AWA – The Basics

GMAT AWA – Basic Information

Overall, the AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment) is not that important.   As long as you can write coherent English sentences, you should be fine and shouldn’t spend more than a few days preparing for this.   As long as you get a 4.5 (out of 6) or higher, your score from there doesn’t really matter.

The reason why they added the AWA to GMAT is because business schools wanted it.  A lot of foreign students were hiring people to write their application essays and those students came in with poor writing skills.

AWA Essays:  2 Essays x 30 min each = 1 hour total.
The essays will be the first section you do on test day.   You have two essays – an analysis of issue and ananalysis of argument – that are given in any order.   Note that you can spend at most 30 minutes on each essay (i.e. you can’t spend 35 minutes on one and then 25 minutes on the other).

How to Approach the Essays:
View the AWA as a task – not as a moment of displaying creative genius.   There is no need to be original or creative.   You only have 30 minutes per essay.   Just write a decent essay and get on with it.

Most people will spend their time something like this:

  • Think and plan essay – about 5 min
  • Write Essay – About 20 min
  • Revise and proofread – About 5 min

How are the essays graded?
Each essay is graded both by a human grader and by a computer e-rater.    For each essay, you are given a score of 1-6 and the average of the e-rater and human grader’s score is used (provided they do not differ by more than one point).


Argument Human Grader:  4
Argument E-rater:  4
Issue Human Grader: 4
Issue E-Rater: 5

Score:  4+4+4+5=17    17/4=4.25 rounded up to highest 0.5 increment: your score would be a 4.5 (37th percentile)

6 out of 6 (91%)
5.5 out of 6 (77%)
5 out of 6 (56%)
4.5 out of 6 (37%)
4 out of 6 (21%)
3.5 or less (10% or less)

Continue to the next page – How to write the Analysis of Issue Essay

If you need a lot of help on this section, Peterson’s Writing Skills for the GRE/GMAT by Mark Stewart is a good book.    The Princeton Review’s Cracking the GMAT has a decent AWA section.

If you would like to have an essay graded by the e-rater, you can purchase GMATWrite™ from for $29.99 (approx Rs. 1400).   You are given two prompts (1 Argument, 1 Issue) and you can submit each essay twice to the e-rater.   Basically you pay $30 for you type in an essay and get a computerized score.

List of GMAT AWA Topics: Analysis of Issue (opens in new window)
List of GMAT AWA Topics: Analysis of Argument (opens in new window)
Official GMAT Website on AWA (opens in new window).

*Source:  Note that percentiles can change over time

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