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Scoring the GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment

January 26, 2011 by

The analytical writing portion of the GMAT tends to be the section of the test for which students spend the least amount of time preparing.  While this is certainly understandable, as the essays are not as important as the 200-800 GMAT score, the analytical writing assessment (AWA) should not be completely neglected.  In most cases business schools are looking for a score of 4 or higher on the AWA.  While a higher score will not necessarily improve your chances of acceptance, a much lower score can be a negative on your application.

 The AWA is scored on a scale of 0-6, which is calculated via an average of the test taker’s score on two individual essays.  The individual essay scores, in turn, are found by averaging the score the essay receives from a human grader and a computer program called an e-rater that grades GMAT essays.  You should also know that if the human score and the e-rater score are more than one point apart a second human scorer is brought in to grade as well.

Despite the different types of questions in the argument and issue essay and the different graders, the grading standard is always the same.  GMAT essay graders are looking for proficiency in four areas:

  • structure,
  • evidence,
  • depth of logic, and
  • style.

Structure refers to the organization of the essay.  Graders want to see that the essay is broken down into logical paragraphs that are well developed.  Evidence refers to the quality of the examples presented – the stronger the examples, the better.  Depth of logic refers to the quality of the analysis.  Graders want the points you make to be as clear as possible.  Finally, style refers to grammar and spelling.  You should make sure these types of errors are kept to a minimum.

Keeping the grading standard in mind as write your essay should help you score at an average or above average on your GMAT AWA section, which will demonstrate to the admissions officers that you are capable of writing clearly and concisely under time-pressure, an important communications and business school skill.  For more tips for analytical writing, see Kaplan’s GMAT Video on AWA Grading Criteria.


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