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Could you please advise me as to how I should prepare for the AWA and what % of my total study time should be spent on this secion - and how many hours in total. English is my mother tongue. I am aiming for a 5.5 in AWA.
Relax. Don't waste too much time for AWA, especially as you're a native speaker. Write several AWA essays using sample essay topics from OG, and that's it. Your goal is just to get used to timing and format, so that you wouldn't scare on the real test.
I think the best thing to do is write as much as possible. I think this was the advice given in PR. I've taken the GMAT 3 times and each time I was able to write more and more and my scores definitely corresponded to the amount that was written. This is not to say that it's the only factor in the assessment but it certainly helps.
Really though, I wouldn't worry about AWA. Use it to get used to the exam environment and prepare yourself for the quant and verbal sections.
I know exactly how you feel, before I took the gmat, I had no idea how much time I should spend practicing the AWA. ThereÂ´s so much on Q and V out there but AWA never really gets talked about. Well, thereÂ´s a reason for it, it really isnÂ´t scary.
Before taking the gmat, I was a bit worried about this because I only had limited time and I needed lots of improvement on math. So I only practiced AWA on practice tests, I made sure I always included them and that was also a way to train my stamina. Without using a template and spending only 20-25 mins per essay, I scored a 5.5.
My additional advice is to read over some AWA topics in the OG the day before your exam, try to come up with a position and examples. Essay topics on the real day will be very similar.