GMAT Tips from Veritas Prep

A Universal Template for the AWA Essay: Part II


A Universal Template for the AWA Essay: Part II

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This tip for improving your GMAT score was provided by David Newland at Veritas Prep.

Part I of this article discussed a simple way to analyze the AWA prompt and to organize your essay. Now we can use this template to create an outline of an essay using an official GMAT AWA prompt.

Analyze the prompt.

Use the template to create an outline for an essay about this prompt: “The following appeared in an article in a travel magazine.

“After the airline industry began requiring airlines to report their on-time rates, Speedee Airlines achieved the number one on-time rate, with over 89 percent of its flights arriving on time each month. And now Speedee is offering more flights to more destinations than ever before. Clearly, Speedee is the best choice for today’s business traveler.”

When analyzing an argument, begin by identifying the main conclusion, then isolate the actual evidence given, and finally, pinpoint any subordinate conclusions or extended assumptions.

Now plug this information into the template.

For the introductory paragraph, be sure to mention that the article came from a travel magazine and briefly state the evidence and the conclusion. Then mention that the article is flawed. For this you can use a prepared sentence—given that all AWA prompts are flawed. My prepared sentence is: “The article is flawed because it relies on unfounded assumptions to reach a conclusion that is not supported by the evidence.”

Question the Evidence.

For the second paragraph, you can mention some possible problems with the factual or statistical evidence given. Many people are inclined to simply accept the basic evidence, but you can choose to write a paragraph questioning the source and the context of the evidence. In this argument, the evidence is: “After the airline industry began requiring airlines to report their on-time rates, Speedee Airlines achieved the number one on-time rate, with over 89 percent of its flights arriving on time each month.”

The ambiguity of this evidence provides you with the opportunity to ask several questions. Are the on-time rate standards the same for each airline, or does, for example, one airline count 30 minutes late as “on-time” while another airline considers that a “late arrival?” Does anyone verify the statistics that the airlines report? After all, airlines would have an incentive to inflate their numbers in order to achieve a higher rank. What is the context of this No. 1 ranking? Do the other airlines each have an 88.5 percent arrival rate (in which case the difference is small) or is Speedee No. 1 by a large margin?

Point out the Assumptions.

In the third paragraph, point out the weaknesses in the extended assumptions or subordinate conclusions that the argument makes. This argument states, “And now Speedee is offering more flights to more destinations than ever before.” This may appear to be evidence, but it is actually an assumption based on the prior sentence. Speedee’s 89 percent on-time rate is the only reason given for the conclusion that Speedee is the best choice for the business traveler.

Clearly, the argument assumes that, even with the additional destinations, Speedee will still have the top on-time rate. Is this assumption supported? The new destinations might be busier locations with more delays. The increased number of flights might cause more delays in the Speedee hub. The new destinations might bring more weather delays. In fact, there is no guarantee Speedee would maintain the on-time rate. Perhaps the period surveyed is the summer season and Speedee’s delays mainly occur in the winter. You need only to ask the questions; the argument needs to provide the answers.

Show that the Main Conclusion is not supported.

In the fourth paragraph, show that the main conclusion is not supported by the evidence. The main conclusions tend to be too broad and too ambitious for the evidence given. In this case, the main conclusion is “Speedee is the best choice for today’s business traveler.” This conclusion is intentionally flawed and gives you the opportunity to point out additional considerations (other than on-time arrival) that a business traveler might use as criteria, for example: safety record, cost, comfort, location of airports, frequent flier program, and availability of non-stop flights. The main conclusion is always flawed—usually in a big way.

Finally, wrap up the essay with a two or three sentence conclusion paragraph that summarize the points and reiterates that the conclusion is flawed. Frequently, test-takers take a moment here to indicate evidence that would improve the argument.

Treat the AWA as a flawed critical reasoning prompt. Analyze the evidence, the assumptions, and the main conclusion. Add strong transitions and pay attention to your grammar, and you will be on your way to a good AWA score and a strong start to your test!

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? Try our own new, 100 percent computer-adaptive free GMAT practice test and see how you do.


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