Analytical Writing Assessment
You can download for free the list of current Argument essay prompts used on the GMAT. This PDF file is provided by the GMAC. Although it is lengthy, we recommend that you read through the entire list of essay topics in advanced of taking the GMAT. You should also pick at random at least 20 topics and spend five minutes brainstorming and outlining an essay. Furthermore, we suggest that you pick at random at least five more topics and spend 30 minutes writing out a full essay.
Analytical Writing Approach and Scoring
Your essay is judged on how well-structured and well-supported it is, and to a lesser extent on your usage of standard written English. The essay should be written in a straightforward, somewhat formulaic manner. A creative, nuanced writing style will not be rewarded. You must type your essay into the bare-bones word processor provided. Copy, cut, paste, redo, and undo are the only functions available. We suggest that you spend a few minutes brainstorming and outlining your essay before you begin writing. Also be sure to leave a few minutes at the end to proof-read your essay.
The AWA section does not factor whatsoever into your main 200-800 GMAT score. You get a separate AWA score on a scale from 0 to 6, in half-point increments. Your essay is graded separately by two readers: a college faculty member and a computer scoring program. If the two scores are within one point of each other, as is typically the case, the two scores are averaged to derive your AWA score. If the two scores are more than one point apart, however, another human reader will evaluate your essay. The AWA section is not particularly difficult. In fact, 12% of test takers score a perfect 6.0 and 82% score 4.0 or above. Because of this, most business schools primarily use the AWA score to ensure that foreign students can write well and to verify that the essays included on your business school applications are consistent with your AWA writing abilities.
Sample Analytical Writing Essay Topic
Let’s try a sample Argument essay topic. This prompt is not on the GMAC official list, but is modeled off two official prompts. Brainstorm flaws on your own, and perhaps even write out a full essay, before viewing the explanation and sample essay.
The following appeared as part of an article in the business section of a local newspaper:
“Ronnie’s Auto Body Shop commenced business four months ago at the location formerly occupied by the Mystique Beauty Parlor. Ronnie’s Auto must be doing well at this location, because it intends to open a big body shop in an adjacent town. Mystique, on the other hand, has seen a lower volume of business in its first year at its new location compared to the prior year at its former location. Mystique definitely erred in shifting to its new location; its former location is a better site.”
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.
Explanation to Problem
As with all Argument essay prompts, this prompt contains several flaws. Let’s briefly outline the problems with this argument before presenting a full essay that encompasses these points. The sample essay that follows would receive a top score of 6.
- Illogical comparison between Ronnie’s Auto Body Shop and Mystique Beauty Parlor. These are very different types of businesses, and a good location for one may be a poor location for the other.
- Assumes that Ronnie’s Auto Body Shop has been successful, but offers insufficient evidence for this. Ronnie’s Auto may be opening a big body shop in an adjacent town because the current location is poor.
- Inappropriately concludes that Mystique erred in shifting locations. Once again, offers insufficient evidence for this. Lower volume of business is vaguely defined, may not be a long-term concern, and perhaps is not even relevant.
The author offers a flawed argument in claiming that Mystique erred in shifting locations and that its former location is a better site. The author offers insufficient evidence for these claims while providing an illogical comparison. In particular, the author assumes that Ronnie’s Auto Body Shop has been successful in Mystique’s former location. Second, the author overlooks the differences in the two business types. Third, the author inappropriately equates a lower volume of business to a poor decision by Mystique regarding location. Let’s elaborate on each of these issues in turn.
One problem in the argument is that the author assumes that Ronnie’s Auto is doing well at its current location. The only evidence that the author offers in support of this claim is that Ronnie’s Auto intends to open a big body shop in an adjacent town. But there are many possible reasons as to why Ronnie’s Auto plans to open a large shop in another town. Most notably, perhaps the existing location is performing poorly and Ronnie’s Auto plans to close this location after opening up elsewhere.
A second problem in the argument is the apples-to-oranges comparison between an auto body shop and a beauty parlor. The customer base for the two businesses is probably very different. Even if Ronnie’s Auto is doing well at its current location, a totally different type of business with a totally different customer base would not necessarily do well at the same location. Perhaps Ronnie’s Auto is located in a commercial area with similar types of businesses (e.g. other auto repair and parts businesses). Mystique Beauty Parlor is unlikely to thrive in such a location, since its customers would probably not want to receive beauty treatments in such an area.
Finally, a third problem is that the author concludes based solely on “lower volume of business” that Mystique erred in shifting locations. But how much lower is Mystique’s volume of business in the new location? Perhaps the drop in business volume is very small. In fact, we would expect some drop when moving to a new location, as it takes time to reestablish a customer base. The new location may hold much greater long-term promise, and future business volume may be much higher. We also do not know what volume of business really means. By volume, does the author mean customers or revenue? Either way, a lower volume of business does not necessarily mean lower profits. Perhaps Mystique’s lease and other costs are lower at the new location, resulting in higher profits. If so, we cannot claim that Mystique make a mistake in moving. But even if the move did result in lower profits, the move was not a mistake unless Mystique’s owners have this as a primary concern. Perhaps profit is secondary to Mystique’s owners, and they moved the beauty parlor to a location that affords them other benefits such as a better quality of life.
In conclusion, the author’s claims that Mystique erred in shifting locations and that its former location is better are unsupported. As discussed above, there are far too many unknown variables for the author to make such a definite conclusion. Had the author considered the points discussed above, the argument could have been presented more thoughtfully.