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GMAT Essay – List of AWA Topics – 50 Practice Questions on GMAT AWA 2023
Posted by Suheb Hussain | Jan 25, 2023 | GMAT IR and AWA , Know the GMAT , Prepare for GMAT
This document contains practice questions that will help you improve the AWA section or the GMAT essay section. Discuss in your GMAT essay how well-reasoned you find the argument. Here are some ways you can do that while writing your GMAT essay for the AWA section. In your discussion, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.
We also recommend you read this article on how to score a perfect 6 on the GMAT AWA.
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GMAT Essay practice question 1
- The following appeared as part of an article in a trade magazine:
“During a recent trial period in which government inspections at selected meat-processing plants were more frequent, the number of bacteria in samples of processed chicken decreased by 50 percent on average from the previous year’s level. If the government were to institute more frequent inspections, the incidence of stomach and intestinal infections throughout the country could thus be cut in half. In the meantime, consumers of Excel Meats should be safe from infection because Excel’s main processing plant has shown more improvement in eliminating bacterial contamination than any other plant cited in the government report.”
Discuss how well reasoned . . . etc.
GMAT Essay practice question 2
2. The following appeared as part of an annual report sent to stockholders by Olympic Foods, a processor of frozen foods:
“Over time, the costs of processing go down because as organizations learn how to do things better, they become more efficient. In color film processing, for example, the cost of a 3-by-5-inch print fell from 50 cents for five-day service in 1970 to 20 cents for one-day service in 1984. The same principle applies to the processing of food. And since Olympic Foods will soon celebrate its 25th birthday, we can expect that our long experience will enable us to minimize costs and thus maximize profits.”
GMAT AWA practice question 3
3. The following appeared in a memorandum from the business department of the Apogee Company:
“When the Apogee Company had all its operations in one location, it was more profitable than it is today. Therefore, the Apogee Company should close down its field offices and conduct all its operations from a single location. Such centralization would improve profitability by cutting costs and helping the company maintain better supervision of all employees.”
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GMAT Essay practice question 4
4. The following appeared in a memorandum issued by a large city’s council on the arts:
“In a recent citywide poll, 15 percent more residents said that they watch television programs about the visual arts than was the case in a poll conducted five years ago. During these past five years, the number of people visiting our city’s art museums has increased by a similar percentage. Since the corporate funding that supports public television, where most of the visual arts programs appear, is now being threatened with severe cuts, we can expect that attendance at our city’s art museums will also start to decrease. Thus some of the city’s funds for supporting the arts should be reallocated to public television.”
GMAT Essay practice question 5
5. The following appeared in an announcement issued by the publisher of The Mercury , a weekly newspaper:
“Since a competing lower-priced newspaper, The Bugle , was started five years ago, The Mercury ’s circulation has declined by 10,000 readers. The best way to get more people to read The Mercury is to reduce its price below that of The Bugle , at least until circulation increases to former levels. The increased circulation of The Mercury will attract more businesses to buy advertising space in the paper.”
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GMAT Essay practice question 6
6. The following appeared in a report presented for discussion at a meeting of the directors of a company that manufactures parts for heavy machinery:
“The falling revenues that the company is experiencing coincide with delays in manufacturing. These delays, in turn, are due in large part to poor planning in purchasing metals. Consider further that the manager of the department that handles purchasing of raw materials has an excellent background in general business, psychology, and sociology, but knows little about the properties of metals. The company should, therefore, move the purchasing manager to the sales department and bring in a scientist from the research division to be manager of the purchasing department.”
GMAT Essay practice question 7
7. The following appeared in a research paper written for an introductory economics course:
“For the past century, an increase in the number of residential building permits issued per month in a particular region has been a reliable indicator of coming improvements to that region’s economy. If the monthly number of residential building permits issued rises consistently for a few months, the local unemployment rate almost always falls and economic production increases. This well-established connection reveals an effective method by which a regional government can end a local economic downturn: relax regulations governing all construction so that many more building permits can be issued.”
Discuss how well reasoned . . .etc.
GMAT Essay practice question 8
8. The following appeared in a memorandum to the work-group supervisors of the GBS Company:
“The CoffeeCart beverage and food service located in the lobby of our main office building is not earning enough in sales to cover its costs, and so the cart may discontinue operating at GBS. Given the low staff morale, as evidenced by the increase in the number of employees leaving the company, the loss of this service could present a problem, especially since the staff morale questionnaire showed widespread dissatisfaction with the snack machines.
Therefore, supervisors should remind the employees in their group to patronize the cart—after all, it was leased for their convenience so that they would not have to walk over to the cafeteria on breaks.”
GMAT Essay practice question 9
9. The following appeared in a memorandum written by the chair of the music department to the president of Omega University:
“Mental health experts have observed that symptoms of mental illness are less pronounced in many patients after group music-therapy sessions, and job openings in the music-therapy field have increased during the past year. Consequently, graduates from our degree program for music therapists should have no trouble finding good positions. To help improve the financial status of Omega University, we should, therefore, expand our music-therapy degree program by increasing its enrollment targets.”
GMAT Essay practice question 10
10. The following appeared in a memorandum from the vice president of Gigantis, a development company that builds and leases retail store facilities:
“Nationwide over the past five years, sales have increased significantly at outlet stores that deal exclusively in reduced-price merchandise. Therefore, we should publicize the new mall that we are building at Pleasantville as a central location for outlet shopping and rent storage space only to outlet companies. By taking advantage of the success of outlet stores, this plan should help ensure full occupancy of the mall and enable us to recover quickly the costs of building the mall.”
11. The following appeared in a memorandum from the business planning department of Avia Airlines:
“Of all the cities in their region, Beaumont and Fletcher are showing the fastest growth in the number of new businesses. Therefore, Avia should establish a commuter route between them as a means of countering recent losses on its main passenger routes. And to make the commuter route more profitable from the outset, Avia should offer a 1/3 discount on tickets purchased within two days of the flight. Unlike tickets bought earlier, discount tickets will be nonrefundable, and so gain from their sale will be greater.”
12. The following appeared in a speech by a stockholder of Consolidated Industries at the company’s annual stockholders’ meeting:
“In the computer hardware division last year, profits fell significantly below projections, the product line decreased from 20 to only 5 items, and expenditures for employee benefits increased by 15 percent. Nevertheless, Consolidated’s board of directors has approved an annual salary of more than $1 million for our company’s chief executive officer. The present board members should be replaced because they are unconcerned about the increasing costs of employee benefits and salaries, in spite of the company’s problems generating income.”
13. The following appeared as part of a business plan by the Capital Idea investment firm:
“In recent years the worldwide demand for fish has grown, and improvements in fishing technology have made larger catches and thus increased supply possible: for example, last year’s tuna catch was 9 percent greater than the previous year’s. To capitalize on these trends, we should, therefore, invest in the new tartfish processing plant on Tartfish Island, where increasing revenues from tourism indicate a strong local economy.”
14. The following appeared as part of an article in a weekly newsmagazine:
“The country of Oleum can best solve the problem of its balance of trade deficit by further increasing the tax on its major import, crude oil. After Oleum increased the tax on imported crude oil four months ago, consumption of gasoline declined by 20 percent. Therefore, by imposing a second and significantly higher tax increase next year, Oleum will dramatically decrease its balance of trade deficit.”
15. The following appeared in a memorandum from the human resources department of HomeStyle, a house remodeling business:
“This year, despite HomeStyle’s move to new office space, we have seen a decline in both company morale and productivity, and a corresponding increase in administrative costs. To rectify these problems, we should begin using a newly developed software package for performance appraisal and feedback. Managers will save time by simply choosing comments from a preexisting list; then the software will automatically generate feedback for the employee. The human resources department at CounterBalance, the manufacturer of the countertops we install, reports satisfaction with the package.”
16. The following appeared in a memorandum written by the managing director of the Exeunt Theater Company:
“Now that we have moved to a larger theater, we can expect to increase our revenues from ticket sales. To further increase profits, we should start producing the plays that have been most successful when they were performed in our nation’s largest cities. In addition, we should hire the Adlib Theater Company’s director of fund-raising, since corporate contributions to Adlib have increased significantly over the three years that she has worked for Adlib.”
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17. The following appeared in a memorandum from a regional supervisor of post office operations:
“During a two-week study of postal operations, the Presto City post office handled about twice as many items as the Lento City post office, even though the cities are about the same size. Moreover, customer satisfaction appears to be higher in Presto City, since the study found fewer complaints regarding the Presto City post office. Therefore, the postmasters at these two offices should exchange assignments: the Presto City postmaster will solve the problems of inefficiency and customer dissatisfaction at the Lento City office while the Lento City postmaster learns firsthand the superior methods of Presto City.”
18. The following appeared in a memorandum from the human resources department of Diversified Manufacturing:
“Managers at our central office report that their employees tend to be most productive in the days immediately preceding a vacation. To help counteract our declining market share, we could increase the productivity of our professional staff members, who currently receive four weeks paid vacation a year, by limiting them to a maximum of one week’s continuous vacation time. They will thus take more vacation breaks during a year and give us more days of maximum productivity.”
19. The following appeared in a memorandum from the marketing department of a children’s clothing manufacturer:
“Our HuggyBunny brand is the bestselling brand of children’s clothing. Parents everywhere recognize the HuggyBunny logo as a mark of quality, and most of our customers show great brand loyalty. Sales reports have shown that parents are more likely to buy children’s clothes with the familiar HuggyBunny brand and logo than otherwise identical clothes without it. Therefore, if we use the HuggyBunny brand name and logo for the new line of clothing for teenagers that our company will soon be introducing, that clothing will sell better than it would if we labeled it with a new brand name and logo.”
20. The following appeared in a memorandum from the president of Aurora, a company that sells organic milk (milk produced without the use of chemical additives):
“Sales of organic food products in this country have tripled over the past five years. If Aurora is to profit from this continuing trend, we must diversify and start selling products such as organic orange juice and organic eggs in addition to our regular product line. With the recent increase of articles in health magazines questioning the safety of milk and other food products, customers are even more likely to buy our line of organic products. And to help ensure our successful expansion, we should hire the founder of a chain of health-food stores to serve as our vice president of marketing.”
21. The following appeared as part of an article in a newsletter for farmers:
“Users of Solacium, a medicinal herb now grown mainly in Asia, report that it relieves tension and promotes deep sleep. A recent study indicates that a large number of college students who took pills containing one of the ingredients in Solacium suffered less anxiety. To satisfy the anticipated demands for this very promising therapeutic herb and to reap the financial benefits, farmers in this country should begin growing it.”
22. The following appeared as part of the business plan of the Capital Idea investment firm:
“Across town in the Park Hill district, the Thespian Theater, Pizzazz Pizza, and the Niblick Golf Club have all had business increases over the past two years. Capital Idea should, therefore, invest in the Roxy Playhouse, the Slice-o’- Pizza, and the Divot Golf Club, three new businesses in the Irongate district. As a condition, we should require them to participate in a special program: Any customer who patronizes two of the businesses will receive a substantial discount at the third. By motivating customers to patronize all three, we will thus contribute to the profitability of each and maximize our return.”
23. The following appeared in a memorandum from the owner of Carlo’s Clothing to the staff:
“Since Disc Depot, the music store on the next block began a new radio advertising campaign last year, its business has grown dramatically, as evidenced by the large increase in foot traffic into the store. While the Disc Depot’s owners have apparently become wealthy enough to retire, profits at Carlo’s Clothing have remained stagnant for the past three years. In order to boost our sales and profits, we should, therefore, switch from newspaper advertising to frequent radio advertisements like those for Disc Depot.”
24. The following appeared in a letter to the editor of a River City newspaper:
“The Clio Development Group’s plan for a multilevel parking garage on Dock Street should be approved in order to strengthen the economy of the surrounding area. Although most of the buildings on the block would have to be demolished, they are among the oldest in the city and thus of little current economic value. Those who oppose the project should realize that historic preservation cannot be the only consideration: even Athens or Jerusalem will knock down old buildings to put up new ones that improve the local economy.”
25. The following appeared in a memorandum from the publisher to the staff of The Clarion , a large metropolitan newspaper:
“During the recent campaign for mayor, a clear majority of city readers who responded to our survey indicated a desire for more news about city government. To increase circulation, and thus our profits, we should therefore consistently devote a greater proportion of space in all editions of The Clarion to coverage of local news.”
26. The following appeared in a corporate planning memorandum for a company that develops amusement parks:
“Because travel from our country to foreign countries has increased dramatically in recent years, our next project should be a ‘World Tour’ theme park with replicas of famous foreign buildings, rides that have international themes, and refreshment stands to serve only foods from the country represented by the nearest ride. The best location would be near our capital city, which has large percentages of international residents and of children under the age of 16. Given the advantages of this site and the growing interest in foreign countries, the ‘World Tour’ theme park should be as successful as our space-travel theme park, where attendance has increased tenfold over the past decade.”
27. The following appeared in a letter to the editor of a River City newspaper:
“The Clio Development Group should not be permitted to build a multilevel parking garage on Dock Street since most of the buildings on the block would have to be demolished. Because these buildings were erected decades ago, they have historic significance and must, therefore, be preserved as economic assets in the effort to revitalize a restored riverfront area. Recall how Lakesburg has benefited from business increases in its historic downtown center. Moreover, there is plenty of vacant land for a parking lot elsewhere in River City.”
28. The following appeared in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper:
“Our city council’s neglect of the impoverished Railroad Flats neighborhood has left businesses with little incentive to locate there. Building a new professional football stadium in the neighborhood would solve this problem. Thousands of football fans would travel to the area to see games, and they would buy from local merchants, encouraging new businesses to open. So our city council should move quickly to fund the construction of a professional football stadium in Railroad Flats in order to help the neighborhood develop a thriving economy.”
29. The following appeared in a memorandum from the director of marketing for a pharmaceutical company:
“According to a survey of 5,000 urban residents, the prevalence of stress headaches increases with educational level, so that stress headaches occur most often among people with graduate-school degrees. It is well established that, nationally, higher educational levels usually correspond with higher levels of income. Therefore, in marketing our new pain remedy, Omnilixir, we should send free samples primarily to graduate students and to people with graduate degrees, and we should concentrate on advertising in professional journals rather than in general interest magazines.”
30. The following appeared as part of an editorial in the Waymarsh city newspaper:
“Last year the parents of first graders in our school district expressed satisfaction with the reading skills their children developed but complained strongly about their children’s math skills. To remedy this serious problem and improve our district’s elementary education, everyone in the teacher-training program at Waymarsh University should be required to take more courses in mathematics.”
31. The following appeared in a memorandum from the business office of the Lovin’ Cupful, a national restaurant chain:
“The Lovin’ Cupful franchises in our northeast region have begun serving customers Almost, a brand new powdered instant tea, in place of brewed tea. Waiters report that only about 2 percent of the customers have complained and that customers who want refills typically ask for ‘more tea.’ It appears, then, that 98 percent of the customers are perfectly happy with the switch, or else they cannot tell powdered instant from brewed tea. Therefore, in order to take advantage of the lower price per pound of Almost, all of our restaurants should begin substituting it for brewed tea.”
32. The following appeared as a memorandum from the vice-president of the Dolci candy company:
“Given the success of our premium and most expensive line of chocolate candies in a recent taste test and the consequent increase in sales, we should shift our business focus to producing additional lines of premium candy rather than our lower-priced, ordinary candies. When the current economic boom ends and consumers can no longer buy major luxury items, such as cars, they will still want to indulge in small luxuries, such as expensive candies.”
33. The following appeared in a memorandum from the director of research and development at Ready-to-Ware, a software engineering firm:
“The package of benefits and incentives that Ready-to-Ware offers to professional staff is too costly. Our quarterly profits have declined since the package was introduced two years ago, at the time of our incorporation. Moreover, the package had little positive effect, as we have had only marginal success in recruiting and training high-quality professional staff. To become more profitable again, Ready-to-Ware should, therefore, offer the reduced benefits package that was in place two years ago and use the savings to fund our current research and development initiatives.”
34. The following appeared in a memorandum from the assistant manager of Pageturner Books:
“Over the past two years, Pageturner’s profits have decreased by 5 percent, even though we have added a popular café as well as a music section selling CDs and tapes. At the same time, we have experienced an increase in the theft of merchandise. We should, therefore, follow the example of Thoreau Books, which increased its profits after putting copies of its most frequently stolen books on a high shelf behind the payment counter. By doing likewise with copies of the titles that our staff reported stolen last year, we too can increase profitability.”
35. The following appeared in a memorandum to a team developing accounting software for SmartPro Software, Inc.:
“Currently, more professional accountants use SmartPro accounting software than any other brand. However, in the market for personal accounting software for non-professionals to use in preparing their income tax returns, many of our competitors are outselling us. In surveys, our professional customers repeatedly say that they have chosen SmartPro Software because our most sophisticated software products include more advanced special features than competing brands. Therefore, the most effective way for us to increase sales of our personal accounting software for home users would clearly be to add the advanced special features that our professional software products currently offer.”
36. The following appeared in a memorandum written by the assistant manager of a store that sells gourmet food items from various countries:
“A local wine store made an interesting discovery last month: it sold more French than Italian wine on days when it played recordings of French accordion music, but it sold more Italian than French wine on days when Italian songs were played. Therefore, I recommend that we put food specialties from one particular country on sale for a week at a time and play only music from that country while the sale is going on. By this means we will increase our profits in the same way that the wine store did, and we will be able to predict more precisely what items we should stock at any given time.”
37. The following appeared in a memo to the Saluda town council from the town’s business manager:
“Research indicates that those who exercise regularly are hospitalized less than half as often as those who don’t exercise. By providing a well-equipped gym for Saluda’s municipal employees, we should be able to reduce the cost of our group health insurance coverage by approximately 50 percent and thereby achieve a balanced town budget.”
38. The following appeared as part of a letter to the editor of a local newspaper:
“Bayview High School is considering whether to require all of its students to wear uniforms while at school. Students attending Acorn Valley Academy, a private school in town, earn higher grades on average and are more likely to go on to college. Moreover, Acorn Valley reports few instances of tardiness, absenteeism, or discipline problems. Since Acorn Valley requires its students to wear uniforms, Bayview High School would do well to follow suit and require its students to wear uniforms as well.”
39. The following appeared as part of a memorandum from the loan department of the Frostbite National Bank:
“We should not approve the business loan application of the local group that wants to open a franchise outlet for the Kool Kone chain of ice cream parlors. Frostbite is known for its cold winters, and cold weather can mean slow ice cream sales. For example, even though Frostbite is a town of 10,000 people, it has only one ice cream spot—the Frigid Cow. Despite the lack of competition, the Frigid Cow’s net revenues fell by 10 percent last winter.”
40. The following appeared in a letter from a staff member in the office of admissions at Argent University:
“The most recent nationwide surveys show that undergraduates choose their major field primarily based on their perception of job prospects in that field. At our university, economics is now the most popular major, so students must perceive this field as having the best job prospects. Therefore, we can increase our enrollment if we focus our advertising and recruiting on publicizing the accomplishments of our best-known economics professors and the success of our economics graduates in finding employment.”
41. The following appeared as part of a business plan created by the management of the Take Heart Fitness Center:
“After opening the new swimming pool early last summer, Take Heart saw a 12 percent increase in the use of the center by its members. Therefore, in order to increase membership in Take Heart, we should continue to add new recreational facilities in subsequent years: for example, a multipurpose game room, a tennis court, and a miniature golf course. Being the only center in the area offering this range of activities would give us a competitive advantage in the health and recreation market.”
42. The following appeared as part of an article in the book section of a newspaper:
“Currently more and more books are becoming available in electronic form—either free-of-charge on the Internet or for a very low price-per-book on compact disc.* Thus literary classics are likely to be read more widely than ever before. People who couldn’t have purchased these works at bookstore prices will now be able to read them for little or no money; similarly, people who find it inconvenient to visit libraries and wait for books to be returned by other patrons will now have access to whatever classic they choose from their home or work computers. This increase in access to literary classics will radically affect the public taste in reading, creating a far more sophisticated and learned reading audience than has ever existed before.”
*A compact disc is a small portable disc capable of storing relatively large amounts of data that can be read by a computer.
43. The following appeared as an editorial in a magazine concerned with educational issues:
“In our country, the real earnings of men who have only a high-school degree have decreased significantly over the past 15 years, but those of male college graduates have remained about the same. Therefore, the key to improving the earnings of the next generation of workers is to send all students to college. Our country’s most important educational goal, then, should be to establish enough colleges and universities to accommodate all high school graduates.”
44. The following appeared in an editorial from a newspaper serving the town of Saluda:
“The Saluda Consolidated High School offers more than 200 different courses from which its students can choose. A much smaller private school down the street offers a basic curriculum of only 80 different courses, but it consistently sends a higher proportion of its graduating seniors on to college than Consolidated does. By eliminating at least half of the courses offered there and focusing on a basic curriculum, we could improve student performance at Consolidated and also save many tax dollars.”
45. The following appeared as part of an article in a trade magazine for breweries:
“Magic Hat Brewery recently released the results of a survey of visitors to its tasting room last year. Magic Hat reports that the majority of visitors asked to taste its low-calorie beers. To boost sales, other small breweries should brew low-calorie beers as well.”
46. The following appeared in a memorandum sent by a vice-president of the Nadir Company to the company’s human resources department:
“Nadir does not need to adopt the costly ‘family-friendly’ programs that have been proposed, such as part-time work, work at home, and job-sharing. When these programs were made available at the Summit Company, the leader in its industry, only a small percentage of employees participated in them. Rather than adversely affecting our profitability by offering these programs, we should concentrate on offering extensive training that will enable employees to increase their productivity.”
47. The following appeared in a letter to prospective students from the admissions office at Plateau College:
“Every person who earned an advanced degree in science or engineering from Olympus University last year received numerous offers of excellent jobs. Typically, many graduates of Plateau College have gone on to pursue advanced degrees at Olympus. Therefore, enrolling as an undergraduate at Plateau College is a wise choice for students who wish to ensure success in their careers.”
48. The following was excerpted from an article in a farming trade publication:
“Farmers who switched from synthetic to organic farming last year have seen their crop yields decline. Many of these farmers feel that it would be too expensive to resume synthetic farming at this point, given the money that they invested in organic farming supplies and equipment. But their investments will be relatively minor compared to the losses from continued lower crop yields. Organic farmers should switch to synthetic farming rather than persist in an unwise course. And the choice to farm organically is financially unwise, given that it was motivated by environmental rather than economic concerns.”
49. The following appeared as part of an article in a computer magazine:
“A year ago Apex Manufacturing bought its managers computers for their homes and paid for telephone connections so that they could access Apex computers and data files from home after normal business hours. Since last year, productivity at Apex has increased by 15 percent. Other companies can learn from the success at Apex: given home computers and access to company resources, employees will work additional hours at home and thereby increase company profits.”
50. The following appeared in the editorial section of a local paper:
“Applications for advertising spots on KMTV, our local cable television channel, decreased last year. Meanwhile, a neighboring town’s local channel, KOOP, changed its focus to farming issues and reported an increase in advertising applications for the year. To increase applications for its advertisement spots, KMTV should focus its programming on farming issues as well.”
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How to write your GMAT AWA Essay [Effectively]
If you’ve found your way to this blog, we assume that you have begun to think about that often-neglected section of the GMAT – the AWA!
If wishes could come true, we’re guessing that GMAT aspirants would have wished away the AWA section away by now!
The AWA involves staring at a blank page and cursor and thinking up stuff to write, not an easy task for many people.
It also consumes a lot of mental bandwidth at the very beginning of the test.
To top it off, it does not even add to your final score!
We can understand why it isn’t your favorite section on the GMAT 🙂
But here’s the good news! There are not many shortcuts to mastering GMAT Quant and Verbal, but there are shortcuts to cracking the AWA section.
By the time you finish reading this guide, you will know what these hacks are. You will learn how to write an effective AWA essay that gets you a good score and leaves you charged for the real test that lies ahead.
This blog will teach you –
- What you need to know BEFORE you start preparing for the AWA
- How to use the 30 minutes allotted to AWA to maximum effect
- How to use a template to make the AWA writing process simpler
Besides this, you will find 8 sample AWA essays to observe and learn from.
Happy reading! 🙂
7 Things to remember before you start prepping for the AWA
Before you dive into AWA preparation, there are a few things you should know about the AWA. Many of these facts will ease your AWA fears and bring a smile to your face!
1. Why is the AWA section on the GMAT?
Each section of the GMAT is carefully constructed ( at the expense of millions of dollars, we kid you not!), to test your readiness for an MBA program and for your post-MBA career. One of the skills you will definitely need post-MBA is an ability to analyze an argument impartially and convey your perspective clearly.
This is what the AWA tests you on.
2. On the AWA, you need to be a lawyer, that is, you need to find faults with the given argument. You do not need to be a journalist, that is, you do not need to write about all possible perspectives of an issue.
Also remember, that this is an analysis, not an opinion piece. Do not bring YOUR perspective and your opinions into the essay. Your only goal is to analyse the given argument.
3. Unlike the Quant and Verbal sections, where your thumb-rule should be to get as high a score as possible, we’d suggest that you do not expend too much mental energy on the AWA, trying to score a 6 on 6.
Getting a perfect 6 will look good on your GMAT score card, and will sound great as you’re telling your friends about it. But it will not be the make-or-break factor in your application. A 4 or a 5 is good enough.
4. The AWA is graded by an E-reader application and by a human reader. Since there is an element of automated grading, you can rig the test to an extent. We’ve found that if you write a substantial essay of over 500 words, and if you structure the argument well ( check our CrackVerbal template in the following chapter), you are almost guaranteed to get a 4+ score!
5. Assuming that you prepare for the GMAT over a course of three months, we recommend that you practice writing 5 to 10 essays, and make sure you get feedback for all of them. If you cover this much practice ground, you’re good to go!
6. One of the best things about the AWA section is that you know all of the questions beforehand (yes, they’re all up there on the GMAC site – Analytical Writing Section ). So you do not have to go hunting for ‘authentic’ AWA essay questions.
7. Now you can choose the order in which you want to take up the sections before starting the test. It is advisable to keep in mind the order that would be helpful for you and prepare for the AWA based on that strategy. This is a recent change to the GMAT test structure. It was introduced in July 2017. We have done a detailed analysis of what this means to an Indian GMAT test-taker in the this blog
8. We saved the coolest point for last 🙂
The AWA lends itself very easily to the use of an essay template. No matter what the argument prompt is, you can bet that there will be at least 3 glaring errors of logic in it. You can, therefore, use a template to structure your AWA essay. Using a template takes most of the stress away from the AWA section.
In the few minutes before you start, you can jot down the template on your scratchpad, so that you don’t have to remember it anymore. Also, because you can plan many of your sentences beforehand, you can get at least a 100 words down before you even read the question!
There are a lot of templates on the internet – probably the most famous one being the Chineseburned AWA template.
At CrackVerbal, we have our own template for the AWA, a modified version of the Chineseburned template. We call it the CrackVerbal AWA Template on Steroids! 🙂
The AWA Writing Process
1. Write your templatized response
This should take you about 5 minutes:
Type out your prepared template response. Below is a sample. We definitely do not recommend that you use the same words. What you can do, however, is read a few templates on the net, and then write your own. Since you have written it yourself, it will be that much easier to memorise it.
CRACKVERBAL AWA TEMPLATE
The argument claims that < restate the argument >. Stated in this way the argument fails to take into account a few key factors which could call the conclusion to question. It rests on some assumptions, for which there is no clear evidence. Therefore, the argument is unconvincing and falls apart at the seams.
1. Firstly, ( ) 2. This statement is a stretch and not substantiated in any way. 3. The argument would have been much clearer if ( )
1. Second ( ). This is again a very weak and unsupported claim as the argument ( ). 2. For example, 3. This argument would have sounded a lot more convincing if 4. In addition, it would have been strengthened ever further if the argument provided evidence that
1. Finally, the argument concludes that 2. However, what is not clear here is ( ) 3. If there had been evidence to support ( )
In summary, the argument fails to convince because of the faulty assumptions aforementioned. If the argument had drawn upon examples as suggested, and thereby plugged in the holes in the reasoning, it would have been far sounder on the whole.
Now that you have put the pre-planned portion of the essay down, it’s time to read the AWA prompt and wear your thinking hat. GMAT, in its politically correct, non-partisan way, says ‘Discuss how well-reasoned you find this argument’. Remember however, that an AWA argument is never well-reasoned!
There are always a couple of glaring flaws in logic you can pounce on. If these flaws do not occur to you immediately, because of test-day stress, do not assume that you have been given a particularly sound argument. There is no such thing on the AWA!
If you’re unable to be critical, imagine that the author of the argument is somebody you dislike..a teacher you hated at college, or that guy who overtook you and almost dented your car this morning! There, now you’re in the right frame of mind to attack the argument 🙂
Before you do so, you need to understand the three elements of the argument – Conclusion, Premise and Assumptions.
Let us look at an example, and detect these three elements.
“Most companies would agree that as the risk of physical injury occurring on the job increases, the wages paid to employees should also increase. Hence it makes financial sense for employers to make the workplace safer: they could thus reduce their payroll expenses and save money.”
The conclusion is the decision/statement that the author has arrived at. In this case, the conclusion is the last sentence – “Hence it makes financial sense for employers to make the workplace safer: they could thus reduce their payroll expenses and save money.”
The premises are the building blocks of facts on which the conclusion rests. In other words, a premise is what is offered as support for the conclusion. In this case, the premise is – Most companies would agree that as the risk of physical injury occurring on the job increases, the wages paid to employees should also increase.
Assumptions are the unstated, unwritten premises that plug the gap between the written premises and the conclusion. It is the assumptions that you need to attack on the AWA!
How do you attack assumptions?
Remember that an assumption can be incorrect for a variety of reasons. Here are a few types of incorrect assumptions –
1. The Sampling Assumption – The sampling argument assumes that a small group is representative of a much larger group to which it belongs.
2. The illogical analogy assumption – The illogical analogy states that because something applies to A, it applies to B also.
3. The Causal Assumption – The Causal Assumption confuses correlation with causation. That means, just because ‘A’ usually occurs after ‘B’ occurs, does not necessarily imply that B happens because of A.
4. The Data Bias – This occurs when the data for a statistical inference itself is drawn from a sample that is not representative of the population under consideration. This is a case of faulty data leading to faulty assumptions.
5. The Non Sequitur – This simply means, finding a connection where there is none. Non Sequitur means “does not follow,” which is short for: the conclusion does not follow from the premise.
Don’t let these categories overwhelm you. We’ve put them down here to get you thinking. However, you can find faulty assumptions with ease, even if you have no clue what a non sequitur is!
As you brainstorm, you will need to jot down your thoughts on the scratchpad. Keep it crisp and brief. Make sure you have these things down –
1. Conclusion + Premise: 2. Flawed Assumption #1: 3. Flawed Assumption #2: 4. Flawed Assumption #3:
For each assumption, also make a cursory note of why it is flawed, an example that talks about why it is flawed, and what additional data would strengthen the argument ( or if you are convinced that you can remember these additional details without having to make a note of them, you can get on with the writing! )
This should take you about 15 minutes:
Here is where you fill in your templatized response with specific details.
The only detail you need to add to the first paragraph is a summary of the argument that is presented. In the above template, your summary should go here ->
1. Start off by pointing out the first flawed assumption. 2. Explain why this assumption is flawed. 3. Give an example that supports the flaw. 4. Explain what further information could have strengthened this argument.
1. Start off by pointing out the second flawed assumption. 2. Explain why this assumption is flawed. 3. Give an example that supports the flaw. 4. Explain what further information could have strengthened this argument.
1. Start off by pointing out the third flawed assumption. 2. Explain why this assumption is flawed. 3. Give an example that supports the flaw. 4. Explain what further information could have strengthened this argument.
This is the concluding paragraph. You already have it down in your template! 🙂
Are you wondering if three minutes is really enough time to proof-read a 500 word essay?
Here’s the deal – The AWA section is about whether you can analyse an argument and discuss it in an articulate manner. It is not a test of grammar and spelling. Hence, the GMAT will excuse minor errors in spelling and grammar.
However, you should understand that a human reader is going to be reviewing your work, and any human reader will have an unconscious bias against bad grammar and spellings. Hence, you want to keep your essay as error-free as possible, without worrying about it too much.
Three minutes should be able time for you to quickly glance through the document and make sure you haven’t made any obvious errors.
Voila! 🙂 Your AWA essay is ready!
Also Read: GMAT Section Selection – Everything you need to know
Sample AWA Essays
Sample Essay 1
”Most companies would agree that as the risk of physical injury occurring on the job increases, the wages paid to employees should also increase. Hence it makes financial sense for employers to make the workplace safer: they could thus reduce their payroll expenses and save money.”
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument.
For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlying the thinking and what alternative explanations or counter examples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.
This argument states that it makes financial sense for employers to make the workplace safer because lower wages could then be paid to employees. This conclusion is based on the premise that as the risk of physical injury increases, the wages paid to employees should also increase. However, this argument makes several unsupported assumptions. For example, the argument assumes that the costs associated with making the workplace safe do not outweigh the increased payroll expenses due to hazardous conditions.
Body Paragraph 1
The first issue to be addressed is whether increased labor costs justify large capital expenditures to improve the work environment. Clearly one could argue that if making the workplace safe would cost an exorbitant amount of money in comparison to leaving the workplace as is and paying slightly increased wages than it would not make sense to improve the work environment. For example, if making the workplace safe would cost $100 million versus additional payroll expenses of only $5,000 per year, it would make financial sense to simply pay the increased wages. No business or business owner would pay all that extra money just to save a couple dollars and improve employee health and relations. To consider this, a cost benefit analysis must be made. I also feel that although a cost benefit analysis should be the determining factor with regard to these decisions making financial sense, it may not be the determining factor with regard to making social, moral and ethical sense.
Body Paragraph 2
Finally one must understand that not all work environments can be made safer. For example, in the case of coal mining, a company only has limited ways of making the work environment safe. While companies may be able to ensure some safety precautions, they may not be able to provide all the safety measures necessary. In other words, a mining company has limited ability to control the air quality within a coal mine and therefore it cannot control the risk of employees getting black. In other words, regardless of the intent of the company, some jobs are simply dangerous in nature.
In conclusion, while at first it may seem to make financial sense to improve the safety of the work environment sometimes it truly does not make financial sense. Furthermore, financial sense may not be the only issue a company faces. Other types of analyses must be made such as the social ramifications of an unsafe work environment and the overall ability of a company to improve that environment (i.e., coal mine). Before any decision is made, all this things must be considered, not simply the reduction of payroll expenses.
Sample Essay 2
The following appeared in a memorandum issued by a large city’s council on the arts.
“In a recent citywide poll, fifteen percent more residents said that they watch television programs about the visual arts than was the case in a poll conducted five years ago. During these past five years, the number of people visiting our city’s art museums has increased by a similar percentage. Since the corporate funding that supports public television, where most of the visual arts programs appear, is now being threatened with severe cuts, we can expect that attendance at our city’s art museums will also start to decrease. Thus some of the city’s funds for supporting the arts should be reallocated to public television.”
Discuss how well reasoned… etc.
In this argument the author concludes that the city should allocate some of its arts funding to public television. The conclusion is based on two facts: (1) attendance at the city’s art museum has increased proportionally with the increases in visual-arts program viewing on public television, and (2) public television is being threatened by severe cuts in corporate funding. While this argument is somewhat convincing, a few concerns need to be addressed.
To begin with, the argument depends on the assumption that increased exposure to the visual arts on television, mainly public television, has caused a similar increase in local art-museum attendance. However, just because increased art-museum attendance can be statistically correlated with similar increases in television viewing of visual-arts programs, this does not necessarily mean that the increased television viewing of arts is the cause of the rise in museum attendance.
Moreover, perhaps there are other factors relevant to increased interest in the local art museum; for instance, maybe a new director had procured more interesting, exciting acquisitions and exhibits during the period when museum attendance increased, in addition, the author could be overlooking a common cause of both increases. It is possible that some larger social or cultural phenomenon is responsible for greater public interest in both television arts programming and municipal art museums.
Body Paragraph 3
To be fair, however, we must recognize that the author’s assumption is a special case of a more general one that television viewing affects people’s attitudes and behavior. Common sense and observation tell me that this is indeed the case. After all, advertisers spend billions of dollars on television ad time because they trust this assumption as well.
In conclusion, I am somewhat persuaded by this author’s line of reasoning. The argument would be strengthened if the author were to consider and rule out other significant factors that might have caused the increase in visits to the local art museum.
Sample Essay 3
The following appeared in a report presented for discussion at a meeting of the directors of a company that manufactures parts for heavy machinery.
“The falling revenues that the company is experiencing coincide with delays in manufacturing. These delays, in turn, are due in large part to poor planning in purchasing metals. Consider further that the manager of the department that handles purchasing of raw materials has an excellent background in general business, psychology, and sociology, but knows little about the properties of metals. The company should, therefore, move the purchasing manager to the sales department and bring in a scientist from the research division to be manager of the purchasing department.”
In response to a coincidence between falling revenues and delays in manufacturing, the report recommends replacing the manager of the purchasing department. The grounds for this action are twofold. First, the delays are traced to poor planning in purchasing metals. Second, the purchasing manager’s lack of knowledge of the properties of metals is thought to be the cause of the poor planning. It is further recommended that the position of the purchasing manager be filled by a scientist from the research division and that the current purchasing manager be reassigned to the sales department. In support of this latter recommendation, the report states that the current purchasing manager’s background in general business, psychology, and sociology equip him for this new assignment. The recommendations advanced in the report are questionable for two reasons.
To begin with, the report fails to establish a causal connection between the falling revenues of the company and the delays in manufacturing. The mere fact that falling revenues coincide with delays in manufacturing is insufficient to conclude that the delays caused the decline in revenue. Without compelling evidence to support the causal connection between these two events, the report’s recommendations are not worthy of consideration.
Second, a central assumption of the report is that knowledge of the properties of metals is necessary for planning in purchasing metals. No evidence is stated in the report to support this crucial assumption. Moreover, it is not obvious that such knowledge would be required to perform this task. Since planning is essentially a logistical function, it is doubtful that in-depth knowledge of the properties of metals would be helpful in accomplishing this task.
In conclusion, this is a weak argument. To strengthen the recommendation that the manager of the purchasing department be replaced, the author would have to demonstrate that the falling revenues were a result of the delays in manufacturing. Additionally, the author would have to show that knowledge of the properties of metals is a prerequisite for planning in purchasing metals.
Sample Essay 4
The following appeared in an announcement issued by the publisher of The Mercury, a weekly newspaper.
“Since a competing lower-priced newspaper, The Bugle, was started five years ago, The Mercury’s circulation has declined by 10,000 readers. The best way to get more people to read The Mercury is to reduce its price below that of The Bugle, at least until circulation increases to former levels. The increased circulation of The Mercury will attract more businesses to buy advertising space in the paper.”
A newspaper publisher is recommending that the price of its paper, The Mercury, be reduced below the price of a competing newspaper, The Bugle. This recommendation responds to a severe decline in circulation of The Mercury during the 5-year period following the introduction of The Bugle. The publisher’s line of reasoning is that lowering the price of The Mercury will increase its readership, thereby increasing profits because a wider readership attracts more advertisers. This line of reasoning is problematic in two critical respects.
While it is clear that increased circulation would make the paper more attractive to potential advertisers, it is not obvious that lowering the subscription price is the most effective way to gain new readers. The publisher assumes that price is the only factor that caused the decline in readership. But no evidence is given to support this claim. Moreover, given that The Mercury was the established local paper, it is unlikely that such a mass exodus of its readers would be explained by subscription price alone.
There are many other factors that might account for a decline in The Mercury’s popularity. For instance, readers might be displeased with the extent and accuracy of its news reporting, or the balance of local to other news coverage. Moreover, it is possible The Mercury has recently changed editors, giving the paper a locally unpopular political perspective. Or perhaps readers are unhappy with the paper’s format, the timeliness of its feature articles, its comics or advice columns, the extent and accuracy of its local event calendar, or its rate of errors.
In conclusion, this argument is weak because it depends on an oversimplified assumption about the causal connection between the price of the paper and its popularity. To strengthen the argument, the author must identify and explore relevant factors beyond cost before concluding that lowering subscription prices will increase circulation and, thereby, increase advertising revenues.
Sample Essay 5
The following appeared as part of an article in a magazine devoted to regional life.
“Corporations should look to the city of Helios when seeking new business opportunities or a new location. Even in the recent recession, Helios’s unemployment rate was lower than the regional average. It is the industrial center of the region, and historically it has provided more than its share of the region’s manufacturing jobs. In addition, Helios is attempting to expand its economic base by attracting companies that focus on research and development of innovative technologies.”
In this argument corporations are urged to consider the city of Helios when seeking a new location or new business opportunities. To support this recommendation, the author points out that Helios is the industrial center of the region, providing most of the region’s manufacturing jobs and enjoying a lower-than-average unemployment rate. Moreover, it is argued, efforts are currently underway to expand the economic base of the city by attracting companies that focus on research and development of innovative technologies. This argument is problematic for two reasons.
To begin with, it is questionable whether the available labor pool in Helios could support all types of corporations. Given that Helios has attracted mainly industrial and manufacturing companies in the past, it is unlikely that the local pool of prospective employees would be suitable for corporations of other types. For example, the needs of research and development companies would not be met by a labor force trained in manufacturing skills. For this reason, it’s unlikely that Helios will be successful in its attempt to attract companies that focus or research and development of innovative technologies.
Another problem with the available work force is its size. Due to the lower than average unemployment rate in Helios, corporations that require large numbers of workers would not find Helios attractive. The fact that few persons are out of work suggests that new corporations will have to either attract new workers to Helios or pay the existing workers higher wages in order to lure them away from their current jobs. Neither of these alternatives seems enticing to companies seeking to relocate.
In conclusion, the author has not succeeded in providing compelling reasons for selecting Helios as the site for a company wishing to relocate. In fact, the reasons offered function better as reasons for not relocating to Helios. Nor has the author provided compelling reasons for companies seeking new business opportunities to choose Helios.
Sample Essay 6
The following appeared in the health section of a magazine on trends and lifestyles.
“People who use the artificial sweetener aspartame are better off consuming sugar, since aspartame can actually contribute to weight gain rather than weight loss. For example, high levels of aspartame have been shown to trigger a craving for food bydepleting the brain of a chemical that registers satiety, or the sense of being full. Furthermore, studies suggest that sugars, if consumed after at least 45 minutes of continuous exercise, actually enhance the body’s ability to burn fat. Consequently, those who drink aspartame-sweetened juices after exercise will also lose this calorie-burning benefit. Thus it appears that people consuming aspartame rather than sugar are unlikely to achieve their dietary goals.”
In this argument the author concludes that people trying to lose weight are better off consuming sugar than the artificial sweetener aspartame. To support this conclusion the author argues that aspartame can cause weight gain by triggering food cravings, whereas sugar actually enhances the body’s ability to burn fat. Neither of these reasons provides sufficient support for the conclusion.
The first reason that aspartame encourages food cravings is supported by research findings that high levels of aspartame deplete the brain chemical responsible for registering a sense of being satedHidden text (sated, sating ), or full. But the author’s generalization based on this research is unreliable. The research was based on a sample in which large amounts of aspartame were administered; however, the author applies the research findings to a target population that includes all aspartame users, many of whom would probably not consume high levels of the artificial sweetener.
The second reason that sugar enhances the body’s ability to burn fat is based on the studies in which experimental groups, whose members consumed sugar after at least 45 minutes of continuous exercise, showed increased rates of fat burning. The author’s general claim, however, applies to all dieters who use sugar instead of aspartame, not just to those who use sugar after long periods of exercise. Once again, the author’s generalization is unreliable because it is based on a sample that clearly does not represent all dieters.
To conclude, each of the studies cited by the author bases its findings on evidence that does not represent dieters in general; for this reason, neither premise of this argument is a reliable generalization. Consequently, I am not convinced that dieters are better off consuming sugar instead of aspartame.
Sample Essay 7
The following appeared in the editorial section of a corporate newsletter.
“The common notion that workers are generally apathetic about management issues is false, or at least outdated: a recently published survey indicates that 79 percent of the nearly 1,200 workers who responded to survey questionnaires expressed a high level of interest in the topics of corporate restructuring and redesign of benefits programs.”
Based upon a survey among workers that indicates a high level of interest in the topics of corporate restructuring and redesign of benefits programs, the author concludes that workers are not apathetic about management issues. Specifically, it is argued that since 79 percent of the 1200 workers who responded to survey expressed interest in these topics, the notion that workers are apathetic about management issues is incorrect. The reasoning in this argument is problematic in several respects.
First, the statistics cited in the editorial may be misleading because the total number of workers employed by the corporation is not specified. For example, if the corporation employs 2000 workers, the fact that 79 percent of the nearly 1200 respondents showed interest in these topics provides strong support for the conclusion. On the other hand, if the corporation employs 200,000 workers, the conclusion is much weaker.
Another problem with the argument is that the respondents’ views are not necessarily representative of the views of the work force in general. For example, because the survey has to do with apathy, it makes sense that only less apathetic workers would respond to it, thereby distorting the overall picture of apathy among the work force. Without knowing how the survey was conducted, it is impossible to assess whether or not this is the case.
A third problem with the argument is that it makes a hasty generalization about the types of issues workers are interested in. It accords with common sense that workers would be interested in corporate restructuring and redesign of benefits programs, since these issues affect workers very directly. However, it is unfair to assume that workers would be similarly interested in other management issues—ones that do not affect them or affect them less directly.
In conclusion, this argument is not convincing as it stands. To strengthen it, the author would have to show that the respondents account for a significant and representative portion of all workers. Additionally, the author must provide evidence of workers’ interest other management topics—not just those that affect workers directly.
Sample Essay 8
The following appeared in the opinion column of a financial magazine.
“On average, middle-aged consumers devote 39 percent of their retail expenditure to department store products and services, while for younger consumers the average is only 25 percent. Since the number of middle-aged people will increase dramatically within the next decade, department stores can expect retail sales to increase significantly during that period. Furthermore, to take advantage of the trend, these stores should begin to replace some of those products intended to attract the younger consumer with products intended to attract the middle-aged consumer.”
Based on an expected increase in the number of middle-aged people during the next decade, the author predicts that retail sales at department stores will increase significantly over the next ten years. To bolster this prediction, the author cites statistics showing that middle-aged people devote a much higher percentage of their retail expenditure to department-store services and products than younger consumers do. Since the number of middle-aged consumers is on the rise and since they spend more than younger people on department-store goods and services, the author further recommends that department stores begin to adjust their inventories to capitalize on this trend. Specifically, it is recommended that department stores increase their inventory of products aimed at middle- aged consumers and decrease their inventory of products aimed at younger consumers. This argument is problematic for two reasons.
First, an increase in the number of middle-aged people does not necessarily portend an overall increase in department-store sales. It does so only on the assumption that other population groups will remain relatively constant. For example, if the expected increase in the number of middle-aged people is offset by an equally significant decrease in the number of younger people, there will be little or no net gain in sales.
Second, in recommending that department stores replace products intended to attract younger consumers with products more suitable to middle-aged consumers, the author assumes that the number of younger consumers will not also increase. Since a sizable increase in the population of younger consumers could conceivably offset the difference in the retail expenditure patterns of younger and middle- aged consumers, it would be unwise to make the recommended inventory adjustment lacking evidence to support this assumption.
This argument is unacceptable. To strengthen the argument the author would have to provide evidence that the population of younger consumers will remain relatively constant over the next decade.
We hope that our strategies help you conquer GMAT AWA with enough and more energy to spare for the sections that follow!
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GMAT Prep Online Guides and Tips
The 6 gmat essay tips that will help you ace the awa.
If you’re preparing for the GMAT, you’ve probably spent countless hours reviewing math concepts and mastering grammar skills. You’ve likely also spent time studying for the newer integrated reasoning section, too. But have you thought about the analytical writing assessment part of the GMAT?
If your answer is no, don’t worry! You’re not alone. Many test-takers go into test day without spending a lot of time preparing for the essay section of the GMAT, especially since it’s unclear how much (or even if) the GMAT essay even matters for getting into business school.
In this article, I’ll shed some light on the oft-forgotten GMAT AWA section. First, I’ll give you an overview of what’s actually on the AWA section. Next, I’ll discuss whether or not that score really matters for your admission to business school. Finally, I’ll tell share the top GMAT essay tips that are guaranteed to boost your GMAT essay score.
GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment Overview
The GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment is designed to measure your ability to think critically about a topic and then communicate your ideas about that topic. During the AWA section, you’ll be asked to analyze and critique an argument and judged on your ability to do so clearly, thoroughly, and thoughtfully.
The GMAT AWA section consists of one writing task: a 30-minute essay. You’ll complete the AWA portion of the GMAT first, before every other test section.
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For your GMAT essay, you’ll be asked to think critically about an argument that’s presented to you. You’re not supposed to give your opinion on the subject itself.
GMAT AWA scores range from 0 to 6, in half-point intervals. Every GMAT AWA response receives two independent scores. According to MBA.com, one of your scores may be performed by an essay-scoring engine. At least one of your GMAT AWA scores will be determined by a GMAT essay reader.
Your AWA score doesn’t affect your GMAT total score and is generally considered the least important of your GMAT scores.
The 6 Best GMAT Essay Tips
If you’re looking to achieve a GMAT essay score that’ll help you get into business school, these six GMAT Analytical Writing tips will help you achieve success.
#1: Follow the Directions
One of the most important GMAT essay tips is to understand the directions of the AWA section.
The AWA section specifically asks you to critique an argument on its strengths and weaknesses. AWA graders aren’t looking for a well-written, thoughtful opinion piece about the topic discussed in the prompt. They’re looking for you to analyze whether or not the argument itself was sound, and to back up that analysis with evidence from the text, and they’ll judge you on how well you accomplished that specific task. If you don’t follow the directions, you won’t achieve a high score.
#2: Develop a Clear Structure
Another one of the important GMAT writing tips is to take the time to set up your essay in a clear way.
You don’t need to write the most interesting or lengthy essay in the world to score well on the AWA section, but you do need to give your essay an easy-to-follow structure. Usually, that consists of an introduction, three to four well-developed body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Your introduction should restate the main argument of the prompt, then highlight the flaws in the argument that you’ll discuss in the body of the essay.
Each of the body paragraphs should focus on a specific flaw in the argument. First, you should highlight the flaw itself. Next, you’ll need to explain why that particular flaw is a flaw. Finally, you should highlight how the argument could’ve been made more clearly or more successfully.
In the conclusion, you’ll want to restate each of the reasons why the argument was flawed and summarize how those flaws affected the validity of the argument.
Following this clear, simple structure for your GMAT essay will help you achieve your goal score.
#3: Know the Common AWA Flaws
Your task for the GMAT AWA is to critique an argument given to you in a prompt. That means that you can assume the argument given is a weak one, since your job is basically to analyze its weaknesses.
GMAT AWA prompts typically have arguments that are weak in predictable ways. Be on the lookout for these common “flaws” that you’ll encounter in AWA prompts:
Causality: GMAT AWA prompts often contain errors in causality, which means that they attribute the wrong effect to the wrong cause . If you see an argument that uses causality, make sure you check to make sure that causality is correctly attributed and that there’s a provable causal relationship.
Vagueness: GMAT AWA prompts often contain vague terms or statistics that are used incorrectly to draw conclusions. For instance, a prompt might suggest that, out of a sample of 500 consumers, more are buying name-brand paper towels than generic paper towels. The use of the word “more,” in this case, isn’t specific enough because it doesn’t tell you exactly how many more people are buying name-brand paper towels. You can’t draw a definitive conclusion off of vague data.
Overconfidence: GMAT AWA prompts often contain overconfident language. You should be looking for the language in arguments to be thoughtful and well-balanced. Keep an eye out for words like “undoubtedly,” “definitely,” and “of course,” which indicate overconfidence.
One of the best GMAT essay tips is to practice, practice, practice before you actually complete the GMAT AWA section on test day. You can find real, retired GMAT AWA prompts on the GMAT website for free. You can also purchase the GMAT Write tool to receive scores on practice AWA prompts if you’re really concerned about your score.
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Practicing will help you in a number of ways. First, practicing will help you master your timing. You’ll only have 30 minutes to craft a logical and well-reasoned essay on test day. The more you practice, the faster you’ll get at outlining and completing your essay.
As I mentioned in the previous GMAT writing tips, you’ll need to fully answer the correct prompt to achieve a good score on your GMAT essay. Practicing will help you get used to the structure of GMAT AWA prompts and help you get used to the types of questions you’ll see on test day.
Finally, practicing will help you get used the structure you need to employ to succeed on your GMAT essay. The more you practice, the more naturally you’ll be able to craft a complete introduction, body, and conclusion for each of your GMAT essays.
#5: Take Time to Outline
While outlining may seem like one of the more basic GMAT essay tips, taking five minutes at the beginning of the AWA section to sketch out a basic outline of your essay will really help you as you start to write.
Everyone outlines differently, but in general, I’d suggest having one to two bullet points for each paragraph that highlight the main ideas the paragraph will cover. Outlining will help you make sure you’ve covered all the main points you need to fully answer the question.
#6: Don’t Sweat the AWA Too Much
The final of my GMAT analytical writing tips is to not worry about the AWA section too much. As I mentioned in a previous section, the AWA section isn’t that important in the overall scheme of your GMAT score. It’d be a mistake to spend a lot of time and energy stressing over and preparing for the AWA section before you take the GMAT.
Spend between three to six hours preparing for the AWA, depending on how comfortable you are writing to the AWA’s structure. More often than not, that’s all the time test-takers need to achieve a solid AWA score.
Your GMAT AWA score won’t make or break your chance of admission to the business school of your dreams. An AWA score between 4-6 will sufficiently demonstrate your writing abilities to most admissions committees, and there’s not a huge advantage to scoring a perfect 6 on the AWA section.
An AWA score of below 4, however, will raise red flags for admissions committees who may question your communication abilities. So, it’s important to study for the AWA section to make sure your score is sufficient.
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GMAT AWA Topics – Sample Prompts
Before you start.
Remember that the AWA is testing your ability to effectively critique an argument being presented. There will be some common fallacies used in the prompts that you will need to address. Familiarize yourself with these flawed arguments so that you can quickly identify them as you write your essay:
Inappropriate Comparisons – comparing two things which are not necessarily similar, thus leading to a flawed conclusion. You will notice that in an inappropriate comparison, the argument will only note the similarities between two things with no explanation of why the differences do not change the outcome.
Example: "Dogs are highly motivated by food, which is a useful tool for training. Using this same method, you can help to encourage your children to repeat positive behaviors." This argument does not address early childhood development, nor does it address dog psychology – the person assumes that if a solution worked in one situation, it will work in the other.
Vague Language – using words such as "many", "few", "some", "more", or "less" without further qualification is often too vague to make a cogent point.
Example: "In Chicago, more people voted to add bike lanes than people did in Aurora, so it is clear that the citizens in Chicago are more pro-bike than the citizens in Aurora." This argument does not explain what 'more' means. Is it by percentage? Does it refer to raw number of votes, and if so, does it take into account the number of voters in Chicago vs. the number of voters in Aurora?
Correlation vs Causation – this common fallacy asserts that because something occurred, it must be a consequence of some specific variable observed before the result.
Example: "Students in Neighborhood A have higher test scores on average that students in Neighborhood B. Therefore, it is clear that the schools in Neighborhood A are better than the schools in Neighborhood B." This argument is flawed because it assumes the only meaningful variable in test scores was the school the children attend. This argument does not consider other various factors, such as poverty, school resources, home situations, and the parents' abilility to supplement educational opportunities, etc.
Sampling Issues – a case in which statistics are used inappropriately to compare unlike populations or to draw broad conclusions using a small sample.
Example: "56% of the reviews of Company A are negative, which shows that most customers are very unhappy with the service provided." The problem with this argument is that it does not address the percentage of overall customers who have written reviews. How do we know that this is representative of all customers vs. those who are upset about an issue and take the time to write a review?
Now that you have reviewed some common flawed arguments you may encounter, it is time to get started practicing!
Sample Prompt 1
The following appeared in the health section of a magazine on trends and lifestyles:
"People who use the artificial sweetener aspartame are better off consuming sugar, since aspartame can actually contribute to weight gain rather than weight loss. For example, high levels of aspartame have been shown to trigger a craving for food by depleting the brain of a chemical that registers satiety, or the sense of being full. Furthermore, studies suggest that sugars, if consumed after at least 45 minutes of continuous exercise, actually enhance the body’s ability to burn fat. Consequently, those who drink aspartame-sweetened juices after exercise will also lose this calorie-burning benefit. Thus, it appears that people consuming aspartame rather than sugar are unlikely to achieve their dietary goals."
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.
Sample Prompt 2
The following appeared in the opinion column of a financial magazine:
"On average, middle-aged consumers devote 39 percent of their retail expenditure to department store products and services, while for younger consumers the average is only 25 percent. Since the number of middle-aged people will increase dramatically within the next decade, department stores can expect retail sales to increase significantly during that period. Furthermore, to take advantage of the trend, these stores should begin to replace some of those products intended to attract the younger consumer with products intended to attract the middle-aged consumer."
Sample Prompt 3
The following appeared as part of an editorial in an industry newsletter:
"While trucking companies that deliver goods pay only a portion of highway maintenance costs and no property tax on the highways they use, railways spend billions per year maintaining and upgrading their facilities. The government should lower the railroad companies’ property taxes, since sending goods by rail is clearly a more appropriate mode of ground transportation than highway shipping. For one thing, trains consume only a third of the fuel a truck would use to carry the same load, making them a more cost-effective and environmentally sound mode of transport. Furthermore, since rail lines already exist, increases in rail traffic would not require building new lines at the expense of taxpaying citizens."
Sample Prompt 4
The following was excerpted from the speech of a spokesperson for Synthetic Farm Products, Inc.:
"Many farmers who invested in the equipment needed to make the switch from synthetic to organic fertilizers and pesticides feel that it would be too expensive to resume synthetic farming at this point. But studies of farmers who switched to organic farming last year indicate that their current crop yields are lower. Hence their purchase of organic farming equipment, a relatively minor investment compared to the losses that would result from continued lower crop yields, cannot justify persisting on an unwise course. And the choice to farm organically is financially unwise, given that it was motivated by environmental rather than economic concerns."
Sample Prompt 5
The following is part of a business plan created by the management of the Megamart grocery store:
"Our total sales have increased this year by 20 percent since we added a pharmacy section to our grocery store. Clearly, the customer’s main concern is the convenience afforded by one-stop shopping. The surest way to increase our profits over the next couple of years, therefore, is to add a clothing department along with an automotive supplies and repair shop. We should also plan to continue adding new departments and services, such as a restaurant and a garden shop, in subsequent years. Being the only store in the area that offers such a range of services will give us a competitive advantage over other local stores."
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Home » 800score Free GMAT Prep Course » FREE GMAT PREP COURSE » Chapter 1: AWA Introduction
The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) requires test takers to demonstrate their ability to analyze and critique an argument. It consists of one 30-minute essay, Analysis of Argument. You will receive a grade from 1 to 6, which will be sent with your GMAT scores.
How is the AWA Graded?
Your essay will be graded by a human grader and an “E-rater” computerized grading program. If they disagree, it will be sent to a third human grader. If you do not write your essay in the proper format for the computerized grader, it could lead to a lower score. Throughout this guide, we have tips on how to cater your writing towards the computerized grader.
How to Prepare for the AWA
The good news is that the AWA can be beaten. The structures for the AWA answers are simple and can be learned. In addition, while some GMAT preparation may appear “useless” and without any merit beyond test day, the skills, reasoning tools, and techniques you learn for the AWA may be applied to any essay or persuasive writing. These skills will help you throughout business school and beyond.
The guide is divided into these sections:
- Chapter 1: Introduction (current page)
- Chapter 2: Analysis of Argument
- Chapter 3: About the E-Rater
- Chapter 4: Improving Your Writing
- Chapter 5: Real Essay Questions
- Chapter 6: 10 Most Common Errors
You can take practice essays and send them in for grading at: www.800score.com/takeessay/
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Sample AWA Essays
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