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17 Sep

Five Ways to Improve Your GMAT Writing Score


As you consider applying to business school, you bring a wealth of education and experience to the process. You’re a high-scoring veteran of standardized tests, but the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) will present some unique challenges. The Analytical Writing Assessment (‘the essay section’) is distinct from other language-related exams you’ve completed. Approach your preparation and test-taking systematically, though, and you’ll be ready to add the GMAT to your resume of hurdles successfully cleared.

In this post, we’ll explore several ways to improve your GMAT writing score.

Understand what the test is (and isn’t) asking for.

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section consists of one 30-minute writing task called Analysis of an Argument. You will be given a single, one-paragraph prompt containing some kind of argument. It will likely be centered on debates from the business or political worlds and sourced from the editorial and op-ed sections of magazines and newspapers, annual company reports, memoranda, proposals and other publications.1 You will be asked to analyze the reasoning behind the argument and write a critique of it.2

You’re not expected to know anything about the topic. Instead, the test will measure a few essential business communication skills: your ability to think critically, write analytically and express ideas through an essay.2 You need to evaluate the argument, recognize its strengths and weaknesses, and articulate alternative explanations.3

Your preparation must focus on strategizing, rather than on fact-finding.

Break the prompt into component parts.

Every GMAT argument includes one or more flaws. They may be faulty assumptions, inadequate evidence, sampling or statistical issues, vague words (“many” or “few,” for example), unsuitable comparisons, information or considerations that have been overlooked, and so on.1

In your critique, expose those flaws. Wherever possible, suggest ways to fix them or otherwise strengthen the argument. This will be easiest, and you’ll be most successful, when you break the prompt out into pieces:

  • Point out each flaw
  • Challenge it using your own reasoning and specific counterexamples that support your claims
  • Suggest how the author could fix the flaw, thereby improving the validity of the conclusion1

Practice. Practice more.

The internet is rich with AWA templates and samples of test prompts. Provided by test-prep companies and high-scoring test-takers, the templates offer concrete help with structure, content and sentence stems. Because the AWA is formulaic, your essay need not be creative or innovative. Once you master the structure and a few approaches to analysis, you’ll be positioned to write the exam with ease.

Use these resources and write several practice exams. You’ll become fluent in the different kinds of flaws likely to appear in the prompt arguments, and adept at recognizing how to address them. You’ll gain a vocabulary of sentence stems and learn what to include in each paragraph. Repeated practice will build your skills in efficiently creating a thorough, detailed essay, and will help you go into the exam fully prepared and with confidence.

Use your words well.

There’s more to a high GMAT score than strong analysis and critical thinking. Your essay must also demonstrate your command of language and written structure.

  • Include an introduction, conclusion and body paragraphs in which your ideas progress in a logical sequence
  • Use transition words and phrases skillfully
  • Use excellent grammar and refined, exact vocabulary
  • Vary your sentence structure, avoiding repeated use of any one sentence stem (for example, “The argument claims that … “)
  • If/as needed, employ basic economic terms, including concepts such as supply and demand, capital expenditure, etc.

You have 30 minutes. Plan ahead.

It’s test day. You’re in the room, the timer is going and your system is full of adrenaline. With a little advance planning, you can conquer the next half hour calmly and methodically.

Remember: You’re being asked to evaluate an argument, not to present your opinions on the subject. Make the case that the argument is flawed, not that you agree or disagree with it.

Before you write:

  • Use about five minutes to evaluate the argument, and plan and outline your essay
  • Identify the flaws you’ll discuss and the order in which you’ll address them (this will save you from having to rewrite as the clock runs down)
  • Organize your ideas and develop them fully

As you write:

  • Discuss how well-reasoned you find the argument to be
  • Analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument
  • Provide relevant supporting reasons and examples

After you write:

  • Use last few minutes to proofread slowly
  • Look for spelling mistakes, especially on words that you frequently misspell
  • Look for errors in grammar, punctuation and capitalization
  • In these last minutes, do not delete or re-order sentences or paragraphs

Take your skills further.

The GMAT and your business school application are excellent starting points. As you prepare for interviews and polish your resume and application essay, learn more about how William & Mary’s Online MSBA can build your competitive edge in the workplace through business analytics. Begin the application process today.

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