meanings of different words. In case of adjectives, you can personify them i.e. you can allot the adjectives to certain persons whom you know. Don't worry, s/he will never know it. You are doing everything mentally.

Secondly, do not depend on only one or two sources for your words. Learn them from different sources viz. newspapers, magazines, books, flash cards, etc. There is a very good book in the market to improve word power. It's called ' Word Power Made Easy' written by Norman Lewis. Watching good T.V. channels such as CNN, BBC, etc. is also a good idea. Just keep your sensors alert, you will learn a lot in the process.

Last but not the least, while going through 'Word Lists' of any good book such as Barron's SAT or GRE, you should revise them periodically. I will elaborate this point through an example. Barron’s GRE has fifty word lists. I recommend ten word lists in the first week. Once you have completed ten of them, revise those ten and then go ahead. Complete the next ten in the second week. After two weeks, you will have completed twenty word lists. Again revise those twenty and so on. Thus, by the end of five weeks you will have completed and revised all the fifty word lists.

However, don't stop even after completing all the fifty word lists. If you don't practise them, you will forget them very fast. So in order not to forget those words and to learn many more new words, READ. Thus, you will come across the words you have learnt and they will remain with you for the rest of your life. Further, use the words on a daily basis in your writings and conversations. Take my word for it. Work in a planned manner and it will pay very handsome rewards. All the best...


Get Your Grammar Right

By Amar Singh

If you are planning to takeSAT, TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT, etc. the first and the most important thing you should do is to brush up your grammar. Grammar is the back-bone of any language. So if you want to score high in ' Verbal Section' also, invest some time in getting your grammar right. I know you will say that you have studied enough of it in your school days. But what you have studied in your school days, you might have forgotten. And if you have not forgotten it, you might have started to use it wrongly. In our day-to-day lives, we come across so many wrong uses of grammar that we start believing that the same are right.

It is not that only illiterate or semi-literate people make very common grammatical mistakes. It is also not true to say that faulty English is printed by ' cheap press' only. If you think so, take any leading English newspaper and read its second or third page, then you will realize what I want to say. Sentences such as “He is living in Mumbai since five years...", " The incident occurred when she was returning back home...", etc. are very common. And we think that it is such a ' prestigious' newspaper, how can it make such a blunder? The fact is that ' prestigious ' newspapers and magazines also are full of such glaring mistakes. Therefore, as a student, it is your duty to go through some good grammar book such as Wren and Martin's before you think of any examination which requires proficiency in English language.Especially,some important topics such as (i).Subject-verb Agreement,(ii).Tenses,(iii).Irregular Verb Forms,(iv).Prepositions, (v).Idioms, (vi).Direct-indirect Speech, (vii). Active-Passive Voice, (viii). Pronouns, etc. Otherwise, you will make ' BIG ' blunders...


Power of Punctuation , . ; :? !

By Amar Singh

A woman without her man is nothing. This sentence was given to a group of college students for punctuation. All the boys wrote: "A woman, without her man, is nothing." The girls proved themselves smarter by punctuating the same sentence differently. They wrote: "A woman! Without her, man is nothing." My target is not to crack jokes, but I want to highlight the importance of proper punctuation. Many students, while writing their essays (Analytical Writing Section), pay little attention to punctuation. Consequently, despite having very good points to write, they do not score asper their expectations.

Whether one is preparing for SAT, GRE, GMAT, TOEFL or IELTS, one thing is common, which is Writing Section. Hence, one should be thoroughly prepared for it. One should read a lot and on a variety of subjects. Observing people and their behaviours also helps a lot. One should prepare the outline of the essay very clearly. Once the outline is clear and loud, putting it in black and white is very easy. But one should be very careful about the punctuation marks one puts. A little study, in this regard, will help a great deal.

For the proper use of punctuation marks, one can study the chapter 'Punctuation' from Wren and Martin's Grammar Book. This is as important as any other chapter in English Grammar. Another way to know where to put which punctuation mark is to read one’s writing aloud and to LISTEN to it. Then it will be very clear whether a comma, a full stop or any other mark is required. Understood? Understood. All the best...


Variety: The Spice of Life

By Amar Singh

You must have heard the phrase: “variety is the spice of life”. This is true for your studies as well. Many a time, students get bored doing too much of the same thing viz. Word Lists,etc.But if one does word lists day and night,one will easily get bored and tired and cannot retain much of what one has learnt.In order to get rid of 'boring' Word Lists or any other section for that matter,some students keep on studying the same thing for too long a period repeatedly.But in my opinion,this is NOT a good strategy.

TOEFL for example, has four sections i.e.Reading,Listening,Speaking and Writing.Let's discuss them one by one:

1. Reading: sections such as Reading and Writing are common to all the tests viz. GRE,GMAT,SAT,TOEFL and IELTS.To perform well in Reading,one should follow three most important strategies.These strategies are i).to read,(ii).to read and (iii).to read more and more.You should read not only the help books but also a lot of other books,newspapers and magazines of your choice.Whatever you read,read it fast and get used to grasp its contents at a very fast pace. Thus,the pressure of the time limit during the tests can be handled efficiently.

2. Listening: for some students,this section can be very tricky as they are not used to American or European accent.Therefore,it's a good idea to watch some good news channels such as CNN,BBC,etc.Listening to news programmes on All India Radio also is a good idea.Thus,you will realise the benefit of being a 'good listener'.

3. Speaking: students can learn a lot from Radio Jockeys (RJs).They should try to inculcate the quality of being spontaneous from a good RJ.A good RJ speaks with clarity and does not fumble.Even if he fumbles,he does not stop (But unlike RJs, you should know when to stop).He excuses himself and moves ahead.In the same manner,you also should avoid fumbles.And if you have fumbled, you have not committed a crime.It's better to maintain your calm and move ahead. Reading something (newspaper,etc.) out improves your diction and clarity.Hence,you can perform well in this section.

4. Writing: If you read and listen to a lot of quality English,writing will be very easy for you.While reading and listening to/watching T.V.,you will gather a lot of useful information which can be used effectively for organising an essay.

Whether you are preparing for SAT,GRE, GMAT, TOEFL or IELTS, making a consolidated effort always helps.Read newspapers,magazines,etc.and watch news channels on a daily basis.In addition to these,study your help books such as Barron’s,Kaplan's,etc.Believe me,you will do wonders. All the best...


Work Hard and Relax

By Amar Singh

Many students work really hard for their tests (SAT,GRE,GMAT,TOEFL, IELTS, etc.), but still they do not score good marks. Moreover, they are unable to make out what went wrong. A very BIG reason for doing bad in the test is that they worked HARD, Perhaps too hard. There is a whole lot of difference between working 'hard' and working 'intelligent'. It is said that labour never goes in vain, but in my opinion, labour IN RIGHT DIRECTION never goes in vain.

It is very important to make a proper schedule for your studies and follow it properly. Break your study time into short intervals. An ideal duration for one session is two hours. Study for two hours and then take a short rest for up to half an hour. In that half an hour, you can eat or drink (no alcohols please...) something light. Don't take a big meal if you want to study. Eat something light at short intervals. If you take a heavy meal, you will feel lethargic and may fall asleep. If you want to sleep during day, take a siesta after lunch. It is also known by other names like cat nap or power nap. After this, you can start with fresh energy. It should not exceed 30 minutes. Else the 'cat' nap may turn into 'donkey' nap which will make you feel lazy. If you are tired or bored of studies, do not force yourself too much. Take a break. You can do deep breathing exercises. Our brain does not work (even if it can) to its full capacity if it lacks oxygen. Therefore, it is our responsibility to supply it with fresh oxygen (almost impossible in Mumbai, but still try). You can take a cup of strong tea or coffee also.

The most important day of your preparation is the previous day of the exam.And the most vital activity of that previous day should be to RELAX. You have prepared for the hundred meter race. You have worked very hard for it. Hence, DO NOT practise just before going to the tracks. What I mean to say is that your frame of mind at the time of the test is very important. If you have already exhausted it, it is going to take revenge which may be disastrous.

Therefore, take proper sleep on the previous night. Eat good food before going for the test. 'Good food' means the food which provides you energy but does not make you feel sleepy. Drink water at regular intervals. While taking the test ATTACK every question. It means that you should be fully alert and should utilise your brain to the hilt. It is important to work hard for whichever test you are preparing for. But it is equally important to reward yourself on a daily basis for the hard work you have done. You must be aware of the saying: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" (true for girls also). Hence, avoid being a dull boy/girl and enjoy and relax after you have done your hard work. All the best...


Conquer Those Fears

By Amar Singh

Many students ask me: "Sir, I am a student from vernacular medium. Will I be able to score good in SAT, GRE, GMAT, TOEFL or IELTS?" Another question is posed to me very frequently: "Sir, I am very week at mathematics. Should I prepare for SAT, GRE or GMAT?" My simple answer to these questions is: "If you ask me WHETHER, I will not be interested. But if you ask me HOW, I will be more than eager to put extra efforts so that you may overcome this hurdle."

I am not saying that these questions are irrelevant. On the contrary, these are very important questions. But, should one give up the idea of going abroad for higher studies just because his/her first language is not English or s/he is not comfortable with mathematics? Any one has to put some efforts for the tests discussed above, and the students who are weaker than average, will have to put some extra efforts. But yes, it is possible for a student, who is below average, to score equally well. Period.

But it is equally true that one has to work in a planned way in order to score high. Reading standard English i.e. editorials of good newspapers,magazines,etc. is very important if one wants to score good in verbal section. Brushing up one's grammar also will help a lot. In addition to this, one should watch some good news channels like CNN or BBC on a regular basis. As far as mathematics is concerned, it is not very difficult. But it is tricky. In other words, it is not so difficult that one should get disheartened and it is not so easy that one should ignore it. Like verbal section, mathematics also requires a lot of practice. Hence, studying high school books is very important. But one has to be very specific and should study only relevant portions. Otherwise, a lot of time and energy will be wasted. Keeping time limit in mind, learning short cuts also is necessary.

Having made proper strategies, one should start implementing them immediately, because an ounce of action is far better than a ton of planning. I would like to quote a famous saying in this context, "An action without vision is a waste of time. And a vision without action is day-dreaming." In other words, the weaker students will have to do more thorough planning. And not only planning, but more proper execution also is required. So, do not kill your dreams, execute them. The students from vernacular medium have little problem in grammar. But they may face problems in sentence formation or conversation. To overcome these problems, they should read as much as possible.

Taking help of print and electronic media is very helpful. If they study with a right and aggressive approach (not physically please) and are regular, they can do as good as convent educated students, and in some cases,even better. Practice makes a man perfect (as if women do not need it). Hence, overcome your mental hurdles and start practising now...


Occasional Occasions

By Amar Singh

So finally Vandana came out of the pit. It was heartening to see people praying for the safety of the three year old child. People from all over the country expressed their concern for the hapless victim through the T.V. channel which was telecasting the ' nail-biting ' rescue operation. Finally after 27-hour ordeal, the child could be rescued. The whole nation heaved a sigh of relief. The whole incident provided an opportunity for our countrymen to become united, another reason to feel proud. TV channels were very swift to cash in on the whole episode. It could have been a personal tragedy for the child and her family, but media made it an issue of national importance. The hungry trapped child asked for potatoes and it became 'Breaking News' for news channels. Next day, minute details about Vandana were published with her photographs in the newspapers viz: which hospital she was treated at, which doctors were monitoring her health, etc. Two years ago, a similar incident had occurred somewhere in U.P. In that case, the victim was an eight year old child named Prince. The whole nation was overwhelmed by the same emotions as in Vandana's case.

The question is: why do we wait for a Vandana or a Prince to fall into a pit to display our unity? A simple controversy in a cricket field is enough for us to come out of our shells,be united and in the end, feel proud. What will happen to our unity and solidarity if any incidents of that sort don't occur? We need to understand that we have our social obligations towards our countrymen, towards humanity as a whole and it should not be occasional. It is an eternal necessity. A man traveling in a suburban train in Mumbai is robbed, beaten and thrown out of the running train, but none of the co-passengers comes to his rescue. In a similar incident, a family is robbed and beaten in a Kalyan bound train, but again the other passengers remain mute spectators.

The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg. But in all those cases, just a single voice from the crowd would have been sufficient to deflate the morale of the assailants. But we feel privileged to remain isolated. We find out excuses to justify our indifference. This attitude encourages anti-social elements to commit crimes in broad daylight and in presence of people who can speak at length about social justice. Otherwise it is not possible for a handful of robbers to rob the whole train. Our indifference encourages them to molest a woman on the New Year eve in Mumbai at a crowded place. In a similar incident, a woman was almost raped at the crowded Gateway of India.

The root of the problem lies in our attitude, it lies in our indifference. And this is not a new problem. In the British rule, a handful of soldiers would beat up and insult people in presence of a large crowd. If those people had turned their backs towards the wall, the British would have fled the country long ago.Even our police forces are not far behind in their knee-jerk reactions. After the serial bomb blasts in suburban trains in Mumbai, the police made our journeys more painful. They started searching the luggage of the passengers manually at the stations. In this process,one had to wait for hours in a queue before boarding a train. Even at shopping malls, the security persons had become 'extra vigilant'. They would search your body twice but would forget to check your bag in hand. Most of the malls didn't have (even today they don't have) any security women. Hence they had to allow women without security checks, and now the situation has come to 'normal'. Now the policemen / policewomen, who are supposed to be vigilant, can be seen and heard 'soundly' sleeping in their chairs.Now anyone can do anything, anytime, anywhere, everywhere....

Recently launched ' Clean Mumbai ' drive launched by BMC is another example. It was declared that littering at public places would not be tolerated and that those found guilty would be severely dealt with. was decided that private marshals would be hired for the purpose. But despite all these ambitious announcements, everything is back to square one. People chewing gutkha and paan can be seen ' painting the town red'. Just have a look at the suburban railway tracks at any station and you will see the red strips of spittle on either side which reminds you of the phrase 'unity is strength'. Spitting in India, particularly in Mumbai is nothing less than a 'mass movement'. People spit from running buses,cars,trains or from anything that moves.But don't think that they spit only when they are on the move. They spray their surroundings with different colours even while sitting or gossiping at a corner of the street.And you can't protest because they are in majority. I have two 'paan-spittle' stained shirts which I have kept as a souvenir to cherish the 'civic sense' of my fellow countrymen.

Our civic authorities, the police forces and the governments are very quick to make laws.They pass resolutions on the drop of a hat.Our politicians will deliver long speeches on such occasions.But when the time of implementing those laws and resolutions comes, they are very lazy. Even if they are implemented in exceptional cases,they prove to be a flash in the fry pan.

We tolerate and spread social evils i.e. child labour,child marriage,dowry corruption, et al. But a simple controversy in a cricket field is enough to stir the whole nation. We come across hundreds of children who are malnourished, who are victims of child labour.But we are not moved.We are more 'concerned' about a child who is stuck in a pit where it does not matter how many smses we send, no matter how concerned we try to look on T.V. We are indifferent towards the Vandanas in our neighbourhoods who are forced into prostitution; we are not concerned about the Prince who is washing dishes at a 'dhaba' in our neighbourhood at an age when he should be going to school.But we don't fail to score points when the whole country is willing to help and be noticed.

We will have valid reasons to feel proud and to consider ourselves a civilized nation only if we instil a civic sense in ourselves. We can fight terrorism in a better way only if we are alert round the clock,throughout the year,year after year,every year... Then we don't have to wait for a terrorist strike to show solidarity towards our nation.We don't have to wait for a cricket world cup victory to feel proud.We don't have to wait for a Vandana to fall into a pit to feel united.


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