How To Beat The MBA Admissions Test

Preparing for the GMAT? Find the tips and tricks you need to prepare, and to beat the GMAT and gain admission to an MBA program.

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Updated September 1, 2022

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Beating the gmat & getting into your dream mba program.

The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, provides MBA programs with a crucial metric “to predict program performance.” In this guide, we'll unpack the distinct challenges of each of the four exam components. We'll then detail the most effective ways to prepare for them, based on expert advice and documentation from test-prep coaches and GMAC itself. By scrutinizing the GMAT's components, identifying personal weaknesses, and then applying targeted test-taking strategies, anyone can beat the GMAT and gain admission to an MBA program . Meet the Expert 49% of GMAT test takers report spending at least 51 hours preparing for the exam.

Breaking Down the GMAT

The GMAT contains four distinct sections. The core of the exam, which yields a score of 200 to 800, is comprised of the verbal and math (or quantitative) sections. These sections are broken down by subject matter and question types below. In addition, the GMAT includes one essay question, an analytical writing assessment that is graded on a scale of one to six. The final and newest component combines quantitative math skills with verbal comprehension under the rubric of “integrated reasoning.”

The average combined verbal/quantitative score during the 2012-2013 academic year was 546 out of a possible 800.

GMAT: Analytical Writing Assessment

The first hurdle in the GMAT is the essay section, formally known as the analytical writing assessment (AWA), which is assigned a point value from one to six. Different MBA programs assign varying weights to the AWA score, and in terms of overall time commitment it's generally considered the least important part of the exam to study for. The purpose of the AWA is to test one's ability to think critically about a statement and then logically articulate the strengths and weaknesses of that statement. MBA admissions staff use AWA scores to gauge an applicant's basic writing and reasoning skills.

Dennis Yim, Associate Director of Pre-Business and Pre-Graduate Programs at Kaplan Test Prep, offers the following advice on how to approach the AWA essay:

Remain Objective

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GMAT: Integrated Reasoning

The integrated reasoning (IR) section, which is assigned a score between one and eight points, was added in 2012 and is now considered to be the most complex part of the exam. There are four types of IR questions, all of which measure verbal and quantitative skills (i.e., word problems). They may involve:

For example, a typical IR question might have a graph with two sets of variables, followed by three questions asking for an interpretation of the data. To get credit, the test taker must answer all three questions. Moreover, all parts of the question must be answered before moving on to the next one; once a question is fully answered, the test taker cannot go back.

Most MBA admissions offices do not weight the IR section of the GMAT as heavily as the combined math/verbal score. However, it is seen as a useful gauge of an applicant's complex thinking skills and aptitude for data management and analysis. Here are some tips from Yim:

Don't Be Afraid

Don't be a gmat gladiator, know the kinds of questions, gmat: quantitative reasoning.

After getting past the essay and integrated reasoning sections of the GMAT, some people may breathe a small sigh of relief to be moving into more familiar test-taking grounds, which is not to imply that the remainder of the GMAT is a breeze. The quantitative section involves answering 37 multiple choice questions in just 75 minutes. Roughly two-thirds of those questions fall under the problem solving (PS) designation, which involves applying basic math to problems. Preparing for this part of the quantitative section simply requires brushing up on algebra, geometry, fractions, and the like.

The remaining third of the quantitative section presents data sufficiency (DS) questions, which demand careful reading and require the test taker to determine whether or not the information provided in two statements is enough to draw a conclusion. Through this test, admissions staff are looking for students who can demonstrate not just an understanding of basic math, but also higher-level interpretive skills. To ace the qualitative reasoning component, experts recommend the following :

It's Not Just Math

Master the fundamentals, understand the goal of the question, decode the questions, have options, don't be thrown off by the difficulty of a question, gmat: verbal.

The verbal section has 41 questions broken down into three types. Reading comprehension (RC) questions test candidates' ability to understand, interpret and draw conclusions from a short passage of text. Sentence correction (SC) questions require the use of grammar rules and common usage to replace a word or phrase in a sentence. And critical reasoning (CR) questions present word-logic problems that involve evaluating the evidence and conclusions presented in a short passage.

Because of the targeted nature of the GMAT, the verbal section is not aimed at assessing overall English language proficiency or vocabulary. Its primary objective is instead to measure analytical reading skills. As one test-prep expert pointed out only half-jokingly, the best way to prepare for the verbal section is to read The New Yorker cover to cover for two months. Yim offers a list of tips for the verbal section:

Silence Your Inner Editor

Find the error-free answer, don't overlook the reading comp, find the author's purpose, don't jump to an answer, find the flaw, increasing your gmat score.

The GMAT is given year-round, six days a week, at testing centers located across the country. It can be taken up to five times a year by individuals, but only once every 31 days. Most people would prefer to just take it once, however, so how can you put yourself in the best position to maximize your score on your first try?

A Study Timeline for the GMAT

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Take Free Practice GMAT Tests

The single best thing a person can do to prepare for the GMAT is to take at least one full practice exam. Even top-notch undergraduate students with a 4.0 GPA and excellent math, verbal and writing skills don't know how they are going to perform on the GMAT until they've taken it. And for those who have been out of school for a while, a practice exam is the best way to determine the areas to focus on. You can find practice exams through the following resources:

Additional GMAT Resources

Along with private test prep companies that offer classes and online tutorials, many MBA programs themselves have online resources that can be helpful. Below are some places where you can find more information on how to beat the GMAT.

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What Is a Personal Essay (Personal Statement)?

Glossary of grammatical and rhetorical terms.

A personal essay is a short work of autobiographical nonfiction characterized by a sense of intimacy and a conversational manner. Also called a personal statement . 

A type of creative nonfiction , the personal essay is "all over the map," according to Annie Dillard. "There's nothing you can't do with it. No subject matter is forbidden, no structure is prescribed. You get to make up your own form every time." ("To Fashion a Text," 1998) .

Examples of Personal Essays


Theresa Werner, "Personal Essay."  Encyclopedia of the Essay , ed. by Tracy Chevalier. Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997

E.B. White , Foreword to  Essays of E.B. White . Harper and Row, 1977

Cristina Kirklighter,  Traversing the Democratic Borders of the Essay . SUNY Press, 2002

Nancy Sommers, "Between the Drafts."  College Composition and Communication , February 1992

Richard F. Nordquist, "Voices of the Modern Essay." Dissertation University of Georgia, 1991

does gmat essay matter

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Is AWA Important for the GMAT?

With so much to learn for the GMAT, many students wonder how important it is to perform well on the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA). After all, the Analytical Writing Assessment section is not factored into your total GMAT score. Furthermore, your AWA score isn’t included in the unofficial GMAT score report you see on test day. Does the AWA score affect admissions to MBA programs, or do business schools not really care about GMAT writing scores?

It’s natural to ask these questions, but before you decide that preparing for the AWA section “isn’t worth it” or that “no one cares” about the GMAT AWA, there are some important facts to consider. 

In this article, we’ll answer some common questions about what the GMAT AWA section is and why it matters. To start, let’s review what exactly the AWA section is.

AWA Essay Prompts

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The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is a 30-minute section of the GMAT exam that consists of one essay task called an Analysis of an Argument. 

In the AWA section, an argument is presented to you in a short essay prompt. In an essay of any length, you must write a critique of that argument. So, you’ll do things such as:

And of course, you’ll need to organize your ideas logically and communicate them clearly.

In the GMAT AWA section, you’ll have 30 minutes to write an “Analysis of an Argument” essay.

Let’s now take a look at what AWA essays are generally about. 

AWA essay topics are typically business-related or “general interest.” Essay prompts are often presented in the form of an excerpt from a hypothetical newspaper or magazine article, organization memo or company report, corporate or organization newsletter, or business plan, to name a few examples. 

So, for example, an AWA question might present a short paragraph that is an excerpt of a memo issued by XYZ Corp’s manufacturing department. The excerpt explains why the department supports a proposal to shut down one-third of XYZ’s manufacturing plants. Your job is to find and critique any flaws in the department’s reasoning. Additionally, you would point out any further information that would be useful in assessing the validity of the department’s reasoning. 

One good thing about AWA essays is that you don’t need any specialized knowledge to write them. You don’t even have to give your personal views on the subject matter. You just have to create a clear, well-reasoned response to the given argument. 

You don’t need any specialized knowledge to write a top-scoring AWA essay.

Now that we have a basic understanding of what the AWA is and what AWA essays are about, let’s discuss some common questions GMAT test-takers have related to the importance of the AWA.

Only the Quant and Verbal sections of the GMAT are factored into your GMAT total score. So, neither the Integrated Reasoning (IR) score nor the AWA score affect your total score. For that reason, both of those sections are generally less emphasized by MBA admissions committees than the Quant and Verbal sections. 

However, “generally less emphasized” is not the same as “totally disregarded” or “not important.” A low score in any section of the GMAT has the potential to stick out like a sore thumb on your applications. So, the fact that the AWA score does not affect your total score is not a reason to slack off on the AWA. 

The fact that the AWA score does not affect your total score is not a reason to slack off on the AWA.

Some GMAT test-takers make the mistake of thinking that, because the unofficial score report they see after they complete the GMAT exam includes only the Quant, Verbal, IR, and Total Score, the AWA is some “secondary” thing they don’t need to worry about.

However, there is a good reason why you don’t see your GMAT Analytical Writing score on test day. GMAT AWA grading is done by both a computer and a person. All of the other section scores (and the total score) are calculated by a computer alone. Since AWA essays must be reviewed by a person — who will obviously not be at the test center with you — AWA scores take longer to generate than computer-generated scores. ( Read more about how the AWA section is scored here. )   

So, the fact that you receive your GMAT AWA score after test day rather than right after you finish your exam is not an indication that the AWA is unimportant or an afterthought. 

The AWA score is not included in the unofficial score report you see on test day because the AWA section takes longer to grade, not because AWA is unimportant.

When the GMAT Online was first introduced, the AWA section was not part of it. However, the AWA has been part of the online GMAT for quite some time now. In fact, the in-person and online GMAT now have the exact same exam structure with the same section order options . 

So, depending on what section order you choose for your exam, the AWA section will be presented either first or last in your GMAT. If you choose the default section order, AWA will be the first section you see. If you choose to complete either the Quant or Verbal section first, AWA will be the last section you see.

The in-person and online GMAT have the exact same exam structure with the same section order options, so you will see the AWA section on both versions of the exam.

So, whether you take the GMAT at home or at a test center, you’re going to face an essay task. Let’s now discuss how much MBA programs actually care about your GMAT essay.

How Much Do MBA Programs Care About AWA Scores?

Out of all of the section scores for the GMAT, the AWA score probably carries the least importance for MBA admissions. That said (and you’ll notice a theme here), having the least importance is not the same as having no importance! MBA programs DO care about your GMAT AWA score, for a few reasons. Let’s discuss each of these reasons.

The GMAT Analytical Writing score DOES matter for MBA admissions.

It’s no secret that many MBA programs are highly quant-driven. But make no mistake: showing that you are a well-rounded student is only going to make your application more attractive to MBA admissions committees. 

Where does the AWA fit in? Well, the purpose of the AWA section is to gauge your ability to clearly convey ideas in written form. That skill is of the utmost importance not only in business school but also in professional business settings. If you’re unable to coherently and convincingly get your ideas “on paper,” admissions committees may question how you’ll fare in graduate-level business classes and as a business professional.

Now, if you have impressive scores in every other GMAT section, is having a so-so AWA score the “kiss of death” for your candidacy? Probably not. However, impressive writing skills, in addition to your other skills, could be a significant asset on your application.

Impressive writing skills could be a significant asset on your MBA applications, and the AWA is a key opportunity to show off those skills.

Granted, you will have far more time to think through and polish and hone your application essays than you will an argument response that you have just 30 minutes to complete on test day. However, if there is a large disparity between the level of writing in your GMAT AWA essay and the level of writing in your MBA application essays, admissions may wonder whether they’re reading the work of the same person. In other words, you don’t want admissions to entertain the thought that someone helped you write your application essays. 

Rather, you want to show admissions that you have a baseline of strong skills that you can apply in any situation — that there is a solid standard your work will always meet. If you put no time or effort into preparing for the AWA section, or you assume that your application essays will be enough to demonstrate your writing skills, then admissions may wonder whether you can consistently perform at a high level. 

Don’t let your AWA essay be a reason that admissions wonders whether you can consistently perform at a high level.

With a few exceptions, the language of business and business schools is, for the most part, English. Thus, business schools seek to ensure that their students have a strong command of written English. The AWA can serve as a key indicator of your command of English. 

If, for example, you’re a nonnative speaker of English, your GMAT AWA score may be of greater significance to admissions than it would be if English were your first language. This can work in your favor, however. If English is your second language and you earn an AWA score of, say, 5 or above, that score could help you stand out among other applicants whose native language is not English. 

If English is your second language, earning a GMAT AWA score of 5 or above can help you stand out among other MBA applicants whose native language is not English.

If everything you’ve read in this article hasn’t convinced you of the importance of the GMAT AWA, you may still be wondering whether you can get away with skipping the AWA.

Unless you are 100% certain that the programs you’re interested in will not consider AWA scores, you should plan to complete the Analytical Writing Assessment on any official GMAT exam you take (including your practice exams !). 

If you have reason to believe that your desired programs will not take the AWA into account when evaluating your application, you should call the admissions office of each program to confirm that skipping the AWA will not affect your candidacy. Even if a program’s website states that submitting an AWA score is optional, I recommend speaking to someone in the program’s admissions office to confirm that the policy stated on the website is up to date.

If you have reason to believe that your desired programs will not take your AWA into account when evaluating your application, call the admissions office of each program to confirm.

Given that the vast majority of business schools that require GMAT scores require that all section scores be submitted, including the AWA, your best bet is to make time for some AWA preparation in your GMAT study plan . Fortunately, you don’t have to spend weeks writing essay after essay in order to perform well in AWA. Looking for some tips? These 5 strategies can help you earn a top-notch GMAT Analytical Writing score.  

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Homepage > Prepare for GMAT > Do GMAT Integrated Reasoning and AWA matter for MBA admissions?

Do GMAT Integrated Reasoning and AWA matter for MBA admissions?

Posted by Suheb Hussain | Dec 5, 2018 | GMAT Basics , GMAT IR and AWA , Know the GMAT

Do GMAT Integrated Reasoning and AWA matter for MBA admissions?

GMAT Integrated Reasoning (IR) and Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) are the two sections whose scores are not counted towards the overall GMAT score. Therefore, a lot of GMAT takers wonder about the importance of these two sections. Do Analytical Writing Assessment and GMAT Integrated Reasoning matter for business schools? If yes, what is a good AWA score and what is a good Integrated Reasoning score? In this article, we have answered these questions.

Here is the outline of the article:

How important is the GMAT AWA section for business schools?

What is a good gmat awa score.

What does a GMAT IR score indicate to business schools?

Does gmat integrated reasoning score matter in mba admissions, what is a good gmat integrated reasoning score.

Take a look at this article to know how to score a perfect 6 on the AWA

Scoring system of AWA and GMAT Integrated Reasoning

GMAT AWA is scored on a scale of 0 – 6 and Integrated Reasoning is scored on a scale of 1 – 8.

When thinking from the perspective of the admissions committee, they tend to give more importance to your overall GMAT score and your Quant and Verbal scores. Even the Integrated Reasoning section is given more importance.

The testament to this statement is the fact that when the IR section was introduced first on June 5, 2012, the AWA section was reduced by half .

So, when it comes to relative importance we can safely assume that AWA has the lowest importance . But ‘low’ importance is not similar to ‘no’ importance. You still cannot take the AWA section for granted.

An AWA score of less than 4 could hurt your chances of getting into your target business school. The purpose of the AWA section is to judge how well you convey your thoughts in written form. This skill is really important in the business world as you would be communicating with people in written form on a daily basis.

GMAT-Integrated Reasoning-AWA-importance-MBA-Admissions-5

It would be good to devote 10% of your time on the AWA section. This time will be enough to secure a good AWA score. But, what is a good AWA score?

Take a look at the average GMAT AWA score of test takers. Since, 4.48 is the average score, scoring below 4 would not be a good AWA score. Therefore, scoring a 5 or a 6 would be a good AWA score.

Now, let’s look at the Integrated Reasoning section and understand the importance and a good score in this section.

If you are planning to take the GMAT, we can help you with a personalized study plan and give you access to quality online content to prepare. Write to us at  [email protected] . We are the  most reviewed GMAT prep company on gmatclub with more than 1875 reviews. Why don’t you take a free trial and judge for yourself?

GMAT Integrated Reasoning

GMAT Integrated Reasoning AWA importance MBA Admissions

GMAT Integrated Reasoning tests your ability to integrate data to solve complex problems. One of your jobs, after you complete your MBA, would be making informed decisions. You can take those decisions only if you know how to filter out the useful data and interpret it. The GMAT Integrated Section, therefore, tests your ability to

GMAT IR Questions Formats

This section contains 12 questions which you are expected to solve in 30 minutes or less.

There are 4 types of questions asked in the Integrated Reasoning section:

Table Analysis

Two-Part Analysis

Multi-source reasoning (msr).

GMAT Integrated Reasoning AWA importance MBA Admissions

Multiple cards are presented in this type of question on the left side of your screen. Each card has different information in the form of text, table, formula etc. You have to combine the information from all the cards and answer questions based on these multiple sources of information.

In this type of question, you’ll deal with a large table with at least 3 columns and 20 rows of data. You have the option to sort the table. There are 3 questions based on the information presented to you.

Graphic Interpretation

A graph in this type of question could be a pie-chart, a bar chart, a scatter plot, a line chart or any other type of chart. You have to deduce information from the chart and answer 2 questions.

In this type of question, you’ll be given an introductory statement which will be followed by a table with 3 columns. The top row of first 2 columns are the questions and the rightmost column has a list of possible answers. You have to select one of the entries in each of the 2 columns.

GMAT Integrated Reasoning AWA importance MBA Admissions

MBA professionals around the world have to deal with incomplete information to make decisions. Therefore, to make decisions they assimilate information from different sources and evaluate the information.

This is the skill that you learn and enhance in the business school.

The quantitative and verbal sections of the GMAT do a good job of measuring and predicting how students are likely to perform in business school. But, these sections separately measure these attributes and are not necessarily a good indicator of how someone will combine these skills to make sound decisions.

The IR section is designed to test this skill. You have to find a solution to a problem based on information which is both qualitative and quantitative in nature. Thus, an IR score is a good indicator of your ability to bringing complex ideas together and analyzing data in a variety of formats.

GMAT Integrated Reasoning AWA importance MBA Admissions

Integrated Reasoning (IR) section is the newest section of the GMAT. It was introduced in June 2012. Initially, business schools did not value the IR section much as they did not have enough data to compare applicants. To understand Admissions committees’ perspective on the Integrated Reasoning section, Kaptest did a survey of more than 200 business schools in 2014. 41% said that they found Integrated Reasoning to be an important part of overall GMAT score evaluation.

Kaptest did the same survey again in 2015. This time the number of business schools considering the IR section to be important was up to 59%.

With this data, we can infer that there is a shift towards GMAT Integrated Reasoning being considered an important part of your GMAT score . This shift would make sense because in today’s technology and data-driven global marketplace you need sound analytical skills to compete successfully and IR section is a test of your analytical skills.

Therefore, when it comes to MBA admissions it is better to score well in the Integrated Reasoning section. But, what is a good IR score?

GMAT-Integrated Reasoning-AWA-importance-MBA-Admissions-5

A good GMAT Integrated Reasoning score would depend on how important the IR score is for your target business school and how others are performing on the IR section. Business school policies are not clear on the IR score as of now but you have can know how others are performing on the GMAT Integrated Reasoning.

4.29 is the average GMAT Integrated Reasoning score as can be seen in this table. So, firstly a good GMAT IR score should be more than this average score. Secondly, a good GMAT score should be the one which does not give you sleepless nights after submitting your application.

Therefore, a good IR score would be in the range of 6 to 8.

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Does Your Score In AWA Section On The GMAT Really Matter?


The composite GMAT scores are constituted only with quant and verbal sections. AWA or Analytical Writing Assessment is scored separately. As a matter of fact, it does not really matter to your admission prospects. But still, you can’t deny its significance.

What is Analytical Writing Assessment and how is it scored?

This section requires the candidates to write an essay on an argument provided. It has duration of 30 minutes and scoring scale of 0-6 points. It examines your writing and analytical skills based on various parameters. The scoring is usually based on two ratings. One of it involves an evaluation by the automated system of an essay scoring engine that assesses over 50 linguistic and structural factors. If the difference of manual and automated ratings is more than 1 point, an expert reader evaluates the essay to mitigate the discrepancies.

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There is a simple logic behind it. Most of the schools aren’t interested in your AWA or IR scores simply because the composite GMAT scoring has direct impact on their rankings. Due to its separate scoring system, it is often considered to be less important as compared to other two sections.

Does it really matter?

Despite being less important for admission procedures at leading B-schools, you can’t really ignore this test completely, especially if you are a non-native English speaker. If you fall in this category, your AWA score may be significant for the schools to understand your mastery over the language. If you have scored badly in AWA but have produced a brilliantly written essay for admission application, it represents a red flag. It may indicate towards a probable fraud in the application form and negate your candidature completely.

Secondly, AWA tests your ability to understand a situation, make viable assumptions, and write your thoughts in a precise fashion to convey them properly. This skill is largely required in the real life business scenarios as well. Mostly, as you progress in your career, your writing becomes your identity. Hence, if you are entering the B-school with your work experience, a score below 4 in Analytical Writing Assessment can raise suspicion about your competence.

However, you need not dedicate a lot of your study time to this section. Keep it for the last time preps. This is the first section of your GMAT. So, never skip it. You should utilize this 30 minutes duration as a time to prepare your mind for the challenging task ahead. Use it as an opportunity to heat up but don’t spare too much of your energy on it.

Ask AWA Related Questions To LEAP Verbal Expert

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Why Does The GMAT AWA Section Matter?

GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment Section

How is The GMAT AWA Section Scored?

What determines the gmat awa score, what is a good gmat awa score, three tips to score a perfect 6 in awa.

The Analytical Writing Assessment or AWA section of the GMAT does not contribute to the total GMAT score. But it does not mean that the section has no relevance. Read on to know everything you need to know about the section, along with why business schools look at AWA scores.

The GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), often termed the GMAT essay, is the first section of the GMAT. It consists of a single, one-paragraph prompt with an argument. The prompt can be about political, business, or current affairs, and is mostly sourced from editorials, company reports, op-ed sections, etc. You are expected to explain and critique the argument and the reasoning behind it within the stipulated time period of 30 minutes. 

The GMAT AWA examines your ability to communicate coherently and effectively in the English language, think critically, and analyze an argument. It is important to note that while there is no specific word count recommended for this, it is wise not to exceed 500 words in the AWA section.

Is The GMAT AWA Section Important?

Just like the Integrated Reasoning score, the GMAT AWA score does not contribute to the total GMAT score. But between the two, the IR section has more importance – when the section was first introduced in 2012, the essay section was reduced by half. Consequently, the Analytical Writing Assessment score is considered to have little importance. But this does not mean that the section holds NO value. Here is why the GMAT AWA matters:

GMAC does recommend the b-schools to not directly compare the two, considering one is written after careful consideration and the other in a raw form within a 30-minute restriction. The comparison is still done to help with the elimination of doubt for external authorship of application and estimation of some similarities in terms of ability.

Why do You Not See the GMAT AWA Score on The Exam Day?

The unofficial score report seen after submitting GMAT does not show the Analytical Writing Assessment score. This is because the GMAT essay is scored by a human grader and computer grading program called E-Rater. If the two grades are the same or differ only by one point, their average becomes the final AWA score. If the scores differ by a wider margin, another human grader marks the essay to determine the final score. Receiving the AWA score after test day does not mean that the score is unimportant.

GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment section is graded on a scale of 0 to 6. According to GMAC AWA score guidelines, 

Along with this score, each candidate is also given a percentile ranking corresponding to the percentage of candidates you scored higher than. This percentile ranking is based on the last three years of GMAT scores. To know more about how GMAT scores are calculated, read How is GMAT Score Calculated

The GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment score is determined on the basis of:

If you are targeting the top 10 business schools, you should try for a perfect 6. Conventionally, 5 and above is considered a strong GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment Score. However, it is seen as a red flag for an international applicant to score below 4. 

GMAC advises to “ not make distinctions among applicants on the basis of a small scoring distinction—one point or less apart .” A good GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment score is not one that is high enough to enhance your admission chances but rather one that is not low enough to hamper your chances. In other words, even if you score a perfect 6, it may not compensate for a low GPA or lack of experience. However, if your score is lower than 4, it will definitely raise questions about your ability to communicate well in the business world or even handle the MBA program’s coursework.

GMAT essay requires the candidate to critique the given argument. Here are simple tips to score a full 6 in GMAT AWA: 

If you are unable to score 5 and above in your practice tests, allot some additional time to AWA in your GMAT prep journey. It is relatively easy to get a perfect score in this section with some practice. The good news is that no special knowledge is needed to ace the section, just clear and logical thinking. 

If you are looking GMAT essay templates,  read AWA Template for Getting the Perfect 6

If you have any other questions on AWA, drop them in the comments below!

Want to get a 740+ on GMAT?

Related posts, 6 strategies for scoring 6.0 on gmat awa.

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AWA Template for Getting The Perfect 6 (2022)

GMAT essay writing can be broken down into simple components if only you use the right templates. Read the article to find 3 templates that will help you get the perfect 6 on the GMAT AWA section!

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Manan was my tutor for the verbal section of the GMAT. With his help, I was able to move from a V30 to V40. I would like to comment on how great a mentor he is, apart from the exceptional verbal knowledge that he has. He helped me break the psychological barrier that I had - 'I'm bad at verbal so I can't score high in GMAT'. I really like his approach of breaking down every problem into very tiny bits that seem very doable. On top of it, he usually has some cool hacks to crack each of these small bits.

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 Nobody Reads Your Essays, Part II: AWA

Most GMAT students we've met really don't worry all that much about the Analytical Writing (AWA) portion of the test, but we occasionally meet somebody who is absolutely neurotic about this section of the GMAT. 

If you’re one of the rare students who worries about the GMAT AWA section, please don’t. There’s rarely any need to spend more than a token amount of time on AWA. Here’s why.

Why MBA Programs Barely Care About GMAT AWA

Let’s start with the biggest reason why MBA programs care so deeply about GMAT scores in the first place: rankings. Unfortunately, some MBA rankings schemes penalize b-schools with low average GMAT scores, so admissions committees are forced to obsess over your GMAT composite results.

The AWA section has absolutely nothing to do with your composite score, and it therefore has no impact on MBA rankings. So most schools don’t really give a crap about it. Sure, it might be nice to fill MBA programs with excellent writers, but that’s far from the front of business schools’ minds, and AWA scores have been shown to correlate only very weakly to student performance in MBA programs.

To be fair, it’s probably not a good idea to completely embarrass yourself on AWA, but a solid-but-imperfect AWA score of, say, 5.0 almost certainly won’t keep you out of Stanford or Harvard. MBA admissions committees might start to wonder if your AWA score is below 3 or 4, but I see absolutely no reason to worry if your score is reasonably high. After all, MBA programs are looking for business leaders with decent communication skills, not Nobel Prize-winning novelists.

So what does it take to earn a "reasonably high" AWA score? Not much, really. I've seen some legitimately terrible writers earn scores of 5.0 or 5.5. They took advantage of the fact that nobody really reads your GMAT AWA essay.

How GMAT AWA Grading Works

As you may already know, GMAT AWA essays are graded both by a computer and by a human; if there's a discrepancy between the two scores, then an additional human reads the essay. Obviously, the computer's exact scoring system is a closely guarded secret, but I'm convinced that the program primarily looks for structure using basic keyword algorithms. 

From there, it probably counts things like the average number of words per sentence and the average number of letters per word, and then it checks for grammar, usage, variety of words used, and perhaps spelling. I suspect very strongly that a reasonable structure is the most important part of the AWA scoring system; spelling might not even count at all. (Again, I've seen some horrid spellers get really good scores.)

The "human" is ultimately looking for the same things as the computer when she grades a GMAT AWA essay: structure, clarity, correctness, richness of language, and so on. But this human probably doesn't actually read your GMAT essays any more closely than the computer.

Again, imagine that you're the poor slob who gets paid $20-25/hour (as of a few years ago, GRE and TOEFL graders earned $20/hour; I don't know whether the rate is similar for GMAT) to read bazillions of these AWA essays, most of which are tragically bereft of interesting content. Are you going to read every single word? Hell no. You'll skim the introduction, maybe read the first sentence of each paragraph, and then maybe skim the conclusion. (And if anybody asks, you'll surely claim that you read every single word with great care.)

How to Get a Decent AWA Score… With Minimal Effort

When I wrote about the people who read (or skim) your MBA essays , I claimed that you should strive to make your application essays interesting. You want admissions committees to read your application carefully and enthusiastically, right? 

For the AWA, you don't necessarily care if the human grader (or the GMAT computer) actually reads your essay. You just want to earn a decent score, without exerting too much effort – especially if you choose to do the IR and AWA sections at the beginning of the exam . If you can conserve energy during the GMAT AWA section, you'll be much sharper when you battle the (far more important) quant and verbal sections.

So focus on structure on GMAT AWA, even if that means that you produce an essay that would, under normal circumstances, seem like a crappy, contrived piece of writing. Don't beat around the bush: every paragraph should start by clearly stating the main point of the paragraph. The entire GMAT AWA essay should start with a crystal-clear thesis statement. Somebody should be able to read the first sentence of each paragraph, and still basically understand the entire essay. 

Just make sure that you leave a few minutes to proofread your AWA essay, simply to avoid committing any egregious grammar, usage, and spelling errors. If this means that you don't write a terribly long essay, that's fine – quality matters more than quantity.

Honestly, it's almost that simple. If you lay out your argument in a completely clear, five-paragraph format, you'll be in good shape, especially if your writing mechanics (grammar, usage, etc.) are basically solid. 

You might ultimately write an essay that is about as much fun to read as a phone book... but fun isn't really the point of the GMAT, is it?

Learn more about the GMAT:

How to Calculate GMAT Scores

GMAT Integrated Reasoning Might Be Really Important... In 2027

Don’t Let the GMAT Forums Fool You

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What’s a good gmat writing score does the essay matter.

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How much does your GMAT writing score really matter? Business schools only release GMAT score data for their students’ Total scores, so it can be difficult to find information about what constitutes a “good” or “bad” GMAT writing score and how important your GMAT analytical writing score really is.

Luckily, we’ve done the research and figured out the answers for you. In this post, we’ll tell you what business schools have to say about the Analytical Writing Assessment, how they weigh it against other parts of your GMAT score and your overall application, and how your score stacks up against other test-taker worldwide. Finally, we’ll help you figure out what a good GMAT analytical writing score is for you .

How Is the GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment Scored?

The Analytical Writing section is graded on a scale of 0-6 in half-point increments . According to the GMAC AWA score guide, 6 is considered “outstanding,” 5 is “strong,” 4 is “adequate,” 3 is “limited,” 2 is “seriously flawed,” and a 1 is considered “fundamentally deficient.” Like the Integrated Reasoning score, the GMAT writing score does not factor into your Total GMAT score ,  which is why it’s generally considered to be less important.

Your AWA essay is graded once by a human and once by a sophisticated computer grading program called E-Rater . If the two scores are identical or differ by one point, they are averaged to obtain the final score for that essay. If the scores differ by more than one point, an expert human reader will step in and determine the final score.

Graders are trained to consider the following when assigning a score:

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Along with your scaled score, you will also be given a percentile ranking , which corresponds to the percentage of test-takers whom you scored higher than. For example, if you scored in the 80th percentile on the AWA section, this means you did better on that section than 80% of people who took the exam. This percentile is based on the last three years of GMAT scores, so if you took the test in 2014, your 80th percentile score would encompass all GMAT-takers from 2012 through 2014.

Thus, while scaled scores are static, percentiles can (and do) change over time. Percentiles help contextualize your scores by comparing them with those of other applicants, and they are assessed by business schools along with the scaled score to see how you measure up.

Percentiles help business schools compare your scores to other applicants

GMAT Writing Score Averages and Percentiles

Most test-takers score highly on the Analytical Writing Assessment: almost half of all test takers score a 5 or higher.  The average GMAT Analytical Writing score is a 4.37.

Below are the current percentile rankings for GMAT Analytical Writing scores.

What’s a Good GMAT Writing Score Overall?

Remember, there’s no score on any section of the GMAT—even an 800 Total score—that is guaranteed to get you into your top choice business school. Plus, your AWA score is certainly the least influential score one way or the other. Business schools definitely care far more about your Total score, and it’s likely that they care more about your IR score as well. While no part of the GMAT should be neglected , the AWA is the bottom of the GMAT totem pole in terms of your MBA application.

The ultimate takeaway is that a good GMAT writing score is is the one that doesn’t hinder your acceptance into the MBA program of your choice . We say “doesn’t hinder” rather than “gets you into” because the majority of test-takers do very well on the AWA, which makes it hard to get a score that truly stands out. Even if you score a perfect 6, that’s unlikely to be impressive enough to boost an otherwise so-so Total score , or a poor GPA , etc. In fact, the difference between a 5 and a 6 isn’t going to affect your application much, if at all.

Statements from the GMAC itself confirm this: they explicitly advise business schools to “not make distinctions among applicants on the basis of a small scoring distinction—one point or less apart.”

So while it’s hard to stand out, on the other hand, the fact that almost half of test-takers score a 5 or above is an encouraging sign: with just a little bit of prep , you can easily achieve a GMAT analytical writing score of 5 or higher.

One thing to note is that even though the AWA isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, scoring below a 4 could raise a red flag . Business schools say very little about how they weigh the AWA, but a low score like a 3.5 might signal to them that your writing skills aren’t developed enough to handle the rigorous coursework of an MBA program. More importantly, a huge gap between the writing level reflected in your AWA and the writing level reflected in your application essay is disconcerting in that it calls into question your authorship of the latter.

The GMAC itself advises business schools to “consider that the scores are based on 30-minute, first-draft writing samples” and cautions that these essays “are not comparable to prepared essays that may be submitted with a school application.” The GMAC rather recommends that business schools use the AWA as a “diagnostic tool in recommending or requiring additional instruction in writing,” though it’s unclear how much universities actually carry this out.

Just a few hours of AWA prep toward the end of your GMAT study schedule will go a long way.

In Summary: What’s a Good GMAT Writing Score for Me?

As a baseline, a 5 is considered a strong GMAT essay score. At a 5 or above, you’ll essentially be fine in that your GMAT essay score won’t hinder your application. For the vast majority of schools, a 5 is a good score.

However, if you’re applying to some top 10 business schools , you might want to push yourself further. To be safe, you should aim to score a perfect 6, or at least a 5.5. A 5.5 or above puts you in the top 20%, which is a safe area to be in for the AWA for an elite MBA program.

A 4.5 is generally an “okay” score. A 4 or below puts you under the average, which could hurt you if you’re an international applicant or if your application essay is far better. If you’re scoring 4.5s or below on practice tests, this signals that you could use a little extra AWA prep before taking the GMAT for keeps.

What’s Next?

Looking to raise your GMAT essay score? Creating an AWA template is an excellent method.

Also, be sure to read through  our essential AWA tips  and guide to approaching every kind of GMAT essay prompt .

Happy studying!

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Author: Jess Hendel

Jess Hendel is a Brooklyn-based academic advisor, test prep tutor, and content writer for PrepScholar. A graduate of Amherst College, she has several years of experience writing content and designing curricula for the top e-learning organizations. She is passionate about leveraging new media and technology to help students around the world achieve their potential. View all posts by Jess Hendel

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How Does Analytical Writing Affect GMAT Score?

Every student who aspires to take a GMAT test and pass it successfully knows the exam’s structure inside and out. One of these parts is essay writing. Since recently, the test consists of two writing pieces, the Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning. Such a decision of the Graduate Management Admission Council might make some exam takers to assume that the essay has a greater impact on their GMAT score, and its significance is even bigger now. However, this is not the case.

All the GMAT booklets from any business school will say that every section of the test matters equally for the score, and failing any of it will be the full stop for your application. This is a touching pep-talk that does not correspond to actual life. Even some professors from these business schools admit that the results you will receive for analytical writing have little weight if any at all. But one should not assume that this part of the test can be skipped or paid zero attention to. At this point, we have to understand what value the Analytical Writing carries for the school admission panel.

Things to Be Considered in Analytical GMAT Writing

When we talk about Integrated Reasoning , the point of it is to show that you can reason, obviously, and validate your opinion on the matter. As for the Analytical Writing Assessment, to be successful you have to present arguments while avoiding expressing personal points of view. Although you are not supposed to put your opinions, the practice shows that it is better to counter in the essay rather than simply analyze the problem as it is.

The main thing here is to demonstrate your abilities as a logical and analytical thinker. You will need to find at least three logical errors, describe them using relevant arguments, and give some recommendations on solving of the problems. Taking such an approach will give you more chances to get a high score for this part of the test.

You will have only 30 minutes, but you will see it is more than enough for that section. Do not try to go into deep reasoning, and better leave it for the second essay. Here are some things that you should pay attention to while analyzing the given statement that the author has used for reasoning:

You should place each point that you want to talk about in a separate paragraph. This way, your essay will receive a standard structure, which significantly affects its final score.

student happy with her gmat score

Do Not Skip the Analytical Writing Section

It will be honest to say that the score for analytical writing is not very useful. And taking too much time to get ready for this part of the exam is not worth the effort. Even some admission panel members may say that the Analytical Writing score does not matter to them when it comes to considering students’ applications.

Today, the essay is evaluated by a computer. It distinguishes the pattern and particular keywords. Some students might think that skipping the essay or writing only a couple of sentences would be reasonable, as the essay itself has any significance. And this is a completely wrong assumption.

First of all, some schools do require the Analytical Writing score to be more than just a zero. The other aspect that should motivate you is creating a favorable student image. If you skip the essay or write it just for the sake of it, the admission council might be discouraged by your attitude. Another thing is that the analytical writing part can be somewhat of a warmup before the rest of the exam. It can help you dive into the testing atmosphere and get your mind going.

GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment: How to Get Prepared

As you already know, you will have to write two essays for the GMAT test. You will get marks out of 6 depending on the quality of the writing. The score for the essay does not affect the out of 800 score for the exam. And consequently, it is not worth it to spend a lot of time preparing for the writing sections of the test. It is better to focus on the Verbal and Quantitative sections as they comprise your admission score. But you should take some time to get prepared and practice a little so as not to get confused when you receive your topic.

As soon as the topics are published, you can start researching them and getting ready for the writing. If it is your first attempt of taking your GMAT exam, you will need a little bit of help with it. And it is better to find a professional one.

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(GMAT) Do IR and AWA scores matter?

Zero Percent Financing's picture

Do the people at admissions for MBA programs care about the Integrated Reasoning and Analytical Writing Assessment scores? I just began studying for the GMAT and the book mentions that the gmat score is computed only from the quantitative and verbal sections. This could make sense because I have yet to see anyone here talk about their IR or AWA scores.

does gmat essay matter

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Comments ( 115 )

PapaMSU's picture

I think most people will tell you just don't bomb them. I think a 5/6IR and a 4AWA will get a pass, not sure though. Maybe some admitted people could share their Total and their IR/AWA

Frank Slaughtery - Certified Professional

i think IR is too new to matter at all. If you're a native english speaker,theres really no reason you cant get a minimum of 5 on the AWA. i read this ( and never did any AWA practice and got a 6.

John-Doe8 - Certified Professional

Not even looked at for my school or any employers

gmatquantum's picture

IR is still too new and I haven't heard schools taking the IR seriously as of now, however a 7 or 8 is a good target. As for the AWA, make sure you get a respectable score, 5.5 or higher. If the admissions committee sees a highly polished essay and then see a score of 4,then that can raise red flags.

TwoThrones - Certified Professional

AWA does not matter AT ALL unless you are an international and they question your English ability. IR is actually kind of hard because of time constraints and digesting a lot of information. That being said, it is again useless and I think a 4 is fine.

I did get an 8 on my IR, but I think I got lucky because it was a joke compared to any practice I took. - Certified Professional

300+ video lessons across 6 modeling courses taught by elite practitioners at the top investment banks and private equity funds -- Excel Modeling -- Financial Statement Modeling -- M&A Modeling -- LBO Modeling -- DCF and Valuation Modeling -- ALL INCLUDED + 2 Huge Bonuses.

I got an 8 IR too, hoping it carries some weight, haha.

bakeasian's picture

The IR does carry some weight when it comes to MBB recruiting. Bain apparently has started using the IR as a proxy measurement when filtering out applicants. For MBA admissions, as others have mentioned, it is still too new for adcom to properly gauge.

Interesting, so MBB has it figured out, but not the guys who let those students in?

YoshiIsAwesome - Certified Professional

Really? Where did you hear this? That's pretty surprising given that the IR is only a short 30 minute section and it seems as though it could suffer from idiosyncratic performance fluctuations given the small # of questions. Seems odd that they'd use this... and this is coming from someone who scored an 8 on the IR.

YoshiIsAwesome: Really? Where did you hear this? That's pretty surprising given that the IR is only a short 30 minute section and it seems as though it could suffer from idiosyncratic performance fluctuations given the small # of questions. Seems odd that they'd use this... and this is coming from someone who scored an 8 on the IR.

I think IR is a much better indicator of your performance in consulting than sentence correction or solving a quadratic equation. In a short time frame (as consulting always gives tight deadlines), you need to navigate ambiguity and analyze data. I think it would be a better indicator for certain employers than for adcoms. Not to say its the best, and you are right that your performance really will fluctuate. I was scoring between 2 and 6 on my practice IR tests (took about 8 of them). On top of that, it is not computer adaptive so everyone gets the same questions.

Not sure if Bain followed through with using the IR as a measurement.

RX_MVP's picture

Instead of thinking how important IR/AWA are, why not just work on it a bit to get a high score?

Non-native English speaker here. Didn't practice IR/AWA outside OG content (only write like 1-2 AWA topics), got 6 AWA 8 IR. I think it is much easier than verbal section.

CRE - Certified Professional

As someone who regularly dominates the parts of standardized tests that don't matter, as opposed to my performance in the parts that do matter, I can attest to them not mattering. Also, :(

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proetcontra - Certified Professional

IR would not be a problem if you learn quant part good, and awa is super easy if you use the template that can be found on gmatclub

LiamNeeson's picture

What looks better?

Option 1: gmat score 720 with AWA 6 and IR 8 Option 2: GMAT Score 740 with AWA 3 and IR 2

I'd happily pick the former option.

Betsy Massar - Certified Professional

I was at a GMAC (the people who run the GMAT) presentation a while ago and they had early initial data that showed a high correlation between IR scores and the GMAT quant section of the test -- so that argues for admissions committees to look more at quant scores than IR scores, since they have more data on student MBA performance and quant success. Yes, they track this stuff.

Having said that, schools also like to see as much data as possible, so there's no harm in having a great IR score.

Here are more details in a Poets & Quants article which describes a Kaplan (which owns Manhattan GMAT) survey that

found that 60% of the 204 responding admission officers say the IR score is not an important part of their evaluation of a student's overall GMAT score.

So no, it's not important, but if it's really low, it could raise a red flag. And if it is high -- it probably tracks well with the rest of your score.

Zero Percent Financing's picture

Thank you everyone for your input. I'll try to keep those scores up.

lightwing's picture

GMAT AWA 4.5...:( ( Originally Posted: 07/07/2007 )

I have a questions with my GMAT AWA score. I took it on the last Friday and got 4.5. Although many people say that the writing is not important, and I see none of b-schools releases the statistics about AWA scores of admitted applicants, however, somehow I think that in the peer group of top school applicants (say Wharton, Chicago...), it is still relatively lower than in the whole pool of GMAT takers and thus becomes a disadvantage.

Whay do you guys think? Should I retake the exam shortly? Thanks very much for reading my post.

Restructure This - Certified Professional

What were the other scores?

If you take it again, make sure you have a strategy to improve the essay.

Princeton Review's "Verbal Workout" is the best resource. Master the exercises and you can get a 6, then you won't need to worry.

kjl - Certified Professional

If you have a good overall score, I'd say to not do it again. IMHO, if you're sitting on a 730 and a 4.5, it probably wouldn't be worth the shot to improve the AWA.

I too am of the school of thought that AWA is a load of crap. If they doubt your writing abilities, write a kick ass essay.

skiloa's picture

You're done.

Kidding aside, I don't think it matters. If you're foreign, they may take it into account.

smuguy97 - Certified Professional

I am in the same boat lightwing. Scored 770 on the test and 4.5 on AWA, which was a bit disappointing / embarrassing when I received my AWA scores in the mail.

I have been advised that the AWA is in fact just as worthless as I had originally been led to believe from reading GMAT prep materials. As Skiloa referenced, this can be a determining factor for foreigners; however, for others the test is widely viewed as a poor proxy for written communication skills (particularly since the scoring "buckets" are so large and the criteria is so subjective).

Apparently, application essays are used as the primary determinant of your written communication abilities.

Jimbo - Certified Professional

lightwing: I have a questions with my GMAT AWA score. I took it on the last Friday and got 4.5. Although many people say that the writing is not important, and I see none of b-schools releases the statistics about AWA scores of admitted applicants, however, somehow I think that in the peer group of top school applicants (say Wharton, Chicago...), it is still relatively lower than in the whole pool of GMAT takers and thus becomes a disadvantage. Whay do you guys think? Should I retake the exam shortly? Thanks very much for reading my post.

how do you know your awa scores so quickly?

I assume that he meant he took the test on the Friday before last. Still, my scores took at least a couple of weeks (maybe it was more like 3 weeks) before arriving.

Unless something has changed since I took the test, you still have to wait to have the AWA scores mailed as part of your official score report.

aceman's picture

Don't worry about the AWA seriously...they'll look at your undergrad academics, your GMAT verbal score, your essays in the apps, the interview, etc. There's a million ways to gauge your english ability. I don't think any school takes it seriously, unless you get a 2 or something.

For example, I took the GMAT twice, once 5.5 and once 4.5. The only difference is that I wrote one less paragraph in the lower score, quality of the writing is the same. So basically the AWA is BS , and bschools know that.

Just get the main score within your target school's middle 80%, that's it.

OnTheBeach - Certified Professional

GMAT - Best way to study for AWA? ( Originally Posted: 08/13/2007 )

For those of you who did well on the AWA portion of the GMAT , how did you prepare?

Disjoint - Certified Professional

Just know that the AWA is not very important compared to your overall score, as long as you do not score below 4.5 you should be fine. On another note, read some GMAT books and look at the plans they use to organize their essays.

I want to work now! No, really. I want those 100+ hours/week.

junkbondswap - Certified Professional

Don't study for the AWA. If you can't write a succinct, semi-coherent 5 paragraph essay then you should probably not go to b-school. AWA is essentially irrelevant unless you are an international student or there is a huge discrepancy between your AWA writing ability and application essays (i.e. because you didn’t write them!).

ideating - Certified Professional

Yeah not worth studying for the AWA. In one of my review books there was a sample 6, 4, and 2 essay for both argument and issue and just reading those was the only preparation I did, and I got a 5.5. One good piece of advice I got which helped a lot, spend between 8-12 min. planning out your essay. If you get a rock-solid plan, typing it out takes very little plan and obviously makes your essay very well-organized.

I used Princeton Review's "Verbal Workout" for the GMAT and did about 6 or 7 timed practice essays.

poohead's picture

AWA and the GMAT ( Originally Posted: 04/05/2008 )

I've been hearing a lot about GMAT overall scores but have rarely heard about the AWA and admissions.

I was wondering, how the AWA impacts admissions, if it does at all? Will it also affect the way how admissions interpret your GMAT score? e.g. you did very well on the Verbal section but did poorly/average on the AWA?

In my old GMAT days what I remember from all the collective information I read was: What matters is your overall gmat score , your AWA does not matter as much AS LONG AS it is a 5 or above. If it is below a 5 the admission committee might have some questions about your abilities, but that's it. You really have to be dyslexic to get below a 5 though, and if you do, you can practice the AWA. I did not open a single book to train for the AWA section, as long as you listened in high school English you should be fine.

Remember, you will always be a salesman, no matter how fancy your title is. - My ex girlfriend

FinanceABC123's picture

High GMAT , low AWA. Retake? ( Originally Posted: 07/15/2011 )

I just took the GMAT and scored a 760 (99%, 50Q, 42V), 5-AWA (57%). I was wondering whether to retake the GMAT to get a higher AWA score. I'm from a top public University (UVa, UMich, Berk) with an engineering background and a 3.9+ GPA . I am trying to get into H/S/W, as are many on WSO .

Also, how would the adcoms use the AWA score? Am I the only one who finds it a bit random compared to the rest of the GMAT ?

Thanks a ton! PS- I apologize for sounding stupid/insecure/vain, but I would really appreciate a second opinion.

whateverittakes - Certified Professional

Very poor troll job.

shorttheworld - Certified Professional

Buyside CFA's picture

A few consultants have said that AWA is not important. I am not 100% sure on that. I believe that they can determine your writing ability by reading your essays.

wannabe2013 - Certified Professional

I would not think twice about taking it again (unless you are foreign born)

Your awa score will not factor i\in the evaluation if you scored that well in verbal, and write strong essays.

frgna - Certified Professional

SB if you post the gist of your essays and the questions - did you just not try hard? I got a 6.0 and at one point referred to the fact that Chinese people love chopsticks and will probably never let them go, even though they are well aware of the fork (thanks Jerry Seinfeld)

The question asked whether the advancement/spread of technology means that cultures over time will fade and we will just become one monotonous culture.

To your question on what the adcoms use it for, it's much more relevant for non-native english speakers. For natives, it's usually not really factored in. In your case, they'll probably just say hey, he must not have tried that hard or focused on it, but no big deal as he's clearly smart and knows english.

Aaaaaand just realized this is from 2011, not 2012. I was wondering how you posted in the future on July 15 and wanted to see your time machine. Crap.

Sten_Biller's picture

Decent GMAT , low AWA, am I screwed? ( Originally Posted: 06/18/2015 )

So I just got my official scores in with a 740 overall (42V,49Q,8IR) but only scored a 5 on AWA. My goal is a top-10 program, so would it be worth retaking to try and bump that up?

FinanceGuy15 - Certified Professional

What are your other stats? WE? Etc? That GMAT is a great score, BTW. The AMA is ok, and honestly I believe schools really only care about the overall score and the Q vs Verbal split. I think you're fine, but then again I know nothing else about you.

Starting my first FT job this summer for a BB in a MO role, so I wouldn't be looking towards b-school for another 3-4 years. Academics are solid (3.5+ from a top 30 UG) with some ECs and worked part-time during most of it.

The thing I was told by a (very well known) admissions consultant is to think about your GPA and GMAT as the hurdle rate. They can get your stats from anyone. What else do you bring to the table? Your role is ok. Not great, but definitely not bad. Where is your MO role? Location, role, group, etc?

PM'd you details. But that's probably a good way to think about it, as long as my AWA is over that hurdle then I'm not too concerned then.

BreakingOutOfPWM - Certified Professional

What the hell is wrong with a 5 AWA? You're one point from the top bucket. The only reason you should retake the GMAT is if you want to tutor.

BreakingOutOfPWM: What the hell is wrong with a 5 AWA? You're one point from the top bucket. The only reason you should retake the GMAT is if you want to tutor.

I was worried only being in the 60th percentile would look bad for some of the better programs

AWA is the least important part of you B-school application. And no one will even ask about it during your job interviews.

I re-took my GMAT , and I just skipped the IR and AWA portions altogether.

curryfavor's picture

Sorry if this is a naïve q, How do you skip the IR and AWA portions on the re-take? Is this a new thing? And how is it viewed by schools?

agreed with the other posters - your GMAT is fine and you shouldn't retake. Youshould really try to get into a FO role over the next few years though. It's doable to go from BO /MO to top 10 (@opsdude1" is living proof), but it's way tougher.

Attack_Chihuahua - Certified Professional

Frank Slaughtery: agreed with the other posters - your GMAT is fine and you shouldn't retake. Youshould really try to get into a FO role over the next few years though. It's doable to go from BO /MO to top 10 ( @opsdude1 is living proof), but it's way tougher.

Or, alternatively, look for roles where you have direct reports. Some schools put an emphasis on that.

Double Doubler - Certified Professional

My GMAT was 700 (Q49/V35 - I shit the bed on the verbal), with an AWA of 6.0/6.0. I can tell you that not a single person has every asked me (including the recruiters) about the AWA or the Q and V scores. The only thing anyone has ever asked me was: "What did you get on the GMAT ?", expecting to hear a single concise number.

Don't waste your time retaking the GMAT for the AWA, no one cares. Totally agree with FinanceGuy15 above, too.

Khayembii - Certified Professional

LOL a 740 is "decent" now?

Tell me about it.

Khayembii: LOL a 740 is "decent" now?

privateequityVP - Certified Professional

AWA of 5 is more than fine.

jordock's picture

Low AWA Score ( Originally Posted: 09/12/2012 )

I just found out the results from my GMAT. While I did better than expected on the rest of the exam (780 (50Q/47V) - 99% (90%Q/99% V) and 8 - 92% IR), I did really poorly on the AWA (4.0 - 20%).

It was my first time taking the exam and as I only spent two weeks in preparation, I didn't spend any time reviewing or preparing for this section. I went off on a long tangent and ended up running out of time before I could add the additional points I needed to round out my essay. As a native speaker and relatively strong writer, I'm frustrated because I know I could have done much better on the essay.

Would this score hurt my chances for getting into a top 10 program (assuming the rest of my background is sufficient)? Would it be worth retaking the exam? I'm reluctant to spend another $250 and a half day of my time given my overall score can't really go anywhere but down. I'd hope my essays & undergraduate GPA could alleviate any concerns regarding my writing ability.

Thanks for your perspective.

acrew09 - Certified Professional

Also interested in this - I'm sort of in the same boat. Went to a liberal arts college and got great grades in writing courses, but messed up the AWA because I didn't take it that seriously.

IlliniProgrammer - Certified Professional

Paging Betsy Massar.

GS - Certified Professional

You got a 780 with two weeks of preparation? This seems a bit hard to swallow

EDIT - Wait - my 51Q 47V is also a 780. Are the buckets larger at the top? (i.e 770 to 780 needs bigger jump than 760 to 770?)

@OP: 4.5 is generally the acceptable limit. But , they might wink at it.

I've always been a strong test taker (with the exception of timed essays). Given my results on the first of two free GMATPrep practice exams, I knew I was shooting for something around 750 and I decided to take the test before leaving for a two week vacation so I could relax with a clean slate.

jordock: I've always been a strong test taker (with the exception of timed essays). Given my results on the first of two free GMATPrep practice exams, I knew I was shooting for something around 750 and I decided to take the test before leaving for a two week vacation so I could relax with a clean slate.

In that case - retake it after some more intense study - try to get your AWA to 6.0 and shoot for a 790.

OK, thinking about it more.

The bad AWA and great verbal is such an aberration that adcoms will just plain wonder, as we are all doing here on this forum.

At best they will wink at it and check your logic out in the interview (the AWA is not about grammar, but being able to put a logical argument together under a short time), and at worst they will think you are a natural genius at test taking but a slacker. And business schools don't like slackers.

If indeed you are a good at this stuff, suck it up and take it over. I think they would expect that of you.

More seriously - there's the danger of them thinking (with your score) that you just wrote some incoherent nonsense in the essay so that you could save your energy for the main event. And that's the main issue here. Otherwise , it's quite obvious that the AWA score has no relationship with how lucid your writing actually is.

Vyraal - Certified Professional

I'm under the impression that AWA can be overwritten by amazing MBA essays. I also assume that a solid critical reasoning performance (since you did pretty well on Verbal) is very similar to AWA? (at least that's how i worked for me, I used the same principles in my critical reasoning prep as my AWA). I'd totally switch places with you.

seamlessftw - Certified Professional

jordock: I'd hope my essays & undergraduate GPA could alleviate any concerns regarding my writing ability.
Vyraal: I'm under the impression that AWA can be overwritten by amazing MBA essays.

NOT TRUE. If your application essays are spectacular and your AWA score is low, admissions officers will suspect that somebody else wrote your application essays.

Definitely not worth the risk -- I would retake and get a higher AWA score.

Are you on a deadline of some sort or can you wait and retake?

No particular deadline. I'd just prefer not to retake it unless I have to.

LAWM - Certified Professional

What's the average AWA score for H/W/S? Or any top school?

Even the schools themselves don't know.

At least 5.5 is the norm

Thanks for your insights. I won't be able to retake the exam for another couple of weeks so I'll take some time to weigh my options and consider my strategy. As my missteps were related to preparation & time management (along with my slow typing speed) as opposed to writing or analytical ability, I'm confident I can improve my AWA score.

ReluctantMBA's picture

I've heard that a 4.0 is the lowest acceptable score on the AWA. I don't know if it's worth a retake in order to bump that up. I don't think that would keep you from getting the interview.

CX1988 - Certified Professional

710... But bombed AWA portion ( Originally Posted: 03/12/2015 )

Took the GMAT for the third and final time last month- finally hit 700+ with a 710 (48q/38v). However, I scored a god-awful 4.0 on the writing section. I'm a native-born US citizen and current military officer. Any chances that this would hamper my application chances to top-10 schools?

Revul's picture

That sucks, I assume you've seen the 'this is how you get 6.0' template? Works like a charm. Either way GMAT raw score and GPA (+ where you went) will matter a ton more than the AWA. Top 10 is a bit of a crap shoot with low 700s. A well written essay will show you can write, and just the GMAT essay tripped you up.

Revul: That sucks, I assume you've seen the 'this is how you get 6.0' template? Works like a charm. Either way GMAT raw score and GPA (+ where you went) will matter a ton more than the AWA. Top 10 is a bit of a crap shoot with low 700s. A well written essay will show you can write, and just the GMAT essay tripped you up.

Actually didn't study for the AWA that much, since I recieved a 5.0 on this first time around... I guess I got complacent. I feel like I am on the bubble for top-10 given my undergrad backgroud, I have a 3.6 GPA from a large state school.

LongandShortofit - Certified Professional

It's not as easy to explain away as the writing portion of the LSAT, which is given at the end of the test, but I doubt they really care if you have a good essay.

AWA scores don't really matter. IR matters less. There are schools that don't even look at them; can't speak for top 10 schools but can speak for some schools in the 20-30 range.

As mentioned previously, your essay will show your writing style. Don't worry about it.

When do you separate? Depending on your career goals, there are some great veteran programs you should get involved with. PM me if you care

Doesn't matter. You did fine on verbal and a native speaker. They don't care about that section

Butler4MVP's picture

I did worse and don't feel like it hurt me at all. My overall score was higher though. I felt like it was a blessing in disguise honestly - it made me focus a lot more on communication which in turn helped my essays and interviews.

Sil - Certified Professional

If you decide to take it again, Google "chinese burned awa", and click on the first link. I spent ten minutes studying that template and got a 5.0 (or maybe 5.5, cannot remember).

That's good to hear. Obviously I wish I would've looked at that damn template beforehand. I am not taking it again, that test is brutal haha. I just hope they don't assume that someone else wrote my essays...

FMonkeys - Certified Professional

How important is AWA score? ( Originally Posted: 03/05/2007 )

The thing is I got a 780+3.5, which looks pretty not that consistent.... Hence I'm wondering whether I should re-take the test. Can anyone let me know how importance is the AWA score in admission? Considering my overall profile: 2 year BB experience (think MS, GS), now at a tier-1 PE firm (think KKR , TPG). Is the AWA score too low?

Bucs47 - Certified Professional

That is a little odd, but I do not think anyone is going to care about your AWA score with the 780. Thats a great number. No one questioned my AWA score in an interview. I personally would not take the test again for that.

Bucs47: That is a little odd, but I do not think anyone is going to care about your AWA score with the 780. Thats a great number. No one questioned my AWA score in an interview. I personally would not take the test again for that.

Agree, it will not matter. But gotta did you score that low? I'll trade you 1.5 points on my AW for 35 points of your cumulative.

I've heard the adcoms really only look at them hard if the candidate is ESL. I think at the most they'd say "that's a little weird, he must've just not prepped it at all..."

Make sure your essays show you know how to write and you should be fine.

okay24 - Certified Professional

How did you do on IR?

FMonkeys: The thing is I got a 780+3.5, which looks pretty not that consistent.... Hence I'm wondering whether I should re-take the test. Can anyone let me know how importance is the AWA score in admission? Considering my overall profile: 2 year BB experience (think MS, GS), now at a tier-1 PE firm (think KKR , TPG). Is the AWA score too low?

That is a bit strange. Are you a native speaker of English? Also, what did you get on your verbal percentage? They will look at that carefully. Also, did you take any courses in undergraduate that required you to read long passages and write papers?

Here is what Dee Leopold's, HBS admissions director said on June 1

" We are looking at subscores. The GRE and GMAT play different roles for different types of candidates. ... If we are looking at a candidate who is a strong engineer, taken tons of math and is working with numbers and analytical stuff all day, I don't think we need to pay terribly much attention to what their gmat quant scores are. We want to look at their GMAT verbal score because maybe their undergraduate work and maybe in their [full-time] work they are not having practice in terms of writing and reading long passages, so we want to make sure there's a level of comfort there."

acalik's picture

AWA Important or not? ( Originally Posted: 10/24/2009 )

Hello everyone; I am trying to take acceptance from one of the top 20 universities of U.S as an international applicant. The thing is, although I took 680 score, I skipped AWA essay part of GMAT somehow. I guess, I trusted my previous score of 6 from my previous trial of GMAT. What are your suggestions about this spesific case? Do I need to retake GMAT or do I have a chance to show my previous AWA score as a proof of my verbal capability? Thanks in advance for your helps.

BankonBanking - Certified Professional

Unfortunately, the way the GMAT works you will have to retake the test. The GMAT, unlike tests like the SAT (where you can mix and match sections), does not allow you to mix and match your best scores - in other words, your math, verbal and AWA all have to come from 1 exam. If you don't have an AWA score from your 680, it will appear that you got a 680 combined score and a 0 AWA. You cannot, unfortunately, use your AWA from the previous exam to count for this exam. Although you can send the school both scores, it will definitely be seen as quite odd when you show a 0 AWA from your most recent test (especially since many schools only really look at your one best overall test).

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BrianHunter - Certified Professional

GMAT AW and IR ( Originally Posted: 08/31/2017 )

Do you guys know if I can skip over analytical writing (AW) and integrated reasoning (IR) for the Uk universities? (MSc applicant)

Some universities - such as Bocconi - don't require it. About the Uk universities (LSE, Imperial etc.) I can't find anything.

This allow me to conserve energy for the Q and V sections. Furthermore, they don't factor into the 800.

Thank you so much.

Alessiod - Certified Professional

No Marcus, you cannot skip them. I have been told that EU universities do not look at AWA and IR at all, the only one stating a requirement I saw was Oxford, asking >5 in AWA.

If you struggle at keeping high level of concentration, then it could be handy to pick the order option with AWA and IR at the end after Q and V.

The Original Mark Hannah - Certified Professional

Echo this!!

Mr. Potato - Certified Professional

Since you can choose the order, pick V-Q-IR-AWA or Q-V-IR-AWA

axmal - Certified Professional

On the GMAT you can't choose anything! -> AWA-IR-Q-V Especially the verbal part at the end is exhausting!

I would take them all serious. It is quite easy to get a decent grade for AWA, if English is not you first language you can just learn a lot of intros / passages by heart and you are good to go. The layout of most of the essays is gonna be pretty standard. I personally thought that the IR was increadibly easy on the GMAT. Manhatten prep exams I was barely able to score 3-4 points and on the real exam I scored 8/8 and had plenty of time left.

Overall I would not worry about AWA and IR, however, keep in mind that with little effort you can get decent results.

As as a GMAT tutor - the general rule on both AWA and IR are "don't blow it". 5/6 on AWA is good. 6-8 on IR is fine. In the mid range for either is not worth retaking. If you totally blow one or the other, you might want to consider retaking. The schools might provide feedback for you if all the other pieces are in place.

Generally a 4+ on AWA is not hard if you learn how to construct a 5x5 essay. IR is its own beats; it can take some practice.

Not sure if EU schools are the same but that's our guidance across the pond.

Thank you so much, really valuable informations!! I'll follow your advice, +1

JB1995's picture

GMAT: Is there any reason to study for the IR/Essay portion of the GMAT? ( Originally Posted: 05/04/2017 )

I saw the GMAT website states "Your gmat score is based off of Quant and Verbal.....IR and Essay do not affect your total score"

That being said, is there any reason to study those sections?

HFFBALLfan123 - Certified Professional

JB1995: I saw the GMAT website states "Your gmat score is based off of Quant and Verbal.....IR and Essay do not affect your total score"That being said, is there any reason to study those sections?

IR and Essay are reported separately in your application. I'd review each for a max of 1 or 2 hours and you'll be fine. Don't want to totally blow it but also don't need to crush it (although it's very easy to get top scores in both).

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Home » Free GMAT Prep » Does GMAT AWA Really Matter for B-School Admission?

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Does GMAT AWA Really Matter for B-School Admission?

Does GMAT AWA really matter for B-school admission? Read this article to find out if it does or does not. 

The AWA section in the GMAT is one of four exam sections in the popular standardised exam, the GMAT. In the Analytical Writing Assessment section of the GMAT, or AWA for short, you are expected to write an essay. You will be allotted 30 minutes to present your response to the ‘Analysis of An Argument’ question. 

Generally, GMAT aspirants tend to focus mainly on the Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections. However, the AWA is considered very important from the perspectives of B-schools. Your AWA essay is an indicator of how well you can formulate your thoughts and arguments and present them in a way that is coherent and incisive. Your ability to participate in and contribute to class discussions, conduct scholarly research, and communicate effectively will be judged initially  based on your AWA performance. 

So, let’s see in detail why the AWA section is important and does the GMAT AWA really matter for b-school admission?

Why is the AWA Section Important?

When you submit your test, your Quant and Verbal scores immediately pop up on your screens, but your AWA score is nowhere to be found. This is because your essay will be evaluated by e-raters and human raters, and your score will appear on your final scorecard about two weeks from the date of your exam.

The AWA score can be a maximum of 6 marks, and is calculated with 0.5-point increments. You should aim to get an above average score of 4.5-5.5 in the AWA section, as this will be looked upon favourably by any B-school you apply to.

Your English language skills will be assessed through this section as well. You will be graded based on how well you are able to communicate your thoughts and ideas, and whether you are able to present your stand with clarity and assertiveness. These are all qualities that are expected in your writing as a business school aspirant.

For non-native English speakers, it is a bit challenging to do well in the AWA section. You can improve your grasp over the language by reading newspaper articles and other literature in English, or even take a crash course to help improve your skill. 

The hesitation to prepare for the AWA section is often twofold in most GMAT aspirants; they believe the section is not as important as the rest, and they also tend to be intimidated by the essay writing aspect of it. However, it would not be wise to neglect preparing for the section, and communicating your views well is an important trait for any business school student.

So, answering the question — does the GMAT AWA really matter for b-school admission? The answer is, yes it does. If you wish to do well on your GMAT, and get into your dream B-school, make sure to prepare well for the AWA as well as the other sections. Each section of the GMAT is important, and has been included in the test for a reason. If you focus on your preparation and are dedicated to it, there is no doubt that you will succeed in achieving your target score.

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does gmat essay matter

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does gmat essay matter


  1. What is the GMAT? An Introduction to the GMAT Exam

    does gmat essay matter

  2. What is the GMAT Exam?

    does gmat essay matter

  3. 40+ Gmat Essay Examples Score 6 most complete

    does gmat essay matter

  4. How to write a GMAT essay

    does gmat essay matter

  5. Magoosh GMAT Test Prep Course Review (For 2022)

    does gmat essay matter

  6. GMAT Essay Examples

    does gmat essay matter


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  1. What Is a “who Am I” Essay?

    A “who am I” essay is a simple type of open-ended introductory essay. It is used in certain schools, workplaces and around the world to help members of a group introduce themselves through their writing. They are generally about a page long...

  2. Best Way To Study For The GMAT: Tips And Resources

    Preparing for the GMAT? Find the tips and tricks you need to prepare, and to beat the GMAT and gain admission to an MBA program. Preparing for the GMAT? Find the tips and tricks you need to prepare, and to beat the GMAT and gain admission t...

  3. Definition and Examples of a Personal Essay

    A personal essay is a short work of autobiographical nonfiction characterized by a sense of intimacy and a conversational manner. A personal essay is a short work of autobiographical nonfiction characterized by a sense of intimacy and a con...

  4. Is AWA Important for the GMAT?

    Does AWA Go Toward Your GMAT Score? ... Only the Quant and Verbal sections of the GMAT are factored into your GMAT total score. So, neither the

  5. Do GMAT Integrated Reasoning and AWA matter for MBA admissions?

    GMAT Integrated Reasoning (IR) and Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) are the two sections whose scores are not counted towards the overall

  6. How important is AWA and IR : General GMAT Questions and

    As long as you have a 4.0 or higher they most likely won't even bother to read your essay as long as your total score is good. I have also read

  7. Analytical Writing Assessment GMAT How Much It Matters?

    Does Your Score In AWA Section On The GMAT Really Matter? ... The composite GMAT scores are constituted only with quant and verbal sections. AWA

  8. Why Does The GMAT AWA Section Matter?

    The Analytical Writing Assessment or AWA section of the GMAT does not contribute to the total GMAT score. But it does not mean that the

  9. Does the Analytical Writing Assessment section on the GMAT matter?

    Yes, the Analytical Writing Section (AWA) is mandatory on the GMAT. While you must complete the AWA section, you do have a choice of when you do that section.

  10. Nobody Reads Your Essays, Part II: AWA

    The AWA section has absolutely nothing to do with your composite score, and it therefore has no impact on MBA rankings. So most schools don't really give a

  11. What's a Good GMAT Writing Score? Does the Essay Matter?

    As a baseline, a 5 is considered a strong GMAT essay score. At a 5 or above, you'll essentially be fine in that your GMAT essay score won't

  12. How Does Analytical Writing Affect GMAT Score?

    The score for the essay does not affect the out of 800 score for the exam. And consequently, it is not worth it to spend a lot of time preparing for the writing

  13. (GMAT) Do IR and AWA scores matter?

    In my old GMAT days what I remember from all the collective information I read was: What matters is your overall

  14. Does GMAT AWA Really Matter for B-School Admission?

    The answer is, yes it does. If you wish to do well on your GMAT, and get into your dream B-school, make sure to prepare well for the AWA as well as