Archive for category Practice Questions

Practice Essay Question – Faith & Reason

WRITING TEST A

Consider the following comments and develop a piece of writing in response to one or more of them. Your writing will be judged on the quality of your response to the theme; how well you organise and present your point of view, and how effectively you express yourself. You will not be judged on the views or attitudes you express.

“Faith indeed tells what the senses do not tell, but not the contrary of what they see. It is above them and not contrary to them.
Blaise Pascal

“He who has faith has… an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness, and assuring trust that all will come out well – even though to the world it may appear to come out most badly.
B. C. Forbes

“Faith: not wanting to know what is true.
Friedrich Nietzsche

“Reason is our soul’s left hand, faith her right.
John Donne

“The faith that stands on authority is not faith.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Ultimately, blind faith is the only kind.
Mason Cooley


How to tackle this question

(Warning, spoiler alert, don’t read this section if you want to tackle this on your own)

After reading through these quotes you should have correctly identified the key themes addressed by these quotes as Faith and Reason. You could approach this from a lot of different angles depending on your knowledge and experience. You could approach it from the perspective of your own faith if you have one, or as atheist or agnostic person. You could see religion as a social phenomenon and talk about it’s positive and negative impacts.

I just want to make it clear that I’m not personally opposed to faith, I side with Pascal on this one.

Points to consider

You could consider the following points while formulating your answer or come up with your own.

  • Are faith and reason diametrically opposed or can faith be reconciled with reason?
  • Is science making faith redundant?
  • Is faith harmful in that it can be used to deny science (medicine, global communication, etc)
  • Is a society based on pure reason dangerous? (China, Russia, et al.)
  • Is a society with a strong undercurrent of faith in many ways more humane? Can a humane society be achieved without faith?
  • Without faith what becomes of morality?
  • Are there questions that cannot be tackled scientifically?

Suggested plan

In a short essay you will not have time to cover everything. You might consider a plan something like the following:

  1. Science replaces faith because it is more explanatory (support with examples)
  2. … but science cannot replace the feeling that many people have that there is some kind of loving entity (support with examples)…
  3. …ultimately, science and religion tackle different questions and both are valid.

Feel free to post any of your own essays as comments and good luck!

Practice Essay Question – Wealth vs Greed

WRITING TEST A

Consider the following comments and develop a piece of writing in response to one or more of them. Your writing will be judged on the quality of your response to the theme; how well you organise and present your point of view, and how effectively you express yourself. You will not be judged on the views or attitudes you express.

“If all the rich people in the world divided up their money among themselves there wouldn’t be enough to go around.”
Christina Stead

“Endless money forms the sinews of war.”
Cicero

“The only way not to think about money is to have a great deal of it.”
Edith Wharton

“Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.”
Donald Trump

“A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.”
Jane Austen

“Money frees you from doing things you dislike. Since I dislike doing nearly everything, money is handy.”
Groucho Marx

How to tackle this question

(Warning, spoiler alert, do not read this if you want to have a go on your own)

On reading these quotes you should have noticed that the unifying themes here are the positive and negative aspects of wealth (Wealth vs Greed). Once you notice this you have a start on your essay. You could tackle this from a personal perspetive and talk about your experiences of money, or lack thereof , and bring in your knowledge of current affairs, eg. the Bill and Melinda gates foundation, wars over diamonds and oil, the state of the financial markets, etc, etc.

Points you might consider

  • Wealth can bring freedom but also fear, difficulty and loss of potential. How can one thing have such different effects?
  • Is it necessary to be rich to be considered wealthy?
  • Are wealth and poverty relative terms? What is meant by wealth? Does wealth define poverty?
  • Can wealth be a curse as well as a blessing? Consider the Congo for example.
  • How do different societies deal with wealth and poverty, consider the welfare state, the workhouse, criminalisation of the poor.
  • Does poverty promote creativity. Can wealth have the opposite effect?
  • Is a monetary system necessary for humans to live in large groups?
  • Are there any alternative political systems that do not require money, eg. small group anarchy? Can these work on a large scale? Do you have any personal experience with such systems?
  • What is the nature of money? How do we define it? Are wealth and money distinct, eg, a painting may be worth far more that the value of the paint and canvas used. Does the act of painting create wealth?

Practice Essay Question – The Media

WRITING TEST B

Consider the following comments and develop a piece of writing in response to one or more of them. Your writing will be judged on the quality of your response to the theme; how well you organise and present your point of view, and how effectively you express yourself. You will not be judged on the views or attitudes you express.

What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish.
W. H. Auden
Television is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.
T. S. Eliot
Communication is two-sided – vital and profound communication makes demands also on those who are to receive it… demands in the sense of concentration, of genuine effort to receive what is being communicated.
Roger Sessions
The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.
Malcom X
Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.
Charles Dickens
Don’t hate the media, become the media.
Jello Biafra

What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish.
W. H. Auden

Television is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.
T. S. Eliot

Communication is two-sided – vital and profound communication makes demands also on those who are to receive it… demands in the sense of concentration, of genuine effort to receive what is being communicated.
Roger Sessions

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.
Malcom X

Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.
Charles Dickens

Don’t hate the media, become the media.
Jello Biafra

Strategies for approaching this question

(Warning, Spoiler Alert. Don’t read this if you want to attempt this question without help)

This essay question is based on a question which came up in the 2009 London GAMSAT about falling standards in the media. After reading these quotes you should have noticed that there is no definite this vs that theme. The underlying theme is the media and subthemes are: power or the media, standards in the media, new media vs old media (become the media) and effects of the media. The 2009 question was like this without a single obvious answer.
You can tackle a question like this this from a wide range of directions using any of the approaches listed above, or one of your own

Points you might consider

Consider things such as:
  • How has new media affected traditional media (by reducing ad revenue, by allowing people to consume in their own time)?
  • Have standards slipped? If so, why?
  • What are the strengths of new media (everyone is a producer and a consumer, media is produced in real time)?
  • Have social networks evolved to cater to the needs of a less socially cohesive society?
  • Is new media isolating or empowering?
  • What are the dangers of traditional media.
  • Does traditional media have a place in the digital world, if so, what is it?

Suggested essay plans

In a short essay you will only have time for one or two key themes so you will need to decide what approach you’d like to take.
  1. Quality standards in traditional media have fallen due largely to a decline in ad revenue thanks largely to the rise in popularity of the internet. reference to W.H Auden
  2. Services like Twitter and Facebook have allowed people to create throw away media, much of which is also poor quality.
  3. However new media also has the power to be emancipatory as it is largely free and unregulated. New media is 2 way so promotes conversation. reference to Roger Sessions