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How Do I Score Well on GMAT® Analytical Writing?

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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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For most people, the best way to score well on the Graduate Admission Test (GMAT®) Analytical Writing Assessment is to practice — practice both writing out answers and reading sample prompts. There are two questions posed in the GMAT® Analytical Writing section. One will ask you to evaluate the strength of an argument, while the other will ask you to take a stance on a given issue. You are allotted 30 minutes per essay, and graders are looking for everything from the strength and persuasiveness of your argument to the soundness of your writing, including mechanics like grammar, spelling, and sentence structure.

The GMAT® is one of several different entrance tests for graduate school hopefuls. Students take the GMAT® when seeking graduate admissions to business school. As far as aptitude tests go, the GMAT® is often regarded as one of the most difficult, in part because of the variety of its sections. Test-takers must be prepared to answer complex questions about math, language, logic, and deductive reasoning, as well as preparing the two essays required by the Analytical Writing section.

Given the sheer volume of material to master, many students put off preparing their essay-writing skills until the last minute or assume that they will do well on the strength of their writing skills alone. The GMAT® Analytical Writing section is very important to your overall score, however. As such, careful preparation is essential.

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There are a couple of important things to keep in mind when approaching the GMAT® Analytical Writing sections. First, the quality and content of your finished piece is only part of the score. If your essay is well-argued but poorly presented or organized, for instance, or riddled with grammatical mistakes or spelling errors, your score is likely to suffer.

Second, be aware that your writing will be scored both by a computer and by a human reader. This means that you need to practice clearly delineating your sections: your introduction, supporting paragraphs, and conclusion need to be easily identified. The entire GMAT® is a computer-adaptive test, which for the writing portions means that examinees must compose and edit their essays in a designated exam window. Spell check and grammar check are not enabled.

GMAT® writing sections can be some of the hardest GMAT® sections to prepare for in part because of how long and varied they are. No two questions are ever the same, and practicing question after question can drain away hours of study time for little palpable gain. In most cases, you are just as likely to score well if you have broad exposure to questions than if you have actually answered that same array of questions.

The official GMAT® website provides examinees with information on both Analytical Writing topics on the test. It is usually a good idea to read through these guidelines before beginning your study in earnest. The site also provides examples of questions asked on past entrance exams.

Commercial GMAT® prep companies offer more in-depth review of GMAT® Analytical Writing topics. These programs can be as simple as review books or online guides with basic tips on what graders are looking for, or as in-depth as group, class-like lessons or one-on-one tutoring. The matter in which you prepare does not matter as much as the fact that you do. Once you find a method that works for you, sticking to it is the best way to score well on test day.

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