GMAT Essay Preparation Tips

The GMAT includes a 30-minute essay writing section to evaluate the students’ writing skills. This section is referred to as the Analytical Writing Assessment or AWA.

This essay you write for the AWA will be evaluated by a computer “bot” grading program, known as an E-rater, and it does this by scanning the essay. The E-rater and a GMAT essay grader will both give your essay scores. If they agree, then that’s the grade that your essay will be given; if not, a second GMAT grader will grade the essay to resolve the issue.

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The human graders follow the strict grading parameters of the E-rater because they are aware that there is a computer that double checks their work.


While you may have come across a few write-ups that downplay the importance of preparing for the AWA, it wouldn’t be wise to dismiss it altogether. Even a small amount of preparation for the essay section of the GMAT can go a long way towards contributing positively to your overall GMAT score. Nothing beats good grammar, concrete reasoning and clever observations when writing essays; however, these tips below will make for cogent writing, keeping in mind that your essay will be computer and human-graded.

Create Structure

While the impulse to rush given the 30-minute limit can be strong, it will be helpful to divide your essay into sections. Include an introductory paragraph, two or three content paragraphs as well as a conclusion. Try to work out an outline before you start writing. This will help the graders identify valuable points in your work, as opposed to having to make sense of a wall of text.

Use Transitions

Transitional words and phrases like “initially”, “however” and “consequently” will help the E-rater determine concepts within your essay.

Understand What is Being Asked of You

Make sure that you thoroughly read and comprehend the GMAT essay question before plunging ahead. Avoid going off on unnecessary tangents.


Leave a little time to proofread your essay at least twice. Check for grammar or spelling errors that could have easily escaped your attention the first time.

Prior to Taking the Test

You can practice writing under real conditions within the 30-minute time frame. There are numerous free GMAT practice tests that include the 30-minute AWA section included. Alternately, you can download the list of AWA essays from – there are two lists of more than 130 topics each. On the GMAT test day, you’ll get topics from this list. It is also recommended that you use writing software other than Microsoft Word, or any other program that includes a grammar or spell-checker.