Analytical Writing Assessment or AWA as it is popularly called is the third component of analysing GRE/GMAT takers after Verbal and Quantitative Abilities. In this section, you have to write one essay on an issue and analyse an argument on another topic.
The issue analysis essay would be in the form of a one-line or two-line statement about any topic on which you have to either support or refute with suitable examples and data in order to substantiate your approach to the issue. The length of the article should be of around 600 words.
The argument analysis essay would be a paragraph written on a topic, and you have to read that and bring out the logical inconsistencies of the arguments propounded by the author to support his view. The length of this piece should be of around 350 words.
IS AWA VERY DIFFICULT?
Those who hail from a non-humanities background and may not be used to writing essays, Analytical Writing Assessment need not be a cause of worry for you. You need not be a Shakespeare, Byron or Eliot to get a good score. A few simple tips would see you through.
Most importantly, you are tested on your ability logically analyse your thoughts and express yourself in simple English without much jugglery of words.
ISSUE ANALYSIS ESSAY
HOW TO GET IDEAS?
In the Issue Analysis, the most common problem every examinee faces is getting ideas and organising the same. The easiest way to get supporting points is by simply asking the topic the questions – why, what, when, how, benefits, drawbacks. Once you ask these questions, the answers that you get give you enough material to write your essay.
HOW TO ORGANISE IDEAS?
Once you jot down the points, start segregating them, i.e. start finding out the strongest points and arrange them in a descending order, i.e. the strongest supporting points should come above and the ones of lesser importance below.
You should choose three strong points. Now again you have to choose sub-points to support the main points. In this case too, the same process is to be repeated by asking why, what, when, benefits, drawbacks to derive the answers and arranging them accordingly.
HOW TO CHOOSE SIDES?
Since you have to give your opinion on a subject, you have to either support or refute it. You may take any side. But before you choose your side, make sure, you opt for the one where you have the strongest points to support yourself. This is because you would be marked on how well you have reasoned. This is to test your logical reasoning and analytical abilities. Hence you have to think very logically.
Let us consider the topic is, ”Mobile phones are more of a curse than a blessing.” Here you should note down all points for both the sides of the issue, and then choose the one where you find there is more strength.
INTRODUCTION & CONCLUSION
After you complete the body, you need to work on its introduction and conclusion. The introduction needs to be exactly a gist of the entire idea presented in your essay. In other words, it should be like the first paragraph of a newspaper report, where if you remove the entire report and read only the first paragraph, it gives you the exact picture of what the report is all about. A good introduction shows your powers of expression with the level of control over the language. Since you are expressing your opinion, you may start with, “I strongly believe mobile is more of a curse than a blessing because it is the root of greater inconveniences than its advantages.” It need not be more than 2-3 lines.
And similarly, you conclude in short by stating that, “Thus in my opinion …” . Here you give a summarised analysis of the logic you have adduced to support your position.
ARGUMENT ANALYSIS ESSAY
WHAT TO NOTE?
After you read the short paragraph that reasons out an incident, system or a phenomenon, note the flaws in the logic of the author. Usually, the writer takes a lot of assumptions to draw his conclusions or may claim certain happenings to be the effect of a cause. These may be just wild guesses by the author without being substantiated by facts or figures.
HOW TO ORGANISE IDEAS?
Try to jot down at least three strong anomalies in the passage. Then segregate them in the same way as of Issue Analysis by arranging them in a descending order of importance.
Let us read the following passage, a prototype of the actual test. This news report appeared in a leading financial daily and see where the flaws lie:
“The days of subsidised university education are numbered. The government is planning to hike college fees substantially as Indian Universities need resources to come up to the league of Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge. So, the Rs 15, Rs 20, Rs 25 fee per month will soon enter the annals of history. When banks are offering long-term educational loans in easy instalments, there is no need to subsidise higher education. Students can easily repay the loan amount to the bank once they get a job, a government official said.”
The first flaw is that by simply increasing student fees of universities, no university can reach the levels of Harvard, Cambridge or Oxford. Had that been so, then universities across the world would have increased their fees manifold and reached this coveted league.
The second shortcoming lies in assuming that higher resources at the disposal of Indian universities would elevate their standard. A university acquires world-class status with the presence of the best students, faculty, infrastructure and environment. While resources can upgrade the infrastructure to a certain extent, it can’t alone take a university to world class heights.
The third assumption that students can pay costly higher education fees by opting for an educational loan which they can pay back after they join a job on completion of their education is without basis. One is unsure of getting a job after education, and hence to go for higher studies with a bank loan is fraught with much uncertainty and risk. It may thus prevent a number of meritorious students from pursuing higher studies.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM ISSUE ANALYSIS?
While in issue analysis, you take sides to analyse an issue, here you neither refute nor support what the author has to say. Rather you work as a critic, whose duty is to figure out the unsubstantiated assumptions and the flaws in the logic on which the piece is based on. You have to argue with strong reasoning and data or with examples why certain aspects of the viewpoint of the author are erroneous. The better you can reason, the higher is your chances of being marked.
INTRODUCTION & CONCLUSION
Here too, follow the same rules and structure as that of the Issue analysis essay. The only difference is in the introductory sentence where you say, ”The author’s contention in the topic which are based on assumptions like …….. , in reality go to act as a deterrent towards the issue of the development of ……….. . “