800Score GMAT Guide
Chapter 1a: GMAT AWA Essay Guide
Chapter 1:  AWA Introduction
Chapter 2:  Analysis of Issue
Chapter 3:  Analysis of Argument
Chapter 4:  About the E-Rater
Chapter 5:  Improving Your Writing
Chapter 6:  Real Essay Questions
10 Most Common Errors
Chapter 1: AWA Introduction

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) consists of two 30-minute sections, the Analysis of Issue essay and the Analysis of Argument essay. You will receive a grade from 1 to 6, which will be sent with your GMAT scores.

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 E-rater, it could lead to a lower score. Throughout the guidebook we have tips on the E-rater and a section exclusively about the E-rater.

The good news is that the AWA can be beaten.The essay topics are available for you to review beforehand. The structures for the AWA answers are simple and may be learned. In addition, while much 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.


Understanding How the GMAT will Score Your Essay
Video Courtesy of Kaplan


Chapter 2: Analysis of Issue

• 2a. Content
• 2b. Timing
• 2c. Structure

The Analysis of Issue question asks you to discuss your opinion toward an issue. You will need to write a well-balanced analysis of the issue the test presents to you.

The most common topics relate to general business and public policy issues. Business issues include business ethics, marketing and labor. Government issues include regulatory and social welfare issues.

  • Here is an example of an Analysis of Issue question:

    The desire of corporations to maximize profits creates conflict with the general welfare of the nation at large.

    Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations or reading.

    A typical Analysis of Issue topic may be something like:
  • Does lowering tax rates increase economic growth?
  • Should countries sacrifice civil liberties for safety?
  • Should countries limit free trade to protect their industry?


2a. Content

Graders of the Analysis of Issue essay expect an essay that:

  1. Is well developed, logical and coherent;
  2. Demonstrates critical thinking skills;
  3. Uses varied sentence structure and vocabulary;
  4. Uses standard written English and follows the language’s conventions;
  5. Is free of mechanical errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization.

How do I write a well-balanced essay?

Acknowledge both sides of the issue to show that you understand it fully. At the same time, you must pick a side and persuade the reader that, despite the counter-arguments, your position is the strongest one overall.

Show the reader that you see both sides of the issue by occasionally using qualifiers (we discuss this later in chapter 5) when describing each side. This will allow you to acknowledge the opposing view and appear scholarly. (Note that overuse of qualifiers will make the essay appear vague and dilute your argument).

Be as politically correct as possible in your essay. You can never predict who will be reading your essay, so it is best not to gamble with highly charged writing. Stick to uncontroversial ideas and opinions. Doing so assures that your reader will not be able to disagree with you and potentially score you accordingly. An extreme or forceful essay may also confuse the E-rater, since your essay will not resemble any essays it has stored in its database. Nevertheless, you must take a stand. Pick the side you feel most comfortable arguing make your opinion clear throughout the essay.

Note: Do not write an unsubstantiated opinion. Write an argument that consists of your thesis and logical arguments to support it.


2b. Timing

Time Breakdown: How to write a coherent 300 word essay in 30 minutes or less.

Step 1. Examine the issue (4 minutes)

a. What is the basic issue? Try to phrase it as a question.

b. Those in favor would say___________________.

c. Those against would say___________________.

Step 2. Choose what points you want to make (5 minutes)

a. Arguments in favor:

b. Arguments opposed:

c. Take a side: which side do you prefer?

d. Write a thesis statement.


2c. Structure

Structure is the most important part of your essay. Your essay must be written in a standard format with the standard logical transitions. The E-rater will scan your essay to identify if it has a standard structure.

Essay Template

The template is just a guideline. You do not have to adhere to it. Often you will have to make changes to suit your argument.

1) Introductory Paragraph (2-4 sentences)

Make sure to keep your introductory paragraph concise, strong and effective.

What the introductory paragraph should accomplish:


Chapter 3: Analysis of Argument

• 3a: Dissection
• 3b: Finding errors
• 3c: Template
• 3d: Timing

What is an argument?

A strong argument tries to persuade the reader to accept a point of view. When writing an essay be sure to include the following in your argument:

1. A declarative statement of idea or opinion

2. Support for the statement: including relevant facts, opinions based on facts and/or careful reasoning.

When writing an argument is essential to both make a statement and then provide a foundation of evidence to back up this statement.

What is the Analysis of Argument?

Analysis of argument questions present a short argument on an issue. You are asked to analyze the argument and discuss how well it is reasoned. You will be looking for flaws in reasoning and weak use of evidence. You will have to consider the assumptions that underlie the writer's thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken his or her conclusion. It is your job to come up with evidence that would strengthen or refute the argument, or what changes would make it more sound.

Here is an example of an Analysis of Argument question:

Toads cause warts. I touched a toad last week and now I have a wart, therefore the toad was responsible.

How would you rate the accuracy of the above statement? Support your position with reasons and examples.

How is it different than Analysis of Issue?

On Analysis of Issue questions you try to argue grand issues such as "Should China be in the WTO," or "Should parents have vouchers to send children to the school of their choice". Reasonable people could differ...


3a: Dissecting Arguments

Let's look at this example:

Stimulus Toads cause warts. I touched a toad last week and now I have a wart, therefore the toad was responsible.
Question Stem How would you rate the accuracy of the above statement? Support your position with reasons and examples.

The Stimulus

In the first part of the Analysis of Issue topic, the writer tries to persuade you of their conclusion by referring to evidence. When you read the "arguments" in these questions, be on the lookout for assumptions and poor logical reasoning used to make a conclusion.

The Question Stem

Question stems will ask you to decide how convincing you find the argument. You will be asked to explain why an argument is not convincing, and discuss what might improve the argument. For this task, you'll need to: first, analyze the argument itself and evaluate its use of evidence; second, explain how a different approach or more information would make the argument itself better (or possibly worse).

They say: Explain what, if anything, would make the argument more valid and convincing or help you to better evaluate its conclusion.

Translation: Spot weak links in the argument and offer changes that would strengthen them.


AWA Essay Guidelines and Tips
Video courtesy of Manhattan GMAT


3b: Finding Errors

The Usual Suspects: Common Logical Fallacies

(Much of this content is identical to the Critical Reasoning section).

There are seven logical errors that appear commonly in the essay questions. When writing your essay argument you should explicitly identify the logical flaw. These flaws also tend to occur in the critical reasoning section of the Verbal GMAT, so your preparation here will benefit you when taking the Verbal section.

1. Circular Reasoning

Here, an unsubstantiated assertion is used to justify another unsubstantiated assertion, which is used to justify the first statement. For instance, Joe and Fred show up at an exclusive club. When asked if they are members, Joe says "I'll vouch for Fred." When Joe is asked for evidence that he's a member, Fred says, "I'll vouch for him."

2. The Biased-Sample Fallacy

The Fallacy of the Biased Sample is committed whenever the data for a statistical inference is drawn from a sample that is not representative of the population under consideration. The data drawn and used to make a generalization is drawn from a group that does not represent the whole.

Here is an argument that commits the fallacy of the biased sample:

ln a recent survey conducted by Wall Street Weekly, 80% of the respondents indicated their strong disapproval of increased capital gains taxes. This survey clearly shows that increased capital gains taxes will meet with strong opposition from the electorate.

The data for the inference in this argument is drawn from a sample that is not representative of the entire electorate.


3c: Template


As with the Issue essay, there is no single "correct," way to organize an Argument essay. In general, your essay should include an introduction and a conclusion paragraph separated by as at least two body paragraphs in which you develop your critique of the stated argument. The template below spells out this structure in more detail, and each of the sample Analysis of Argument essays we present later follow this basic pattern.

Introductory Paragraph (2-4 sentences)

Try to accomplish three goals in your introductory paragraph:

Here's a sample template for the first paragraph that accomplishes these goals:

The author concludes that____________, because ________. The author's line of reasoning is that ______________. This argument is unconvincing for several reasons; it is____________ and it uses _____________.

First Body Paragraph (3-5 sentences)

In the first body paragraph your goal is to critique one of the following:


3d: Timing

How to write a 300-word essay in 30 minutes

Using time appropriately is extremely important when writing essays on the GMAT. You must use your time wisely. Do not dive right in. If you begin writing immediately you will likely find it difficult to follow your critique all the way through without making mistakes in organization. Instead, take time to think about what you will be writing and create an outline first.

Here is a basic breakdown of how to use your time:

1. Dissect argument (4 minutes)
2. Select your points
(5 minutes)
3. Outline
(1 minute)
4. Type essay
(20 minutes)
5. Proofread
(2 minutes)

PART 1: Thinking about the essay

Let's see how to do steps 1 and 2 on a sample essay question:

The problem of poorly trained police officers that has plagued New York City should become less serious in the future. The City has initiated comprehensive guidelines that oblige police officers in multiculturalism and proper ways to deal with the city's ethnic groups.

Explain ....


Chapter 4: About the E-rater

• 4a: Using Strategy
• 4b: International Students

What the E-rater Grades

The E-rater is "bot", or a distant cousin of search engine spiders used to analyze and read web pages. The E-rater will read your essays and look for phrases that indicate competent reasoning.

The E-rater uses a stored battery of hundreds graded essays for each of the 280 essay questions (this is part of the reason that GMAT essays haven't changed in years, to do so would require re-programming the E-rater). The E-rater has sample 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 score essays for each topic. The E-rater will evaluate your essay in terms of the stored essays in the E-rater's database. If the essay you wrote resembles the stored "6" essays in the E-rater's database, you will get that score. If your essay better resembles the "5's" in the E-rater's memory, you will get a "5" from the E-rater.

That is why it is so important to read the 20 sample essays we have. You will see how well written arguments are structured and you will learn the proper style necessary to impress both the E-rater and the human grader.

What the E-rater doesn't grade

The E-rater cannot detect certain things, such as humor, spelling errors or grammar. It analyzes structure through using transitional phrases, paragraph changes, etc. It evaluates content through comparing your score to that of other students. If you have a brilliant argument that uses an unusual argument style, the E-rater will not detect it.

The E-rater does, however, detect spelling and grammar indirectly. If your transition phrases and logical identifiers (e.g.- "therefore", "for example") are not properly spelled, the E-rater will not detect them. Since the E-rater uses the presence of such transitional phrases as an indicator of effective writing, you are indirectly penalized if they are not spelled correctly.


4a: Using Strategy

Does the E-rater impact human graders?

The E-rater potentially puts pressure on human graders. Human graders will create problems if they constantly disagree with the E-rater and force a third, additional grader to look over the essay (this raises costs). In this way, the E-rater acts as a managerial tool to double-check graders and keep them in line. The bottom line: don't rely on your essay being appealing to the human grader. There is no guarantee that the grader will give you a high grade to counter a low E-rater grade. Try to follow the E-rater rules.

What are the implications for the GMAT student?

On the Issue Essay:

You should not try any bold or original approaches in your essay. The essay should be written in a simple and organized fashion. If you write a boldly original piece, do not rely on the human grader to acknowledge the quality of your writing. This may not be the place to expound upon how your master's thesis ties in with your GMAT essay.

On the Argument Essay:

The E-rater makes more sense on the Argument Essay because it is able to tell if you have identified the argument's logical flaw. The E-rater stores hundreds of essays for each essay question and you should use keywords that correspond the stored "6" essays. When you have identified the logical flaws the essay questions, (use our "usual suspects" section to identify logical flaws), make sure to describe the logical flaws. This way the E-rater is able to detect that you have identified the correct logical flaws.

Pleasing the E-rater:

  1. Make your essay highly rigid in structure. Make it look, in its organization, like other 5 and 6 essays.
  2. Clearly demarcate sections using phrases such as "for example", "therefore", etc..
  3. Use qualifiers judiciously. The E-rater will associate careful use of qualifiers with high scorers.
  4. Read our 20 Real Essays essays to get a flavor for how "6" score writing is done.
  5. Use the exact terminology we do in the Usual Suspects section to identify logical reasoning flaws in the Argument Section.

Errors that will ruin your score with the E-rater (DO NOT):

1. Write an essay in a unique and creative fashion. The E-rater will be evaluating you relative to other writers, so a unique argument structure will not appear standard and will always backfire.

2. Misspell key phrases, such as "for example" and "therefore". The E-rater will not pick this up and assume that you did not use transition phrases.

3. Throw in jokes and other unnecessary commentary. The E-rater will not detect the meaning under your writing, only its structure, so making clever comments will not raise your score.

4. Use unusual references that no other business school student would use. The E-rater uses other scorers as a template based on how well you resemble other scorers. On the Analysis of Issue question, if you do use unusual examples, try to use concept keywords and a tight structure.

5. Avoid or overuse qualifiers such as "likely", "should", etc.. (link to qualifiers). Some of the best essay writers use qualifiers, which means the high score essays in the E-rater's database will be filled with essays saturated with qualifiers. However, do not overuse qualifiers or it will dilute your essay.

6. Use a unique and clever rhetorical device that spices up your essay. The E-rater cannot detect cleverness and may find an essay like this confusing, redundant or disorganized.

7. Follow Steve Jobs' clever advertising campaign for Apple "Think Different". For the AWA it is "Think the Same". You want to write as "6" scorers write. The Analysis of Issue section, in particular, is an exercise in conformity. Write opinions in the mainstream of intellectual thought. You may have compelling evidence about the role of UFO's in our daily lives, but your GMAT essay is not the place to introduce this startling news to the world.


4b: International Students

How international students should tackle the AWA and the E-rater.

The conventions for the AWA can be summarized in a single statement: written English requires that each paragraph be developed directly away from a topic (or thesis) sentence or directly towards a topic (or thesis) sentence. The former is known as deductive development; the latter is known as inductive development. Since this is the case for all English written prose it should be obvious that writers in English have less freedom to wander from the main point of their discourse than writers in other languages. English expository prose style must be direct and to the point even though it is necessary to support each main idea with examples, explanations, and illustrations. The thesis (or topic sentence) must contain the germ of the idea that permeates the entire paragraph. Each example or illustration must be connected to that idea with transitional markers such as for example, thus, or moreover.

The E-rater speaks "American."

Your essays should be written in "American", not "English". Phrases that are more commonly spoken in English (indeed, hence, etc..) are less common in an American writing style. Phrases that are commonly spoken in English are unlikely to be picked up by the E-rater, which picks up phrases used among high scorers (who are overwhelmingly American).

Students from the U.K., Hong Kong, India and other Commonwealth nations should adjust their syntax, style and language to better suit the flavor of English used in America. That is the language of the E-rater. Avoid any local jargon or particularly any unusual transitional phrases (e.g. "heretofore"). Got that mate? In addition, the human graders are overwhelmingly American and will have an easier time with arguments written in American.

Beware of words that have a non-American spelling:
"evidense" = evidence
"organisation"= organization

The best solution to writing in the appropriate style is to read all of our sample essays. You should also familiarize yourself with American scholarly journals to see how American writers structure arguments.


Chapter 5: Crash Course in Effective Writing

• 5a: Writing Style
    • 5a(1): Fill Sentences
    • 5a(2): Be concise
    • 5a(3): Qualification
    • 5a(4): Start Strong
    • 5a(5): Active Voice
    • 5a(6): Self-Reference
    • 5a(7): Redundancy
    • 5a(8): Vague
    • 5a(9): Cliche
    • 5a(10): Jargon
• 5b: Grammar Rules
    • 5b(5): Voice Shifting
    • 5b(6): Colloquialisms
    • 5b(7): Sentences
    • 5b(8): Commas
    • 5b(9): Semicolons
    • 5b(10): Colons
    • 5b(11): Using Hyphens
    • 5b(12): The Apostrophe

Once you have mastered the material in the previous chapters and have an overall idea of what you want to say in your essay, you can focus on the best way to express it. This part of the E-Rater Guide will develop the skills you need to create well-developed and well-written essays.

We have divided the lessons for writing into two parts:


5a(1): Fill Sentences

Streamline your essay by avoiding unnecessary sentences.

FILL: Who should be the next president? I think Mike Dukakis should give it another try.

TO THE POINT: Mike Dukakis should make a second bid for the presidency.

Exercise 1: Avoid "fill" sentences that do not serve a purpose.

Condense the two-sentence groups into one, direct sentence.

1. Who was Abraham Lincoln? He was a President of the United States.

2. Patton was a famous general. He was renowned for his ability to surprise the enemy.

3. The twister destroyed three city blocks. Many buildings collapsed because of the twister.

Answers below:



1. Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States.

2. General Patton was famous for his ability to surprise the enemy.

3. Many buildings were destroyed by the twister that destroyed three city blocks.


5a(2): Be concise

Directness and clarity are valued over wordiness on the GMAT. Do not use several words when one will work just as well. Many writers tend to add excessive phrases like "take into consideration" in order to sound scholarly. This only makes the text sound inflated and even sometimes pretentious.

WORDY: I am of the opinion that the said managers should be admonished for their utilization of customer response services.

CONCISE: We should tell the managers to improve customer service.


5a(3): Qualification

What is a qualifier?

A qualifier is a word or phrase that tempers language nearby. Words like fairly, rather, somewhat, and relatively, and expressions like seems to be, a little, and a certain amount of limit the severity of other words or phrases they modify.

Why use qualifiers?

Writing an Analysis of Issue essay is walking a tight rope. You must be persuasive about your argument, yet you cannot be excessively one-sided. There are no clear-cut answers to essay topics on the Analysis of Issue questions, so do not overstate your case. To express that you are reasonable, sporadically use qualifiers in your essay. Qualifiers show that you are conscious of the nuances of the issue at hand and that you understand both sides of it.

Be careful!

As useful as qualifiers are, excessive qualification will dilute your argument and weaken the essay.

WORDY: The Hess spy case was a rather serious breach of national security and likely helped the Soviets.

CONCISE: The Hess spy case breached national security and helped the Soviets.

Too many qualifiers in the first sentence make it vague and confusing. Remember, you want to be clear about what you are saying, just not unreasonably opinionated.

Clear up the following sentences by eliminating excessive qualifiers.

1. You yourself are the very best person to decide what you should do for a living.

2. It is possible that


5a(4): Start Strong

Try not to begin a sentence with This, Here is, There is, There are, or It is. These roundabout expressions indicate distance from your position and make your statement less definitive. Weak openings usually result from writing before you think- hedging until you find out what you want to say.

WEAK: There are many ways in which we can change our current monetary system.


5a(5): Active Voice

Passive vs. Active

PASSIVE: The assignment was completed by Joe in record time.

ACTIVE: Joe completed the assignment in record time.

Active voice is the preferred essay writing style for the GMAT. If possible you should always use the active voice, since it is more direct and shows action and intent. Statements made in the passive voice are weak because it is difficult to tell who or what is responsible for an action.


5a(6): Self-Reference

Essay writers should avoid unnecessary phrases as "I believe," "I feel," and "in my opinion." The grader knows whose opinion is being expressed and he or she does not need to be reminded.

WEAK: I am of the opinion that excessive self-reference may add a level of pomposity to an otherwise effective essay.

FORCEFUL: Excessive self-reference may add a level of pomposity to an otherwise effective essay.

Your statements are stronger and more believable when you say them with conviction and do not use self-reference. They appear more professional this way.



5a(7): Redundancy

Redundancy is the unnecessary repetition of an idea. For example, it is redundant to say "a beginner lacking experience." The word beginner implies lack of experience by itself. You can eliminate redundant words or phrases without changing the meaning of the sentence. Watch out for words that add nothing to the sense of the sentence, because redundancy takes away from the clarity and conviction of a statement.

Here are some common redundancies:

Redundant Phrase  Concise Phrase
1. refer back  to
2. Few in number   few
3. Small-sized  small
4. Grouped together  grouped
5. In my own personal opinion  in my opinion
6. End result  result
7. Serious crisis  crisis
8. New initiatives  initiatives

Redundancy often results from carelessness, but you may easily eliminate redundant elements when proofreading.

Exercise: Proofread these sentences for redundancy:

1. Those who can follow directions are few in number.


5a(8): Vague

Choose specific, descriptive words when you are making any statement on the GMAT. Vague language weakens your writing because it forces the reader to guess what you mean instead of concentrating fully on your ideas and style.

WEAK: Mr. Brown is highly educated.
FORCEFUL: Mr. Brown has a master's degree in business administration.

WEAK: She is a great communicator.
FORCEFUL: She speaks persuasively.

Notice that sometimes to be more specific and concrete you will have to use more words than you might with vague language (as in the first example). This principle is not in conflict with the general objective of writing concisely. Being concise may mean eliminating unnecessary words. Avoiding vagueness may mean adding necessary words to illustrate your point.

Edit these sentences by cutting down on vague language:

1. The principal told John that he should not even think about coming back to school until he changed his ways.

2. The police detective had to seek the permission of the lawyer to question the suspect.

3. Thousands of species of animals were destroyed when the last ice age occurred.


4. The secretary was unable to complete the task that had been assigned.


5a(9): Cliche

Cliches are overused expressions, expressions that may once have seemed colorful and powerful, but are now dull and worn out. Time, pressure and anxiety may make you lose focus, and that is when cliches may slip into your writing. A reliance on cliches will suggest you are a lazy thinker. Keep them out of your essay by thinking ahead and proofreading.

WEAK: Performance in a crisis is the acid test for a leader.

FORCEFUL: Performance in a crisis is the best indicator of a leader's abilities.

Putting a cliche in quotation marks in order to indicate your distance from the cliche does not strengthen the sentence. If anything, it just makes weak writing more noticeable. Take notice of whether or not you use cliches. If you do, ask yourself if you could substitute more specific language for the cliche.

International Students: You should avoid any regional expressions. Students from Britain and the commonwealth nations should particularly beware of using local expressions that are not used in America.


5a(10): Jargon

Jargon includes two categories of words that you should avoid. First is the specialized vocabulary of a group, such as that used by a group of people such as doctors, lawyers, or baseball coaches. Second is the overly inflated or complex language that burdens many student essays. You will not impress anyone with big words that do not fit the tone or context of your essay, especially if you misuse them.

If you are not certain of a word's meaning or appropriateness, leave it out. An appropriate word, even a simple one, will add impact to your argument. Ask yourself "Would a reader in a different field be able to understand exactly what I mean from the words I've chosen?" "Is there any way I can say the same thing more simply?"

MBA candidates are particularly prone to using MBA jargon. When you go to business school, you will find that MBAs have a language of their own with words such as "incentivize" or "M & A". Indeed, you will find that a large part of the lasting benefit of business school is learning the proper MBA language so that you will better relate with the MBAs who dominate the business world. For now, however, the GMAT is not the place for MBA jargon or any jargon for that matter.

Replace jargon with the words in parenthesis:

Your essay graders may not be up to date on the latest trendy abbreviations. Also, avoid lazy and sloppy statements like


5b(5): Voice Shifting

Since you are asked to write an explanatory essay, an occasional self-reference may be appropriate. Use them sparingly and only when there is no other way to explain what you mean. You may call yourself "I" as long as you keep the number of first-person pronouns to a minimum. Less egocentric ways of referring to the narrator include "we" and "one."


5b(6): Colloquialisms

Conversational speech is filled with slang and colloquial expressions. However, you should avoid slang on the GMAT analytical writing assessment. Slang terms and colloquialisms can be confusing to the reader,


5b(7): Sentences

Beware of two common sentence writing errors:

Sentence fragment: a statement with no independent clause 

Run-on sentence: two or more independent clauses that are improperly connected

Sentence Fragments

Every sentence in formal writing must have an independent clause: a clause that expresses a complete thought and


5b(8): Commas


The comma is the most abused punctuation mark. Writers are sometimes so worried about following rules that they forget to pay attention to the way the words sound when spoken. Commas help a reader understand the rhythm of the sentence. If you are having comma problems, try saying your sentence out loud, and listening for natural pauses. The function of a comma is to slow the reader down briefly and make the reader pause. The omission of a comma can cause phrases and clauses to crash into one another,


5b(9): Semicolons


1. Use a semicolon to link two independent clauses.

To give a good party, you must consider the lighting; no one feels comfortable under the bright glare of fluorescent lights.

Note that the two clauses are connected in thought, but are each independent grammatically. A comma with a conjunction can stand in place of the semicolon, like this:

To give a good party, you must consider the lighting, since no one feels comfortable under the bright glare of fluorescent lights.

2. Use a semicolon to separate elements in a list if the elements are long - or if the elements themselves have commas in them.

To get completely ready for your party, you should clean your house; make sure your old, decrepit stereo works; prepare a lot of delicious, strange food; and expect odd, antisocial, and frivolous behavior on the part of your guests.

3. Unlike commas, semicolons belong outside quotation marks.

One man at the party sat in a corner and read "The Adventures of Bob"; he may have been shy, or he may have found "The Adventures of Bob" too exciting to put down.


5b(10): Colons


1. Use a colon when making a list, when what precedes the list is an independent clause.

CORRECT: There are four ingredients necessary for a good party: music, lighting, food, and personality.


5b(11): Using Hyphens

A. Use the hyphen with the compound numbers twenty-one through ninety-nine, and with fractions used as adjectives.

CORRECT: Sixty-five students constituted a majority.

CORRECT: A two-thirds vote was necessary to carry the measure.


B. Use the hyphen with the prefixes ex, all, and self and with the suffix elect.

CORRECT: The constitution protects against self-incrimination.

CORRECT: The president-elect was invited to chair the meeting.


5b(12): The Apostrophe

The apostrophe is used to show ownership. Most of the time, it presents no confusion:
Bob's bassoon
The woman's finger
My son's toys

The tricky part is using an apostrophe when the owner is plural.


1. If the plural noun doesn't end in -s, add an apostrophe and -s, like above. (This is the easy part.)


Chapter 6: Real Essay Questions

• 6a. Argument
• 6b. Issue
• 6c. Additional Essays

Look at all the real AWA questions beforehand:

To beat the competition, you will need to do some brainstorming for all 280 AWA questions. Any of them could appear on your GMAT, so you should spend some time preparing in advance. While there are many questions possible, the good news is there are no surprises. You will be able to review all of the potential questions beforehand.

1. The questions are in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf format). If you do not have Adobe Acrobat you can download it for free click here to download Adobe 5.0.


6a. Argument

These essays are not "perfect" answers, but represent what could be done in a 30 minute time period to get a score of 5 or 6.

Analysis of Argument # 1: Olympia Foods

The author argues, using facts from the color-film processing industry's downward trend in cost over 24 years, that Olympic Foods will be able to cut costs and thus maximize profits in the future. The author bases his conclusion on the generalization that organizations learn to reduce costs over time and, since Olympic Foods has 25 years experience in the food processing industry, its costs should have declined considerably. There are two serious flaws in the argument.

First, the argument uses a faulty analogy between the color-film processing industry and the food processing industry. Analogies drawn between the two fields are highly suspect because there are many serious differences. While the film processing industry faces a relatively simply processing challenge, food producers must contend with contamination, transportation and farm production (much more serious challenges). Thus, it is likely much more difficult to wring efficiency improvements in the food industry.

Second, the author uses a sweeping generalization. the author's prediction of margin improvements relies on the optimistic assumption that Olympic Foods' 25 years of experience will automatically result in operational efficiencies. The problem with this is that improvements in processes do not occur automatically over time, they require tremendous effort at continuous improvement and they require potential room for improvement. It is possible Olympic Food has limited room for improvement or lacks the managerial will to improve its operations. Thus, there is no guarantee of improved operational efficiency over time.

The author's argument has two seriously flawed assumptions. The author could strengthen his or her conclusion by providing examples of how the company has learned how to improve its operations over 25 years and implemented those changes.


6b. Issue

These essays are not "perfect" answers, but represent what could be done in a 30 minute time period to get a score of 5 or 6.

Issue #1: Radio and TV Censorship

The censorship and regulation of broadcast media for offensive material involves a conflict between the freedom of expression and the duty of government to protect its citizenry from potential harm. I believe that our societal interest in preventing the harm that exposure to obscenity produces takes precedence over the freedoms of individual broadcasters.

Firstly, I believe exposure to obscene and offensive language and behavior causes people to mimic such behavior. There is anecdotal and scientific evidence to support this contention.


6c. Additional Essays

Look at all the real AWA questions beforehand:

To beat the competition, you will need to do some brainstorming for all 280 AWA questions. Any of them could appear on your GMAT, so you should spend some time preparing in advance. While there are many questions possible, the good news is there are no surprises. You will be able to review all of the potential questions beforehand.

1. The questions are in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf format). If you do not have Adobe Acrobat you can download it for free click here to download Adobe 5.0.


10 Most Common Errors

We've graded thousands of essays and certain errors occur again and again and again. This is a list of the top ten errors we see on essays. Read through each one carefully. Avoiding these errors will make your essay stronger.

10. The "kitchen sink" argument
This argument throws in everything and discusses every topic of an issue in one paragraph. Paragraphs are discrete units meant for discussing a limited range of ideas. Narrow the scope of your paragraphs and arguments into manageable, topic-specific units. On a larger level, limit the scope of your essays. On issue questions, especially, it is not an opportunity to expound on your entire worldview.

9. The "Microsoft Example"
Try to use interesting examples other than the usual Microsoft example. Too many writers use cite Microsoft as way to prove a point. It makes for a trite essay, and is tedious for graders to read. Another overused example is the "U.S. has low unemployment" example for macroeconomic policy. Be more creative. Essay graders have boring jobs and appreciate new twists. Still another example that is less-than-popular with graders is the hypothetical example. Using a hypothetical examples make a writer seem unintelligent or uneducated, because he or she should be able to come up with a real world example instead of making one up.