GMAT Analytical Writing – AWA

Introduction to the GMAT AWA Task

The Analytical Writing section on the GMAT (often referred to simply as the AWA) is possibly the one with most diametric opinions.

Some people actually look forward to the opportunity to break out of the multiple-choice format and to present their thoughts on paper, while others are terrified by the prospect. Whichever side you land on in this debate, to master the AWA task, all one needs is structured thinking and a good grasp of the English language.

What is the argument essay?

Essentially, the test taker is given 30 minutes to type an analytical essay, critiquing and evaluating a flawed argument (along the lines of a CR Weaken argument).

Note that the AWA score is not factored into the general GMAT score out of 800. Instead, it is a separate score, wherein the test-taker earns points on a scale of 0 to 6, moving in half-point increments (that is, 0-0.5, 0.5-1, 1-1.5, etc). Both a computer and a human will evaluate and grade your essay, and you'll receive your AWA score along with your official scores from GMAC, any time within 15 days of taking the exam. In some cases, there is a score disparity of more than one point between the computer score and the human score. If this happens, a second human scorer is asked to evaluate the writing.

How important are the AWA scores?

While it is true that there is often more emphasis on the GMAT general score, one should not take the AWA lightly. Almost all business schools have their specific cut-offs not just for the GMAT general score (out of 800), but also for the AWA score (out of 6). The cut-offs range from 4 to 4.5; therefore, you should aim for 4.5 or above to be safe.

What does the AWA specifically want?

There are three main categories on which the AWA task is scored:

  • Organization and Presentation
    While assessing your writing, the readers will look at how you present your thoughts. Your writing will be considered coherent if you have logical transitions between ideas and there is a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. If your thoughts are unorganized and haphazard, this will lower your score.
  • Logical Analysis
    When considering the quality of your logical analysis, the readers will consider the caliber of the ideas you present and points you make. Further, they will evaluate whether your examples and supporting details are relevant to the argument you are making.
  • Linguistic Skills
    Linguistic skills encompases a couple of areas. For one, the reader evalutes your technical grasp on elements of standard written English. The readers are trained to be conscious of and sensitive to non-native English speakers, but if this applies to you, you will want to at least be comfortable with the basics to avoid losing points. The reader will also consider how your writing style contributes to making a persuasive argument or a flawed one.
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