Analytical writing is a key component of both the GMAT and GRE tests. But what abilities do the GMAT and GRE essays actually measure and what do markers look for in your writing?
The essay portions of the GMAT and GRE are actually quite similar. The interface and word-processing features are essentially the same. The prompts are randomly picked from a large pool. You have 30 minutes to complete each of the essays. The evaluation criteria and procedure are virtually the same as well. The main difference is that the GRE has two essays, while the GMAT has only one.
Below, you can find a more detailed description of the analytical writing sections in both exams and a few tips for writing good essays.
What is the GMAT Essay?
The GMAT essay, officially known as Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), measures your ability to think critically and communicate your thoughts. During the AWA section of the GMAT, you will be asked to write an essay in which you will analyse the reasoning behind a given argument. You will have 30 minutes to write the essay. The GMAT essay has no specific length requirements. However, the essays that achieve top scores are between four and six paragraphs long. Here you can see an actual AWA essay that received the highest rating.
Check out: How to Choose GRE and GMAT Test Dates
In the AWA section, you are not being asked to present your own views on a subject. You are asked to write a critique of the argument presented. Since the essay is designed to measure skills that are important for your studies and career, the arguments you examine critically typically have their roots in the areas of business, government, and scholarly research. These are the same arguments you will be analysing in management classes or in the real business world.
Up until 2012, the GMAT had two essays — the analysis of an argument and the analysis of an issue — but one was removed when Integrated Reasoning was added. The current GMAT has just one writing task, the analysis of an argument. Under the new GMAT section order rules, the AWA and IR sections come as a block and cannot be split. The AWA/IR combination comes either first or last.
For GMAT essay topics, click here.
How is the essay scored?
The GMAT essay score, much like the Integrated Reasoning score, is not included in the composite GMAT score (200-800). It is reported separately. The GMAT scores that business schools show as requirements for admission are the composite score of the Quantitative subscore and the Verbal subscore. However, the full score report that business schools receive contains also a separate IR score and the separate GMAT writing score and schools take them into consideration during the application review. In addition, the score report also provides a copy of your actual AWA essay.
Your GMAT essay is evaluated by GMAT experts who are college and university faculty members from various subject matter areas, who will look at the overall quality of your thinking and writing. Essays are scored independently twice and then averaged. Scores for the AWA range from 0 to 6 in half-point intervals.
Each essay receives two independent scores, including one provided by an automated essay-scoring engine. If the two ratings are more than one point apart, an expert reader provides a third evaluation to determine the final score.
How important is the AWA score for B-school?
The AWA section is widely regarded by business school aspirants as less important than the rest of the test. However, underestimating the essay would be a mistake, which may prove costly and even scupper your application. A score between a 5 or 6 in the AWA section will not automatically grant you admission to your desired programme, but having an essay score below a 4 could significantly compromise your chances.
Non-native English speakers may find the essay particularly challenging. That’s why a strong AWA score would be an impressive testament to their level of English language proficiency. Having it on the GMAT score report serves as authentic evidence of your language skills in addition to the skills directly tested by the GMAT AWA section.
Four quick tips to improve your GMAT essay
- Don’t lie. Avoid fabricating statistics to back your argument. This won’t impress the GMAT markers. Instead, try to provide logical arguments and specific examples.
- Be clear. Resist the temptation to sound academic and impress the markers with long-winded intelligent sentences. The essay should be formal, clear and forceful.
- You know your objective. It is to prove that the argument is flawed. All you have to do is demonstrate why by applying well-constructed logic and providing examples.
- Attack the wording of the argument. Look for vague parts and scrutinise them. How many is “many,” how much is “much”?
What is the GRE essay?
The Analytical Writing Measure tests your critical thinking and analytical writing skills. The GRE essay is designed to evaluate your ability to articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively, examine claims and accompanying evidence, support ideas with relevant reasons and examples, and sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion, as well as your command of standard written English. It does not assess specific content knowledge.
Unlike the GMAT, the GRE has two separately timed analytical writing tasks:
The “Analyse an Issue” task assesses your ability to think critically about a topic of general interest and to clearly express your thoughts about it in writing. The Issue task presents an opinion on an issue of general interest. There are also specific instructions on how to respond to that issue. Your job is to analyse the issue and provide an argument with reasons and examples to support your views. Your task is to present a compelling case for your own position on the issue.
Although you will be making an argument in this essay, it is different from the GRE argument essay, where you have to look for flaws in another person’s argument. The Issue essay requires you to support the issue.
For Issue essay topics, click here.
The “Analyse an argument” task requires you to evaluate a given argument according to specific instructions. Here, you are supposed to look for logical flaws in the argument rather than agreeing or disagreeing with the position it presents. You do not take sides.
You already know your thesis: it is that the argument is flawed and the evidence and reasoning provided do not fully support the conclusion.
For Argument essay topics, click here.
How are the GRE essays scored?
GRE scores are reported separately, much like the GMAT essay score. In fact, three scores are reported in the GRE test – a Verbal Reasoning score reported on a 130–170 score scale, a Quantitative Reasoning score reported on a 130–170 score scale, and Analytical Writing score reported on a 0–6 score scale. Unlike the GMAT score report, the GRE score report does not provide a copy of your actual essays.
The GRE essay assessment procedure is similar to that of the GMAT. Each essay receives a score from at least one trained marker. The essay is then scored by a computerised programme developed by ETS. If the human and the computer’s scores are close, the average of the two scores is used as the final score. If they are too wide apart, a second human score is obtained, and the final score is the average of the two human scores.
Four quick tips to improve your GRE essays
- Mind the three C’s: clarity, coherency, and cogency. Try to express your thoughts and ideas as clearly as possible.
- In the Argument essay, look for misleading generalisations or inadequate evidence. The argument presented will always have flaws; you just have to find them. If data is provided at all, you can be sure it’s at least partly wrong.
- In the Issue essay, choose a side and stick to it! Don’t try to support two sides because it will look like you are unable to make a decision.
- Your essays must be forceful. Make declarative statements and choose words with conviction.
The purpose of the GMAT and GRE essays is to see how effectively you express yourself in written form. This is very important in today’s business and academic world. Our advice is not to underestimate the importance of the analytical writing sections in the GRE or GMAT, and prepare well. You will not regret it.