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TOEFL Official Practice Test Writing Topic List

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

"When people succeed, it is because of hard work. Luck has nothing to do with success."

Start: 19:15
End: 19:45

To ascribe a person's success solely to their hard work is to simplify the ingredients of success to one single factor: the individual's capabilities. However, this oversimplification does not give due credit to other major conditions that greatly influences a person's capacity to succeed in life. By claiming that good fortune is completely irrelevant in determining the chances of a person's success, this also implies that people who do not succeed in their endeavours are solely at fault-- that their failures are due to their incompetence or lack of determination alone, and ignores the external factors that are out of control for the individual. In fact, I would argue that a person's chances at succeeding in life are less predicated on how much hard work they put in, but rather more dependent on uncontrollable external circumstances like opportunities, socioeconomic status and a whole lot of good luck.

This is not to discount hard work as an essential ingredient to success. There are many exemplary persons from humble backgrounds who were able to overcome the many odds stacked against them through hard work, in order to come out victorious in their endeavours. A good example would be the current US President Barack Obama, who comes from a single-parent, low-income household, and yet was able to succeed in a system that persistently discriminates against people of colour in various ways of systemic oppression, through working hard as a law student and social activist in his youth. However, Obama did not achieve those successes through hard work alone; he was supported by many people including his family, and organisations like scholarship providers, along the way to his destination. Indeed, he was able to make it into the White House and stay there for two terms undeniably through the unwavering support of the African-American electorate. Hence, an individual's hard work alone is not enough to make them succeed in achieving their goals. It is only when hard work is coupled together with the appropriate support systems and the luck of having the access to them, that success could be attained despite all the odds.

Perhaps it is not at all wrong to state that a person's chances of succeeding in life are already determined from the moment they are born. The founder of Global Citizen initiative commented that it is unfair that our opportunities and privileges in life are decided by the "lottery of the womb" -- that the way our lives will turn out is highly dependent on which parents, country, socioeconomic status we are born into. Indeed, these factors cannot be dismissed when discussing the ingredients to success. It is not only the individual's inherent capabilities and determination through hard work that ultimately causes them to succeed. A child with average intelligence might eventually transform into a highly respected academic, just purely based on his privilege of having been born to wealthy parents in a highly developed country where he belongs to the dominant culture and therefore is immune to systemic prejudice and microaggressions. Whereas a genius might have been born in the slums of Liberia, but the world would never have the opportunity to appreciate this child's potential to contribute greatly to the world because his life was taken prematurely through war, strife and epidemic, or because he never had the necessary support systems to guide him to his true path. Thus, it is obvious that luck plays a huge indispensable role in determining an individual's success, and to downplay its importance is to blame the individual solely for his predicament rather than addressing the systemic inequalities that make some people achieve greater things than less fortunate others.

To conclude, I firmly believe that this statement is an oversimplification of the various conditions that favour an individual's success, because it gives all the credit to the individual and fails to address the other essential external circumstances that allow the individual's hard work to bear fruit. The unfair implication in the statement blames people for their failures instead of taking into account the obstacles they have to overcome in order to achieve the same amount as people who were blessed with good luck and privileges. Indeed, hard work is necessary to the attainment of success, but hard work alone is insufficient in overcoming the odds stacked against the individual without the good fortune of inheriting privileges based on the socioeconomic status they were born into.

733 words


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