While preparing for the GMAT, most of the candidates start planning in advance for a high GMAT score in the Quantitative and Verbal sections. The score out of 800 for these two sections seems to be the only aspect that matters. The AWA section which has a score on the scale of 0-6 is totally off the radar.
One reason for that might be because the AWA score doesn’t get too much attention on B-school websites. Almost all of the top schools talk about their average GMAT scores, but there’s usually no reference to the AWA score. So many applicants assume, if it does not figure anywhere on the school site, it may be unimportant.
It helps to understand the purpose of the AWA section. Based on the candidate’s performance and score in this section, the admissions committee is able judge certain parameters – like the candidate’s expertise at reasoning, thought-process, logical flow as well as presentation skills. Apart from independently evaluating these aspects, it can also help them verify whether the essays presented along with the application are the result of the candidate’s own effort or not.
We are aware of cases where candidates were given specific feedback to raise their AWA scores (though they had a decent overall GMAT score). Considering the tough competition for most of the top B-schools, it’s not worth taking chances by getting a low AWA score.
A few tips on the do’s and don’ts for this section:
1. Take a stand
Read through carefully, make an analysis, reason out and take your stand. Don’t be diplomatic or ambivalent about your position. Take a side. You should be in a position to stick by your opinion or argument till the end and write substantial content on the same.
2. Structure your essay
Before you start penning down your thoughts, try to have some clarity about how your essay would develop. Let the intro explain your stand (point of view). This would be followed by the body which can be around three paragraphs long. Your conclusion would sum it up. Don’t have a conclusion which repeats the introduction; instead, make your essay appealing by presenting a summary of your thoughts to sustain the reader’s interest till the end. Again do justice to each of the paragraphs including the introduction and the conclusion. Let the conclusions not sound like you’re already tired of thinking.
3. Don’t think about switching
You need to initially give time for your thought-process so that you can make up your mind on which way to go, but once you get started, just move on. Don’t be faced with the dilemma- “Oh! perhaps my stand is (politically?) incorrect” or “Would the Adcom form a negative opinion about me for taking this stand?”. There’s no right or wrong answer in this section. It’s your independent opinion. Be confident so that you are in a position to defend and support that stand. If you’re able to justify your point of view convincingly, then you’ve done a good job.
4. Provide examples
Examples can be effective in conveying the message to the reader, so support your essay with examples wherever possible. They can act as evidence to give credibility to an otherwise theoretical stand. Examples need not be only from your personal or professional life. They could also be from other sources, related to past or current events.
5. Stay focussed
It’s necessary to stay in line with the key idea. Don’t get too carried away at any point in your essay or while giving examples that you fail to realise that you’ve gone off on a tangent and the whole discussion has deviated from the core issue.
6. Avoid grammatical / spelling errors
Brush up your grammar so that your language in your essay flows fluidly without errors. Remember to proofread right from beginning to the end to ensure that your essay sounds coherent.
As always, practice makes perfect. So try out a few essays to see what works for you and what doesn’t.