Brian Galvin is the Director of Academic Programs at Veritas Prep, where he oversees all of the company’s GMAT preparation courses.
The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is an interesting component of the GMAT for several reasons:
- Its score is significantly less important than your composite quant/verbal score, but the AWA score is something that schools will see as part of your application package
- The AWA essays are the first section of the exam, giving you 30 minutes each for two essays before you begin the multiple-choice quantitative and verbal sections
- The essays are graded in part by a computer scoring system, which should indicate that there is a similar level of “standardized” testing involved in the AWA as there is in the multiple-choice sections. What’s more, ask any teacher who has graded dozens of essays in successions and she should tell you that, by the time you’ve graded that many in a row, you’re essentially a computer or robot at that point, not taking time to be swayed by arguments or engaged by prose, but rather completing a task. Here, you can use this knowledge of how the test is scored to your advantage.
Because the essays will be graded somewhat mechanically, you can infer that you won’t be graded on your level of innovation or novelty with regard to the examples you draw or the unique nature of your arguments. Similarly, because your task is to craft an essay for each prompt in 30 minutes, you won’t be expected to write a detailed, compelling thesis paper. More practically, you will be evaluated on how you structure your argument, and not nearly as much on what your argument is. Simply put, if you put together a well-structured argument, you won’t have to worry too much about putting together a well-reasoned argument.
In order to put together a well-structured argument, you should take care to include a clear introduction and conclusion. By including transitional language that indicates you are making a point — therefore, thus, consequently, in conclusion — you can make it clear to the reader (or computer) what your position is. Furthermore, well-structured arguments will include transition language to indicate support for your argument — furthermore, moreover, in addition, also, second, third, etc. — and language that will demonstrate that you are transitioning between opposing ideas — conversely, however, in contrast.
Simply by including such transitional language, you’ll cue the reader (or computer) to take note of the way that you have organized your argument, and you’ll also remind yourself to keep your argument organized and structured in the process. A clear, easy-to-read argument will ensure that the computer can pick up your points quickly, and that the overwhelmed-by-reading-the-same-essay-thirty-times human grader will be able to do so, too.
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