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GMAT AWA Example Essay

See an ideal GMAT AWA essay example. 

In the previous post, I demonstrated some brainstorming and identified six objections to this argument.  I then selected three of them as the basis of the essay that follows.  This is one way to go about writing the essay.

Introductory paragraph:

In a memo to the president of Omega University, the music department chair argued that the university should expand the music-therapy program.  This argument is substantially flawed.  The argument presents inconclusive information, offering dubious support, and from this draws unreasonably far-reaching conclusions. 

First main paragraph:

The evidence cited involves ambiguous language.  For example, the argument asserts that the symptoms of mental illness are “less pronounced” after a group music-therapy sessions.  Of course, calm music will have a soothing effect on almost anyone, but can this be considered a legitimate treatment for the mentally ill? Presumably, the benefits of music therapy are neither as powerful nor as long-lasting as those of appropriate medications.  Simply by making the claim that symptoms are “less pronounced”, the author has failed to indicate whether the improvement is significant enough to merit any serious investment in this new field. The music chair also cites an “increase” in job openings in the field of music-therapy.  This is another unfortunately indefinite word.  The word “increase” might mean that music-therapy is a wildly burgeoning new field, although nothing suggests that this is the case.  Alternately, the word “increase” might denote, for example, a rise from 60 jobs nationwide last year to 70 this year — admittedly, this is an increase, although a change across such small numbers hardly would be large enough to warrant any major modifications in a university’s programs. 

Second main paragraph:

Having presented such questionable evidence, the music chair then draws a grand sweeping conclusion: the graduates of the university’s program will have “no trouble” finding jobs in this field.  Quite rare is the combination of a vibrant professional field and a thriving economy, such that applicants entering this field have “no trouble” finding a job.  Even if there is a plethora of jobs in this mental health niche, how do we know that these jobs would go to recent graduates of Omega University?  Surely practitioners with years of experience, or recent graduates of more prestigious universities, would be preferred for such positions.  Even interpreting the questionable evidence in its most optimistic light, we hardly can expect that this one field will explode with employment possibilities for Omega graduates.  This conclusion is far too strong, and therefore the request for funding is not well justified. 

Third main paragraph:

This music-therapy program is already in existence, so presumably it has already had graduates leave Omega University in pursuit of employment.  Evidence that all these recent music-therapy graduates found robust job possibilities waiting for them would enormously strengthen the argument.  Curiously, the music-director is silent on this issue.  If we knew the employment statistics of these recent graduates, these numbers would help us to evaluate this argument better. 

Fourth main paragraph:

The music chair draws another untenably strong conclusion when he asserts that expanding this program will “help improve the financial status of Omega University.”  When alumni of a university make millions or even billions, and choose to give back in substantial amounts to their alma mater, that undoubtedly strengthens the financial standing of a university.  We don’t know the specifics of jobs in music-therapy, but their salaries most certainly do not rival those of hedge fund managers; mental health services are clearly not a field in which practitioners routinely amass remarkable wealth.  Even if the graduates of music-therapy had relatively good job prospects, which is doubtful, having a few more alumni with middle-class to upper-middle class incomes, who, if they choose, may make some modest contributions to, say, the university’s annual fund — this is not an impactful issue in the overall balance sheet of university’s total budget.  The claim that these alumni will substantially improve the “financial status” of the university is hyperbolically overstated. 

Concluding paragraph:

This argument is neither sound nor persuasive.   The music director has failed to convey any compelling reasons for Omega University to expand the music-therapy program in his department.

This is a particular long and thorough sample essay, but it gives you an idea of what it takes to get a 6.  In line with the AWA directions, notice that I organized, developed, and expressed my ideas about the argument presented.  I provided relevant supporting reasons and examples — i.e. I didn’t just say, “This is bad,” but I provided a cogent and reasoned critique.  Finally, I “controlled” the elements of standard written English: that is to say, (a) I made no spelling or grammar mistakes, (b) I used a wide vocabulary (not repeating any single word too much), and (c) I varied the sentence structure (employing subordinate clauses, parallelism, infinitive phrases, participial phrases, substantive clauses, etc.)  As you write practice essays, check yourself afterwards: is every grammatical form commonly tests on GMAT Sentence Correction present in your practice essay?  That is an excellent standard to use.

How important is it to get a 6 for the AWA?  How important is the AWA section on the GMAT?  As I discuss in that post, the AWA is clearly the least important part of the GMAT, less important than either IR or Quantitative or Verbal, but you can’t neglect it entirely.  This sample essay should give you an idea of the standard for which to strive on the Analytical Writing Analysis.


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11 Responses to GMAT AWA Example Essay

  1. Leah October 6, 2016 at 7:05 am #

    Should “are a plethora” be rewritten as “is a plethora” since plethora is singular?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 8, 2016 at 3:10 am #

      Hi Leah,

      Good eye! A plethora is singular, so one must say “there is a plethora of…” just as one would say “there is a bunch…” I have changed the blog post to reflect this. Thanks! 🙂

  2. Carol May 5, 2016 at 8:14 pm #

    The brainstorming has really helped. Thank you for this awesome post.

  3. Laura April 23, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    This has been really helpful for my gmat preparation in 2016! Thank you Mike!

  4. Lara July 27, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    Hi Mike/Magoosh team,

    Just one little typo:
    “Even interpreting the questionable evidence in its most optimistic light, we hardly can expect that this one field will exploded with employment possibilities for Omega graduates.”

    I assume it is meant to be ‘explode’ rather then ‘exploded’.

    Thanks for the blog post- most helpful as per usual.

    • Jessica Wan
      Jessica Wan July 28, 2015 at 11:11 am #

      Thanks for catching that, Lara! We appreciate it! 🙂 Best of luck to you!


  5. Dave January 15, 2015 at 9:28 am #

    Hi Mike,

    Great essay. You write very well and the arguments are solid. There is a grammar mistake in there though.

    “Evidence that all these recent music-therapy graduates found robust job possibilities waiting for them would enormous strengthen the argument”

    “would *enormously* strengthen the argument”

    Am I correct or do I need to complete more verbal section problems?

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike January 15, 2015 at 10:46 am #

      My friend, thank you! 🙂 You are quite correct and you have excellent eyes for detail. These skills will serve you well on the GMAT! I just fixed that typo. Best of luck to you!
      Mike 🙂

  6. Victoria April 9, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

    Thanks so much for the posts! Having a set formula to follow before I go into the test takes off some of the pressure.

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike April 10, 2014 at 10:42 am #

      Dear Victoria,
      You are quite welcome. Best of luck to you, my friend.
      Mike 🙂


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