The Essay Section (AWA)

The Essay Section (AWA)

The test begins with an essay section (also known as the Analytical Writing Assessment) for which a candidate has 30 minutes. In the essay you will be asked to analyze a logical argument. Examinees are required to type the essay in the designated place using a simple word processing application that allows you to cut and paste text and undo the last few actions.

An example of an argument you need to analyze, presented in the essay section of the GMAT:

The following appeared in a newspaper editorial:
“As violence in movies increases, so do crime rates in our cities. To combat this problem we must establish a board to censor certain movies, or we must limit admission to persons over 21 years of age. Apparently our legislators are not concerned about this issue since a bill calling for such actions recently failed to receive a majority vote.”
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.

An example of an essay with correct structure and sound analysis of the argument:

The argument that since crime rates in our cities increase as a result of increasing violence in movies, a board that would censor certain movies or an age limitation to 21 and above should be enacted is weak and unconvincing. The author assumes that the increase in violence in movies is the reason for the increase in actual crime rates. This might not be so, as it is possible that the general education level in our schools or decreasing budgets for police work are more prominent in causing increasing crime levels.
In order to strengthen the argument I would like to further investigate the correlation between the types of violence shown in movies and the types of crimes that show the most significant increase lately. If it is found that indeed there is a high correlation, it might serve to show that indeed movies should be more closely restricted. Moreover, the author claims that since a recent bill calling for such actions has recently failed to receive a majority vote, legislators are not concerned about this issue. I would like to receive more information about the reasons behind the decision of the legislators not to vote for the proposed actions. If it is found that there were only political reasons behind the legislator's vote, it might help to show that the author is right when claiming they are not really concerned about this issue.
The author fails to consider the possibility that there are other reasons behind soaring crime rates such as the constantly decreasing school and educational budgets and the inclination of quality personnel to pursue careers in law enforcement in the past decade. Another fact the author neglects to mention is the fact that the proposed actions are already enforced in many western countries, mainly in Europe since somewhere in the 1980's. These actions did not prove effective in decreasing crime rates in those countries.
In summary, the argument presented is neither sound nor persuasive as it leans on weak assumptions regarding the reasons for soaring crime rates, does not relate to the correlation between the types of violence in movies and actual street crime and does not mention the reasons behind the legislator's decisions not to support the proposed actions. The author also does not take into account other reasons for the increasing crime rates or the proven inability of the proposed actions to decrease crime rates in other western countries.

GMAT AWA Section Score

The AWA score is received 2-3 weeks after the exam. It is marked on a scale of 0 to 6 (inclusive) where grades rise by half a point (4, 4.5, 5 etc).

Like in the remainder of the test, the essay section score also comes with a percentile, so that you, and mainly the business schools you are trying to apply to, can understand your score's significance and compare it to other applicants' scores.

The following chart shows the latest percentile table for the AWA section of the GMAT:


For example, the score 5 is in the 57th percentile, meaning  57% of the examinees taking the GMAT worldwide during the last three years (about million people) received 5 or less.

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