How to Write an AWA Essay Like Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway wrote his prose in a manner which has come to be known as the “Iceberg Theory.” Influenced by his journalistic career, Hemingway believed that by omitting superfluous and extraneous matter, writing becomes more interesting. The minimalistic style of a Hemingway piece is a lesson all GMAT students can apply to their AWA writing: take out the fluff! Argument essays that receive scores of 6 typically are “fluff-free” zones – the paragraphs are organized and to the point, and they say what they mean to say.

Last week, we provided a few tips for writing a better AWA essay. Today, let’s take a look at another example of an AWA essay:


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

“The rating system for electronic games is similar to the movie rating system in that it provides consumers with a quick reference so that they can determine if the subject matter and contents are appropriate. This electronic game rating system is not working because it is self-regulated and the fines for violating the rating system are nominal. As a result an independent body should oversee the game industry and companies that knowingly violate the rating system should be prohibited from releasing a game for two years.”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument….


The author concludes that the electronic game rating system is not working compared to the movie rating system. He gives reasoning for the argument by stating that electronic companies have the ability to self manage and regulate the rating system, and that is part of the problem. The author also gives reason for what needs to be done in order for electronic rating system to work, but his reasons are weak. In the next few paragraphs, I will explain why the author’s reasons are weak and what could strengthen the argument.

First, the author mentions that hiring an independent company to oversee the operation of the electronic rating system would solve the issue. This big assumption that the author makes here is that he assumes the independent company would do a better job in rating games than electronic game companies themselves. If the electronic gaming companies had a better understanding on how to improve, they might themselves do a better job than the independent company to oversee the ratings.

Second, the author mentions that if an electronic company violates the rating system rule, then the penalty would be to prohibit that company from releasing any games for two years. This is another weak point the author makes to support his argument because if the electronic company’s regular product-life cycle is to release each game every two years, this penalty wouldn’t hurt the company at all. Also, there is no way of assessing how many years of prohibition would be adequate.

The author could have strengthened his argument, if he provided some data points from the movie industry to defend this stance that making an independent company oversee prohibition of movie releases actually worked in the long-run. Perhaps, some research that showed making these changes would actually work, would benefit the author’s overall argument stance.

Therefore, the author’s argument that the electronic game rating system is not working is weak. Both of the points he made regarding an independent company oversee and violation penalty are weak without data showing that it might work.


The first thing that stands out in this essay is the organization. The paragraphs are clearly laid out and succinct, and each begins with a clear transition word or phrase. Not much extraneous information here!

The introductory paragraph, while unfortunately uses some unneeded self-reference, clearly demonstrates an understanding of the presented argument, which is mandatory of all “6” essays. Each flaw is then pointed out in its own body paragraph, and the author includes a nice “how to strengthen” paragraph to demonstrate that he comprehends the argument at a more advanced level. Notice that the essay is centered around clear, cut-and-dry analysis and argument. Like Hemingway’s prose, minimalist writing is definitely more effective for the AWA!

The conclusion is clear, and reinforces the claims previously made. While no means perfect, the strong reasoning and clarity of organization of this sample essay definitely exemplify the makings of a perfect “6”!

Want to write your own AWA sample, “Hemingway-style”? You can find more sample essays here and there’s also a set of sample essays and prompts in the GMAT Official Guide! Happy writing!

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Vivian Kerr is a regular contributor to the Veritas Prep blog, providing advice to help students better prepare for the GMAT and the SAT. 

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