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Scoring Well in the AWA Essay Section

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Kevin Community Manager Default Avatar
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Scoring Well in the AWA Essay Section

Post Tue Sep 05, 2006 1:50 pm
This week we begin a new series on the Analytical Writing Assessment ("AWA") portion of the GMAT, otherwise known as "the essays." Because they do not feed into the overall score out of 800 (they are scored separately, on a scale of 6 points), they are often neglected. They do serve a purpose, though, and you need to take them seriously, even if they do not warrant the bulk of your study time.

The essays are the first section of the exam. You have 30 minutes for each of two essays, for a total of one hour before the quantitative section begins. So if you do not write essays during at least one of your practice exams, you will probably find it surprisingly tiring the day of the exam when you have to head into the math section after an hour of writing.

First, you should be aware of the two types of essay you will be required to write. One is known as "Analysis of Issue." The other is known as "Analysis of Argument." They demand different approaches and need to be understood in their particularities. Let's talk first about "Analysis of Issue."

In "Analysis of Issue", you will given a statement (the "issue"). For example,

"Responsibility for preserving the natural environment ultimately belongs to each individual person, not to government." (This is an actual GMAT topic and is property of GMAC which is no way affiliated with Manhattan GMAT.)

Your task now is to decide whether you agree with the statement. There is no "right" answer to this: either position (pro or con) is perfectly valid. The only reaction that is not valid is to sit on the fence. You must take a side and defend it. If you waffle or remain uncommitted, you will lose points. The point of "Analysis of Issue" is to see how well you can defend a policy position. You must state a clear opinion, but you must also back it up with relevant evidence. In other words, your opinion does not speak for itself. You must show how you arrived at that opinion. You may use facts or experiences (either your own or those you have observed elsewhere) to explain your position. A good "Issue" essay brings up three or so reasons in favor of OR against the statement and explains why each of those reasons is grounded in fact or experience.

What if you do not have any relevant experience or do not know any relevant facts? Make them up. The exam readers are not going to verify that your facts are correct and they have no way to know whether your experiences are true. Moreover, they do not really care. They simply want to see that you understand the nature of the task at hand. You must also acknowledge the merits of the other side, all the while maintaining your commitment to your own position. This is basically a polite nod to your opponent. Even though the other side may have some validity, it is still the wrong side.

Why is the "Issue" essay on the GMAT? The primary reason is that B-schools want to see whether you can write coherently under time pressure without the help of an editor. But beyond that, the "issue" essay specifically allows you to demonstrate your ability to learn from experience, either your own or someone else's. Good businesspeople learn their lessons and carry that knowledge into their future endeavors. By the time you have been working for 20 or so years, you will have accumulated a wealth of experience that can guide you through complicated situations. Business schools want to see upfront that you have at least a glimmer of this skill. People who do not learn from mistakes are destined to repeat them.

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kulksnikhil Senior | Next Rank: 100 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Fri Oct 20, 2006 6:59 pm
Hi Kavin,

Thanks for your wonderful explanation of AWA... I need to develop a lot of skills of an MBA... being an MBA isn't just getting a certificate... it changes a persons character and understanding of the world.

Would you be posting a similar post on "Analysis of an Argument" as well?

thanks and regards,
Nikhil

GMAT/MBA Expert

Post Mon Oct 23, 2006 2:32 pm
Kevin no longer works for Manhattan GMAT. I'm working with Manhattan GMAT to find a new representative for this discussion forum. Stay tuned...

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