How to Smartly Approach an AWA Essay

For all of the buzz around the GMAT’s new Integrated Reasoning section, it’s easy to forget that the first 30 minutes you spend on the GMAT will be on the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA). After June 5 the AWA’s “Analysis of an Issue” essay will be replaced by the Integrated Reasoning section, but you still will need to be ready to craft a strong “Analysis of an Argument” essay as soon as you sit down at the test center.

Fortunately, anyone looking to perform well on the AWA section can help themselves immensely by remembering just several key ideas. Follow the following steps to write a well-organized, high-scoring essay:

Start and End Strongly
One easy way to write a well-organized essay is to begin with a clear introduction and conclude with a clear conclusion. For example, the paragraph above offers a clear introduction to this essay, noting that organization is a key component of a well-written essay and inviting the reader to look at the subsequent paragraphs like this one for tips on how to write a well-organized essay. With a clear introduction and a clear conclusion, it becomes easy for the grader to follow your essay and to provide you with a high score.

Use Transition Words as Your Turn Signals
Another effective way to ensure that your essay is well-organized is to use structural cues in your writing. Just as turn signals can help other motorists understand where you’re going, transition words can help the reader follow you from one thought to the next. Words such as “also” and “furthermore” to show that you’re adding support to a point, or “however” and “conversely” to show that you’re changing directions. One example of that is the word “another” at the beginning of this paragraph, which clearly demonstrates to you that this paragraph will add one more method for organized writing to the paragraph above, which was clearly opened with the phrase “one easy way.” By including these transitions, an author can clearly show the reader what will happen in each paragraph, making the essay easy to process and understand.

Frequently Remind the Reader About Your Main Point
A third method for writing an effective essay is to use the last sentence of each paragraph to tie that paragraph’s significance back to your main point. As you’ll see in the next sentence, we will accomplish that by showing how this tip directly relates to the main point of writing a well-organized essay. When each paragraph directly relates back to the thesis statement of the essay, the reader is constantly reminded of that main point, and will accordingly be impressed by the organization of your essay.

Some may argue that this method sucks much of the creativity out of one’s writing and can lead to a bland, formulaic style. However, remember that your job in the AWA is not to entertain the reader, but rather to demonstrate that you can write clearly and logically, and a formulaic approach to writing makes that very easy for the grader to immediately grasp. This is not creative writing, but instead is clear, concise business communication. You therefore will likely want to sacrifice a bit of creativity in favor of organization, saving your brainpower and energy for the multiple choice questions that follow and that create your scale-of-800 score.

In conclusion (look at that explicitly stated conclusion!), it is critical for AWA authors to write clear, well-organized essays in order to achieve high scores on this section and to save their energy for the remainder of the test. This can efficiently be done by writing clear introductions and conclusions, using structural language to show the reader the purpose of each paragraph, and tying each individual paragraph to the overall main point. Make these items a focus of your writing on test day and you’ll quickly and efficiently guarantee yourself a high AWA score and be ready to move on to the rest of the test.

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