Of all the parts of the GMAT, the essay may be the one that I get the most questions about from students. Does it matter? How should I prepare? Wait, there’s an essay? I thought when I decided to go to business school that I’d never need to write again.
Though the essay is by no means the most important part of the test, it does matter. Practicing the GMAT writing section should be an important part of your GMAT online test preparation, and you should use all the tools available to you in order to prepare—starting with knowing what you’re walking into.
What is the GMAT Writing Section?
The GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is a standard component of the GMAT and consists of a 30-minute essay that requires students to analyze an argument and assess its effectiveness. The student is given a short one-paragraph stimulus, much like a critical reasoning question from the Verbal section. This stimulus makes a conclusion based on a set of premises (stated evidence) and assumptions (unstated evidence), and the student is required to determine how valid that conclusion is based on the evidence presented.
Unlike your standard college expository essays and the underpaid teaching assistants who graded them (and totally cared about your opinion—no, really), the GMAT writing section task is not interested in your stance on the issue presented. Instead, the prompt requires you to evaluate the strength of an argument based on the evidence presented.
How is the AWA Essay Scored?
The GMAT writing section is scored on a scale of 1 to 6 in ½-point increments by both a trained human reader and a machine algorithm (or e-reader). If there is a significant disparity between the scores given by the two methods, an additional human grader may be enlisted to offer a third opinion and resolve the discrepancy.
Essay responses are assessed on four main categories, and your preparation for the GMAT writing section should incorporate these items:
- Analysis of the Issue
- Support for the claims made in the analysis
- Facility in the use of language
In short, writing a successful essay for the GMAT writing section will involve understanding fully the prompt you are given; recognizing how its conclusion is drawn; clearly delineating the flaws in that conclusion according to the rules of logical reasoning; and organizing those ideas while using proper grammar, diction, syntax and idiom. There are many GMAT writing section sample essays available with which you can practice.
GMAT Writing Section Tips:
In order to best prepare for the essay, keep in mind the following writing section tips:
- Read the prompt thoroughly and identify both its conclusion and the premises being used to support that conclusion.
- Identify 2-3 flaws in the reasoning. Note that some prompts are more difficult to decipher than others, but there are usually at least two potential flaws; these will constitute your body paragraphs.
- Identify how the argument could be strengthened by correcting these flaws and how they should be corrected. Think about additional evidence that could be gathered, flaws in the existing evidence that could be addressed, etc.
- Sandwich these body paragraphs between a brief introduction that summarizes the author’s conclusion and line of reasoning and a brief concluding paragraph that restates how the argument could be made more sound.
- In the GMAT writing section, as in all other types of writing, be as clear and concise as possible, and always strive to avoid wordiness and redundancy.
How Important is the GMAT Writing Section?
Compared to the two main sections of the GMAT—Verbal and Quantitative—the GMAT writing section is not quite as important. It is one of two supplementary scores (along with the Integrated Reasoning section) that are not factored into the main composite score of 200-800.
Since that composite score is the single most important metric of your success on the GMAT, the AWA necessarily takes a bit of a backseat to the Verbal and Quant sections. Because your essay score is a part of your score report, however, many business schools will notice a sub-par score on the GMAT writing section. It will also reflect on your general writing abilities (as do your business school application essays), so its impact on your candidacy should not be minimized.
Approaching Prep for the GMAT Writing Section
A key feature of effective GMAT online prep programs is outlining the essentials of an effective GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment. This will include analyzing actual GMAT writing section examples and attacking them under actual test conditions.
More than most other standardized tests, there are certain aspects of taking the GMAT that are impossible to replicate through homework alone, which is one of the reasons that regular practice tests should be a staple of your GMAT test prep online program. Set up a schedule of periodic mock tests; this will give you the opportunity to practice the techniques you’ve learned in the context of a full test while also familiarizing you with the experience of taking the full test straight through. This practice with the test-taking experience is particularly important in GMAT programs, as students need to become comfortable with the question-adaptive computer interface and the process of outlining and writing an essay on the computer.
Get Started Today on Your GMAT Test Preparation Online
If you’re uneasy about the GMAT writing section or the GMAT in general, you’re not alone. It’s easy to practice writing essays on your own, but it’s hard to get feedback. That’s where our test prep experts come in.
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