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Analytical Writing Assessment

Analytical Writing Assessment

GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment
The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section consists of one 30-minute essay, Analysis of an Argument. The Argument essay is similar to a Critical Reasoning weaken question. You are given a short excerpt from an article or memorandum; this stimulus will have an argument that typically contains several assumptions and/or other flaws. Although the question stem is worded broadly, your objective fundamentally is to describe why the argument as presented is flawed. This entails pointing out questionable assumptions, illogical reasoning, insufficient evidence, and overlooked information. The best way to analyze the argument is to pick-apart the stimulus piece-by-piece, attempting to challenge each piece with reasoning and/or possible counterexamples.

You can download for free the list of current Argument essay prompts used on the GMAT. This PDF file is provided by the GMAC. Although it is lengthy, we recommend that you read through the entire list of essay topics in advanced of taking the GMAT. You should also pick at random at least 20 topics and spend five minutes brainstorming and outlining an essay. Furthermore, we suggest that you pick at random at least five more topics and spend 30 minutes writing out a full essay.


Analytical Writing Approach and Scoring

Your essay is judged on how well-structured and well-supported it is, and to a lesser extent on your usage of standard written English. The essay should be written in a straightforward, somewhat formulaic manner. A creative, nuanced writing style will not be rewarded. You must type your essay into the bare-bones word processor provided. Copy, cut, paste, redo, and undo are the only functions available. We suggest that you spend a few minutes brainstorming and outlining your essay before you begin writing. Also be sure to leave a few minutes at the end to proof-read your essay.

The AWA section does not factor whatsoever into your main 200-800 GMAT score. You get a separate AWA score on a scale from 0 to 6, in half-point increments. Your essay is graded separately by two readers: a college faculty member and a computer scoring program. If the two scores are within one point of each other, as is typically the case, the two scores are averaged to derive your AWA score. If the two scores are more than one point apart, however, another human reader will evaluate your essay. The AWA section is not particularly difficult. In fact, 10% of test takers score a perfect 6.0 and 80% score 4.0 or above. Because of this, most business schools primarily use the AWA score to ensure that foreign students can write well and to verify that the essays included on your business school applications are consistent with your AWA writing abilities.


Sample Analytical Writing Essay Topic

Let’s try a sample Argument essay topic. This prompt is not on the GMAC official list, but is modeled off two official prompts. Brainstorm flaws on your own, and perhaps even write out a full essay, before viewing the explanation and sample essay.

The following appeared as part of an article in the business section of a local newspaper:

“Ronnie’s Auto Body Shop commenced business four months ago at the location formerly occupied by the Mystique Beauty Parlor. Ronnie’s Auto must be doing well at this location, because it intends to open a big body shop in an adjacent town. Mystique, on the other hand, has seen a lower volume of business in its first year at its new location compared to the prior year at its former location. Mystique definitely erred in shifting to its new location; its former location is a better site.”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

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