Using "I" In the Analytical Writing Assessment

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Many of us are taught at an early age to avoid using the word "I" in essays. This is usually a good rule of thumb, but it isn't always easy to follow on the GMAT.

For instance, here is part of one common prompt for the Analysis of Issue essay:

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

If you're going to use "your own experience," as suggested, you'll have a hard time avoiding the word "I."

Statements of Opinion

When your middle-school English teacher told you not to use "I" in your essays, she wasn't concerned about your writing about personal experiences. She wanted to make your writing more forceful.

For instance, it's tempting to say, "I believe that the AWA is the least important part of the GMAT." However, it's more concise to say, "The AWA is the least important part of the GMAT."

Your reader knows that it's your opinion. When you insert a phrase such as "I believe that," or "my opinion is," you weaken your writing. Don't do it.

Personal Experiences

If you do choose to write about a personal experience, there's no problem with using the word "I." For instance, it's fine to write, "When I was an intern at a major U.S. financial institution...." If you're writing about yourself, there's no way around the word "I" other than archaic circumlocutions that have no place on the GMAT.

That said, you are better off avoiding personal experiences altogether. In the hundreds of GMAT practice essays I've seen over the years, writers sound more authoritative when they are talking about other things. When they use personal experiences, it feels like they are scraping the bottom of the barrel for arguments or anecdotes to support their thesis.

But it isn't the end of the world if you do use a personal experience. There's nothing stopping you from getting a 6 (a perfect score) on the AWA if you do--it's just a little harder.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

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