Novelists write. Poets write. Why does the GMAT make business students write? Well, most business people will not write poems. Admittedly, the poet Wallace Stevens was an insurance executive, and T.S. Eliot was a banker with Lloyd’s of London, but that’s the exception, not the norm.
Winning over customers
So what is the point of making potential business students write in the GMAT AWA section? Think about the business world you are entering — the postmodern, electronically interconnected world. In some rare businesses, you still have the opportunity to meet potential new customers face-to-face, but in most scalable internet businesses, such immediate personal contact is simply not sustainable. New customers will most likely find you through words — through advertisements at first, and then more detailed writing.  If people click on your ad to learn more, presumably, they will be directed to the website of your business, which may have some illustrative pictures that can prove helpful in establishing lasting connections. Undoubtedly, though, the website will have to contain words somewhere within it to answer the more obvious questions potential new customers will have. There, your potential new customers will encounter your words as part of their initial contact with your business. That’s precisely why your words need to be impressive and persuasive.
Fine-tuning the sales pitch
The GMAT AWA focuses on argument, as do the GMAT Critical Reasoning questions. Fundamentally, every sales pitch is an argument. A successful sales pitch is a highly persuasive argument designed to consistently elicit a specific behavior — purchase — from as many people as possible. No sales pitch is going to be successful if the folks hearing it see obvious logical flaws in it or if some commonly experienced circumstance gives rise to a credible objection to the argument. Before you send out words in the hopes of persuading people, you have to have a keenly honed sense of whether any reasonable person could muster a serious objection to your argument. This has direct dollar-and-cents implications in terms of marketing. Your arguments need to be sound if your advertising is going to be successful. That is the reason why business schools value these analytical skills, and why the GMAT tests students on them.
Of course, the GMAT AWA is not folded into your 200-to-800 GMAT score. Your full GMAT score report will give you a Verbal subscore and a Quantitative subscore, and both of these contribute directly to the aggregate 200-to-800 score. The GMAT AWA and the GMAT Integrated Reasoning have separate scores that are not factored at all into the aggregate score. To get into a top business school, it certainly helps to have an impressive aggregate score, ideally 700+. You do not need to ace the GMAT AWA section; the GMAT AWA is graded in half-integers from 0 to 6, and anything over a 4 is perfectly acceptable. A grade under that, though, would raise red flags. As long as you muster a 4+ score on the AWA section, that demonstrates a basic competence with writing, which is all that business school requires. You don’t need to be T.S. Eliot, although that doesn’t hurt either!
This post was written by Mike McGarry, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh and a leader in GMAT prep. For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog.