The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) measures your ability to think critically and communicate your thoughts. During the AWA section of the GMAT, you will be asked to write an essay in which you will analyze the reasoning behind a given argument. You will have 30 minutes to complete the essay.
Here are six steps to help you master the AWA section.
1) Review sample AWA templates. They will guide you in how to best format your essays. If you are prepping with Economist GMAT Tutor, these templates will appear in your dashboard when you are about 60% completed with the course. If you’ve already passed this point in your studies, you can find the templates for the essays in your summary library.
2) Once you are familiar with the general format that your essays should follow, take a look at lists of topics of past AWA essays. You can find many at mba.com: Analysis of an argument topics
3) During each 30 minute AWA session, you should spend the first five minutes outlining your argument and the last 25 writing the essay. Select a few topics from each type of AWA essay and spend 5 minutes for each outlining your argument or analysis. If it’s an argument essay topic, what evidence would you offer to make your case? State a few examples to support your thesis.
4) When you feel you’ve created a few solid outlines, write a couple essays. Make sure to spend no more than 25 minutes on each essay. If you’re an Economist GMAT Tutor student, upload each completed essay through the Economist GMAT Tutor dashboard.
5) Economist GMAT Tutor students will get feedback from one of our academic tutors within three days. Don’t submit more essays during the time that you’re waiting for your essay feedback; wait until you receive the critiques of your essays so you can incorporate the tutors’ advice in your next round.
6) Repeat steps two through five.
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GMAT Essay Topics
GMAT Essay Topics Explained
The GMAT AWA is, for many aspirants, a dreaded section as it lends a direct look into the aspirant’s way of writing and critical thinking skills. There is no right or wrong answer, it is all subjective and therefore requires good preparation. Adequate information about this section is available on the official website for the GMAT, including a complete list of current essay topics http://www.mba.com/the-gmat/schedule-a-gmat-appointment/pay-for-the-test/test-structure-and-overview/analytical-writing-assessment-section.This has been made available to students so that they can familiarize themselves with the format and what to expect out of the essay section on the test day. Although it is an exhaustive list of essay topics of both kinds, analysis of an issue and analysis of an argument, it is next to impossible for the aspirant to prepare all the essay topics beforehand. To make things simpler let us look at 5 topics for each kind of essay type.
Analysis of an Issue
This task requires the aspirant to analyze an issue and present a personal point of view drawn from his own experiences. This point of view should be well substantiated with examples and observations which the aspirant has either read about or observed in his day-to-day life. The aspirant’s ability to take a stand on situations using logic and thought is measured in this task. The best way to tackle this is to stick to a structure of an introduction, body of 2-3 points and a conclusion to summarize the main idea. Here are 5 topics that you can have a look at:
- "What really matters in the leadership of business and organizations is getting results, reaching benchmarks, and achieving success." – In this issue the importance of ways of achieving success have been stated. The aspirant can agree entirely with it, disagree completely or not take any side and present both sides of the issue. In any case, these need to be substantiated with actual examples of where business organizations either benefitted from a result-oriented approach or they did badly because of it.
- “As individuals, people save too little and borrow too much.” Discuss how accurate is the view discussed above – Here the aspirant can either agree or disagree with the assumption made. Ideas from his personal experience or school life and also from the current economic situation in his country could be good talking points for this essay. Keeping his ideas from a wide range will help the aspirant display his thought process and skill at relating issues both to his personal life and to a nation as a whole.
- “Companies should not try to improve employees’ performance by giving incentives—for example, awards or gifts. These incentives encourage negative kinds of behavior instead of encouraging a genuine interest in doing the work well.” Discuss to which extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion – As is obvious in this issue, there is a strong opinion that has been presented and it holds bearing over commercial organizations. Therefore it is a good opportunity for the aspirant to demonstrate, through his essay, what he personally feels about incentives that a company doles out to its employees. He can also cite examples or instances where such a policy has been effective or ineffective.
- “People often give the following advice: “Be yourself. Follow your instincts and behave in a way that feels natural.” Do you think this is good advice? Why or why not? – Such kinds of discussion topics require a personalized approach and citing observations made by the aspirant that have either helped or not helped him deal with issues in his life based on this advice could be useful points to include in the essay. The aspirant can also express his opinion on whether this advice can influence a person’s outlook in life and help them move forward or not, keeping in mind corroboration with evidence or instances.
- “Juvenile crime is a serious social problem, and businesses must become more involved in helping to prevent it.” To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion – Often topics in the test could be about a social situation, and it is wise for an aspirant to have a positive and reform-based opinion on it, as it exhibits his positive inclinations to societal good, which will always act as a bonus for the AWA section, provided he validates it with relevant examples as well.
Analysis of an Argument
This task is one step ahead of the previous one and requires a keener look at an argument and critique the reasoning behind it, as suggested in the essay topic. It does not need the aspirant to rely or write about his personal experience or point of view. Instead, the aspirant should look at the argument and weed out its weak points and highlight how these counter the argument and its reasoning and provide, by means of the essay, a better reasoning for the argument given. Supporting evidence for this kind of an essay should be derived from the underlying assumptions within the argument. Here are 5 arguments you can have a look at:
- The following appeared in an ad for a book titled How to Write a Screenplay for a Movie.
“Writers who want to succeed should try to write film screenplays rather than books, since the average film tends to make greater profits than does even a best-selling book. It is true that some books are also made into films. However, our nation’s film producers are more likely to produce movies based on original screenplays than to produce films based on books, because in recent years the films that have sold the most tickets have usually been based on original screenplays.” Discuss how well reasoned is this argument. The aspirant needs to understand that there are certain assumptions being made in the argument and that is where his cue lies. He needs to point out these assumptions and state whether or not it is correct to have such assumptions given the scenario in the film-industry nowadays. He need not include names of any movies; rather he should depend on logic and reasoning to support his answer.
- The following appeared in the editorial section of a daily newspaper.
“Although forecasts of presidential elections based on opinion polls measure current voter preference, many voters keep changing their minds about whom they prefer until the last few days before the balloting. Some do not even make a final decision until they enter the voting booth. Forecasts based on opinion polls are therefore little better at predicting election outcomes than a random guess would be.” Discuss how well reasoned is this argument. Here the efficacy of opinion polls has been written about. The aspirant can state his opinion on this too, considering the assumptions of the argument and whether or not they support his opinion. The aspirant can either take each assumption and then point out the weak/strong points or can follow a point-by-point essay on whether according to this argument, opinion polls should be depended upon or not.
- The following appeared in an article in a travel magazine.
“After the airline industry began requiring airlines to report their on-time rates, Speedee Airlines achieved the number one on-time rate, with over 89 percent of its flights arriving on time each month. And now Speedee is offering more flights to more destinations than ever before. Clearly, Speedee is the best choice for today’s business traveler.” Discuss how well reasoned is this argument. The argument is also a writer’s opinion in a travel magazine. The ideal way to tackle this could be to give a critique of how the argument has assumed a co-relation between the ‘on-time rates’ and the increasing of flights by an airline. Is this a wise assumption or a shallow one? The aspirant can pick on this point of the argument and corroborate it with logical reasoning if he agrees/disagrees with the assumption.
- The following appeared as part of a business plan recommended by the new manager of a musical rock group called Zapped.
“To succeed financially, Zapped needs greater name recognition. It should therefore diversify its commercial enterprises. The rock group Zonked plays the same type of music that Zapped plays, but it is much better known than Zapped because in addition to its concert tours and four albums, Zonked has a series of posters, a line of clothing and accessories, and a contract with a major advertising agency to endorse a number of different products.” Discuss how well reasoned is this argument. The argument begins with an assumption and herein lies the talking point of this argument. As this argument is part of a business plan, the aspirant can rely on his logic and demonstrate his managerial competence and aptitude by conveying whether or not such an assumption will help as a part of a business plan.
- The following appeared as part of an article in a health club trade publication.
“After experiencing a decline in usage by its members, Healthy Heart fitness center built an indoor pool. Since usage did not increase significantly, it appears that health club managers should adopt another approach—lowering membership fees rather than installing expensive new features.” Discuss how well reasoned is this argument. The argument is based on a solution to counter a certain problem. This problem is viewed as a result of an assumption by the members of a committee. The aspirant can present in his essay whether such an assumption really could be the problem of the health club or should they investigate further. The aspirant can also present answers to the problem in the argument by means of logic and critiquing the argument to highlight its weak/strong points.
No matter what type of Writing Assessment you are attempting, a look at the essay topics will only help you get acquainted with the kind of thinking and approach that is expected out of you on the test day. The ideas that have to support your essay are best written fresh, rather than mugged up for the D-day; sticking to a structure, keeping it non-personal and using good transitional phrases or words as also some points to be remembered. Practicing how to write each kind of essay with the help of the sample topics, along with timing yourself seems to be the best plan of action for this section.