The GMAT's Analytical Writing Assessment

For those of you who are looking for a career in business, you may decide to pursue a graduate degree in business; a masters in business administration (MBA), or a masters of accounting. If that is the case, your journey will start with the GMAT, the Graduate Management Admission Test. In my last blog, I gave a general overview of the exam, but in the next few blogs, I will talk more specifically about what to expect from each of the three sections of the test.

Analytical Writing Assessment

The first section of the test is the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) which measures your ability to think critically and to communicate your ideas effectively. This portion of the GMAT consists of two 30-minute writing tasks which include Analysis of an Issue and Analysis of an Argument.

Since the issues and arguments presented on the test cover topics of general interest which relate to business or a host of other subjects, a specific knowledge of the essay topic is not a necessity. In fact, this portion of the test is only assessing your ability to write analytically.

Analysis of an Issue

For this section of the test, you will be required to analyze the issue presented, explaining your point of view regarding the subject. As there is no correct answer, you should consider a variety of perspectives using relevant reasons or examples based on your own observations, experiences, or reading you have done to express your unique position on the issue.

This test is measuring your ability to explore the intricacies of an issue or opinion and, if appropriate, take an informed position based on your understanding. (For an example, go to Sample Analysis of an Issue Question.)

Analysis of an Argument

You will be required to analyze the reasoning behind a particular argument and write an evaluation of that argument on the Analysis of an Argument section of the test. You will not be asked to offer your own view on the subject.

When you are developing your essay, it would be helpful to consider the following questions:

  • What questionable suppositions underlie the thinking behind the argument?
  • What alternative explanations or contradictory examples might weaken the conclusion?
  • What evidence could help to either strengthen or disprove the argument?

This section of the test measures your ability to develop a suitable, constructive critique of a specified conclusion based on a particular rationale. (For an example, go to the Sample Analysis of an Argument Question.)


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