How to approach the IIM-A AWT

The IIM-A process involves an AWT as opposed to the WAT. The best way to understand the difference is to view the two as the two essays that the GMAT had earlier – Analysis of an Issue and Analysis of an Argument.


AWA Versus WAT

Analysis of an Issue is closer to a WAT where you have to write an essay on a topic of general interest. The topics are usually related to current affairs and require you to present your views on the same. There is I suppose no need to elaborate on the same.

Analysis of Argument though is an entirely different kettle of fish. Here you are presented with an argument based on a set of premises — in essence a CR passage, the only difference is that there is no one question that follows. the passage is followed by the following prompt –

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

 

The prompt is in effect asking you to look at the passage and answer the whatever CR question types are relevant to it

  • Which of the following is the assumption behind the argument?
  • Which of the following will weaken the argument?
  • Which of the following will strengthen the argument?
  • Which of the following will help you evaluate the argument better?

The only catch is that there are no options!


IIM-A AWT Questions

The IIM-A AWT questions sometimes follow the same format as above and at other times differ from it. The following examples illustrate this

  • Money should not be given to NGOs. They often end up spending it on themselves. Look at how many of them hold their meetings in expensive hotels. Moreover government is there to help the needy. Why is needy asking help from NGOs? Also the emotional advertising they use is very manipulative. These activities should be banned. Analyse the argument. What is author’s line of thought and assumptions made by him and evidences provided? What statements will strengthen the argument and what alternative statements will weaken it.
  • “A lady smokes daily. She likes smoking even if it is bad for health. But she says that women in India are not given enough freedom.” Analyse the argument and state your opinion.
  •  Tourism should be restricted by government as it leads to breakdown of family structure, promiscuity, drug use etc. Is the argument justified?
  • Galileo and Pythagoras should be respected more than Shakespeare and Mozart because they impact civilisation as it is today. Give logical points against this argument.

If you see all the questions do not follow the same pattern as the first one, which is closest to the GMAT Analysis of an Argument. But the second and the third one use premises to make an argument —

Premises: Tourism leads to breakdown of family structure, promiscuity, drug use etc.

Argument: Tourism should be restricted by government


How to approach the IIM-A AWT

Any argument is only as good as its premises and to strengthen or weaken an argument you should check the validity of the premises. So to tackle the AWT effectively you need to start by examining each premise that is stated and evaluate whether it is committing standard logical fallacies.

  • Is the argument making a hasty generalisation using a narrow premise? If yes, what sort of examples can you think of that would give premises that counter the one stated
  • Is the premise based on facts or is a judgment? If yes, what sort of data is required to validate the premise?
  • Even if the premise is validated using data is it enough to arrive at the conclusion
  • Is the argument any other fallacies such as committing fallacies such as
    • Correlation-Causation — simultaneous occurence of two events means one is causing the other
    • Post Hoc Ergo Propter hoc — after this therefore because of this
    • Circular Reasoning

While all arguments need not involve all the fallacies you have to examine the argument for the same.


Sample IIM-A AWT Essays

ESSAY I

Money should not be given to NGOs. They often end up spending it on themselves. Look at how many of them hold their meetings in expensive hotels. Moreover government is there to help the needy. Why is needy asking help from NGOs? Also the emotional advertising they use is very manipulative. These activities should be banned.

The argument made above makes many generalizations based on insufficient evidence.

Firstly, the argument offers no data to substantiate the claim that many NGOs spend money on themselves. For this claim to be valid the argument has to offer evidence showing the funds that NGOs across the country receive and what proportion do they spend in a way that do not meet their objectives. Even if the claim is true in some cases the solution is not to ban all NGOs since it would be similar to throwing the baby out with the bathwater!

The second argument is that the government helps the needy. While the government is there to help the needy it is also a fact that very little of the money earmarked by the government reaches the poor and the needy. The amount of corruption and wastage in the PDS of food grains highlights this fact. Also the government has to manage the fiscal deficit and thus we cannot afford to turn away NGOs that use their funds to reach out to the needy. For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation spends a lot of money in developing countries to improve the quality of life of the underprivileged. It would be unwise for developing countries such as ours to ban them. Also NGOs use professionals from colleges such as TISS to ensure that they are run efficiently and the funds reach the needy, whereas the government might not be able to attract such professionals because of the image of corruption plaguing government initiatives.

Lastly, the argument talks about the ads being manipulative. The situation of the underprivileged is such that it will always be an emotive issue. Many corporates now use emotional advertising showcasing their CSR initiatives to garner goodwill such as TATA tea Jaago Re campaign or the Coca-Cola ad that shows their contribution to education using Saurav Ganguly. If NGO ads should be banned then these ads should also be banned.

The argument overall uses very little evidence to make blanket judgments about NGOs as a whole. It would be strengthened if it showed more data regarding the expenditure of NGOs and if it showed that the expenditure of the government across various sectors is sufficient and effective to cater to the needy.

ESSAY II

Galileo and Pythagoras should be respected more than Shakespeare and Mozart because they impact civilization as it is today. Give logical points against this argument.

The argument in essence posits that Math and the Sciences are more important than literature and music. The argument is flawed for the following reasons.

Firstly, science and math deal with our understanding of the external world whereas literature and music deal with the human being and the human condition. To say that all we need to know is an understanding of the external world but not the emotional core that guides our actions is akin to saying that all we need to perfect is our understanding of the external instrument but not the person using the instrument. Shakespeare’s plays delve into the emotional motivations behind our actions and reflect the problems involved in human beings relationships with each other. Should Julius Caesar have been killed for what they thought he would become? Did Brutus betray his friend for an ideal and is it worth it?

Also it presupposes that such a clear dichotomy exists between science and art. This is may be a reflection of our age of increased specialization. People like Leonardo Da Vinci have with their contribution to both the arts and the sciences have shown that the human being is a composite whole and . Human beings are a part of nature and if our examination is limited to what is outside of us we will never be able to be in harmony with nature. Also math and music are not unrelated but are in fact closely related.

If we can imagine a world and a life without Shakespeare and Mozart or rather without art or music and if we can imagine it being worth living then we can agree with the author. To take examples from India, Aryabhatta and Ramanujam should be as celebrated as Vyasa and M.S.Subbalakshmi.


What does the AWT test?

What the AWA tests is your ability to use your critical reasoning skills to identify flawed arguments. They will be giving flawed arguments like is the case with GMAT AWA and testing your ability to logically pick out the flaws and present them in a coherent fashion

 

So ensure that you do not follow what you usually do for a WAT, where you try to correlate the topic to all current affairs or look at the topic from various angles — social, political, economic etc. Treat the topics like CR questions and do not pile on superfluous statements and write unnecessarily long essays.

All the best to the all IIM-A call-getters for their AWT and PI!

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