Tips From an Irvine English Tutor: The GMAT AWA Checklist

Some future MBAs are excellent writers and have the essay portion under control, others however will need substantial practice before they’re able to ace the AWA. GMAT students are encouraged to adhere to the following checklist before taking their exam.


1. Practice

Write a full-length practice essay based on a prompt from the official GMAT site or a reputable test prep company. Students who have not written a traditional analytical essay for a while need to get a baseline score of where their writing skills currently lie. After finishing a full-length practice essay, students are encouraged to do the following:

2. Create an outline

GMAT students should remember to create a concise outline before writing their essay. To receive a high-score on the AWA, essays will need to be organized and have appropriate transitions and flow, as with any formal essay. Because the writer only has 30 minutes, it’s recommended that they spend between one and three minutes on their outline, but no more (READ: “The Student’s Guide to Study Breaks”).

3. Evaluate the prompt

It’s important for students to think about what is really being asked; they should highlight important keywords and phrases and ignore words or sentences that are intentionally confusing. Over time, this will not only help the writer finish in the allotted 30 minutes but also significantly enhance the quality of their essay.

4. Demonstrate a clear position or thesis

GMAT students need to have a clear position for their analysis. A transparent position makes the analysis clearer and more evident to the grader and will help keep the essay content on track (READ: “Tutoring and Test Scores: Assessing Improvement”).

5. Don’t insert one’s own opinion

Students should not be tempted to insert their own opinion, even if they have a great one. The AWA is asking the writer to critique the argument that has been presented, and nothing more.

6. Display adequate transitions and flow

Writers who do not have adequate transitions in their essay will find that their analysis may not be concisely and clearly presented, even if their content is excellent. The grader will want to see appropriate flow throughout the AWA, as with any formal essay.

7. Proofread

Writers are highly advised to leave at least three minutes to proofread their essay once they have finished. Many students make small mistakes here and there that can add up to an overall poor quality of writing including errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation that is distracting to the grader. Students who leave adequate time to proofread will have a clear argument as well as a properly written essay, while students who consistently run out of time while writing practice essays should consider proofreading each paragraph as they write.

8. The intro and conclusion

The GMAT analytical writing assessment should include a proper introduction and conclusion. Without this, the essay will appear to be a jumble of thoughts without a consistent structure and the content will not be clearly presented to the grader.

In Short

Students are advised to follow the above checklist when writing their GMAT analytical writing assessment, but should also be aware that practice makes perfect. GMAT students should write a minimum of 5 to 10 practice essays that are graded by an expert in order to ensure the best chance of success on the real exam. Don’t wait to book your private Orange County GMAT tutor.

View the official GMAT site

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