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What is the GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)?

Section 1 of the GMAT is called the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA). During this exam section you'll compose a response to an essay prompt consisting of a paragraph-length argument and a directive. The writing task itself is officially termed Analysis of an Argument.

The Argument writing task is designed to gauge your critical-reasoning and analytic (as well as writing) skills. More specifically, your task is to compose an essay in which you critique the stated argument and indicate how it could be improved, but not to present your own views on the argument's topic.

The testing system will select your writing prompt randomly from a large pool. The test will present you with one and only one prompt. (You won't be able to choose your essay's topic from a list.) You'll record your response using the word processor built into the GMAT CAT. Handwritten responses are not permitted.

Every GMAT essay is evaluated holistically and scored on a 0-6 scale by either one or two GMAT readers retained by the testing service for this purpose, as well as by a computer program specially designed for this task. A test taker's AWA score and corresponding percentile rank are included in his or her score report. Each B-school establishes its own policy as to how much weight to afford a candidate's AWA score in the admissions decision.