One of the most over-analyzed sections of the GMAT exam is the Analysis of an Argument AWA essay. Many students are overly concerned with both the essay itself and the actual scoring of the essay/what it means for their overall GMAT score.
The good news is that, like with the recently introduced Integrated Reasoning section, the Analysis of an Argument essay is scored separately from your overall GMAT score. It is not part of the 200-800 score, which business schools typically use as a benchmark for acceptance. That being stated, not only is your score for the Analytical Writing Assessment NOT always important for business schools, but also, it is easier to achieve a commendable score than one might think.
So, while it is true that most schools do not look too seriously upon such essays, it is very important to make sure that the school YOU apply to does not care all that much and to at least learn how to write such an essay and hold your own there. Even if not crucial, a terrible score does not look great. Moreover, by breezing through the essay (without being worried too much about it!), you put yourself into a positive psychological groove from the get go. Just practice it a bit so you have your timing down but do not go crazy with over practicing if it is not crucial to your score. There are more important ways to spend your time in your GMAT prep.
In all, the Analysis of an Argument section of the GMAT assesses your ability to understand, analyze and evaluate arguments according to specific instructions and to clearly convey your evaluation in your writing. The task consists of a brief passage in which the author makes a case for some course of action or interpretation of events by presenting claims backed by reasons and evidence.
Your task is to discuss the logical soundness of the author’s case by critically examining the line of reasoning and the use of evidence. This task requires you to read the argument carefully. In reading the argument, you should pay attention to:
- What is offered as evidence;
- What is explicitly stated;
- What is assumed or supposed;
- What is not stated.
The AWA essay receives two scores on a scale of 0 to 6 (6 being the highest), at least one of which comes from a human reader. The other score comes from a computerized evaluation program (E-Reader). If the scores from the two readers are identical or differ by exactly one point, they are averaged to obtain the final score for that essay. If the scores differ by more than one point, an expert reader (human) determines the final score. For this reason, it is typical that you will receive your AWA essay score at a later time than your overall GMAT score (Quantitative and Verbal).
In evaluating the overall quality of your writing, the reader(s) will consider four general areas of ability:
- Your ability to present logical, persuasive, and relevant ideas and arguments through sound reasoning and supporting examples (But do NOT present a personal opinion!);
- Your ability to present your ideas in an organized and consistent fashion;
- Your control of the English language;
- Your capability with grammar and punctuation of standard written English.
Essentially, your overall Analysis of an Argument essay should include an Introduction paragraph (identifying the author’s conclusion and the premise upon which this conclusion is based), two to three flaw paragraphs (identifying the flaws in the argument, a further explanation/example of those flaws, and a way in which the argument can be strengthened/flaws overcome), and a conclusion that summarizes your findings. If your essay contains this required structure, the only element left in determining your score is how you convey these key elements.
Let’s take a look at how your essay is scored:
A score of 6 represents an “excellent” essay that expresses ideas and develops a position on the issue with logical reasoning and persuasive examples, is well organized, and demonstrates superior control of standard written English but may have minor flaws.
A score of 5 represents a “very good” essay that develops a position on the issue with solid reasons and examples, is for the most part well-organized, and demonstrates clear control of standard written English but may have minor flaws.
A score of 4 represents a “good” essay that develops a position on the issue with reasons and examples, is organized, and demonstrates adequate control of the conventions of standard written English but may have some errors.
A score of 3 represents a “flawed” essay that has little organization, is limited in developing a clear position on the issue, is limited in the use of reasons and examples, and contains occasional major errors or frequent minor errors in standard written English.
A score of 2 represents a “seriously flawed” essay that is disorganized, is gravely limited in presenting or developing a position on the issue, provides few, if any, relevant reasons or examples, contains numerous errors in grammar and the conventions of standard written English. This is also demonstrative of an essay in which the ideas are vague.
A score of 1 represents a “terrible” essay that demonstrates scant evidence of the ability to develop or organize a coherent approach to the issue, has grave errors in language and grammatical structure, and contains numerous English errors that severely interfere with meaning (lack of flow within the essay).
A score of 0 represents an essay that cannot be scored. This is typically due to the essay being completely off-topic or in another language.
So altogether, this is a briefer version of what GMAC delineates as its scoring basis for the Argument essay. To whittle all this down to the very basics: If you can organize your essay in 4 or 5 (preferable) well constructed paragraphs, attack the correct assumptions/wrongful conclusions, and write in a relatively clear manner while being mindful of matters such as language/syntax, you should get a very minimum of 4 to 4.5 which is about the average. Most get much more than that by following the above advice and by realizing that this really does not need to be the stuff of genius. Even many non native English speakers who follow this advice can easily achieve close to perfect scores.
Now that you understand how scoring works for an Analysis of an Argument AWA essay, chances are that not only have your stress levels lessened but that your score will potentially increase!