The AWA section of the GMAT is made up of one short piece of writing called the “Argument” essay. It essentially asks you to evaluate an argument, usually a type of proposal. The main qualities that the readers look for are the organization of your ideas, the quality of the ideas themselves, the strength and relevance of the examples, and your grasp of standard written English. According to GMAC, the “Analysis of an Argument tests your ability to formulate an appropriate and constructive critique of a specific conclusion based on a specific line of thinking.” With that, let’s take a look at a few helpful tips:
- Don’t make up data. Made up statistics and facts won’t impress the GMAT graders, but strong organization, logical arguments, and specific supportive examples will. Don’t be tempted to make up data because you are not an “expert” in the subject matter. It doesn’t matter, in fact, what the subject matter of the Argument is! You’re always “right” because the argument is always flawed! Sound logic will get you to a “6”.
- Aim for cogency. Focus more on conveying your argument succinctly and forcefully than on pedantic word choice and construction. Don’t include long-winded sentences that go nowhere in the hopes of sounding more scholarly. The argument essay needs to be formal, but more importantly, forceful. These essays are, let’s face it, pretty boring. Let’s not make the readers suffer more than they have to.
- You already know your thesis. No matter what the prompt, your thesis is essentially, “the argument is flawed.” All you have to do is come up with solid logic backed by specific examples that show why.
- Attack diction. An easy way to find fault in the structure of the argument is to pick apart its very wording. Just how much is “too much”? Exactly what does the author mean by “certain”? Look for vague wording and qualifying language to critique. It will be there!
So, what about the pacing? You are given 30-minutes to complete the essay, so pacing and time management is crucial. Plan to spend 5 minutes planning out your essay fully, followed by 20 minutes of writing, and 5 minutes of revising. Here’s what to do in each phase:
- Plan. In this phase you will thoroughly take apart the presented argument, construct your thesis, choose your three examples (flaws), and lay out your main points. Give yourself a clear “road map” before you start writing.
- Write. 20 minutes may not sound like a long time, but with a solid template structure under your belt, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can get your thoughts down. Use this template for guidance.
- Revise. Always leave time to proofread your essay. You’re looking to correct grammar and spelling, as well as clarify the “flow” of the essay.
Ready to try one out? Get the list of official Argument Essay prompts here!
Vivian Kerr is a regular contributor to the Veritas Prep blog, providing tips and tricks to help students better prepare for the GMAT and the SAT.