News, advice and resources for business school applicants

GMAT - AWA


Analysis of an Argument Essay

Today’s GMAT article comes from Manhattan Review GMAT Prep UAE, a provider of GMAT Prep courses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, among others. In this article, they reveal Manhattan Review’s six best points on the GMAT essay.

The GMAT is an odd test. Unlike in the LSAT, the least important section, the essay, comes first, not last. However, though it’s true that business schools don’t pay as much attention to the essay score as to the overall verbal and quantitative score, this doesn’t mean that the essay is of no importance at all. You need to take it seriously and write as good an essay as you can.  Here are six points to guide you:

WHY THE ESSAY?

It is important to keep in mind what the essay is and what it isn’t. The essay isn’t a newspaper Op-Ed. It isn’t a definitive statement on a critical issue of the hour. It isn’t even an essay that you write for your professor. Consider: You only have 30 minutes to think about, plan out, write and proof your essay. So there’s a limit to what you can say and how effectively you can say it. The purpose of the essay is to enable the schools to verify that you really wrote the essays that you submitted with your application. If you sent in a beautifully crafted, eloquent essay but only managed an illiterate, ungrammatical and perfunctory essay in the GMAT the school will wonder whether someone other than you wrote your application essays. The GMAT essay does not have to astound anyone with its brilliance. It just has to be good enough to make sure that the school admissions officers don’t start to entertain doubts as to your authenticity as a writer. Keep this in mind though: While a poorly written essay could harm your cause, a well-written, perhaps even outstanding one won’t advance it very much. The score the business schools continue to be guided by is the main quantitative and verbal score. An adequate score for the essay will suffice. An inadequate score will hurt.

AN ESSAY, NOT A GROCERY LIST

This is an essay, not an office memorandum, an e-mail or a grocery list. It has to read like a narrative, like a logical progression of an argument. There can be no bullet points; numbered paragraphs; headings; underlined words; abbreviations such as w/out or b/c; colloquialisms; acronyms; Internet slang such as LOL, IMHO, P2P, B2B, FWIW and OTOH. All sentences must include at least one noun and one verb. Memorize words that allow you to transition from one paragraph to another such as “however,” “on the one hand” and “on the other hand,” “moreover,” “furthermore,” “in addition,” “consequently,” and “it is possible.”

Avoid inserting yourself into the essay as much as possible. There is no need for such expressions as “I think” on “In my opinion,” or “I don’t agree.” Such terms are redundant. You are the one writing the essay. The reader knows this; he or she doesn’t need to be told.

Continue reading…

posted in: GMAT - AWA, GMAT Tips | 0 comments

GMAT Tips – The AWA Isn’t That Important… So Can I Blow It Off?

Today’s GMAT Tip comes from our friends at Knewton.  In this article, they provide helpful advice on how to approach the AWA section of the GMAT.  Read on to see what they have to say!

I want to take a moment to address some common confusion about the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) portion of the GMAT exam.  As many of you inveterate students know, the AWA portion involves two essays, and you get a maximum of 30 minutes for each essay.  And no, you don’t get 45 minutes for the second essay if the first only takes you 15 minutes.  As I like to say:  “There are no rollover minutes.  This is Verizon, not AT&T!”  Also, the essays are always the first section of the exam, although the ordering of the essays may vary.

But many of you also probably know that the essay portion is not nearly as consequential as the multiple-choice portions.  The essays are not part of your 800 composite score and are instead scored on a separate scale out of 6.0 in decrements of 0.5.  Generally, admissions committees use the essay scores to judge whether or not you actually wrote your application essays to the school.  If you write a fantastic admissions essay filled with prose worthy of a Pulitzer but get a 2.0 AWA score, the admissions committee’s going to be suspicious. Continue reading…

posted in: GMAT - AWA, GMAT Tips | 0 comments

GMAT Tip: How often should I take practice tests?

Today’s GMAT tip comes from Kaplan. In this article, Kaplan GMAT instructor Bret Ruber provides some advice on how many practice tests you should take before the actual GMAT exam:

When it comes to taking practice tests, many GMAT testtakers fall into one of two categories.  The first type is made up of students that think of practice tests as THE way to prep.  These students will take practice test after practice test, sometimes taking up to four or more a week.  The second group is made up of students that are afraid to take any practice tests.  These students will exclaim, “I have not studied everything and will do terribly if I take a practice test.”  With this mindset, these students will fail to take practice tests until perhaps the week or two before their actual exam. Continue reading…

posted in: GMAT - AWA, GMAT - Quantitative, GMAT - Verbal, GMAT Tips | 1 comment

GMAT Tip: Quiz: What’s your GMAT prep personality?

It’s Wednesday, so it’s time for another GMAT Tip from our friends at the test prep firm Knewton. In this article, they have provided a quiz so that readers can determine what their GMAT prep personality is!

Jessica Nepom is the Curriculum Coordinator at Knewton, as well as one of their expert GMAT prep teachers.

We all remember the types of students from high school – the Jock, the Slacker, the Teacher’s Pet. But now that you’re out of high school and studying for the GMAT, what’s your GMAT Prep Personality? Take our short quiz (no Data Sufficiency, we promise!) to find out what type of GMAT student you are, then read on for a personalized study plan and expert tips to improve your score.

Let’s get started! Continue reading…

posted in: GMAT - AWA, GMAT - Quantitative, GMAT - Verbal, GMAT Tips | 0 comments

GMAT Tip: 5 Tips for Getting a Perfect Score on the GMAT Essay

Today’s GMAT Tip was provided by our friends at the test prep firm Knewton. In this article, they share advice on how to ace the AWA portion of the GMAT.

Josh Anish is the Senior Editor at Knewton.

A lot of good folks argue that your GMAT essays are meaningless, but don’t forget that the essays can be a determining factor in the increasingly competitive admissions process. An extremely low score could set off flags, and raise doubts about your ability to complete graduate work. Additionally, admissions officers will use your GMAT essay as a check on your personal statements, to make sure they were authored by the same person.

1. Have a strong opinion. In both Analysis of an Issue and Analysis of an Argument essays, it is important to pick a side in the intro/thesis and argue it persuasively throughout. Do not merely summarize—be an active advocate for a perspective.

2. Organize. And then don’t deviate. Shoot for the time-honored five paragraph model of Intro-Body-Body-Body-Conclusion. This template should help you organize your thoughts. Again, this is not the only way to do it, but it is perhaps the method that essay readers find most appealing.

3. Pick relevant and eclectic examples to back up your thesis. Each body paragraph should be about one (and only one) of the talking points.

4. Do not relax come conclusion time. Many students will bail out of their essays at the end—and dash off only a sentence or two as the last paragraph. Hang in there and write a substantial conclusion. Restate the thesis in the conclusion, but introduce the thoughts in a new way—and make it at least three sentences. Remember, your conclusion is the last thing the reader will see before giving you a score.

5. Proofread. Scorers (both human and computer) will focus a trained eye on your grammar and syntax.

For more information on Knewton, download Clear Admit’s independent guide to the leading test preparation companies here. This FREE guide includes coupons for discounts on test prep services at ten different firms!

posted in: GMAT - AWA, GMAT Tips | 0 comments

GMAT Tip: The Ups and Downs of your Practice Test Scores

Today’s GMAT tip comes from our friends at Kaplan. In this article, Kaplan GMAT instructor Jen Kedrowski addresses possible reasons your scores may fluctuate on practice tests:

You’ve been studying religiously for the GMAT, learning all of the content and formulas you need, practicing under timed conditions…and suddenly, your practice test scores went down!  How is that possible, you wonder?  Is all the work that you’re doing pointless?  Are you doomed to stay at this low score level no matter what?

Relax, and know that it is NORMAL for your practice test scores to fluctuate.  There are many reasons for this, including:

Learning new approaches can slow you down initially
Any good test prep material will provide you with strategic, methodical approaches to each type of GMAT question.  Having a step-by-step approach that you take for every question type ensures that you are never just sitting there on test day, staring blankly at the screen.  Learning these methods, though, takes time and practice, and you may even SLOW DOWN for a period as you master the strategic approach.  Think about learning how to type properly—at first you may type slower than your own practiced method, but eventually, typing appropriately by touch will be faster than any method you had used.

As part of Kaplan’s GMAT team, I’ve seen first-hand how test prep companies and publishers invest in extensive research and development to ensure that the approach they teach for each question type is the most effective and efficient.  And the companies update their materials regularly with the latest research, which Kaplan is doing this month with our new GMAT course.  These approaches advocated by test prep companies are PROVEN to be effective, while your own “just-wing-it” approach is not.  Keep practicing the proven methods– just know that it will take some time until you see results.

It’s not test day yet—you’re still learning and improving
Unless your test is tomorrow, you have not completed your course of study yet, and hence there are pieces of the GMAT puzzle that you invariably have not devoted as much time to at this point.  Maybe it is work formula questions, drilling on parallelism, learning how to attack permutations …but your practice tests will help you identify those pieces that you still need to work on, ensuring that by test day you’ve done all that you can in practicing each topic and question type of the test.

You can have an “off” day
Did you take the practice test at home?  Was the TV on, the phone ringing, dinner cooking?  Were you tired, or hungry, or just not focused?  Some test-takers find that when they know a test is just practice, they can’t always take it as seriously, and might find their minds wandering during reading passages for example.  They will often see an increase between their last practice test score and their real exam, since they are focused and ready on test-day.  Other test-takers might find that some days they are less determined and focused due to personal or environmental factors, which might bring down a given day’s practice test score.  This also underscores the importance of being well-rested and eating a good breakfast on test day!

Staying positive after practice test score fluctuations
There are always going to be fluctuations in your performance on any given day.  Even the real GMAT has a margin of error.  And along the way, if you take 6-10 practice tests, which Kaplan and other test prep companies recommend, you are more than likely to see variability as well. The most important thing to do is to remember than no one practice test score is necessarily indicative of your exact score on test day—use the practice tests as a crucial learning tool instead of thinking of them solely as score indicators.  After each practice test, set up another study session where you review the exam in its entirety, including all of the explanations.  Learning to improve from mistakes that you made under timed, test-like conditions is one of the best things you can do for your real GMAT score.

Stay positive, and keep up the studying!

For more information on Kaplan, download Clear Admit’s independent guide to the leading test preparation companies here.  This FREE guide includes coupons for discounts on test prep services at ten different firms!

posted in: GMAT - AWA, GMAT - Quantitative, GMAT - Verbal, GMAT Tips | 0 comments

GMAT Tip: AWA Pacing and Length

Today’s GMAT tip comes from the folks at Kaplan. In this article, Kaplan GMAT instructor Brian Fruchey offers advice on tackling the AWA section:

While the two essays on the GMAT require you to do completely different things, the approach and foundation of each essay is exactly the same.  In this blog article, I want to address two questions my students often ask:  “How long should I spend on planning the essay vs. writing the essay?” and “How long should the essay be?”.

Pacing the Essay

Thirty minutes isn’t a great deal of time to write Shakespeare.  However, you don’t need to be as eloquent and esoteric in your style.  What you need to be is clear, organized, and direct.  The best way to accomplish those three objectives is to spend a significant amount of time planning your essay before you start typing the essay.  Kaplan has specific templates and approaches that we discuss in our course; however, I’m going to simplify our approach for this post:

Step 1:    Spend about 8 minutes planning your essay
In this step, make sure you critically assess the argument and issue at hand.  Keep yourself unbiased and objective as you initially understand the argument or issue presented.

Step 2:    Spend about 20 minutes writing your essay
During the writing step, this is where you pull together the ideas you came up with during the planning stage of the essay.  While you were objective during the planning stage, in the writing stage, you drop that objectivity and vociferously attack each essay appropriately.  However, make sure you also mention the other side – i.e. acknowledge the dissenting point of view.  Indicate that while you understand the different point of view, it is not as strong as your position.

Step 3:    Spend about 2 minutes proofreading your essay
Most test takers fail to conduct this final step.  Please! Take two minutes to review what you wrote.  While you are not restructuring the argument in this case, you need to re-read the essay, correct spelling mistakes, and liberally add structural words.

Length of the Essay

The length of the essay is actually the least important component.  The essay is graded on four dimensions – length is not one of those dimensions.  Generally, shorter is better (if you were able to clearly articulate your points with specific and clear examples).  At the end of the day, the length won’t matter if you are sure to include the following points:

1)    At least two clear points that articulate your position, broken down by the different essays:
a.    Argument = Two clear flaws of the argument
b.    Issue = Two clear points that defend your side of the issue

2)    At least two clear examples that drive your point home

3)    At least one counter point (with rebuttal), broken down by the different essays:
a.    Argument = One clear strengthener point that the author could include to support his position
b.    Issue = Acknowledgement of a potential point someone on the other side of the issue would argue

If you have these three components in a well-written essay, you’ll score at the top of the AWA range; no matter what the length of the essay.

Make sure you practice full-length CAT tests that have essays included!  Before you ever see a quantitative question on test day, you will have already spent 60 minutes writing two intense essays, so it’s important to make sure you practice under the same test like conditions. Good luck!

For more information on Kaplan, download Clear Admit’s independent guide to the leading test preparation companies here.  This FREE guide includes coupons for discounts on test prep services at ten different firms!

posted in: GMAT - AWA, GMAT Tips | 0 comments

GMAT Tip: Think Like the Testmaker Series, Volume 5

Today’s GMAT tip comes from Veritas Prep. In today’s article, they present the fifth installment of their “Think Like the Testmaker Series,” which focuses this week on the Analytical Writing Assessment:

Brian Galvin is the Director of Academic Programs at Veritas Prep, where he oversees all of the company’s GMAT prep courses.

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is an interesting component of the GMAT for several reasons:

•    Its score is significantly less important than your composite quant/verbal score, but the AWA score is something that schools will see as part of your application package
•    The AWA essays are the first section of the exam, giving you 30 minutes each for two essays before you begin the multiple-choice quantitative and verbal sections
•    The essays are graded in part by a computer scoring system, which should indicate that there is a similar level of “standardized” testing involved in the AWA as there is in the multiple-choice sections. What’s more, ask any teacher who has graded dozens of essays in successions and she should tell you that, by the time you’ve graded that many in a row, you’re essentially a computer or robot at that point, not taking time to be swayed by arguments or engaged by prose, but rather completing a task. Here, you can use this knowledge of how the test is scored to your advantage.

Because the essays will be graded somewhat mechanically, you can infer that you won’t be graded on your level of innovation or novelty with regard to the examples you draw or the unique nature of your arguments. Similarly, because your task is to craft an essay for each prompt in 30 minutes, you won’t be expected to write a detailed, compelling thesis paper. More practically, you will be evaluated on how you structure your argument, and not nearly as much on what your argument is. Simply put, if you put together a well-structured argument, you won’t have to worry too much about putting together a well-reasoned argument.

In order to put together a well-structured argument, you should take care to include a clear introduction and conclusion. By including transitional language that indicates you are making a point — therefore, thus, consequently, in conclusion — you can make it clear to the reader (or computer) what your position is.

Furthermore, well-structured arguments will include transition language to indicate support for your argument — furthermore, moreover, in addition, also, second, third, etc. — and language that will demonstrate that you are transitioning between opposing ideas — conversely, however, in contrast.

Simply by including such transitional language, you’ll cue the reader (or computer) to take note of the way that you have organized your argument, and you’ll also remind yourself to keep your argument organized and structured in the process. A clear, easy-to-read argument will ensure that the computer can pick up your points quickly, and that the overwhelmed-by-reading-the-same-essay-thirty-times human grader will be able to do so, too.

For more information on Veritas Prep, download Clear Admit’s independent guide to the leading test preparation companies here.  This FREE guide includes coupons for discounts on test prep services at ten different firms!

posted in: GMAT - AWA, GMAT News, GMAT Tips | 0 comments

GMAT Tip: Ace the Essays? No, Thanks!

Today’s GMAT tip comes from our friends at test prep firm ManhattanGMAT. In this article, ManhattanGMAT instructor Stacey Koprince offers advice on how to tackle the essay portion of the GMAT:

We all know that the essays on the GMAT are scored separately and that the schools don’t care as much about the essay scores. We also know we have to write the essays first, before we get to the more important quant and verbal sections, so we don’t want to use up too much brain-power on the essays. Still, we can’t just bomb the essay section; the schools do care about the essays somewhat. So how do we do a good enough job on the essays without expending so much energy that we’re negatively affected during the multiple-choice portion of the test?

We need to develop a template, an organizational framework on which to “hang” our writing. The template will not, of course, tell us exactly what to write. For that, we need the actual essay prompt, which we won’t see until we take the test. We can, however, determine how to organize the information ahead of time, as well as the general kinds of messages we need to convey at various points throughout.

The template should tell us:

-how many paragraphs to use
-the primary purpose of each of those paragraphs
-the kinds of information that need to be conveyed in each paragraph

The template will vary a little bit from person to person; the important thing is to have a consistent template for yourself that you’ve worked out in advance of the official test. In addition, we will need slightly different templates for the two different kinds of essays, so take note of the differences below.

As a general rule, essays should have either four or five paragraphs total. The first paragraph is always the introduction, the last paragraph is always the conclusion, and the body (middle) paragraphs are for the examples we choose to use.

Each paragraph should contain certain things; these are listed in the below sections. The information does not need to be presented in the given order below, though; just make sure that each paragraph does contain the necessary information in some sort of clear and logical order. In addition, the information listed below is the minimum necessary info; you can certainly add more where appropriate.

First Paragraph

-summarize the issue
-state a thesis
-acknowledge that the other side does have some merit
-introduce your examples

The first paragraph should contain a brief summary of the issue at hand in your own words (don’t just repeat what the essay prompt said). For an Argument essay, briefly summarize the conclusion of the given argument. For the Issue essay, briefly summarize the issue upon which the prompt has asked you to convey your opinion. For either, you don’t need more than a one to two sentence summary.

The first paragraph should also contain a thesis statement. The thesis is typically one sentence and conveys to the reader your overall message or point for the essay that you wrote. For the Argument essay, you can write most of your thesis sentence before you get to the test! You already know that the Argument will contain flaws, and that you will be discussing how those flaws hurt the author’s conclusion. Guess what? That’s your thesis!

“While the argument does have some merit, there are several serious flaws which serve to undermine the validity of the author’s conclusion that XYZ.”

DON’T USE THAT EXACT SENTENCE. They’re going to get suspicious if hundreds of people use the same sentence. (Besides, that’s my sentence. Come up with your own!)

Note the opening clause: “While the argument does have some merit.” This is what’s called “acknowledging the other side.” We don’t say, “Hey, your argument is completely terrible! There’s nothing good about it at all!” We acknowledge that some parts may be okay, or some people may feel differently, but our position is that the flaws are the most important issue (that is, our thesis is the most important thing).

On the Issue essay, you won’t be able to write your thesis statement ahead of time, but you do know you’ll have to do two things: (1) establish one clear position for yourself and (2) acknowledge the other side. (“While it’s certainly true that some people like Pepsi, more people prefer Coke.”)

Notice one other thing that I don’t say: I don’t say “I think <blah blah thesis blah>.” I state my thesis as though it is fact and reasonable people surely agree with me. That’s a hallmark of a persuasive essay.

Finally, the first paragraph needs to introduce whatever examples we’re going to use in the body paragraphs below. Don’t launch into the examples fully; that will come later.

Body Paragraphs

You can choose to use either 2 or 3 body paragraphs. (I use 2 body paragraphs, personally. Remember, we just need to be “good enough!”)

Argument essay:

-introduce one flaw
-explain why it is a flaw
-suggest ways to fix the flaw

Issue essay:

-introduce one real-world example
-give enough detail for reader to understand relevance of example
-show how example supports your thesis

The body of an essay is where we support our thesis statement. For the argument essay, your support will come from the prompt itself: brainstorm several flaws from the argument (try to find the biggest, most glaring flaws). Each flaw gets its own paragraph, so you’ll need either two or three, depending upon how many body paragraphs you want to write. Explicitly explain why this flaw makes the conclusion less valid in some way, and then discuss how the author might fix that flaw.

For example, let’s say that an argument claims that firing half of a company’s employees will help the company to reduce costs and therefore become more profitable. While it’s certainly true that chopping half of your payroll will reduce costs, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the company will become more profitable! That loss of personnel may reduce productivity, hurt morale of the remaining employees, and so on. The author of such an argument could bolster the claim by, for example, showing evidence that half of the employees are fully redundant and firing them wouldn’t affect the company adversely (if such evidence actually exists, of course!).

For the issue essay, your support will come from your brain: you’ll have to brainstorm some real-life example (something that actually happened in the past) in order to support your thesis. That example could be something from your own life (work history, school, friend of a friend) or from the broader world (business, history, and so on). Stating that Coke’s market share is higher than Pepsi’s, for example, would bolster your claim that more people prefer Coke.

There is no inherent advantage to a personal example versus a broader world example, but if you use a personal example, be sure to provide enough detail that the reader can understand the relevance. When you use real-world examples that the readers are likely to know, you don’t have to worry about, for example, explaining what Coke and Pepsi are.

Finally, make sure to tie your example specifically back to your original thesis. Don’t make the reader connect the dots: tell him or her exactly how this example supports your thesis.

Conclusion Paragraph

-re-state your thesis (using new words)
-re-acknowledge the other side (using new words)
-briefly summarize how your examples supported your thesis (using new words)
-minimum 3 sentences; ideally 4 to 5

Are you noticing a theme within the above bullet points? Basically, the conclusion paragraph isn’t going to contain much new information. It’s a conclusion; the major points should already have been made earlier in the essay. What you’re doing now is tying everything together in one neat package: yes, the “other side” has some merit, but here’s my point-of-view and, by the way, I proved my case using these examples.

Before you go into the real test, you should have a fully developed template, so that all you have to do is come up with your two examples and your thesis statement, and then “hang” your words on your framework. Practice with the above as a starting point until you develop something with which you’re comfortable. Don’t forget to leave some time to proof your essay; it’s okay to have a few typos, but systematic errors will lower your score.

For more information on ManhattanGMAT, download Clear Admit’s independent guide to the leading test preparation companies here.  This FREE guide includes coupons for discounts on test prep services at ten different firms!

posted in: GMAT - AWA, GMAT News, GMAT Tips | 0 comments