GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) Section

How to Approach the AWA Essay

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) presents an argument and asks the test taker to write an essay discussing how well-reasoned the argument is. Familiarity with the subject discussed in the question is not needed. Instead, the test taker needs only to assess whether the argument that is presented is logically sound. Are there issues that are not taken into consideration in the argument that make its conclusion flawed? Conversely, if it does appear to be a sound argument, what other points can be made to strengthen it?

Analysis of an AWA Essay

Much of the essay score will be based on the writer's ability to formulate a critical argument and clearly articulate it. Below are some guidelines that can help ensure that the essay will meet the criteria essay readers will be looking for:

  • Outline Argument

    Before beginning the analysis, the writer should have a clear picture of the points that will be set forth. Some web sites recommend finding flaws in the argument presented in the essay question. While wholly refuting the essay question argument might be the easiest path, it is also possible to strengthen the essay question argument.

    Some test takers have even reported receiving 6.0 scores with essays that neither fully agreed with nor fully refuted the argument. An example would be to explain that the argument presented might be accurate, but needs to be further explored for the following reasons. What is critical is that the test taker should be certain where he/she stands before beginning to write.

  • Make Several Points

    A good rule of thumb would be to try to think of three points to support the argument. Like a three-legged stool this will ensure that the analysis has enough support to stand. It will also help give the body of the essay and appropriate length.

  • Follow Classic Essay Format

    As the essay will be reviewed by readers who are reviewing tons of essays, the format should be kept basic. Clearly present what will be argued in the introduction paragraph. Make supporting points in the body paragraphs. Draw a final conclusion that ties it all together in the conclusion paragraph. This basic structure will be clearest and most successful.

  • Review Grammar

    Watch grammar and syntax. Test-takers should try to plan on finishing the essay a few minutes early so that they have time to carefully review their writing for typos and grammatical errors.

  • Objective Voice

    The essay should not be written in the first person. "I believe" or "I disagree" should be avoided in favor or straightforward objective analysis about the merits or weaknesses of the argument being evaluated.

  • Keep on Point

    Remember that the challenge is to analyze the argument presented in the essay question. That means that if, for example, the essay says that sales of XYZ company will drop for a certain reason, the test taker should not present a whole new plan for increasing sales at XYZ company. The task is to evaluate whether or not the argument that sales will drop for the reason stated is sound.

  • Practice

    The best way to ensure preparedness is to write a few sample essays and review them. Those who are unsure of how effective their practice essay are should have someone else review their writing for them.