GMAT Essay Samples


"It is possible to pass laws that control or place limits on people's behavior, but legislation cannot reform human nature. Laws cannot change what is in people's hearts and minds."


“Man is born free but is in chains everywhere.”--- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

Nothing can be more apt than Rousseau’s quote in his book “The Social Contract”. It is more significant in today’s world because of the prevalent chaos and turmoil that surrounds us. Human nature, as such, is complex; it is difficult to understand what the other person is thinking, no matter how well you know/understand that individual. Individuals, on the other hand, are products of their surroundings. If an individual has calm surroundings, the mind is restrained and he adheres to laws. If his surroundings are embroiled in turmoil, the more disturbed he is likely to be. It is amidst this background that legislatures are framed and passed; legislatures that aim to protect an individual from untoward happenings.

However, laws have their limitations; they cannot transform the substance that is inherent in an individual. For example, consider the example of corporate governance. A large corporation or business house might want to run its business efficiently and ethically using the rules and principles formulated for the business. However, there are bound to be individuals within the organization who might not want to adhere to the ethical code of conduct. Therefore, although the rules and regulations exist within the company, the innate nature of an individual cannot be governed by those regulations (whatever the situation).

Similarly, it is difficult for legislations to govern human nature. It is for this reason that legislations are also accompanied by penalties to set an example so that such violations can be curbed. Because man is a social animal, Rousseau states that it is important to have a social contract with another human being. This would help govern each other’s behavior. However, in case of  a fallout in behavior towards each other, the people involved might exhibit ungainly behavior, during which it is the law that governs over both. However, penalties do not ensure that an individual will not repeat any violation; that is an individual choice. After serving a penalty, an individual might commit the same mistake. Thus, it is important to tackle the moral nature of man, which has led to the rise of rehabilitation (rehab) programs. Many individuals are sent to rehab centers, especially child/teenage offenders, so that their behavior can be molded to accept moral responsibility for their actions. Although this is not a fool-proof method to adopt, it is effective.

Laws govern man and society and it is in this environment that man is truly free. Although people find it difficult to adapt to new legislations, they need to understand that by legislating laws, they secure themselves and behavioral norms in society. Imagine a state without any laws; anarchy. Laws have a binding factor on individuals and they dictate the basic norms that an individual, as part of the society, must adhere to. The nature of an individual stems from the moral upbringing of the individual and the living environment. A disturbing surrounding influences an individual and leads to a violent and rebellious nature; when such a thing happens, it bears impact on the society too because the individual is part of that society. In such a situation, no law can govern the intrinsic nature of the individual. However, legislations pave the way for penalties for any offense such an individual commits. It is in this sense that laws are necessary to curb individual acts of transgression.

The bottom line is that no matter how many legislations are passed, the feeling of responsibility towards oneself and the society needs to come from within. Unless that happens, no amount of legislations passed can control people’s behavior. The moral responsibility of an individual’s actions resides with him/her and the individual must conduct himself in a manner that is deemed fit.

Argument Topic

The following excerpt is taken from the editorial section of the local newspaper in Rockingham.

"In order to save a considerable amount of money, Rockingham's century-old town hall should be torn down and replaced by the larger and more energy-efficient building that some citizens have proposed. The old town hall is too small to comfortably accommodate the number of people who are employed by the town. In addition, it is very costly to heat the old hall in winter and cool it in summer. The new, larger building would be more energy efficient, costing less per square foot to heat and cool than the old hall. Furthermore, it would be possible to rent out some of the space in the new building, thereby generating income for the town of Rockingham."

Essay: In the presented news item of the editorial section of a local newspaper in Rockingham, the editor’s discussion might not seem very much researched upon the argument. The very first sentence opens a chance of doubt as to how building an entirely new hall would save considerable amount of money; because, dismantling the whole old structure and building the town hall entirely anew would not seem to save any costs. Further, the costs likely to be incurred during construction work in this day and age are likely to take a giant leap ahead when compared to the costs incurred in construction a century ago.

The editor’s concern about the size of the hall is acceptable. A century old town hall would surely not be sufficient enough to accommodate the growing number of people being employed. But just supporting some citizens’ proposal of building a new larger and more efficient hall in this regard is also not convincing. A town hall is a public meeting place and it should be regarded so that most of the citizens’ interests are convincingly satisfied. Moreover, to build a more energy efficient hall, they need not dismantle the whole old structure. With the advent of sophisticated technologies, there are renovations going on in different places of the world to restore and also to improve the overall efficiency in terms of building structure, and to make them energy efficient. Renovation can be an answer for making the Rockingham town hall more efficient. Moreover, renovating the already existing hall would also suffice the accommodation problems.

The high costs incurred in heating the old hall in winter and cooling it in summer might also be due to low sophistication in technology deployed in the town hall currently. In order to cut down the costs in this aspect, building a new hall might not be the answer. Employing more sophisticated energy efficient heating and cooling techniques would help them cut down the energy costs and thus make the hall more efficient. It was not even mentioned how the costs per square foot to heat and cool the old hall can be reduced in the new proposed building. So, deploying more efficient technologies will prove better than the idea of building a new hall altogether. Moreover, energy efficient construction plans do not come cheaper or at least they cost more than the renovation of an already existing structure characterized by the deployment of more sophisticated technologies into the site. This is due to the fact that many energy efficient construction technologies are still at developmental stages.

The whole idea also brings into light the need for public vigilance. Cost reduction must be well planned and comprehended not by just quick decisions of getting rid of an existing core structure but must be brought about by revivals. Furthermore, the dismantling of an old structure would also heed to the loss of an era’s heritage. There are many old structures across the world that have been renovated to have all the modern sophistications with the core outlook and the aura of the buildings’ impression remaining the same. Hence, it is a matter of cultural interest to preserve the heritage while seeking a path that could make the existing Rockingham town hall more energy efficient with all the possible technological deployments. Therefore, the decision to construct an all new town hall would not be the best option. It must be characterized by more consultations from the public and researching all the available options in order to make the building more efficient would help the town proudly make the town hall a better place.