“New” AWA on the GMAT

As of June 5, 2012, the GMAT will have one AWA question, an Analysis of an Argument essay.  For years before 6/5/12, the GMAT had a second essay, the Analysis of an Issue essay, that will eliminated to make room for the IR section, so we don’t need to worry about this one.


What is Analysis of an Argument?

On this writing assignment, the GMAT will present an argument, often in a context such as a newspaper editorial or the statement of a company.  It generally will be the nature of this argument that reasonable people could argue either side, and whichever side you choose to argue does not matter in and of itself.  You will have 30 minutes to read the prompt and construct your essay.


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What is the task on the Analysis of an Argument?

Whether you argue for or against the argument, your job is to analyze the argument.  This means considering questions such as: what are the assumptions of the argument, and how strong are they?  What sort of facts would strengthen or weaken the argument? Are there alternative explanations or perspectives that would explain the facts in question better?  In many ways, the skills you need for GMAT CR are quite similar to those you will employ on the AWA.  You will not need any special knowledge outside of your own life experience and your general sense of the business world.

A successful Analysis of an Argument essay will be clear and cogently argued; it will present the individual critiques in a logically consistent order; it will identify all the points that in need of consideration; and it will use word choice and variety of syntax to effectively communicate.


Why does the GMAT have an AWA section?

Think about it.  In the Renaissance, a business person would probably know personally all his clients and contacts.  In the modern global business world, you will always have contacts whom you know primarily through writing (email, reports, publications, etc.)  Similarly, many people important for your advancement will meet you the first time through your writing.  Psychologist point out how crucially important first impressions are: for better or worse, folks’ judgments about someone are often largely set by first impressions and only change when there is dramatically different new information.  You need to be able to make a strong first impression in your writing, in the arguments you present.

On the GMAT, the strength of your argument will determine your AWA score.  Five or ten years from now, in the business world, the strength of your argument may determine whether your business gets the new contract or is successful in a big sale, and those outcomes will have significant implications for your career.  On AWA, you are practicing a skill that will be of major importance down the road.


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How important is the AWA on the GMAT overall?

Arguably, of the four GMAT sections (AWA, IR, Quantitative, and Verbal), the AWA is less important than the other three.  It would be a mistake to devote as much time to AWA as you were devoting to any of the other three sections.  It would also be a mistake to completely neglect preparing for the AWA.  It’s important to give the AWA enough focus so that you can be competent on it, but it’s far less important to excel.  The difference between, say, a 45 and a 55 on Quantitative or Verbal may be game-changing as far as your overall GMAT score, by contrast, the different between a 5 and a 6 on the AWA may not have any influence on any business school admission decision.  An AWA score below 4, though, can raise serious red flags: that’s why it’s important to achieve basic competence on this section.

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