GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment

The first section on the GMAT is the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), or essay section, in which you have 30 minutes to write one essay. The question type is known as Analysis of an Argument.

The question prompt can be answered without the need for specialised knowledge of any particular subject - you are being assessed on your ability to communicate your thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely and express yourself in an effective manner.

Analysis of an Argument Essay

The Analysis of an Argument question presents a short piece of text (usually 4 or 5 sentences) which makes an assertion or states a point of view or theory and then gives evidence to support it. Many of the prompts are proposals to improve the performance of a commercial enterprise; others relate to policies, health and safety etc. Your task is to critique the structure of the argument and explain how persuasive or unpersuasive you find it. You are not supposed to give an opinion on the topic and argue it in this essay, and doing so will cost you points. Additionally, keep the question in focus and do not stray from the prompt or be tempted to provide alternative proposals.

When you see the argument, you should ask the following:

  1. What's the conclusion?
  2. What evidence is used to support the conclusion?
  3. Does the writer make assumptions in moving from evidence to conclusion, and if so, what are they?
  4. Is the argument persuasive?
  5. What would make the argument stronger or weaker? (e.g. additional evidence, change in line of reasoning)

GMAT Essay Scores

Essays are graded from 0-6, rounded off if necessary to the nearest half-point. The essays will be graded by two graders - one human and one computerised grader called the "E-rater". If they disagree, a third grader (human!) will be called in to make the final decision.

Essay Writing on the Computer

The GMAT is taken on the computer - so this means you will have to write (type) your essays on the computer too. The testing software provides simple word-processing tools such as cut and paste - however, there is no spell check function, so you must remember to check your work carefully. You will not be penalised for a couple of typos but you will receive a score penalty for a succession of badly-formed sentences or consistently poor grammar.

Both US and UK English spellings of words are accepted.