In this video from the new GMAT tutorial series, produced by PrepAdviser and examPAL, you will learn the fundamentals of the Analytical Writing Assessment.


The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section lasts 30 minutes, and is scored in a range of 1 to 6, in half point increments. The scoring is actually an average of two separate scores: one given by a human, another by a computer. If their scores are more than one point apart, a second human checks and scores it – and gets the last word.

In this section, we are presented with a short argument which is one paragraph long. Our mission? Write an evaluation. The GMAT doesn’t tell us this, but the arguments are always open to criticism, and so, we can tell, before even reading the argument, what our opinion of the argument will be: unconvinced!

In other words, we’re going to write a critique.

How do we go about this? We find it useful to think of this as erecting a small building – in just 30 minutes!

The first five minutes

The first five minutes are about setting the foundation. The basis for everything we’re going to write is accurately comprehending the argument. We’ll read the argument and ask ourselves: what is its central claim – its conclusion? How does the argument arrive at this conclusion – which assumptions does it use? Which logical inferences? Which sentences are simply facts (meaning we shouldn’t criticise them), and which are logical claims (meaning we very possibly should)? We’ll make sure we have an answer to these questions – they’re what everything else rests upon.

The next five minutes

The next five minutes are devoted to Constructing the Scaffolding. Now that we understand the argument presented, we’ll figure out what we are going to write, what our criticism will be. What are the flaws in the reasoning presented? Does it depend on evidence, which isn’t actually there? Does it rest on assumptions, which are both hidden and unlikely? Does it ignore alternative possible explanations?

Our goal is to have our two or three criticisms all figured out before writing a word, and to plan what the goal of each paragraph will be.

15 minutes

The next 15 minutes are for pouring in the cement and putting in the doors. It's time to put our fingers to the keyboard, and start typing. Based on the plan we have already mapped out, we will write as clearly and as convincingly as we can. We will aim for five paragraphs, consisting of three to five sentences each, for a total of 500-600 words. Sentences should have a logical connection. Each paragraph should make a point, and one point only:

  • The first should summarise the passage, and preview the criticisms we are about to make.
  • The second should present our best criticism.
  • The third – our second best.
  • The fourth paragraph should either present an additional criticism, or present a counter-argument and refute it.
  • Finally, the last paragraph should not add new information, but rather summarise our claims in different words, leading to a clear conclusion.

The last five minutes

We'll use the last five minutes for finishing touches. We’ll go over our text and give it a thorough proofread. Though the test-checkers know we are under time constraints, the final level of grammar, spelling, and general clarity, matter quite a bit. It is important to remember that there is no auto-correct function in the test, so the only way to notice typos is to look for them.

That’s Analytical Writing Assessment in a nutshell. Good luck!