The GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment: Opportunity or Threat for Management Communication?

By Rogers, Priscilla S.; Rymer, Jone | Business Communication Quarterly, June 1996 | Go to article overview
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The GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment: Opportunity or Threat for Management Communication?


Rogers, Priscilla S., Rymer, Jone, Business Communication Quarterly


Instituted as a regular part of the GAME T in October 1994, the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) has the potential to serve as a diagnostic tool in MBA programs. This article describes the new test and reviews the uses of the AWA scores and essays that have significant ramifications for management communication. It concludes by suggesting why it is vital for communication instructors to become involved in decisions about how to use the A WA results.

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INSTITUTED AS A REGULAR PART of the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) in October 1994, the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) can have a significant impact on management communication programs in graduate schools of business. Originated by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and strongly supported by MBA program administrators (Bruce, 1993), the AWA was designed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) as a test of analytical writing. Now graduate business schools are determining how to use both AWA scores and essays.

Whether the AWA represents an opportunity or a threat to management communication programs in business schools is an open question. The AWA presents an opportunity for management communication in schools where communication faculty become knowledgeable about the new writing test and active in decision making about the results, but the AWA may threaten management communication programs in schools where communication faculty ignore it. Certainly, well informed communication faculty should influence favorable outcomes in many schools. However, the potential power of the GMAT writing test to alter management communication, transforming it into something approaching remedial writing should not be underestimated.

The purpose of this article is to explore issues regarding the use of the GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) that are consequential for management communication in MBA programs. The article is based on the results of our critical study of the AWA (Rogers & Rymer, 1995a & 1995b), experience with management writing assessment, and preliminary findings from our GMAC-supported research on the use of the AWA for diagnostic purposes (Rogers & Rymer, 1996, in press). In this article we describe the new test, including its evaluation and the results schools receive, and review uses of the AWA scores and essays that have ramifications for management communication. We conclude by suggesting reasons why it is necessary to become involved to insure that the AWA represents an opportunity rather than a threat for management communication.

What is the AWA?

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is a direct test of writing, that is, a performance assessment that requires applicants to produce whole discourse or complete texts rather than to give short answers about a piece of writing or short paragraphs in response to test prompts. As a direct test of writing, the AWA contrasts sharply with indirect tests like the standardized Verbal section of the GMAT which, in addition to questions on reading comprehension, requires test-takers to answer multiple-choice questions about syntactical usage, preferred diction, and correct grammar and punctuation. In contrast, the AWA measures all these sentence- and word-level language skills, as well as a test-taker's ability to develop and organize ideas by requiring the composition of a complete piece of writing with a beginning, middle, and end. (Correlations between direct and indirect writing tests vary widely but are typically modest [Breland, Camp, Jones, Morris, & Rock, 1987].)

For the AWA, test-takers compose two essays in an hour (30 minutes for each). Both essays require analytical writing--one analysis of an issue, the other analysis of an argument (referred to as the issue essay and the argument essay.) No specialized knowledge is necessary to complete these essay tasks; rather, the topics are intended to be fully accessible to test-takers with any undergraduate background, although the questions permit drawing from business experience.

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