GMAT Tips: Analytical Writing Assessment Section (Essay)
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- Admissions committees do not give AWA scores the same importance that they do to GMAT verbal and quantitative scores. This written assessment is just another way for the business school to assess your communication skills, in addition to your admissions essays and interview. You are recommended to spend more time preparing for the verbal and quantitative sections of the GMAT than for the AWA.
- You will have 30 minutes for each section. Before you begin writing, you should spend 3 to 5 minutes preparing a rough outline on your scrap paper of how you want to write your essay. Consider this your "brainstorming" time. Just throw down as many ideas on the paper as you can. At the end of this 3 to 5 minutes, look at what you have written. Scratch out anything you know you do not want to include. Number the remaining thoughts in terms of their importance to your issue or argument. You now have a logical outline for your essay.
- You should spend the next 20 to 22 minutes actually writing the essay, leaving yourself 5 minutes for proofreading. Take a second to close your eyes, stretch, and then re-read your essay with fresh eyes.
- Spend your proofreading time making sure that the introductory paragraph is still relevant to the body of your essay, looking for and correcting omitted words, typos, and grammar errors, making sure your thoughts are clearly expressed, and check for use of transition words. (This is especially important to help the E-rater move from one idea to the next.)
- You should not, however, attempt to overhaul the entire essay in the remaining 5 minutes.
- Express a few ideas (the best ones you identified during your initial brainstorming) in a few interesting sentences. Keep the essay structure simple. Remember, you are only spending about 20 minutes writing the essay, and your graders will spend an average of 2 minutes reading it. You certainly don't want to confuse the graders or waste time by using unduly complex structures or language.
- Write an introductory paragraph that clearly explains what you are going to say in the essay. Then you should develop your 3 or 4 ideas, each in its own separate paragraph. Make sure your opinions are clearly stated. (Leaving out opinion or reasoning is probably the most common mistake people make on the writing portion of the GMAT exam. Do not worry about offending a grader with your opinions or analysis. AWA topics are not that controversial.) Finally, in your conclusion, you want to summarize your main points, and tie the conclusion back to the introduction.
- Use transition words generously. Phrases like "for example", "consequently", or "first, second, ...lastly" will help the reader follow your essay's structure. Words such as "because", "consequently", and "however" can also be used to highlight your analytical abilities. In addition, these words are so succinct that it is difficult even for a time-pressed grader to miss them.
- Be specific. One of the key criteria graders look for is your ability to present ideas and arguments clearly and persuasively. Many writers grow vague when pressed for time. Do not let this happen to you. However, do not let yourself become dogmatic either. It is appropriate, even helpful, to acknowledge the limitations of your arguments and to concede the validity of opposing points of view. This will make you appear judicious, and therefore non-dogmatic, to the grader. Because AWA essays are so short, however, you should only state this once or twice, and only in the body of the essay.
- Do not use big words for their own sake. The AWA is not meant to judge your vocabulary. Your grader will get the impression that you used big words to mask weaknesses in your analysis. Since they only have 2 minutes to read the essay, this impression will affect your score.
- Grammar is important. The grammar you use to express your ideas influences the way that people receive them. If your essay is grammatically incorrect, the graders will naturally conclude that the essay's logic, structure, etc., are also incorrect. Again, since they only have 2 minutes to read the essay, this bias will harm your score.
- Vary the length of your sentences. This will make your essay easier for the grader to read. It also shows that you are a smart and effective writer.
Tips For The Analysis Of An Argument Section
- You will be given a one-paragraph argument to critique. You are not supposed to discuss your opinion on the subject. Instead, you are supposed to find fault with the argument's reasoning.
- Use your 5-minute brainstorming session to think of some thoughtful and perceptive analyses of the argument. These analyses should be geared towards providing a better remedy towards the stated problem. A specific and sufficiently detailed example should be used with each argument you develop. You should have 3 to 4 paragraphs in the body of the essay. Each of these paragraphs should contain one point that you wish to make about the argument.
- Graders like to see specifics in your essay. You can start with finding the generalizations included in the one-paragraph argument. This is generally not too difficult to do.
Tips For The Analysis Of An Issue Section
- You will be given a one-paragraph text discussing the pros and cons of some issue. You will be asked to select the position with which you agree. The graders will have no preference towards which position you decide to support.
- Use your brainstorming session to come up with points that support each side of the argument. That way, you can select the position that is more easily defended in your essay (even if it's not the position you would take if you had more time or space to explain yourself).
- Be sure to include a specific example supporting or illustrating each point you make in the body of this essay.
- Acknowledge the complexity of the issue in your introduction, and perhaps concede 1 or 2 points supporting the other position in the body of the essay. Do not worry that this will make you seem indecisive. Rather, it makes you appear judicious and non-dogmatic.
- Be careful with your choice of language and tone. You are being asked to write an issue analysis, not a campaign ad. Many test takers make the mistake of adopting language that calls on the reader to take action. The grader will react far more favorably to a persuasive argument that gives good reasons to support a position but does not call on him or her to take any immediate action.
Overall Tips for the GMAT Test
Overall Tips for the Test Day
Specific Tips for Math or Quantitative Section
Specific Tips for Verbal Section
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