The AWA, or Analytical Writing Assessment, comes at the beginning of your GRE and asks that you write two 3-minute essays: one on an issue, and one on an argument. I actually love the AWA – I find it satisfying (and, I’ll admit, sort of fun) to write. I’ve always gotten a 6 (out of 6) on the AWA on both the GRE and GMAT, and I always follow the same strategy.
Do you have to follow this strategy to get a 6? Absolutely not! But if it appeals to you, you might find that it helps you better organize your thoughts and give a clear, linear progression to your argument. I call it the “even if” strategy.
The “Even if” strategy
The idea behind the “even if” strategy is to structure your essay to highlight the most important points first. Basically, it allows you to nest your points, conceding one point at a time so that the issue or argument at hand has fewer and fewer problems to contend with as you proceed.
For the writer, the benefit of the “Even if” strategy is that your introduction sentences to each paragraph almost write themselves. They introduce the new concept while linking it seamlessly to the previous concept. For this reader, this provides a clarity of structure that GRE graders really seem to enjoy.
The “Even if” strategy on the Issue essay
Let’s say that the issue essay asks you to discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement, “Investment in education is the most important investment that can be made.” Like most issue statements, this is much too broad a proclamation to agree or disagree with completely. When I first take my notes, they might look like this:
- Too broad; must narrow to discuss
- Mostly agree (education allows for growth; education is vital to society)
- However, other side has many points (other investments matter; depends on needs)