width=280The Analytical Writing Assessment, or AWA for short is currently part one of a total of three sections in the GMAT business school entrance exam. TopMBA.com looks into the methods and processes that high scoring GMAT students have used in order to make the most of the AWA section.

While any serious GMAT student will have already heard about the news regarding a new section, Integrated Reasoning replacing one of the two essays that currently form the AWA, until June 2012 the AWA remains an hour long section of the three and a half hour MBA applicant exam.

During the AWA, future MBA applicants are required to write two essays in response to prompts. The first essay type is called Analysis of an Issue, where test takers are asked to present their perspectives on a topic. The second type is referred to as Analysis of an Argument, where students are asked to critique an example argument.

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.

Analysis of an Issue essay

The Analysis of an Issue task presents a broad general issue with several facets. Sometimes two points of view are given and other times students will find only one explicitly stated. What's required is the ability to explore the complexities of the issue, form an opinion, and then to express personal views on the issue clearly and convincingly.

There is no 'correct' answer as such, meaning it doesn't matter which side of the argument you advocate as you will not be graded on the position you take. What matters is that MBA applicants develop an opinion, provide some concrete examples to support their ideas and make them clear to the reader, all the while expressing themselves in grammatically correct English. While students may draw their reasons and examples from personal experience, conjecture should be avoided.

Analysis of an Argument essay

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?


Essays in the AWA are scored holistically, taking into account elements such as content, organization of ideas, and the candidate's use of language. 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 Analytical Writing Assessment and keep these simple rules in mind will be sure to achieve AWA scores reflective of their true ability.