Overcoming Anxiety With A Strategic Approach - Ixorainternational

Overcoming Anxiety With A Strategic Approach

GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): Overcoming Anxiety With A Strategic Approach

GMAT test-takers often feel anxious about the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) because preparing for it isn’t as straightforward as preparing for other sections like GMAT Quant or Verbal. Can you learn how to write a high-scoring essay on an unknown topic in just 30 minutes? The truth is, there’s a method to perform well on the GMAT AWA, and you don’t need to be a literary genius to achieve a great score. In this article, we will share 5 essential tips for scoring well on the Analytical Writing Assessment, including a structured approach that will help you tackle any GMAT AWA question effectively.

What is the GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)?

The GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is a part of the GMAT test that focuses on your ability to analyze an argument within a 30-minute timeframe. It involves writing one essay in response to a given argument prompt. Depending on your chosen test section order, you’ll tackle the AWA either at the beginning or end of your GMAT exam. If you stick to the default order, the AWA comes first, but if you opt to start with either the Quantitative or Verbal sections, the AWA will be the final part of your test.

In the AWA section, you’re given an argument to assess within an essay format, without any prescribed length. Your task involves, dissecting the argument’s logic, identifying its flaws, underlying assumptions, evaluating the effectiveness of the evidence provided to bolster its conclusion.

Throughout this process, it’s crucial to logically structure your critique and express your thoughts clearly. AWA prompts usually revolve around business themes and are typically presented as excerpts from hypothetical sources such as magazines, newspapers, editorials, memos, reports, newsletters, or business plans.

In essence, your AWA essay is assessed based on the strength of your analysis of the provided argument, the relevance of your points, the coherence of your essay’s structure, and the clarity of your expression.

For instance, an AWA prompt might present a brief excerpt from a company memo outlining the rationale behind a recent operational change. Your task is to identify any weaknesses in the company’s reasoning, elucidate why these weaknesses exist, and highlight any additional information necessary for a thorough evaluation of the validity of the company’s argument. Thankfully, you’re not required to offer personal opinions on the topic or possess specific expertise in the subject matter provided.


In AWA questions, it is not necessary to express your personal opinions or possess specialized knowledge about the topic provided.

What is the scoring method for the Analytical Writing Assessment?

The GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment is graded on a scale of 0 to 6, with scores given in half-point increments. Unlike other sections of the GMAT that are solely computer-scored, the AWA is evaluated by both a computer and a human scorer. Your AWA score is not immediately included in the unofficial score report provided on test day because of this dual evaluation process. Human readers assign whole-point scores from 0 to 6, while a computer algorithm scores in half-point increments within the same range.

Subsequently, the two scores are combined to determine your ultimate score. In cases where there is a notable variance between the human-assigned score and the computer-generated score, a second human scorer assesses your essay to ensure fairness, and adjustments to your score may be made accordingly. Moreover, if you believe that your AWA score does not align with the quality of your essay, you have the option to request a reassessment by an independent reader for a fee of $45. It’s important to note that requests for reassessment are limited to one per essay and must be submitted within six months of your test date.

Due to the extended scoring process of the AWA compared to other GMAT sections, you and any designated recipients will receive your AWA score along with your Official Score Report, typically around two weeks following your test date. In the event of revised AWA scores, the updated score will be sent to you and any specified institutions approximately 20 days after your rescore request submission.

Now, let’s delve into understanding AWA scores.

What is the interpretation process for my AWA score?

Similar to scores from other GMAT sections, each possible AWA score corresponds to a percentile ranking. Below are the latest percentile rankings provided by GMAC:
AWA Score Ranking in Percentile
6 88%
5.5 81%
5 56%
4.5 46%
4 18%
3.5 11%
3 4%
2.5 3%
2 1%
1.5 1%
1 1%
0.5 1%
0 0%
These percentile rankings provide insight into your AWA score. For instance, if you achieve a perfect score of 6.0 in the AWA section, it means you’ve outperformed 88% of all GMAT test-takers. On average, test-takers scored 4.45 on the AWA section from January 2017 to December 2019, placing it slightly below the 46th percentile. Generally, a score of 4.5, surpassing 46% of test-takers, is considered average, while a score of 5.0, exceeding 56% of test-takers, is deemed “good.” AWA scores below 4.0 might raise concerns for most programs.


Typically, schools view a GMAT AWA score of 4.5 as average, while a score of 5.0 is regarded as “good.”

Let’s look at the writing tips for GMAT:

1: Implement a 5-Paragraph Framework
As we’ll delve into later, the GMAT encompasses numerous potential essay topics, making it impractical and ineffective to anticipate or memorize prompts. Fortunately, you don’t need to predict the specific argument you’ll encounter on test day to craft a well-structured response within the 30-minute timeframe. Instead, you can utilize a straightforward 5-paragraph structure applicable to any GMAT essay prompt, ensuring a logically structured response that fulfills the criteria for a high AWA score.

The traditional 5-paragraph essay format includes:

1) An introduction
2) Three body paragraphs covering supporting points
3) A conclusion

While there’s no specific word count mandated for a GMAT AWA essay, aiming for approximately 500 words is a prudent approach.

Irrespective of the topic or argument presented, the outlined template offers a structured framework for organizing your essay logically.


Utilize a straightforward 5-paragraph format for analyzing any GMAT essay topic, ensuring a logically structured and comprehensive analysis of the argument.

Now, let’s delve deeper into each component of the 5-paragraph structure.

Paragraph 1: Introduction
The introductory paragraph serves to reiterate the presented argument and declare your purpose in critiquing it. It should outline the flaws in the argument that you intend to address, preparing the reader for the forthcoming points in paragraphs 2 through 4. However, avoid delving into specific details reserved for later paragraphs. Your introduction should succinctly accomplish its objectives within approximately 5 or 6 sentences.


The introductory paragraph aims to recapitulate the presented argument and declare your intent to critique it.

The first sentence of your introductory paragraph should simply restate the given argument. You can begin your essay with phrases like “The argument states that…”, “The argument claims that…”, or “The argument makes the claim that…”. It’s important to show that you comprehend the argument without adding any extra details or creativity. When restating the argument, try to be concise and capture its essence without repeating the entire essay prompt. You don’t need to include any supporting evidence in your restatement; you’ll address that later in your supporting points.

The text below was included in a suggestion forwarded by the financial planning office to the administration of Fern Valley University.

“In the past few years, Fern Valley University has suffered from a decline in both enrollments and admissions applications. The reason can be discovered from our students, who most often cite poor teaching and inadequate library resources as their chief sources of dissatisfaction with Fern Valley. Therefore, in order to increase the number of students attending our university, and hence to regain our position as the most prestigious university in the greater Fern Valley metropolitan area, it is necessary to initiate a fund-raising campaign among the alumni that will enable us to expand the range of subjects we teach and to increase the size of our library facilities.”

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.

Comprehend the argument.

The financial planning office of Fern Valley University suggests raising funds from alumni to expand subjects and library facilities. This aims to attract more students and enhance the university’s reputation, in response to declining enrollments and admissions. They believe dissatisfaction with teaching and library quality is causing the decline.

Flawed Assumptions

1. Poor teaching is assumed to be linked to the range of subjects offered.
2. The students who voiced these concerns are believed to be representative of all students.
3. No other factors are considered to have contributed significantly to the decline in enrollments or admissions.
4. No other factors are deemed to be substantially responsible for student dissatisfaction.

Missing Evidence

1. Evidence is lacking to establish a direct correlation between teaching quality and the range of subjects.
2. Data on the students who raised these concerns is missing.
3. Details regarding other potential factors influencing enrollments or admissions are absent.
4. Specifics about additional factors contributing to student dissatisfaction are not provided.


1. What if teaching quality is influenced by factors other than the range of subjects?
2. What if only a minority of students are dissatisfied with teaching and library facilities?
3. What if other factors have caused the decline in enrollments and admissions?
4. What if other reasons are behind student dissatisfaction?

Exemplary essay with a high score.

The financial planning office of Fern Valley University suggests starting a fundraising campaign to offer more subjects and improve library facilities. They aim to stop declining student numbers and admissions. However, there are important questions and missing information that make this suggestion doubtful.

The department believes expanding subjects and libraries will fix the declining student numbers. But it’s not clear if the students who complain represent all students. Also, even if they do, it needs to be clarified how poor teaching is linked to offering more subjects. Maybe improving teaching quality would be a better solution.

Apart from these assumptions, the department should consider other reasons for the decline, like competition from other universities or negative student feedback. They should also check if most students are unhappy before making big changes. Finally, they should do a thorough survey to decide which subjects and facilities need improvement.

In short, assuming that student complaints are the main reason for declining numbers without evidence is not wise. Instead, the department should think about these points before making any decisions.

Let’s consider another example for the purpose of restatement:

The following appeared as part of an annual report sent to stockholders by Olympic Foods, a processor of frozen foods:

“Over time, the costs of processing go down because as organizations learn how to do things better, they become more efficient. In color film processing, for example, the cost of a 3-by-5-inch print fell from 50 cents for five-day service in 1970 to 20 cents for one-day service in 1984. The same principle applies to the processing of food. And since Olympic Foods will soon celebrate its 25th birthday, we can expect that our long experience will enable us to minimize costs and thus maximize profits.”

According to the argument, Olympic Foods asserts that its nearly 25 years of experience in food processing will lead to cost minimization and, consequently, profit maximization. This assertion rests on the assumption that processing costs decrease over time as organizations enhance efficiency through learning and improvement.

In the restatement of the argument, you’ll notice that much of the same language from the essay prompt is repeated, but with some reorganization. The conclusion of the argument is stated first, followed by the premise. Additionally, the perspective has changed from an annual report to a more neutral tone. The conversational style and extra words from the prompt are removed, and the supporting example is not included. Depending on the argument, your restatement may vary in length. The aim is to clearly and concisely convey the essence of the argument without unnecessary filler. This means the first few sentences of your response are essentially provided for you, regardless of the specific AWA question.


Always start a GMAT AWA essay by rephrasing the provided argument.

Now, let’s continue with the example of Olympic Foods. In the introduction paragraph, after restating the argument, your next step is to outline the reasons why you disagree with the argument. For instance, you could mention that the argument overlooks certain important factors or relies on faulty assumptions and insufficient evidence. You should then list these specific weaknesses that you plan to discuss in the following paragraphs. It’s important only to highlight the weaknesses that you will address in your essay, avoiding any unnecessary points. Before you start writing, jotting down these flaws on your scratch pad can help you organize your thoughts and clarify the focus of each supporting paragraph.

Keep in mind, that you might identify numerous flaws in an argument, but you won’t have enough time to address them all. It’s also not necessary to spend time sorting through which flaws are the “best” to discuss. The flaws that stand out to you initially are likely the easiest ones to explain. Therefore, after restating the argument, provide a brief overview of your response. Let’s see how we can do this with the Olympic Foods question:

According to the argument, Olympic Foods asserts that its nearly 25 years of experience in food processing will lead to cost minimization and, consequently, profit maximization. This assertion rests on the assumption that processing costs decrease over time as organizations enhance efficiency through learning and improvement.

However, the argument doesn’t have enough evidence and makes assumptions that overlook important factors. For instance, it assumes organizations become more efficient over time. Also, it assumes that cost savings from improved efficiency are directly linked. Lastly, it assumes that cost reduction in one area will apply to another unrelated area.

The number of sentences you use may differ based on the essay prompt, but this fundamental structure can be adapted to any GMAT AWA question you encounter.


After restating the argument in the introduction paragraph, provide a concise summary or outline of the supporting points that will form the basis of your critique of the argument.

Once you’ve outlined the key points in your AWA essay, you’ll need to elaborate on each of these points in the following three paragraphs. Let’s discuss this further.

Paragraphs 2 through 4: Supporting Arguments

Paragraphs 2 to 4 are the core of your essay, where each paragraph expands on one of the critique points summarized in your introduction. At the start of each paragraph, clearly state the aspect of the argument you’re critiquing and explain why it’s flawed. Using real-world examples can bolster your critique, especially if your essay is short. Finally, conclude each supporting paragraph by suggesting how the aspect of the argument could have been improved.

Consider the second flaw we aim to address in our Olympic Foods essay, which will be the focal point of the third paragraph: the assumption that cost savings achieved alongside increased efficiency are solely due to efficiency improvement. In this paragraph, you could begin by noting how the argument cites an example of reduced costs and faster processing speed after several years. However, it fails to prove a causal link between the two. You might then present a real-world scenario where increased automation over time could reduce labor costs and speed up processing, independent of the organization’s longevity. This highlights that the argument’s conclusion regarding cost reduction due to experience lacks robust evidence. Presenting evidence linking cost savings to faster processing times would have made the argument more convincing, rather than relying solely on the assumption of increased efficiency.


Each of the three paragraphs following your introduction and preceding your conclusion should expand upon one of the supporting points outlined in your introduction.

Before we move on to the conclusion, let’s tackle a common question among GMAT students: Is writing only 2 supporting paragraphs instead of 3 detrimental to the AWA score? The reality is, that you can still achieve a respectable AWA score with just 2 supporting points in your essay. If you’re running short on time or can’t come up with a third point, it’s better to complete the essay with 2 solid points rather than having an incomplete essay with 2.5 points or 3 points but lacking a conclusion. However, the exact score difference between 2 and 3 supporting paragraphs isn’t certain. To play it safe, aim for 3 unless you’re genuinely out of ideas.


Your conclusion paragraph, like your introduction, should outline the flaws in the given argument. Additionally, it should summarize how the argument could be improved or its conclusion more accurately assessed. Essentially, your conclusion draws from the preceding paragraphs, providing a concise summary of your critique and wrapping up your evaluation of the argument’s validity.

Typically, a conclusion paragraph starts with phrases like “In conclusion” or “In summary,” but you may choose a different opening depending on your organization. You might also include a concession, acknowledging that some aspect of the argument may have merit. For instance:

While the argument correctly recognizes that enhanced efficiency can lead to cost savings…

Like the introduction, the conclusion paragraph should achieve its objectives in approximately four or five sentences. It’s not the appropriate section for repeating details, providing examples, or introducing fresh information.


Your conclusion paragraph, comprising approximately four or five sentences, should offer a concise summary of your critique’s key points and neatly encapsulate your assessment of the argument’s validity.

2: Use Transition Words
Scoring well on GMAT Analytical Writing requires clear organization and coherent expression of ideas. If your essay lacks smooth transitions between sentences and paragraphs, it can confuse the reader and weaken your argument.

Even if your ideas are logically arranged, incorporating transition words and phrases can enhance the readability and coherence of your essay. Transition phrases like “for example” help transition between discussing a concept and providing an illustrative example. These words and phrases serve as the glue that binds different parts of your essay together, ensuring a cohesive whole.


Transition words and phrases serve as the “binding agent” that unifies all sections of an essay, creating coherence.

Transition words play a crucial role not only in initiating new paragraphs but also within the paragraphs of your essay. They help introduce examples or opinions, show contrast or support, summarize your thoughts, indicate results, or emphasize important ideas. Below are some essential transition words and phrases commonly used in GMAT AWA essays:

-For example
-For instance
-For one
-In addition
-In contrast
-On the other hand
-In fact
-As a result
-In conclusion
-In summary

The key is to not memorize these words but to understand their significance in making your ideas clear and your analysis logical. Transition words enhance the readability of your essay. Keep in mind that someone will be reading and scoring your essay, so clarity and engagement are essential. Transition words play a crucial role in achieving this goal.


Incorporate transition words into your essay to introduce fresh paragraphs, connect various ideas within paragraphs, and illustrate the logical flow of your arguments.

3: Do not overlook the fundamentals.
While the AWA section prioritizes the overall structure, coherence, and clarity of your essay, technical elements like grammar, spelling, and word selection still influence your score. Your preparation for GMAT Sentence Correction can be beneficial here. Evaluate if your sentences are concise and well-structured or verbose and repetitive. Watch out for run-on sentences, unnecessary words, or incorrect idiomatic expressions. While achieving grammatical perfection may be challenging within the time limit, avoid submitting rushed and careless writing.

Remember, a few errors won’t drastically affect your AWA score, but maintaining basic grammar and spelling standards enhances the polish and readability of your essay. If a sentence is overly long, consider breaking it into two. Diversify your vocabulary to showcase your language skills. Ultimately, neglecting grammar and spelling basics can obscure your ideas and reduce the overall clarity and readability of your essay.


To enhance your essay’s quality, diversify your vocabulary, split lengthy sentences, and pay attention to fundamental grammar and spelling rules.

4: Don’t anticipate having time for revisions.
Don’t count on having extra time to revise your essay at the end of the section. You’ll likely only have a minute or two, if any, for a quick read-through. Construct your essay carefully as you write, as you won’t have time for major revisions later. Focus on making each sentence complete and clear as you go. Use the last few minutes, if possible, to check for spelling and grammar errors. Don’t expect to have time for extensive revisions.


If you can, dedicate the final 2 minutes to check for spelling and grammar errors, but don’t anticipate having 5 or 10 minutes for major revisions.

5: Practice Developing Supporting Arguments.
Preparing for the GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment can be challenging, especially when it comes to formulating three supporting points. These points are crucial as they form the core of your essay and require significant critical thinking and creativity. To tackle this, practicing with actual essay topics provided by GMAC can be beneficial. Not only does this help in generating supporting points, but it also familiarizes you with the types of arguments presented and common flaws. Instead of writing numerous complete essays, focusing on generating supporting points with real-world examples is more efficient. Additionally, spending time reading through the entire list of AWA questions or trying to memorize prompts is not a productive use of study time.


Select random essay topics from the AWA question list provided by GMAC, and practice devising three supporting points along with real-world examples for each.
To know more about study-abroad ventures, let’s connect online through these platforms:
If you want to study abroad, call or WhatsApp us at +919091011101.
You can also email us at contactus@ixorainternational.in
Check out our website http://www.ixorainternational.in & subscribe to our YouTube