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   GMAT Essay Section Guide

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is how business schools evaluate your writing skills. The AWA section has two 30-minute essay questions, each requiring a completely different strategy. (Note: Present Your Perspective on an Issue was replaced on June 6th, 2012).

  • Analysis of Argument (30 minutes)
    Here you analyze the reasoning in an argument and find its logical flaws.

Your essay will be evaluated by an "E-rater" (a computer "bot" grading program that scans essays). If the GMAT essay grader and E-rater agree on a score, that's the grade your essay will receive. If they disagree, then a second GMAT grader will grade the essay to resolve any differences.

The computerized grading system pressures GMAT essay graders to follow the E-rater's strict standards. Human graders are aware that there is a computer double-checking their work and they are more likely to follow the E-rater's strict grading parameters.

   How to Tackle the Analytical Writing Assessment

Students tend to under-prepare for the AWA section. This is ironic because it is the one GMAT section where a small amount of preparation can make a large difference on test day. You don't want an embarrassing AWA grade coming up in a business school interview.

To beat the AWA, you must learn how to write in a highly disciplined and concise manner.

    gmat essay
    1. Be particularly concerned with structure.
    Clearly divide your essay into the introductory paragraph, two to three content paragraphs and a conclusion. Take time out before you start writing to set up an organizational structure. Our Essay Guide includes sample essay templates for both the Issue and Argument essays.

    2. Do not rant in your essay.
    The Issue essays are often fraught with political implications, but this isn't an excuse to ramble about your own pet opinions. Also, try not to delve too deeply into your own personal life. When we interviewed official GMAT essay graders about their biggest complaint, they asked us to tell you: please save it for your blog.

    3. Use transitional phrases.
    Words and phrases like " first", "on the other hand," and "therefore" help the computer identify concepts between and within the paragraphs.

    4. Be a conformist.
    The E-rater is not programmed to appreciate individuality, humor, or poetic inspiration; computers aren't known for their sense of humor. It will be comparing the style and structure of your essay to those of other high-scoring essays. Our Essay Guide and sample essays have over 50 sample high-score essays to give you a sense of the proper writing style for the AWA.

    5. Clearly state your critique in the Analysis of Argument essay.
    The Analysis of Argument question will show you an essay loaded with logical fallacies, such as the unwarranted assumption or fallacy of equivocation.

    6. Know the essays and how to answer them.
    The 800score Essay Section Guide shows you all of the 275 actual GMAT essay questions with 20 sample essay answers to those questions.

    7. Practice, Practice, Practice.
    The best preparation is practicing under real conditions within the 30-minute time frame. 800score offers 5 free practice timed essays with complete explanations and an additional 10 timed essays in the 800score Complete Prep Course. If you need personalized feedback and scoring, 800score has graded over 10,000 practice essays through our Essay Grading Service.

   Essay Section Guide Contents

The Essay Section Guide is based on feedback from our essay graders and interviews with the developers of computerized-essay grading technology. Order the 800score Complete GMAT Prep Course to access the 60-page Essay Section Guide.

Ch. 1: Analytical Writing Basics

  • Analysis of Argument: how to identify logical fallacies commonly used in essay questions, such as the unwarranted assumption or the fallacy of equivocation.

  • How international students should prepare for the essay section.

  • Ten most common errors: In the thousands of essays we have graded, 10 errors consistently recur.

Ch. 2: How the E-Rater Works

  • Logic of how the E-rater works.

  • What not to do: seven common errors writers make with the E-rater.


Ch. 3: How to Structure Your Essay
  • Pace schedules for both essay types so that you get everything done on time.

  • Templates for both essay types to help structure your essays

Ch. 4: How to Write Effectively

  • Basic rules of grammar that you must know.

  • How to write effective and concise arguments.

  • Writing drills and exercises to test your writing skills.

Ch. 5. Answers to the Real Essay Questions
  • See all of the 275 real AWA questions beforehand.

  • Read up to 20 sample answers to actual GMAT essay questions. Use these to get an idea of how to write your essays.

Ch. 6. Application Essay Writing Guide

  • 50-page guide for writing applications to MBA programs. Learn how to write an appealing application essay, explain your past failures and highlight your career successes.

   Start Your Preparation Today
Get the Complete GMAT Prep Course:
Essay Section Guide including real essay questions & explanations.
5 Complete GMAT CAT Tests with complete explanations and the Exclusive Test Pacer training system built-in.
Over 100 instructional videos taught by top instructors.
GMAT Prep Guide complete guide to the Math, Integrated Reasoning and Verbal sections.
24-Hour Tutor email support for rapid answers to your questions.
Bonus 50-page section on writing application essays to business schools.