How to Prepare for AWA section in GMAT

AWA

The AWA (Analytical Writing Ability) is an important section in GMAT where you will be provided with a situation/ argument and will be asked to critically analyze the same.

My AWA score is 5.0 (out of 6) so I guess I can tell you how to prepare for this section.
I read two-three templates online just a day before exam to get myself acquainted with AWA. So you actually don’t need to invest much time to this. Here is the format I followed :-
1st Paragraph- Introduction
Identify the argument in this paragraph and mention the points put forward by author to support/refute the argument. Also mention if you find the author’s point valid or not.
2nd and 3rd Paragraph– Explain your own points. For example, if you are refuting the argument, provide two strong points why and based on what reasoning you are doing the same. Be concise and precise. Don’t digress beyond the scope.
4th Paragraph- Suggest ‘Remedies’ in this paragraph. It means, put forward some premises which could have made the author’s argument more valid and sensible.

5th Paragraph- Conclusion. Sum up the entire write-up.

Hope it helps. Use the FOLLOW button on the left side of the screen so that you get an email whenever I update a new blogpost. Also, Follow me on Quora as I have answered many questions regarding GMAT Preparation there.

My GMAT Debrief

Apologies for an extremely long post (as many people have inboxed, so I will write each and every detail and try to elaborate)

Date and Center- 3rd January 2016, Kormangala Bangalore
Score- 730 (Q 50, V 39) IR- 1 (was completely clueless here)
Attempt- 1st
Started Preparation during Mid November (exactly during Diwali vacations)
Schools targetting- I got an admit to ISB (Indian School of Business) through EEO (Early Entry Option). I will be joining batch of 2017-18.

I was never consistent while preparing and the major chunk of my studies happened in last 10 days. Neither did I take a single mock in one sitting.

Quant

I am not from Maths background so it was always a nightmare for me. Bought Manhattan Strategy Guide and completed all topics. Then got myself GMAT Club Tets, tried 10 questions from 700 level but couldn’t solve a single of them. Decided not to touch those questions. Solved around 100 600 level questions with 70-75% accuracy. Hence, out of 1500+ Questions in GC Tests, 1000 are still lying unsolved.

Did OG 2015 + Quant Review 2015 + OG 2016 + Quant Review 2016 cover to cover. Marked the questions I got wrong and revised a few days before exam. There are 25% new questions in 2016 versions of both the book and many questions which were present in 2015 editions are omitted from 2016 editions. So, it is a good idea to get all 6 books (OG 2015, VR 2015, QR 2015, OG 2016, VR 2016 and QR 2016).
I never solved Quants questions posted in this group as even the sight of them used to give me shivers.

Verbal

Got E-Gmat Verbal Online subscription. Its SC is amazing (but you still need to be thorough with OG). I didn’t find anything spectacular in its CR. Didn’t touch its RC (neither the lessons nor the questions). After finishing started with its Scholaranium (700+ Questions). Did around 150 questions from SC (82% accuracy) and 80-100 questions from CR (72% accuracy). Got bored and didn’t attempt the rest of the questions (So, 60-70% of my Scholaranium is left unsolved as well). As already mentioned, didn’t attempt its RC.

CR– I also tried to do CR from CR Powerscore Bible. Couldn’t solve many questions and gave up in the mid. CR was always frustrating for me. In the end, I decided to stick only with OGs and VRs (both 2015 and 2016 editions). Also did a few (around 60 ) questions from Gmat Prep Question Document downloaded from GmatClub three days before exam.

SC– Re-revised all questions from OG 2015, 16 and VR 2015,16 2-3 days before exam. Was confident as accuracy in these questions was 90% (and had done well in E-Gmat SCs as well).

RC– I had only attempted 5-6 RCs (all from OGs) before the actual exam. Comprehension was never an issue as I have been a voracious reader (My Goodreads analytics show that I have read 43 books in 2015 and 12,500 pages in total). Even last night before the exam, I read one short story by Alice Munroe.

Mocks- Princeton 1- 630, Princeton 2- 650, Gmat Prep 1- 700 (got a few questions which I had already solved before in Verbal) , Veritas- 650, Gmat Prep 2- 620 (10 days before the exam). Didn’t bother to look for the solution of questions I did wrong as I was too frustrated and had almost given up (But had to take the exam anyway as I had booked the dates during the beginning of preparation itself). Never took any mocks after that and decided to build upon what I already knew.

Exam Day

I had screwed up my sleep pattern during the last days (took 10 days off, used to study at night and sleep during the day time). As expected, couldn’t sleep for a single second last night. Kept revising SCs from OG and solved a few easy Quant questions (I had always known that I won’t be able to solve tough quants, hence I focussed on getting the easy ones correct no matter what). Reached near the center two hours ago, sat in CCD which is just in front of the centre. Had coffee and a sandwich. Just before entering the centre, popped up a Modafinil 200 mg (Google what it is) with a can of Red Bull and smoked an iceburst (to keep myself alert).

AWA- Had never practiced this before but wasn’t of much issue. Took 10 minutes to frame my answer and wrote it down in 15 minutes. Revised for grammatical/spelling errors in last 5 minutes.

IR- Solved a few, randomly answered rest of them. I found it too tough. Also, I had never attempted this section in any of the mocks.

Quants- EXTREMELY EASY is the word. I would say it was easier than OGs . Confidently solved 9 out of first 10 correctly (guessed 1). Next questions were easy as well. And I used to get to know by the first look of the question that whether I will be able to solve or not. Hence, randomly guessed 3-4 questions without wasting any time on them. Even then, I missed the last question as time was up (yeah I am that slow in Maths). I got sh** scared thinking about the heavy penalty for leaving a question unanswered. Calmed myself down during the break and ate a chocolate.

Verbal– SC was tricky but easy if you have been a consistent reader and are thorough with basics. Had questions on Comparisons, Rhetorical Construction, Idioms, Use of Present Perfect Tense and so on.

CR as expected was too tough (for me atleast). Infact wasn’t even able to understand the question stem of two CRs. I guessed them randomly and made smart guesses for others. While I was confident of getting most SCs correct, I was hardly sure of 2-3 CRs in total.

RC- 2 short + 2 long. The last one was 4- 5 paragraphs long and was extremely difficult to comprehend (was based on finance and economics). Couldn’t get the gist but tried to eliminate wrong answers somehow.

Couldn’t believe when it showed 730 on the screen (Q 50, V 39 and a dismal IR 1 ).

Key Takeaways :-

1. Official Questions are god (specially in Verbal). Do not digress much.
2. In Quants know which question you can’t solve, make a smart guess and move on without wasting time.
3. Mock scores may suggest what you are going to get in the actual exam, but this is not a rule (who knows it better than me ) Don’t stop studying till the last day.
4. Instead of solving tough questions, focus more on making sure you don’t get the easy ones wrong.
5. Make SC your strength. Why? 1st reason- You can easily master it. 2nd reason- It’s the least time taking type of question in Verbal.
6. Never stop reading.

Disclaimer- Above strategies worked for me but there are many people in this group who have scored much more than me, so its better to have their opinion as well.

Follow me on Quora, as I have answered many questions regarding GMAT Preparation there.

If you are looking for ONE-TO-ONE mentorship for GMAT Preparation from a group of 15 recent ISB Admits, please join our facebook group.