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AWA Argument: Sample Essay Breakdown

Now that we’ve identified the assumption it is time to write the essay. However, there are a few preliminaries. One thing of note: you do not need to come up with as many assumptions as possible. Three or four is enough to build a solid essay on. And remember, you need to be persuasive, so do not simply list your assumptions without pointing out why they are assumptions and how they weaken the argument.

Also, do not at any point suggest that the argument has any merits. ETS has provided an argument that is full of unstated assumptions. You are to identify these logical gaps and, per the instructions, elaborate on how these unwarranted assumptions affect the argument.

Speaking of the insructions, I think it is important to reproduce them here, before we go on with the essay:

SuperCorp recently moved its headquarters to Corporateville. The recent surge in the number of homeowners in Corporateville prove that Corporateville is a superior place to live then Middlesburg, the home of SuperCorp’s current headquarters. Moreover, Middleburg is a predominately urban area and according to an employee survey, SuperCorp has determined that its workers prefer to live in an area that is not urban. Finally, Corporateville has lower taxes than Middlesburg, making it not only a safer place to work but also a cheaper one. Therefore, Supercorp clearly made the best decision.

“Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on the assumptions and what the implications are if the assumptions prove unwarranted.”

With that out of the way, let’s start with the Intro. The Intro should be short and sweet. In fact, the intro for the Argument should really not contain any novel ideas. You simply want to say that the argument is unwarranted for a number of reasons. If you find yourself hung up on the intro, write it at the end. The key to the essay is the body, in which you identify the unwarranted assumptions. You do not want to waste precious minutes fiddling about with the Intro.



The argument makes a number of unwarranted assumptions regarding the corporation’s proposed move from Middleburg to Corporateville . Taken as a whole, these unstated assumptions render the argument highly suspect. Indeed, if these unstated assumptions do not hold true, then the argument totally falls apart.

Next we have the body paragraphs, in which you will point out the unstated assumptions that render the argument invalid. You can lump all into one massive paragraph or you can—as I do here—spread them into three paragraphs, one for each unstated assumption.


Paragraph #1:

The argument assumes that the increase in homeowners is directly correlated with improved living, or, as the argument states, “a superior place to live.” Housing could simply be cheaper, causing an influx of people. That is the increase of population does not mean that everybody wants to live in Corporateville because it is such a great place. Indeed low-priced housing and overcrowding clearly would make Corporatville a less superior place to live.

Notice how I ended the argument by referring back to what the instructions asked us to do: “Be sure to explain how the argument depends on the assumptions and what the implications are if the assumptions prove unwarranted.”


Body Paragraph #2

Another unstated assumption the argument makes is that what is superior for residents is the same as what is superior for corporations. Thus, even if everybody wants to move to Corporateville because it is a superior place to live, that doesn’t mean it is a superior place for a company to move its headquarters. For instance, perhaps Corporateville has an excellent public school system and/or natural parks. Neither of these would make Corporateville a superior place for a corporation. Unless the argument can show that there is clear reason that Corporateville is superior to Middletown for a corporation, then the corporation could be making the wrong decision in moving to Corporateville.


Body Paragraph #3

For this body paragraph, I would focus on the survey. This is probably the strongest unstated assumption remaining (the survey is a valid measure). However, you can choose to focus on taxes or urban vs. non-urban. Do not, however, try to jam all the assumptions. Your focus is to show that the essay makes many unproven assumptions and is thus invalid. Pointing out several assumptions is enough. Unless you have time, do not be exhaustive.



Like the intro, the conclusion should be short and sweet. Do not add new information; simply give a brief summary of what you’ve already said. Something along the lines of:

The argument makes a number of unstated assumptions that seriously undermine its validity. Unless these assumptions are addressed the argument falls apart, and the corporation could very well make a major mistake shifting operations from Middleburg to Corporateville.



The above provides a rough template to help you create a compelling essay for the Argument portion of the Revised GRE Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA).


By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

39 Responses to AWA Argument: Sample Essay Breakdown

  1. Nicole December 5, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

    What if the GRE phrased the prompt this way: “Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.”

    Would the above sample essay still apply? What would stay the same? What would change?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 5, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

      Hi Nicole,

      The different instructions that ETS provides don’t change the basic format and content of the essay itself. This essay would still apply, and the only change I would make would be to ensure that I wrote questions for each assumption that I challenge in the essay. This is something that you should do for every essay (after all, it’s important to show what could be done to prove the validity of the argument), but when you have this prompt you should take special care to make sure that these questions are there! While the basic content and argument of your essay will remain the same, you might shift your language a little bit to accommodate the different instructions.

      For example, at the end of the first body paragraph I might write: “In order to evaluate this argument, important questions must be answered. Is there any difference in housing prices between the two towns? What other factors might pull homeowners from Middlesburg to Corporatesville?”

      Notice that the basic argument stayed the same, but I added some questions to more specifically address the instructions for this topic. 🙂

  2. Nicole November 29, 2016 at 10:13 am #

    I am confused by the part of the directions that ask to explain “what the implications are if the assumptions prove unwarranted.” I am not sure what that exactly means or what I would write to fulfill that requirement.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 29, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

      That is a tricky turn of phrase there in the official GRE AWA Argument Task instructions! I’ll be happy to help you fully understand what the GRE is asking for.

      Before we get to “what the implications are…”, the first thing you need to do is “explain how the argument depends on the assumptions.” That means you need to identify the main facts that the argument rests on, the things the writer is assuming to be true.

      Once you’ve identified the things the author of the argument assumes are true, you then have to ask yourself, “But what if the author’s assumptions are not true? How does that weaken the argument? And if the author is wrong, then what is actually the truth?”

      This is what’s meant when you’re asked to “explain… what the implications are if the assumptions prove unwarranted.” Basically this means: “Think about the arguments the author has made. Then imagine those assumed facts are actually not true? How does this weaken the argument, and why?”

      Does this make sense? If you’re still a little unclear on that part of the AWA Argument instructions, just let me know.

  3. Fisayo September 27, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

    This helped me a lot. I never know how to start writing an essay. After reading through how you brainstormed the unstated assumptions then this follow-up essay, I feel better about handling several argument prompts. Thank you so much.

  4. Rose September 22, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

    Is a thesis statement required for the argument essay? I understand how it works for the Issue essay, you’re arguing your stance on an issue. For the argument essay, is a thesis necessary and if so what is it supposed to cover?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 23, 2016 at 6:37 pm #

      Hi Rose,

      In the Argument Essay, your thesis statement will be a bit different than that in the Issue essay. You will basically say, “The argument in the prompt relies on assumptions that may not be true, and no decision can be made about XYZ without more information.” Your thesis statement won’t vary much between different argument prompts, but you do need to point out that you are arguing that the argument in the prompt does not hold. 🙂

  5. Kritika August 16, 2016 at 11:14 am #

    Hi Chris,

    You’re suggesting that we don’t agree with ANYTHING in the article at all, while it is also true logically that we are to attack the assumption itself and not the conclusion based on the assumption.

    That is to say that while Corporateville may be a nice place to live, the recent surge in population is not a sufficient enough reason to support this claim.

    ^Is this a concession? Does this weaken my essay?

    Thank you for this tremendously helpful post, though!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 21, 2016 at 8:48 am #

      Hi Kritika,

      You are correct–we should not agree with the prompt or anything in it! The prompt is full of assumptions that weaken the argument, and our job is to expose them. When you attack the assumptions, you are also be default attacking the conclusion of the argument. Your job in the essay is to show that the conclusion is faulty by discussing the assumptions. So, you’re not going to say “The conclusion is faulty because I said so,” but rather “Because of the assumptions present in this article, we cannot assume that the author’s conclusion is correct. We need more information to adequately assess this claim.” Do you see the difference?

      You could say, for example, something like “Corporateville may very well be a nice place to live, but the author’s argument rests on faulty assumptions that may be proven false, and with the evidence given we cannot safely conclude that Corporateville is superior to Middlesburg.” What you are saying is that the evidence in the prompt isn’t sufficient to tell either way! More information is needed. This isn’t a concession that weakens your argument. Instead, it shows that you recognize the assumptions and aren’t fooled by their faulty logic!

  6. dmonkey June 28, 2016 at 7:16 pm #

    Hello all,

    I wrote a sample essay for this question. Perhaps the community can rate this essay so that others can use it as a benchmark of a good/bad essay.

    The argument makes a number of assumptions that– from statistical and logical point of view– are dangerous and potentially flawed. The argument is totally dependent on these assumptions and will fall apart should the assumptions prove unwarranted. Two such assumptions are discussed in detail below.

    Firstly, it was assumed that the surge in the number of homeowners in Corporateville is due to it being a superior place to live in. This will only hold true if a significant increase is observed while all other confounding variables are fixed. Otherwise, the recent surge of homeowners may be due to other factors, e.g. expected rise in Corporateville’s property prices in the following year – which weakens the argument that Corporateville is a better place to live in. One way to improve this argument is to cite a recent scientific study that supports the correlation between the quality of living in Corporateville and its increase of population.

    Secondly, the argument that Corporateville is a cheaper place to work depends on the premise that its residents enjoy higher income due to its low taxes. However, from the information provided, one cannot be sure if the salary in Corporateville, adjusted for living standards, is sufficient for the people to enjoy higher net income (after taxes) than that in Middlesburg. This argument can be improved by, for example, backing it with the fact that the average/minimum salary is Corporateville is relatively higher in comparison to Middlesburg.

    In conclusion, the argument is based on a number of assumptions that will seriously undermine its validity unless they are clearly and properly addressed. Until then, all subsequent conclusions drawn based on the argument are weak and questionable.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 29, 2016 at 2:05 am #

      Hi there 🙂 We’d love to be able to grade student essays, but I’m afraid we don’t offer any kind of an essay review service. We’re a really small team so we wouldn’t be able to grade essays for ALL of our students. It would be great if other students could provide you with feedback here 🙂 And for more information on how to get your essay graded (but not by us), I recommend this post: How to Get Your AWA Practice Essays Graded.

    • kitonia January 17, 2017 at 11:52 am #

      Hi dmonkey,
      Thank your for sharing your essay and having the courage to “put it out there”. Your clear arguments and essay structure have helped me in my preparation for the gre exam.

  7. cole May 19, 2016 at 11:28 am #

    Hi, Chris !

    I’ve got a simple question .

    what score do you give to this essay ?! I mean your essay .

    as far as I know , It cannot get a 6 !

    5? I’m skeptical !
    4.5 ? probably !
    4 ? who knows ?!

    what do you think ?


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 20, 2016 at 2:36 am #

      Hi Cole,

      Good question! 🙂

      You’re right that this is not a 6 point essay. We are trying to model an attainable structure in a friendly way. I would estimate this to be 4.5-5 depending on how deeply the GRE rater read the work and what parts were skimmed during that process.

      I hope that helps!

  8. Anisha August 14, 2015 at 9:55 pm #


    I have a query, for Issue Task on GRE, is it okay to agree with the statement given? Many a times I come across a topic that I happen to support so is it okay to be more supportive and less critical? For eg – young people should be encouraged to pursue long term, realistic goals rather than seek immediate fame and recognition. For this particular topic I happen to have more pros than cons, so will writing a positive piece fetch me a decent score?

  9. Amrita August 14, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    I generally start my arguments with ‘while it may be true’ . however since one of ets’s sample responses start with it , I’m a bit skeptical as to its usage in the exam for fear of being accused of referring outside sources. Your advice would be appreciated!

  10. Jal June 26, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    Very made it so easy..thanks a ton…!

  11. Niveditha January 7, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    Hi………… This is really helpful!!!!!!. At first analysing an argument was like building an imaginary house in the air without a base. Now I feel things are getting better. Thank you!!!!

  12. Bingran August 31, 2014 at 12:05 am #

    Hi, Chris, I want to know what score this sample essay will get? thanks a lot!

    • Bingran August 31, 2014 at 12:41 am #

      I notice that this sample essay is pretty short. Is it enough for a good score?

  13. Tomás Charad August 19, 2014 at 2:34 pm #


    Awesome post!

    I have two questions.

    1. Could you do this same breakdown but for the Issue task?
    2. What is the difference between this structure and the one used on the video “Argument Task Sample”?

    I was basing my essay structure on the one exposed on the video until I saw this post.

    What I’m missing here is a concession paragraph which I found pretty cool:

    The argument would have been stronger had it provided information regarding (Assumption 1) Event then, the argument would have to further prove that (Assumption 2).

    I think that this paragraph might improve the “style” of my essay since it has a part that concatenates two arguments that are dependent with each other.

    What do you think is the best way to add “style” to an essay? I have heard about parallelism and other writing methods that I have no clue about what are they about.

  14. Steve July 6, 2014 at 8:21 am #

    I recently took the GRE and scored 169 on the Verbal Reasoning section. You might think that I would be able to write an outstanding essay. I scored only a 4.

    I read tips from several sources before the test and wrote a number of timed practice essays. What I seem to be lacking is the ability to evaluate my own writing (or anyone else’s). When I look at my practice essays, I honestly don’t know whether they are good or not. Is there any way to develop this skill?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 10, 2014 at 10:44 am #

      Hi Steve,

      Interesting–though I’m sure you are not alone in having a very high verbal score, yet a so-so writing score. It’s a skill that takes years of practice to perfect. Of course, the GRE isn’t looking for perfection. It’s looking for ideas that are well-connected, logically and in terms of transition words.

      Perhaps really dissecting sample essays would help. How does the ‘6’ differ from a ‘5’ and ‘4’. How are the points developed? Are they developed? (often times lower scoring essays make a point but then don’t back it up or elaborate on what they mean). Pay attention to the level of language used as well as the transition words. Are examples and evidence vague or are they compelling?

      Once you learn to differentiate, you might get better at evaluating your own writing. You should also take a look at all the AWA posts on the blog, if you haven’t already. I’m sure you feel more helpful stuff :). And let me know if you have any questions along the way.

  15. Rashmi Sharma September 29, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Hi All,

    We can also create blogs to practice AWA essays. There would be many people who can proof read the same. Thanks!

  16. LeoLeo March 4, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    The instructions for the argument topics vary slightly. For example:

    “Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.”


    “Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.”

    is it still possible to use the same framework or template? Do I need to address the specifics of each instruction?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 5, 2013 at 11:57 am #

      Hi LeoLeo,

      That’s a great question! I would always be careful and make sure that you follow the instructions as closely as possibly. So if you do a practice argument prompt the night before the test make sure not to “carry” those instructions over to the test day argument prompt. Even if you end up doing so, I don’t think it would be catastrophic on your score, but it’s best not to.

      Hope that helps!

      • David Zeglen June 17, 2013 at 6:24 am #

        I think it’s been already asked before somewhere in another post on the AWA argument blog section, but I would love to see a sample argument from Magoosh that is based on a response to the prompt:

        “Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.”

        It seems to be that the logical fallacies need to be exposed, but the phrasing should be different, as it should be put forward as a question, not as something that weakens the argument. From what I can tell, instead of strengthening the argument for the above kind of prompts, you have to write what two possible contrasting answers to the question you posed might be, and explain how that would affect the argument. Is that one way of tackling those questions?

        In fact, I think it’s likely that you’d get scored down if you tried to strengthen the argument because the prompt isn’t asking for that. Would that be correct?

  17. Olivia July 30, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    Great advice~ One thing I would like to point out is that it would be much better to give some constructive recomendations in the conclusion to help the author improve the argument. I think in that way we can make the essay look more ‘friendly’ instead of just critizing the argument.

    I have a question as well. I have seen a lot of GRE tactics mentioning the common fallacies present in the argument. Most of students, including me, would just attack them one by one as long as we could find them. But however, is there a way to consider the inter-paragraph and intra-paragraph structure of the argument?

    I am thinking whether such flow of logic in between structure is what distinguishes a 4-score and a 6-score. I think most people who have done some practices and have some sense of logic could definitely score at least a 4. What would be the additional advantages I should have in my argument in order to score above it?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 30, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

      Hi Olivia,

      Good questions :).

      I think many things differentiate a ‘4’ from a ‘6.’ For the argument task, simply enumerating off each weak point of the argument is not the best way to go, though it certainly won’t preclude a ‘5’ or higher. Structuring your essays, focusing on a common theme, while lending your essay more cohesion won’t, in of itself, confer a ‘5’ or higher. The graders also look at writing style; the way in which you develop your points; grammar and spelling mistakes; and clarity.

      As for improve the argument, ending with a ‘the argument could have been improved if etc…’ is a strong way to end it. You always want to remember to look at the actual question itself, as the directions differ for prompts.

      Hope that helps :).

  18. Harshit June 16, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    hey thanks for the superb article….i want to practice for this awa….is there any site which provides online essay checking??

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

      The only place I can think of is Post on their GRE forum for writing and maybe someone will proof your essay. Sorry I couldn’t offer anything more definitive :(.

  19. ALI SOHAIL June 8, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    Hi..the post is really good..can u post more on argument essays..i find it very hard to write them down.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 9, 2012 at 10:04 am #

      Hi Ali,

      Thanks for the kudos :). I will try posting some similar topics in the future :).

  20. Muhammad Usama Khan March 7, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    If we want to practice argument topics and we write it down, how we will be sure that we have written correctly? Is there any way that magoosh can check our essays?

    • Margarette Jung
      Margarette March 7, 2012 at 10:43 am #

      Unfortunately, we don’t offer an essay review service, but if you have any questions on essay strategy or general approach, let us know through the Help tab when you’re logged in to Magoosh and we’d be happy to help! Also, if you’d like to see more posts like this, let us know that as well 🙂

      • Amy March 8, 2012 at 7:00 am #

        Yes yes, we would like to see more posts like this! 😀

        • Chris Lele
          Chris March 8, 2012 at 11:30 am #

          Hi Amy,

          We will definitely have more in the way of AWA very soon :).

      • Muhammad Usama Khan March 8, 2012 at 9:22 am #

        Hmm i wish that you should have provided this service…………

        • Chris Lele
          Chris June 9, 2012 at 10:03 am #

          Sorry, we are not able to. But you can always try posting on the forums to see if anyone will offer feedback :).

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