Formerly consisting of two essays, as part of the new format GMAT exam, the AWA section now contains just one essay, in order to make way for the Integrated Reasoning section.
It’s important to note that the AWA does not test specific subject knowledge, but rather the ability to communicate thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely, and the ability to express oneself in an effective manner.
The Analysis of an Argument task presents a short passage of text which makes an assertion or states a point of view and then attempts to support it. For example, the argument may be a proposal to improve the performance of a commercial enterprise, or may relate to an educational policy.
Test takers are not expected to have expertise in the area in question. Instead, the task is to critique the structure of the argument and explain how persuasive or indeed unpersuasive it is. Students are not supposed to give their opinion and argue it in this essay, and doing so will not only waste time, but may cost valuable points too.
Consider the following when the argument is revealed:
- What's the conclusion?
- What evidence is used to support the conclusion?
- What assumptions does the writer make in moving from evidence to conclusion?
- Is the argument persuasive?
- What would make the argument stronger or weaker?
Elements such as content, organization of ideas, and the candidate’s use of language are taken into consideration in the AWA. High scoring essays are usually strong in the following ways:
- The essay has followed the instructions in the question. This may sound obvious but it can be surprisingly easy to get drawn into an argument, thus forgetting what is being judged.
- The essay draws a clear conclusion and uses persuasive evidence, as well as sound reason to support the major points.
- The essay is well organized. Students should state their position and then maintain it. In responding, would-be MBAs must be sure to keep points cohesive and thoughtfully ordered.
- The essay uses the correct language. Students must use the appropriate vocabulary, avoiding slang, jargon and repetition. Although test takers will not be heavily penalised for a small number of spelling or grammar mistakes, students should read their work thoroughly to avoid excessive errors and to make sure it flows well.
Students who work through the AWA and keep these simple rules in mind will be sure to achieve scores reflective of their true ability.