When studying for the GMAT, most aspiring MBAs tend to focus primarily on Quant and Verbal. While it is true that most b-school adcoms assign the most weight to those sections, don’t forget about the Analytical Writing Assessment! Just a little bit of prep on the AWA can go a long way.
Plus, all other factors being equal, a 6 on your GMAT essays might just push your application over the edge at your dream b-school — right into the “admit” pile.
Here are 10 tips to help you reach that magic number.
1. Take a side.
Flip-flopping on the GMAT essays is just as grave a sin as it is in presidential elections. It doesn’t matter what you actually think — just pick the side of the issue you can argue for most persuasively. There’s no surer path to a low score than writing a wishy-washy thesis.
2. Set aside time to think.
Easy for me to say, right? I’m not the one who has to write a well-crafted essay in 30 minutes. But trust me on this one: giving up 5 minutes of writing time to think about the topic and come up with a thesis and supporting points will make the writing process a lot easier — and faster.
3. Use relevant examples from a variety of sources.
While the essays aren’t intended to test your knowledge of any specific subject(s), it’s preferable to support your argument with examples drawn from a variety of different fields. For example, you might pick one supporting example from history, one from current events, and one from your personal life.
4. Don’t skimp on length.
Sure, there are no specific length requirements — but that doesn’t mean you should write a haiku and call it a day. Try to write at least a classic 5-paragraph essay (intro, 3 body paragraphs, conclusion); if you can manage one or two more relevant paragraphs, go for it.
Your GMAT essays will be graded by a human and a computer (e-rater). Both are trained to look for mechanical errors — grammar, syntax, and spelling. While a few spelling mistakes probably won’t make or break your score, don’t tempt fate. Be sure to set aside a few minutes at the end of the test to scan your essay for errors.
6. Don’t slack on your introduction and conclusion.
Your introduction should clearly state your thesis and what you intend to prove throughout your essay. While it may seem repetitive, you should also rephrase the question prompt in the introduction. Your conclusion should restate and expand upon your thesis in a thoughtful way. Bring everything you’ve talked about in the essay full circle. Set aside sufficient time for the conclusion; you want it to wow your reader/e-rater so much that he/she/it can’t help but mark you down for a 6!
7. Be confident.
The reader already knows that your essay is your opinion. Own it. Don’t dilute your arguments with unnecessary asides like, “I think,” “in my opinion,” or “perhaps.” If you’re drawing from personal experience for your essay, feel free to use “I” — but don’t overdo it.
8. Include a counter-argument.
This isn’t the same as flip-flopping. Don’t be afraid to present a counter-argument within your essay, but be sure also to address why this counter-argument can be refuted. Stay loyal to your point of view while acknowledging what others may see as areas of weakness.
9. Use transition words.
Words and phrases like “however,” “in conclusion,” and “in addition” will help the reader follow your essay’s argument.
10. Don’t let writer’s block take over.
Find yourself 5 minutes into the essay, still staring at the screen? Just start writing. The process of typing might help your brain reactivate — and in the end, it’s better to have something on the page than nothing.