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GMAT AWA (the Essay Section) — Format and Directions

The GMAT essay section is officially termed the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA). The writing task that the AWA entails is termed Analysis of an Argument. Here are the key features of this exam section:

Number of questions: 1 essay question, or prompt

Exam section number: Section 1 (the first of four exam sections)

Time Limit: 30 minutes

Testing format: You use the built-in word processor to compose an essay response to a stated argument. (The testing system does not allow you to choose your topic from a list.)

Score scale: 0–6, based on a holistic scoring system

Skills tested:

  • Your ability to identify important features of an argument and to analyze and critique the argument in an insightful and well-reasoned manner

  • Your control of the English language (word choice and usage) and the conventions of standard written English (grammar and sentence structure)

The GMAT Essay Prompt

A GMAT essay prompt consists of two components:

  • A quoted argument from a fictitious source. The source might be a sales brochure, business memorandum, or political speech, to list just a few possibilities. The prompt might also indicate the source of the argument.

  • A directive (instructions) for responding to the stated argument. The directive is the same for each and every prompt in the official pool of GMAT essay topics.

An example of a GMAT essay prompt, along with an exemplary response, is available here.

Directions for the GMAT AWA Section (Analysis of an Argument)

Here are the directions that will appear on your screen when the timed AWA section begins. You'll dismiss these directions and move ahead to the writing task by clicking on the DISMISS DIRECTIONS button.

Directions: In this section you will need to write a critique of the argument presented. You are NOT being asked to present your own views on the subject.

Writing Your Response: Take a few minutes to think about the argument and plan a response before you begin writing. Be sure to organize your ideas and develop them fully, but leave time to reread you response and make any revisions that you think are necessary.

Evaluation of Your Response: College and university faculty members from various subject-matter areas, including management education, will evaluate the overall quality of your thinking and writing. They will consider how well you:

  • organize, develop, and express your ideas about the argument presentedv
  • provide relevant supporting reasons and examples
  • control the elements of standard written English

To review these directions at any time during this section, click on HELP.