The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is one of the most neglected sections of the GMAT. Students tend to focus more on the all-important quant and verbal sections of the exam first. The bad part is that the essay comes before the quant and verbal section. If you write a good essay, it will set the tone for a good exam. However, you should not drain too much energy on this section. You still have to attempt three hours of questions after the essay.
AWA tests your critical thinking and communication abilities. The section contains one writing task – analysis of an argument – which has to be completed within 30 minutes. The arguments can span a range of topics. The scoring for the AWA section ranges from 0-6 half-point intervals.
While the essay may not be added to the composite score, it is always a good idea to write a nice, coherent piece. Most schools look at your AWA writing task. A good performance in this section, along with high GMAT scores, will improve your chances of admission to a good MBA program.
The good part about this section is that test takers are already familiar with the question type thanks to their preparation for critical reasoning section.
The GMAC guys offer some great advice to students on their website:
“Consider the following when developing your essay:
What questionable assumptions underlie the thinking behind the argument?
What alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion?
What sort of evidence could help strengthen or refute the argument?”
Keep the points in mind when you are writing your essay. Remember that you are not trying to create a literary masterpiece here. You have to just analyse the reasoning behind the given argument and offer critique. Try to identify the conclusion first, then check the evidence, and then check the logical fallacies. After breaking down the author’s argument, you should write about the evidence which would strengthen the argument.
The essay has to flow in a logical narrative. Make sure you structure it very well. You can start with an intro paragraph which can be a small piece about your argument. Your body paragraphs should mention the reasons which make the author’s argument poor. Add one paragraph on evidence which could strengthen the argument. Your last paragraph should be a reinforcement of your statements in the intro paragraph.
Remember to stick to the time available. You want atleast 5 minutes to proofread your essay. Make sure that your essay is devoid of spelling and grammatical errors. If this is not a section you are very comfortable with, you can write a couple of essays during your practice tests. With a little practice and thought, you should be able to do well in the section. In any case, this is not a section which should give you sleepless nights!