Gmat Awa Essay Tips For Act

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The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) Section of the GRE contains two writing tasks namely the Issue Essay and the Argument Essay. Both of them are allotted 30 minutes each and are scored on a scale of 6 which is where the similarity between them comes to an end. The major errors that students commit in this section are due to the confusions that exist between the two Essays. GRE Issue Essay and GRE Argument Essay are as different as night and day starting with the primary contrariety that GRE Issue Essay requires your opinions about the given prompt whereas the Argument Essay requires you to validate the authenticity of the given argument without letting your opinions interfere with the task.


  • Issue Essay deals with your ability to present an argument with your views, your ability to convince the reader to agree with your point of view. On the other hand, the Argument Essay tests your ability to pick apart an argument written by another author, your ability to effectively critique the argument by providing proof.
  • In an Issue Essay, the debatable topic ( is general in nature and can be from any field, does not require complete knowledge to write about) is given as a statement, your job is to choose a side, stick to it and present it suitably. In an Argument essay, the author presents a case with his supporting evidence in the form of a paragraph, and your task is to check the soundness of this argument, to effectively critique it.
  • The directions for answering these essays are also different
    1. In an Issue Essay, you must introduce the issue at hand in your words briefly whereas, in an Argument essay, the given argument must be introduced from the author's point of view using his conclusion.
    2. The second paragraph in the Issue Essay involves stating your chosen side and your reasons for standing by it whereas in an Argument Essay, the flaws in the author's presented argument must be identified and how his conclusion overlooks these flaws must be discussed.
    3. In an Issue Essay, the body paragraphs involve relevant real world examples that support your chosen claim whereas, in an Argument essay, the identified flaws must be stated with explanations and solid proof.
    4. Conclusion in an Issue Essay involves agreeing with the opposing viewpoint in one or two statements to show your emotional maturity level, whereas an Argument essay is concluded on a note of doubt which claims that the argument may have one or more valid points but is deprived of more plausible explanation, requires more proof to be valid.


  • The Argument Essay requires a critical analysis of the presented claim rather than your perception as is the case of an Issue Essay where your opinions and views form the core of the
  • In an Argument Essay, you should only prove that the evidence supporting the conclusion is inadequate, not that the conclusion is wrong, unlike an Issue essay where you could use anything and everything to support your claim.
  • While the Issue Essay depends on outside, credible facts, the Argument Essay focuses on the evidence provided in the paragraphs
  • The Issue Essay is always presented as a contestable topic like a coin with two sides where you opt for the side you can present best. The Argument Essay does not have two sides from which you could choose a side, but a single claim which must be analyzed and discussed upon.

In the GRE, AWA Section is crucial as it shows off your communication skills and writing abilities. Looking out for these common mistakes and preventing them through a better understanding and practice will help you score high in this section.

The New ACT Essay / Writing Section

Big news:  in an effort to make the test more accessible, and compete with the new SAT, the ACT has turned its Essay (Writing) section into a multiple-choice test. 

OK, not really.  But kind of.

As you may have heard by now, the ACT is changing the format of its Writing Test (a.k.a. the essay section).  Instead of 30 minutes to write, you are now given 40 minutes to write, and instead of being given only a prompt and an assignment, you will now be provided with a prompt, an assignment, and three different perspectives on the essay.  You are then asked to evaluate the different perspectives on the issue, to provide your own perspective, and to explain the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective, using examples, analysis and logic.  (In the words of the ACT, students are asked "to develop an argument that puts their own perspective in dialogue with others.")

Below is the exact prompt from a recent essay.  Please note that the assignment has been changed frequently, and that any ACT essay prep materials you use may not have been updated to reflect these changes.

The new essay will be scored out of of 12 points.  It will also be given a grade of 2-12 in the following areas:  Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, & Language Use and Conventions.  You can read more about those sub-scores here. 

While you're at it, you can read an example of a perfect-score essay from the makers of the ACT.  However, because I'm not a huge fan of the ACT's sample essay (it includes misspellings and is light on examples and structure),  I have also written my own example of a perfect-score ACT essay.  Here's another one I wrote as well. 

The ACT has released two free sample PDF essays in the new format, in addition to the 3 in the new book.  You can find them here and here (scroll to pages 54 and 55 of the new ACT diagnostic test).  If you need additional practice prompts, then I would recommend that you check out ACT tutor Shane Burnett's website, Mighty Oak Test Prep, where you can download 6 additional ACT prompts written by him.

Here is how I would classify the change, in general terms:

1) You are presented with a very unbiased account of a situation in our society.  Factual observations are made, and rhetorical questions asked, but no opinions or answers are provided. 

2) Three different perspectives are given on the issue, usually about two sentences each.  They are along the lines of yes / no / maybe, but of course the perspectives are more nuanced than that, since the question is no longer posited as a "true or false?" scenario. 

First Question: "Automation is generally seen as a sign of progress, but what is lost when we replace humans with machines?"

Second Question: "In a society that values both health and freedom, how do we best balance the two? How should we think about conflicts between personal health and public freedom?"

Overall, I would say that this is a positive change, even if it is a rather transparent (and abrupt!) reaction to the new SAT redesign.  The irony, of course, is that the SAT changed its format to more closely mirror that of the ACT, to which it is losing market share as students are increasingly opting out of the SAT to take the ACT instead.

Why is this a good change?  A couple of reasons: it gives you 10 more minutes to write, and instead of having to come up with your own perspectives on the question, they are provided for you already, and you can take your notes directly on the page, circling and underlining key terms and using them to structure your outline.  No more racking your brain, wondering what you are going to write about--nearly everything is already provided for you. 

Good luck!

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