You probably didn’t want to practice this section and clicked on this blog to find a quick fix scoring technique for the GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment section. but you won’t find that here.
I will guide you through how to write essay for this section and many more things, but without practicing for this section, no one can guarantee you a good score. There are obviously exceptions to this rule. Someone with a strong writing background would be able to nail this section. But they would also know better than to skip practicing for this section.
So, my first piece of advice to you is to practice the GMAT essay. Not as extensively as the other sections, but practice for sure.
WHY IS A GOOD SCORE ON AWA IMPORTANT?
Now I don’t really have to explain to you why having a well-rounded GMAT score is important for MBA admissions. It shows consistency and what do the admission committees at top business schools love more than that?
Scoring low on the GMAT AWA might make you look like a flake to the business school admission committee members. If you’re weak at either Quant or Verbal, you work extra hours to make sure that your GMAT score doesn’t reflect that. Thus, not being a great impromptu writer won’t be a very convincing argument.
Another thing that happens due to a low AWA score is that it raises red flags to the business school admission committee members if your application essays are exceptional. And no one flakes on an application essay. You will probably re-touch your application essays 10 times before you send them in with your applications.
In such a scenario, although admission committees realize that an AWA essay is much rougher of a draft that the application essay, they would be forced to wonder if you wrote your application essays yourself or took the help of one of the many SOP writers available on hire.
But before we move forward let’s hear it from GMAC at how the AWA scores are supposed to be used by business schools.
SHOULD YOU RETAKE YOUR GMAT FOR A BAD AWA SCORE?
The simple answer is no.
The longer answer is as below.
AWA scores aren’t purely for candidate evaluation reasons. These scores are more often used to catch fraud. Before going further, the fraud we’re talking of here is not one with any legal implications. It’s the one I explained in the previous point.
Many business school applicants seek out professional writers to write their applications essays. The reason for this ranges from being a bad writer to not having enough time. However, business schools don’t want to read a writer’s work on your applications. They want to understand the student, and won’t be handing out any prizes for the best essay.
If you have a below average AWA score but an application essay which would put Ernest Hemingway to shame the business school you have applied to will probably understand what you tried to pull.
However, a business school admission committee member understands that an AWA essay is unpolished whereas, you would have spent hours polishing and refining your application essays. A close inspection of your writing style will show them that you haven’t tried to pull wool over their eyes and your application will be considered sincerely.
Thus, even with a low AWA score, you might not to retake the GMAT as long as you write your application essays yourself.
HOW IS THE AWA SCORED?
The scoring of the AWA section on the GMAT follows a very different and time-consuming process. This is why you don’t see the score for the essay right after you finish the exam at the test-center.
Your essay is scored on a scale of 0-6 in 0.5 point increments. The essay is also scored by two different entities, one of them being a grading software and the other being a human checker, who award scores from 0-6 points individually.
These scores are then averaged to reach your final score for the GMAT AWA essay. If the difference between the two scores is one-point or more apart, a third human checker is brought in to award a final score to the essay.
While, the human checker can award you points based on personal judgement, the software judges your essay on grammar, spelling, sentence structure, essay structure, and keywords.
A score of 4 is considered average and acceptable for most business schools. A score below 4 will be the one to raise any suspicions or create any judgements amongst the admissions committees.
HOW TO WRITE AN AWA ESSAY?
To write a good essay in your GMAT exam, you need to create a blue-print that works for you. If you have no idea where to start, you can always follow the blue-print I’m about to provide, and make tweaks, if your feel necessary, during practice.
Let’s get to the blue-print now.
Start by reading the question at least twice to really understand the author’s argument.
Note down all the faults in the author’s argument
Start with the first paragraph. Use this as an introduction to the ideas that the author is stating, that aren’t substantiated with facts.
Write the conclusion. Having the conclusion ready would help you in case you run out of time, and also make your essay concise since you have your ending already present.
Start with the second paragraph. This should contain the facts that counter the author’s argument.
Finish off with the third paragraph. Use this paragraph to detail what the author could have done differently to have substantial claims in his/her argument.
You are obviously welcome to change the order in which you write the paragraphs as per your convenience. Just don’t tweak it too much, as it is meant to keep you from digressing and sticking to the point.
HOW TO PRACTICE FOR AN AWA ESSAY?
You do not have to write an essay every time you wish to practice for your GMAT AWA section. Sticking to making points according to the blue-print would be enough for most topics you come across during your practice sessions.
Still, try to fit at least 5 full-blown essays in your GMAT prep plan.
During the mocks
One of the best places to practice those full-blown essays will be your mock tests. We anyway advice taking practice tests as true to the actual GMAT test environment as possible, and this would just facilitate it further.
Practicing full essays during mocks, and not just blue-prints, will also help you be prepared for the fatigue you might feel towards the end of the GMAT exam as if you were giving the real deal.
Analyzing the quality of your GMAT essays on a practice test will also clear any possible discrepancies that you might have while writing an essay under pressure of the test or otherwise.
Read GMAT essays online
There are various sources available online where people have posted sample GMAT essays or have shared their own GMAT essays. If you read through these GMAT essays, you will be able to pinpoint characteristics in them that either make them a 5.5 score GMAT essay or a 1.5 score GMAT essay.
This will first help you familiarize yourself with writing styles on the GMAT and the various prompts. Secondly, this will also help you develop a sense for a good GMAT essay. Thus, when proofreading your own essays or making blueprints, you will be able to distinguish a weak GMAT essay from a stronger one.
A great source of these online essays is GMAT forums like GMAT Club. Even a Google search of “GMAT AWA Essay sample” would yield great results.
Find a grader
This might be harder to do, but if you can find an essay grader, it will be well worth it.
If you’re taking GMT coaching, your coach is the one you should go without a doubt. However, if you’re in the fraction that opts to study by themselves, look for a friend with an English major, or just a very good grasp on the language.
Ask them for honest feedback on your essays. If they say they didn’t understand a certain point, don’t try to tell them what you meant. If someone who has known you for so long can’t understand what you’re trying to say chances are neither the software nor the human checker will be able to too.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE ORDER OF THE AWA SECTION?
Since GMAC now allows students to select the order, they want to attempt the test in, you also have another choice to make.
You will have to choose whether you want to take the Essay in the beginning of the GMAT, or the end.
The GMAC allows the test-taker to select one of the three orders of sections mentioned below.
The OG order: AWA → IR → Quant → Verbal
Option 1: Verbal → Quant → IR → AWA
Option 2: Quant → Verbal → IR → AWA
Although, selecting a section order on the GMAT takes much more research, you only have two options with the Essay section.
Take the essay in the end.
Firstly, let’s accept the fact that a bad score on your essay might create some problems for you during MBA admissions, but not more than a bad score in Quant or Verbal would.
So, considering that, your essay is important, but not enough to put first in the test. if you take the essay first, you would tire yourself out before you even begin to score on the composite score scale of 200-800 on the GMAT.
And we all know how much this scale matters. Also, a good essay score cannot carry your application into the shortlisted pile at a business school, while a good composite score can. Thus, set your priorities right by attempting the essay section last.
The GMAT essay section isn’t as strenuous as it seems. All you really need to do is strive for an above average score, i.e. over 4 points, to make sure it doesn’t become a hinderance to your MBA applications.
You don’t have to strive for the perfect score on this section. If you do get the perfect score, share it with us.