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GMAT Sample Questions : Analytical Writing Assessment

An understanding of the past is necessary for solving the problems of the present.


History is an integral part of the learning process. By studying events of the past, we can analyze the repercussions of certain behavior and action patterns. It is a fundamental way to lay the groundwork and predict the outcomes of future events. History is governed by human behavior. Although times have changed, and technology and knowledge has advanced, people are still driven by the same needs, desires, and insecurities of ages past.

One area in which the study of history is essential is in the conflict between disputing nations. During the Gulf War in 1991, America was at first unsure of its potential role. This country did not want to repeat the tragic losses of the Vietnam War, but at the same time could not let injustices occur before its very eyes. By studying previous military strategy, impetus, and conditions, the United States was able to enter the war without suffering a humiliating defeat. Civil rights issues have also used historical experiences to determine proper conduct. The civil rights movements go back to the 1960's, when black leaders were just beginning to assert and articulate their arguments, as well as achieve their goals. The recent racial riots in Los Angeles, while violent, showed how people can learn from the past. There were definite and inspiring examples of concern crossing racial borders while before, the conflict was African-Americans against whites, we saw examples of multi-racial groups banding together to protect stores, homes, and families. Many of those people did not want to repeat the horrifying events of the past.

On the other hand, some problems exist today that are totally independent of any historical event. The current issue of AIDS prevention, treatment, and search for its cure has generated a whole new set of rules and etiquette. Our world has never before had to deal with the devastating effects of the AIDS virus, not with the quickly increasing numbers of infected people. Looking at the past could give us no knowledge on the workings of this disease, nor on its cure. It seems to have bypassed every known strategy used before in defeating a virus. In fact, looking to the past could even cause problems. It was the past, and even ongoing, sexual practices that allowed AIDS to spread so quickly. Instead of looking to the past for new information, we must reform our histories to stop this disease.

When, then, is the past crucial to our understanding of current events? It is important only, and especially, when it relates to the present situation. History can lay the groundwork for a course of action. But, of course, this is only true when the courses of action are similar. There must be some common threads tying the past and present together. With racial tension in mind, the commonalities stem from common catalysts for anger and feeling in injustice and equality. Moreover, these events are mediated by human behavior. Also, conflicts between nations arise because people disagree. In fact, people, and the involvement of people, may also be the common thread tying the past and the present together. But, with something like the AIDS virus, this crisis is not governed by any set of rules or behavior. No previously established fundamental law of virus behavior exists to dictate its actions, for it proceeds with a total disregard and lack of emotion. It just keeps changing and slipping through our fingers, with no historical example to give us a guideline as to its future actions. History is crucial to understand. It can provide clues to our future, and help us solve certain problems. But, this can only be true if these problems, or similar ones, existed before and were governed by similar mechanisms.

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