How to Score a 6 on Your GMAT Essay Writing Score
Here is an example of a GMAT essay that earned the score of 6. Take a few moments to read it over. Below we will break down exactly how and why the piece was able to earn this score.
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When someone achieves greatness in any field such as the arts, science, politics, or business that person’s achievements are more important than any of his or her personal faults.
When individuals attain greatness, their achievements are more important than their personal faults. While historians should not whitewash the personal foibles of great individuals, the impact that these mortals have had in their fields should tower over any personality defects. To focus on the personal weaknesses of great individuals is to miss the importance of their achievements.
The course of human history is decorated with individuals able to rise above their peers and reach the zenith in their fields. These individuals are often the subject of intense scrutiny from contemporaneous skeptics and later historians. But no one can lead an exemplary private life all the time; no human being is able to withstand such surveillance and historical scrutiny without personal faults coming to light. Great individuals are no exception. However, it is misguided to focus on their personal faults rather than their achievements. To do so is to miss the importance of their work, without which our culture would be worse off.
For example, Abraham Lincoln was arguably one of the greatest Presidents the United States has ever had. He managed to bring the country through a substantial revolution and to end slavery despite powerful economic and social forces working against him day and night. However, Lincoln was not a saint. He was moody and prone to depressive funks that disrupted his family life and slowly eroded his marriage. These personal faults did not reduce his success as a President. While we do not have to ignore questions about whether he was a depressive, we also should not consider them an important part of his political heritage. In contrast, many people criticize Lincoln’s decision to suspend the right of habeas corpus. This (presumed) failing is not personal in nature, but relates directly to Lincoln’s work in his field. Criticisms of this sort are entirely relevant, whereas personal criticisms are not.
Another example of a great individual dogged by criticism of his personal conduct is Albert Einstein. Einstein developed a number of the most important theories in modern physics, including an explanation of the photoelectric effect, an explanation of Brownian motion, special and general relativity, and Bose-Einstein quantum statistics. Each one of these theories would have been considered a great life’s work for a scientist; for one man to contribute this much is remarkable. However, Einstein also had life-long problems with infidelity. The fact that he cheated on his wife is in no way relevant to his accomplishments in the field of physics, and indeed most references to Einstein properly ignore it. To focus attention on the faults of his personal life is to obscure the impact he made on history.
Great individuals have personal faults, as all human beings do. Yet it is incorrect to assert that these faults detract from those individuals’ accomplishments. We are better able to appreciate the gravity of great accomplishments when we are not burying our heads in the sand, in search of personal failings.
The essay above earned a 6 because it takes all five steps necessary for a perfect score on the AWA.
The thesis is extremely clear and concise. There is no ambiguity about how the author feels about the issue; she simply states her opinions with confidence and clarity. This section tests how well we can present a position on an issue effectively and persuasively and this author passes with flying colors.
The piece is also very well organized via the suggested intro-body-body-body-conclusion template. While she does deviate slightly from the suggested model by giving two examples rather than three, the first body paragraph strengthens the essay by lending heft and specificity to her position. Her two examples are very strong. President Lincoln is an ideal case study of a leader whose greatness should be not be obscured by his domestic doldrums (however interesting they may be to learn about). The same can be said with Einstein; his infidelities went to the grave with the women he may have wounded emotionally, while his work will live forever.
Additionally, the conclusion is substantial and does an excellent job of summing up the essay without sounding too much like the introduction. It is easy to recycle many clauses from the intro in the conclusion, but this author does a great job of restating the thesis without sounding overly redundant. Lastly, this essay is extremely well-written. The grammar and syntax are practically flawless; the author sounds knowledgeable but not pedantic.
Keep these steps in mind as you write your GMAT essay and you should have little trouble earning a score that is reflective of your overall b-school portfolio. Best of luck with your GMAT prep!
See an ideal GMAT AWA essay example.
In the previous post, I demonstrated some brainstorming and identified six objections to this argument. I then selected three of them as the basis of the essay that follows. This is one way to go about writing the essay.
In a memo to the president of Omega University, the music department chair argued that the university should expand the music-therapy program. This argument is substantially flawed. The argument presents inconclusive information, offering dubious support, and from this draws unreasonably far-reaching conclusions.
First main paragraph:
The evidence cited involves ambiguous language. For example, the argument asserts that the symptoms of mental illness are “less pronounced” after a group music-therapy sessions. Of course, calm music will have a soothing effect on almost anyone, but can this be considered a legitimate treatment for the mentally ill? Presumably, the benefits of music therapy are neither as powerful nor as long-lasting as those of appropriate medications. Simply by making the claim that symptoms are “less pronounced”, the author has failed to indicate whether the improvement is significant enough to merit any serious investment in this new field. The music chair also cites an “increase” in job openings in the field of music-therapy. This is another unfortunately indefinite word. The word “increase” might mean that music-therapy is a wildly burgeoning new field, although nothing suggests that this is the case. Alternately, the word “increase” might denote, for example, a rise from 60 jobs nationwide last year to 70 this year — admittedly, this is an increase, although a change across such small numbers hardly would be large enough to warrant any major modifications in a university’s programs.
Second main paragraph:
Having presented such questionable evidence, the music chair then draws a grand sweeping conclusion: the graduates of the university’s program will have “no trouble” finding jobs in this field. Quite rare is the combination of a vibrant professional field and a thriving economy, such that applicants entering this field have “no trouble” finding a job. Even if there is a plethora of jobs in this mental health niche, how do we know that these jobs would go to recent graduates of Omega University? Surely practitioners with years of experience, or recent graduates of more prestigious universities, would be preferred for such positions. Even interpreting the questionable evidence in its most optimistic light, we hardly can expect that this one field will explode with employment possibilities for Omega graduates. This conclusion is far too strong, and therefore the request for funding is not well justified.
Third main paragraph:
This music-therapy program is already in existence, so presumably it has already had graduates leave Omega University in pursuit of employment. Evidence that all these recent music-therapy graduates found robust job possibilities waiting for them would enormously strengthen the argument. Curiously, the music-director is silent on this issue. If we knew the employment statistics of these recent graduates, these numbers would help us to evaluate this argument better.
Fourth main paragraph:
The music chair draws another untenably strong conclusion when he asserts that expanding this program will “help improve the financial status of Omega University.” When alumni of a university make millions or even billions, and choose to give back in substantial amounts to their alma mater, that undoubtedly strengthens the financial standing of a university. We don’t know the specifics of jobs in music-therapy, but their salaries most certainly do not rival those of hedge fund managers; mental health services are clearly not a field in which practitioners routinely amass remarkable wealth. Even if the graduates of music-therapy had relatively good job prospects, which is doubtful, having a few more alumni with middle-class to upper-middle class incomes, who, if they choose, may make some modest contributions to, say, the university’s annual fund — this is not an impactful issue in the overall balance sheet of university’s total budget. The claim that these alumni will substantially improve the “financial status” of the university is hyperbolically overstated.
This argument is neither sound nor persuasive. The music director has failed to convey any compelling reasons for Omega University to expand the music-therapy program in his department.
This is a particular long and thorough sample essay, but it gives you an idea of what it takes to get a 6. In line with the AWA directions, notice that I organized, developed, and expressed my ideas about the argument presented. I provided relevant supporting reasons and examples — i.e. I didn’t just say, “This is bad,” but I provided a cogent and reasoned critique. Finally, I “controlled” the elements of standard written English: that is to say, (a) I made no spelling or grammar mistakes, (b) I used a wide vocabulary (not repeating any single word too much), and (c) I varied the sentence structure (employing subordinate clauses, parallelism, infinitive phrases, participial phrases, substantive clauses, etc.) As you write practice essays, check yourself afterwards: is every grammatical form commonly tests on GMAT Sentence Correction present in your practice essay? That is an excellent standard to use.
How important is it to get a 6 for the AWA? How important is the AWA section on the GMAT? As I discuss in that post, the AWA is clearly the least important part of the GMAT, less important than either IR or Quantitative or Verbal, but you can’t neglect it entirely. This sample essay should give you an idea of the standard for which to strive on the Analytical Writing Analysis.