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GMATCLUB Guide to AWA - The clear-cut

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What AWA is all about


The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section, consisting of one 30-minute essay, measures the test taker's ability to formulate an appropriate and constructive critique of a specific conclusion based on a specific line of thinking. The AWA score is an average of the two independent ratings. Scores average from zero to six, in half-point intervals for each task.Writing scores are computed separately from the scores for the multiple-choice sections of the test and have no effect on the Verbal, Quantitative, or Total scores.


Actually, this is what GMAC says when it comes to having a clear and concise description of the very first section of the test. Unfortunately, the AWA is the most pretermit section on the GMAT. Test takers across the world believe that mastering the AWA is an easy task to accomplish in just few days of study. If you are looking to score a perfect 6.0 on the AWA section, you will have to be a lot more planned than most other students. Just as with the Verbal and Quant sections, scoring well the AWA part of the testy requires the same amount of confidence, persistence, and practice. Therefore, you’ll examine a flawed argument and the scoring system is designed in a way that your responses to each of these essay questions are scored on a 6-point scale, with 6 being the highest score and 1, the lowest.


Image
Courtesy of MGMAT©


This is how looks like the average score of the students during this section related the overall percentile at the end of the exam.

Image
Courtesy of GMAC©


An essay analyzing an ‘Argument’ is easier to compose than one analyzing an ‘Issue’ (as was in the previous version of the GMAT, before the inception of the IR section). This is because, in the case of an ‘Argument’, you have some concrete statements in front of you to investigate, and do not have to start from scratch. An ‘argument’ passage will consist of some facts, some research findings or some opinions of experts followed by some conclusions or recommendations by the author of the argument. You must recognize each of these and must differentiate among them. You should write a critique of only the last, namely the ‘conclusions or recommendations’. You should not try to question the correctness or the accuracy of the first three.

As we mentioned earlier, the students must estimate-evaluate-figure out what is the core of the essay: a flaw in the resoning. Some experts identifies 24 common flaws made by everyone; others "only" 14. Of course, for the GMAT AWA section, you certainly needs to spot the flaws in the argument but solely some of these are really relevant for your purpose.



A feasible list of flaws that you could face writing the AWA


1. Questionable cause - Sometimes called confusing causation with correlation, this is one of the most committed flaws. Cause-and-effect is generally extremely hard to prove whether you are talking about a business plan, a historical event, or a chemical reaction in the body. In this scenario, the cause is wrongly identified. Most likely, these events are correlated, not causal.

2. Double meaning - This unearth especially in numebr of times people at not really "in there" in the issue or don’t want to take the time to explain themselves. On the test, you will find all kinds of phrase and words that lack a clear meaning. This is a flaw you should point out. Acyaully, ambiguity is something (word, phrase, intent) that you mismatch.

3. Composition/Division – By another name, this is stereotyping. If you assume that a characteristic of a member of a group is representative of all members (or vice versa), you are committing this flaw. Don’t stereotype individuals or groups based on your narrow experience, and don’t let other people get away with it either.

4. Black-or-White – Sometimes called a binary argument, or assuming that two courses of action are mutually exclusive, this flaw happens often. Humans have to simplify the world in their mind in order to make sense of it. Another metaphor of this is that all is in or out. More often than not, thete is a grey zone in between we should take in account to get better insights.

5. Anecdotal – Just because you had a bad dinner in a restaurant doesn’t mean that you should think that it is a bad place. In reality, it is probably really nice. Don’t let your narrow experience of something, or someone else’s, influence your opinions or conclusions, so don’t let them get away with it on the test.

6. The Texas Sharpshooter – Humans will unconsciously ignore information that contradicts their beliefs while actively seek out information that confirms their beliefs. A sort of mental cherry picking that allows us to feel comfortable with our decisions and beliefs. But, this is flawed. No using partial information or data to support conclusions.



What is the score range for the AWA


Image
Courtesy of MGMAT©


As you can suddenly spot from the chart above your goal is to be in the 19% range at the very least. The reason is pretty straight: the only way for a BS to measure your skills and to grasp a graduate-level academic coursework conducted in English, particularly if you are a non-native speaker is the AWA.
Moreover, the situation becomes complicated if the AWA score is terrible and the same student produces an outstanding well-written essay, letter of intent or else to impress the committee. This can be a potential red flag that someone has cheated on the application.



The key elements Graders look for in your AWA


1. Cognizability
This means literally that your essay must be clear, who grades your essay should understand it right away. They will have the time neither to scrutinize your sentences in order to grasp the meaning nor to check your spelling if not in the minimum part. Remember: the graders have only two minutes on average per essay; therefore, spending more time on that will be certainly detrimental in their job. So, make sure you have solid points and clear logical reasoning that can be easily understood.

2. Anatomy
The architecture of your essay must be fluent, easy, even passionate in its unfolding. In a hypothetical way, it should put a smile or a wow on the mouth of who reads the same from the head down. This way, every paragraph reads like a separate story, and the essay graders can easily scan through your entire response effortlessly. The transitions are smooth, and there aren’t any sudden twists in your response, it will make the grader’s job a whole lot easier.

3. Sentences length
One sure method of making an essay dull, lifeless and monotonous is to have all its sentences of the same length. To sound smart, you should consciously try to vary the lengths of your sentences. While some of your sentences may bee fairly long with three or four subordinate clauses, others must be short with just five or six words. The changing rhythm of your writing will give your prose a snappy, intelligent tone, and will keep the reader alert and interested. Instead of all sentences as narrative ones, you should also try to introduce, in appropriate places of your essay, an interrogative (which is in the nature of a question) and an exclamatory sentence.

4. Vocabulary
As most in life, a balance is advisable. Your writing does not have the necessity to be complex such as Hemingway was writing, with an obscure jargon or a twisted vocabulary; on the other hand, the essay should be neither from an elementary level nor heavy vocabulary driven. The AWA is not testing how much vocab you have in your arsenal. Of course, if the prompt talks about a feasible plan from a company to increase the market share you are not going to write about how to plant crops. I.E. As long as you use sensible reasoning, proper grammar and as long as you can defend your point intelligently and use precise vocabulary to convey meaning effectively, you should be alright.

5. Language and Grammar
Although negligible errors throughout the passage will not interfere with your evaluator for grasping the real sense of the essay, silly mistakes do. As soon as they will spot them. as a consequence will be more on the look out for aftward errors or even intricate sentences that bring in confusedness and distort the fluency and the cogency of the AWA. Take time to proofread your essay, once you finish writing it.

6. Reasoning
This bullet is more related to the intimacy, to the core quality of the AWA. Reasoning in its way is more attached to the sense or purpose of your writing, and less to the aesthetics. It shows your clear idea in its unfolding, how to explain your thoughts to counteract and as it turns out to nail the flaw, that is the central task you are trying to tackle. Reasoning is all about "what am I saying?? how am I conveying my ideas about ??.

7. Evidence
You must corroborate your writing. You will ideally want to provide convincing evidence to back up your thesis. Search for cues, either direct or implied, and connect them with the essay.



How Long Should My Essay Be


If you are a long-essay fan and insist to pen a high scoring AWA essay, you should write anywhere between 500-600 words.


Image

One of the ways to sound smart while writing an essay is the appropriate use of what are known as ‘signpost’ words or phrases. Some of the ‘signpost’ words and phrases are: For instance: for example, however, on the other hand, although, unlike, yet, nevertheless, since and therefore.

Signpost words and phrases are valuable in many ways. They help the reader to follow your argument more easily. They make the purpose of every detail, fact, story or example which you use more obvious. More important, they make your essay sound well-organized. By emphasizing the structure of your argument, the signpost words prove that you have thought through the argument rather than rambling aimlessly from one idea to another and that you have got a plan and you are following it intelligently.

There is a significant increase in the number of words from a 5.0 graded essay and a 6.0 graded essay. Moreover, there is a close connection between essay length and the final score. Longer essays usually score better on every essay topic.

Here are probably my favorite websites and two among the best on the internet.


Remembering that transition words and phrases aim to:

Quote:
  • transitions are phrases or words used to connect one idea to the next
  • transitions are used by the author to help the reader progress from one significant idea to the next
  • transitions also show the relationship within a paragraph (or within a sentence) between the main idea and the support the author gives for those ideas
  • different transitions do different things....


Of course, you do not have the impellent necessity to memorize all these stuff. However, one of the key tool to crack the AWA, adding variety and consistency to your task, is proper the knowledge of these. They add to your essay: consistency, avoid boringness, give a clear sign that you are mastering the language.



The art of grading the AWA


One of the most frequent questions about the first section of the GMAT exam is just this: who is able to grade my essay ?? First and foremost, there is not an easy answer to this short but tricky statement. Not only that, notice how just after you have completed you exam you have the score immediately of your quant and verbal section but NOT the AWA evaluation: this is because evaluate an essay is not child's play as it might be. As such, the only few options that come in handy are
  • GMAT Write® at mba.com - not free
  • ScoreItNow!™ - even though this is the official evaluation tool provided by ETS for the GRE exam, the thing does not change the whole a lot. Every essay that you face in several different exams: GMAT,GRE,SAT are all the same. - not free
  • GMATAwa.com This is an amazing online tool. The grading happens instantaneously, and as soon as you submit your essay, you will receive a composite AWA score, along with various metrics on which your essay has been graded.
  • Document Grader - not free
  • Friends, Family, and Experts
  • Self-Evaluation - this is probably the less indicated way to evaluate your essay simply because, even whether is true that you can fix errors such as spelling, punctuation and so forth, is really difficult to spot whether your essay is consistent and rock solid.
  • Forums or other internet outcasts.

The architecture of the AWA


The Analysis of an Argument is specifically made to test your ability, skills, way of thinking to appraise or gauge someone else’s argument.

Quote:
the argument essay tests “your ability to formulate an appropriate and constructive critique of a specific conclusion based upon a specific line of thinking


Before to dive into the process that is at the core of your mission, let's take a look how we can refine the course of action behind a 6.0 score in your essay.

Image

As you ca notice, it is a circular unfolding that you must do not always in a sequence way, from the head down, but most often than not in an overlapping manner.
In a general way, the process looks like this

1. Read (1-2 min)
2. Brainstorm (2 min)
3. Outline (1-2 min)
4. Write (20 min)
5. Polish (3-5 min)

It is true that you go from point 1 to 5 in a straight way. Nonetheless, this kind of task almost never should be treated in such way. A flexible, holistic approach is advisable. I.E. you should refer in the circular way to attack the essay, as aforementioned in the figure above.

How, in concrete_schematically, your essay appears when you jot down it. The following template gives a clear_cut idea which is which.


Image

Until now, everything is fine. What we outlined seems easy and beautiful to you. wow. but in concrete ?? how can I dissect the argument in a precise way ?? Ok. Here we are to do just what is going to be the essential part of the entire guide, we read now.

This is a passage from mba.com and it is graded by GMAC as a 6.0 passage

Quote:
Question

The following appeared in the editorial section of a monthly business news magazine:

"Most companies would agree that as the risk of physical injury occurring on the job increases, the wages paid to employees should also increase. Hence it makes financial sense for employers to make the workplace safer: they could thus reduce their payroll expenses and save money."

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion.

You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.


The very first step is to evaluate and brainstorm the argument in front of you. There is not a clear difference between the two stages. You evaluate the argument AND at the same time think what you are going to undermine. As you read, identify the conclusion— the big claim that the author is making. The rest of the argu­ment typically consists of background information and premises— facts and smaller claims made to support the conclusion. This support will always be flawed.

Cut the chase, you should keep in mind first and foremost the fallacies mentioned earlier in this guide and at the same time try to generate ideas for jotting down your essay. Remember the holistic approach: I think what's going on, try to generate ideas, what is the real conclusion of the argument, what is saying to me, that I need 3 paragraphs and a conclusion and that at the very beginning I need an introduction, restating the claim of the essay.
ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

Restatement_Intro of the image above. Notice how the student spotted with the transition words for example the first hole of the claim. With also he/she reinforces his position, attacking the assumption. At the end with And finally he /she already plans ahead after the 3 paragraphs his/her conclusion.


Quote:
This argument states that it makes financial sense for employers to make the workplace safer because by making the workplace safer then lower wages could be paid to employees. This conclusion is based on the premise that as the list of physical injury increases, the wages paid to employees should also increase.

However, there are several assumptions that may not necessarily apply to this argument. For example, the costs associated with making the workplace safe must outweigh the increased payroll expenses due to hazardous conditions. Also, one must look at the plausibility of improving the work environment. And finally, because most companies agree that as the risk of injury increases so will wages doesn't necessarily mean that all companies which have hazardous work environments agree.


1st para of the image above. The student highlights the first issue of the whole argument in the very first 2 sentences of the para and suddenly he/she clears the air and introduces a well-written example: simple, easy but effective. Use transition words from the websites above. Use synonyms for adding variety to your writing. Vary the length f the sentence but at the same time be careful for not getting lost in abstruse and intricated twisted sentences. Stay clean and direct in your writing.

Quote:
The first issue to be addressed is whether increased labor costs justify large capital expenditures to improve the work environment. Clearly one could argue that if making the workplace safe would cost an exorbitant amount of money in comparison to leaving the workplace as is and paying slightly increased wages than it would not make sense to improve the work environment. For example, if making the workplace safe would cost $100 million versus additional payroll expenses of only $5,000 per year, it would make financial sense to simply pay the increased wages. No business or business owner with any sense would pay all that extra money just to save a couple dollars and improve employee health and relations. To consider this, a cost-benefit analysis must be made. I also feel that although a cost-benefit analysis should be the determining factor with regard to these decisions making financial sense, it may not be the determining factor with regard to making social, moral and ethical sense.


2nd para of the image above. Use additionally in place of this argument also relies: simple, effective, not tedious. After the first two sentences, once again, we do have a clear example that shows in a delightful way the fallacies of the second assumption. Here, the student calls it: idea. Well, I would say better than this: hypothesis is an example.

Quote:
This argument also relies on the idea that companies solely use financial sense in analyzing improving the work environment. This is not the case. Companies look at other considerations such as the negative social ramifications of high on-job injuries. For example, Toyota spends large amounts of money improving its environment because while its goal is to be profitable, it also prides itself on high employee morale and an almost perfectly safe work environment. However, Toyota finds that it can do both, as by improving employee health and employee relations they are guaranteed a more motivated staff, and hence a more efficient staff; this guarantees more money for the business as well as more safety for the employees.


3rd para of the image above. In this final para the student use the word must: I almost never like such strong word, would be better to use a more soft statement to introduce the 3rd para. For the rest same example, following..........blah blah blah.

Quote:

Finally, one must understand that not all work environments can be made safer. For example, in the case of coal mining, a company only has limited ways of making the work environment safe. While companies may be able to ensure some safety precautions, they may not be able to provide all the safety measures necessary. In other words, a mining company has limited ability to control the air quality within a coal mine and therefore it cannot control the risk of employees getting blacklung. In other words, regardless of the intent of the company, some jobs are simply dangerous in nature.



Conclusion of the image above. Conclusion. Our thoughts about. Restatement of the wrong assumptions made by the companies.


Quote:
In conclusion, while at first, it may seem to make financial sense to improve the safety of the work environment sometimes it truly does not make financial sense. Furthermore, the financial sense may not be the only issue a company faces. Other types of analyses must be made such as the social ramifications of an unsafe work environment and the overall ability of a company to improve that environment (i.e., coal mine). Before any decision is made, all these things must be considered, not simply the reduction of payroll expenses.





Useful templates for your AWA


Tempate 1


Quote:
Para 1:
The argument that (restatement of the conclusion in the given paragraph) is not entirely and logically
convincing because it is based on a few unproven assumptions.
Para 2:
First, the argument assumes that ...
Para 3:
Second, the argument does not address the question ....
Para 4:
Third, the argument omits ...
Para 5:
For all these reasons, the argument is not completely sound.
Para 6:
The argument might have been strengthened if only the author had ....


Template 2

Quote:
Para 1:
Restate the given argument and say that it has two/three/four flaws.
Para 2:
Point out the first flaw and show it could be plugged if only a particular assumption (which is missing) is
made.
Para 3:
Point out the second flaw, and show it could be plugged only if another specific assumption (which is missing) is made).
Para 4:
Point out the third flaw, and show it could be plugged only if another specific assumption (which is missing) is made).
Para 5:
Summarize your essay with the statement that, because these assumptions have not been stated, the given argument is weak.



Useful and further resources for your AWA



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Re: GMATCLUB Guide to AWA - The clear-cut [#permalink]

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Awesome Analysis carcass :-) Is there any AWA, which you have written and Analysed ?
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Re: GMATCLUB Guide to AWA - The clear-cut [#permalink]

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New post 20 Mar 2017, 16:31
Hi Carcass,
Excellent dissection of the analysis.
I have a fundamental query though. Do we always need to work on weakening the argument using
assumptions? If I read correctly, we can either support / refute the argument. Let me know gaps in my
understanding.
WR,
Arpit
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Last edited by carcass on 21 Mar 2017, 00:11, edited 1 time in total.
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Interesting Read, I honestly never had trouble with the AWA, receiving either 5s or 6s. My most recent test, I got a 620 44Q and 32V however a 6 on the writing.

My strategy has always been to be as critical as possible. These were my steps if anyone who reads this can relate.

1- State argument is flawed and introduce three reasons why.

2- Introduce each reason in a paragraph

3- Explain how argument could be strengthened with reasoning

4- Conclude

...Simply try to not leave any loose ends where someone could disprove me ...ironic :D

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New post 02 Aug 2017, 07:23
carcass U mentioned 2 templates at last. But before that there is another RICH template we can see in this post. So following any template can bring good score on AWA?

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