If you get a perfect score on the GMAT’S AWA (a 6), it can really boost your graduate school admissions chances! The best schools want good Verbal and Quantitative scores, but also students who are clear, competent writers. Lots of students have excellent transcripts and are good at taking tests – but not everyone can demonstrate impressive writing skills! Here are 7 tips to take your Issue essay to that perfect 6.
The only way to get comfortable with the time constraints is to practice them, so set up test-like conditions and get to work. If you’re a good writer, you might be tempted to take the GMAT essay portion without practicing. That’s not a great idea–the AWA essay is a different kind of essay than you’ve probably had to write in school, and you might miss the mark if you don’t practice. On the AWA essay you’re not writing literary criticism or rhetorical analysis, but rather something more akin to a very direct, concise email to a very busy boss or professor. Get used to the idea that the AWA essay isn’t about how well you make things flow or how pretty it sounds; it’s about how clearly you can get information across.
You don’t have time to argue both sides of an issue on the AWA essay. Even if you don’t believe in the side you choose, you’ll only have time to argue one side effectively. If you take a middle-of-the-road approach you won’t sound as confident or clear. Remember, according to ETS, the “readers are evaluating the skill with which you address the specific instructions and articulate and develop an argument to support your evaluation of the issue.” Which side you choose to defend is less important than how you defend it!
Don’t be general! Hypothetical arguments are easily refuted. The easy counter to any “what-if” argument is to challenge that the hypothetical scenario would ever actually happen. Instead, use specific examples: Mitt Romney, the War of 1812, Keynesian economic theory, an anecdote about your Uncle Ralph the compulsive gambler, etc. are all concrete examples you can use to drive home a point.
You can choose examples from a wide range of subjects, including personal experience, pop culture, history, sports, literature, current events, politics, etc. But, don’t let your examples take over the essay. For instance, if you’re using a historical example, be careful that you don’t let the bulk of your essay become a summary of that event or a history paper equivalent. Your whole goal on the issue essay is to prove a point, so only use an example if it’s going to back up your argument.
In general, you should avoid writing in first person on the issue essay. Saying things like “I believe” or “in my opinion” adds unnecessary words since the reader already knows that the issue essay is written from your perspective. First-person pronouns should ONLY appear in a body paragraph if you are using personal experience as an example. Never use “I” in your introductory or concluding paragraphs.
Being direct doesn’t leave any room for miscommunication or misinterpretation. Part of the reason this is so important is because while one of your graders is human, the other is a computer. If you’ve ever talked to your GPS or Siri, you’ve probably experienced some miscommunication from time to time. Avoid this on the AWA essay by making strong, declarative statements.
Many AWA students wonder what to do in their conclusion. Try introducing the opposing viewpoint, showing that you recognize that in fact some people do not support your position. Then refute their argument in 1-2 sentences, and reinforce the validity of your own thesis.