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Stanford Graduate School of Business Application Essay Example

How to Write the GMAT Essay

Despite the Analytical Writing Assessment not contributing to your total GMAT score, it does play a subtle role in your admissions criteria.

“While AWA may not explicitly help your case, a low AWA score definitely acts as a deterrent, scoring less than 4 on the GMAT essay can damage your chances of admission to top business schools,” says Manan Kumar, of ENZ PREP.

Erika Väätäinen, an admissions consultant at mbaMission, recently broke down the importance of the GMAT essay and offered an organizational framework for applicants to follow.


First and foremost, start by reading the essay prompt carefully. In many ways, the prompt will look and feel just like the Critical Reasoning arguments of the GMAT.

“The argument will most closely resemble Assumption Family arguments, so find the conclusion and make sure you understand how the author is trying to support their conclusion,” Väätäinen says. “Next, brainstorm any assumptions that you can think of and jot these down.”

After brainstorming, start articulating the flaws in the argument—pick two or three to form the basis of your essay.

“Any assumptions are automatically flaws, because the author has not established that those assumptions are, in fact, true,” Väätäinen says. “You may also think of other flaws along the way.”


Your first paragraph should summarize the conclusion of the given argument in one to two sentences and contain your thesis.

“The thesis is typically one sentence and conveys to the reader your overall message or point for the essay that you wrote,” Väätäinen says. “For the argument essay, you can write most of your thesis sentence before you get to the test! You already know that the argument will contain flaws, and that you will be discussing how those flaws hurt the author’s conclusion. Guess what? That is always your thesis.”


Dedicate each body paragraph to a flaw. In each paragraph, Väätäinen recommends including the following:

  • Introduce one flaw (Do not repeat the exact language from the prompt)
  • Explain why it is a flaw (JHow does this make the conclusion less likely to be true?)
  • Suggest ways to fix the flaw (you are fixing the flaw, not changing the conclusion; what could the author do to strengthen their argument?)

“For example, let us say that an argument claims that firing half of a company’s employees will help the company to reduce costs and therefore become more profitable,” Väätäinen says. “What is the conclusion, what supports that conclusion, and what assumptions is the author making?”


Using different words, your conclusion paragraph should restate your thesis, reacknowledge the other side, and briefly summarize how your examples support your thesis. Väätäinen recommends keeping your conclusion paragraph to three to four sentences max.

“Basically, the conclusion paragraph is not going to contain much new information,” Väätäinen says. “It is a conclusion; the major points should already have been made earlier in the essay. What you are doing now is tying everything together in one neat package.”

Sources: mbaMission, ENZ PREP


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