How to score the best in GMAT AWA

    Sayantani Barman Sayantani Barman
    Study Abroad Expert

    If you want to take admission in MBA courses in international universities, it is essential for you to obtain a good score in GMAT, aka Graduate Management Admission Test. It is a standard computer adaptive test consisting of multiple-choice questions. 

    The GMAC builds and supervises this test. The test provides all the business schools with common criteria by which they can judge the level of preparation and aptitude in the applicants. While taking MBA admissions, apart from your academic records, and work experience, your GMAT score plays an important role, and hence it is essential you get a good score in the test.

    Basic details about GMAT

    • The test measures your analytical skills and critical thinking. Along with it, it also tests your basic knowledge of basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, grammar, and multi-source data analysis.
    • The duration of the exam is 3 hours and 7 minutes.
    • The test is divided into four sections, with separate scores, but while calculating composite score, two sections are combined:
      • Analytical Writing Assessment
      • Integrated Reasoning
      • Quantitative
      • Verbal
    • GMAT offers different combinations to attempt the sections. There are 3 options to choose from. It's important that you choose the appropriate section order, based on your strong and weak points.
    • The Analytical Writing Assessment section has a separate scoring from 0 to 6 and has 0.5 point increments.
    • GMAT Integrated Reasoning section too has a separate scoring from 1 to 8 and has 1 point increments.
    • The Qualitative and Verbal sections, each have separate scoring from 0 to 60. After that, they are combined and a score is generated on a scale from 200 to 800, having 10-point increments.
    • In your MBA admissions, only the GMAT score provides a 22% weightage

    Overview of GMAT AWA

    • The Analytical Writing Assessment of GMAT measures your critical thinking ability about a particular topic, and then your ability to communicate your own ideas about that topic.
    • During this section, you are judged on your ability to analyze and criticize an argument as thoroughly, clearly, distinctly, and thoughtfully as possible.
    • The AWA section has one writing task which is a 30-minute essay. 
    • You have to complete the AWA section first before you start attempting any other section.
    • For the essay, you're not supposed to give your own opinion on the subject matter, rather think critically about the given argument.
    • Every AWA response gets two independent scores, one by an essay scoring engine, and one by your essay reader.

    Preparation Tips for Scoring high in GMAT AWA

    And the section you've been waiting for. Most of the applicants don't focus on this section, it carrying the lowest marks out of all the sections. But a little bit of preparation, and focus can result in you getting a full score in this section. So, here's looking at some preparation tips to help you get the best marks in GMAT AWA section:

    1. Follow the instructions

    • The section specifically asks you to criticize the argument based on its pros and cons. 
    • You don't have to write a detailed, well-written, opinionated piece, because that's not what they are looking for.
    • They're looking for whether the argument was apt, and whether it is backed up by evidence from the text.

    2. Use GMAT Write

    • GMAC provides a paid writing tool that gives you access to two unique essay prompts, as well as the opportunity to write 4 essays.
    • Your essay here is scored on the basis of the same algorithm used in the main exam. This gives you a good idea of how to write an essay for the main exam.

    3. Create a Template

    • Before the exam, form a template which you find suitable, and according to which you can write your essay in the best way. The most popular template is provided by 'Chineseburned' user on GMAT club forum:
      • Introduction: Rephrase the argument and present its flaws, and state the overview of your thoughts which you plan to elaborate on.
      • First paragraph: Write the first critique of the argument. Support it with examples.
      • Second paragraph: State another critique, and support it with examples.
      • Third paragraph: Ask some questions related to the flaws of the argument. The more the argument would be unable to answer the questions, the weaker it would get.
      • Conclusion: Make it clear that the argument is incomplete or flawed because of the above reasons, and tell which reasons could have made the argument better.
    • Following the template and practicing accordingly would mean that you write your essay in the main exam easily without pondering over how to write it.

    4. Keep in mind the common flaws in AWA

    • The argument going to be given to you has flaws, that much is clear, otherwise, it wouldn't be given to you in the first place. So, it's quite helpful if you know the common flaws in arguments, which will save you time and effort. Here are three of the most common flaws seen in GMAT AWA arguments:
      • Vagueness: Often, the prompts given in AWA are seen to have the usage of vague terminologies or statistics, which would, in turn, result in drawing incorrect conclusions. Look out for comparisons where words such as 'more', 'less', 'higher than', 'lower than' are used because these aren't specific enough to draw a distinct conclusion.
      • Overconfidence: The AWA prompts frequently contain language which is overconfident, which basically means stressing some point, without any actual data. You should look out for words which sound overconfident like 'of course', 'undoubtedly', 'definitely', etc.
      • Causality: Often, the GMAT AWA prompts contain causality errors, which basically means that a wrong effect is attributed to some wrong cause. Whenever you see an argument using causality, keep in mind to check whether attributed causality is correct, and the causal relationship can be proved.

    5. Practice

    • This is an obvious tip. Practice, practice, practice: as much as you can! On the GMAT website, you can find several prompts for free.
    • Now, you might be wondering why is practice so important? After all, you have to make sure the argument has flaws, and that argument is going to be probably unique. Fair enough. 
    • First, practicing would ensure you master your timing. On the test day, you'll only have 30 minutes to write a well-reasoned and logically sound essay. The more you practice, the easier would it be easier for you.
    • Second, practicing would help you get familiar with the structure of the prompts, and get you used to the type of question you'll find in the main test.
    • And finally, the more you practice, the more you'll get to use the template which suits you the most, and will ensure you are able to craft each and every paragraph swiftly in the main exam.

    6. Know how the essays are evaluated

    • Even though you may have a basic idea, you should know on which basis your essay is going to be evaluated. The criteria on which essays are given scores are:
      • Analysis of the issue
      • Control over language
      • Organization of coherent ideas
      • Supports ideas
    • So, on the basis of the above criteria, you get an idea of how a perfect GMAT AWA essay should be:
      • It should point out and analyze the major flaws in the argument.
      • It should show control over language, which includes syntax, diction, and the conventions of the standard written English.
      • The whole response should be coherent and properly organized.
      • The essays should support its critique points by using relevant reasons and examples.

    7. Sketch out a basic outline

    • While this might seem a basic tip, outlining your essay in the initial 3-5 minutes will really help you when you start writing.
    • At least write two bullet points per paragraph, while outlining, which highlights what you want to cover in that particular paragraph. 
    • That’ll make sure you can cover all the points you want to so that you can completely answer the question.

    8. Don't be hesitant

    • The AWA is all about confidence, so make sure you have a confident and formal tone. 
    • After dissecting the argument, present your findings objectively in a strong language, so that it sounds convincing overall.
    • Use pronouns which are the third person (he, she, one), and as much as possible, avoid first (I, we, us) and second (you) person pronouns.
    • Statements where self-reference is added unnecessarily, like 'I believe' or 'in my opinion' diminishes the strength of your point.
    • Avoid using descriptors like using 'somewhat vague' instead of 'vague', or 'rather lengthy' instead of 'lengthy', as they soften your statement.
    • Try avoiding words like 'might be', 'probably', 'maybe', 'somewhat', 'rather' etc.

    So, hopefully, by now, you have got the main hacks of getting a good score in GMAT AWA section. While the marks themselves don't contribute to a major percentage of your main score, like other sections, but you have to make sure you get a score higher than 4, otherwise, it'll raise red flags for admission committees, who may question your communication abilities. Hence you have to make sure you get a good score in GMAT AWA, and you can easily do that, by following the above tips. 



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