I received my official GMAT scores this morning. Nothing’s changed from my unofficial ones, of course, but I also now have my Analytical Writing score: 6.0 (out of 6, 95th percentile). Yay! I knew that the writing section went well because it’s just not that hard, but still, it’s nice to have aced it rather than just getting a 5.0 or 5.5.
The writing part of the exam is a little bit weird: not because of the subject matter (high-school-quality five-paragraph essays, one analyzing an argument and the other analyzing an issue, each written in half an hour), but because of the grading: the essays are graded by a grad student (who has about two minutes per essay) and then by a computer program, and if those two scores match then that’s your score. If they differ by more than a point then another human grades you and all three scores are averaged. Since human graders are evaluated by how often their scores match the computer’s, their own grading techniques end up approximating the computer’s anyhow.
Because you’re writing for the computer, your essays have to be extremely formulaic: you’re encouraged to pick the obvious points on the subject you’re writing on (since the computer will know about them from other essays it has marked), use lots of connecting words like “however”, “furthermore”, and “even so”, and so on. It’s really hard to get back to writing normally after a bunch of GMAT essay-writing practice, and now I have to write my application essay!
(One reason for the writing test amuses me: historically, the only writing samples requested in MBA applications were in the application itself, not in the GMAT. But the schools were starting to see a lot of overseas applicants with essays written in perfect English, but without TOEFL scores to match — the applicants were having native English-speakers proofread, or even write, their essays. The schools convinced GMAC to add a writing test to the GMAT, so that they could be guaranteed to see students’ own writing, thanks to the security measures already in place for the rest of the test.)
So my GMAT scores are at the school(s*), and I’ve had one letter of recommendation returned to me so far, so all that’s left in my application is one more letter and my admissions essay, and a final revision of my resume. (That’s just an early draft there, note.) Closer, closer!
* Since you can have your scores submitted to five schools, I also had mine submitted to McGill, Queens, Carleton, and HEC Montreal, just on the off chance that one of them wanted to give me a giant scholarship offer or something. I’ve already got mail from a couple of schools I didn’t even submit my scores to: UC Irvine sent me fellowship information, and Ivey (Western) invited me to an informational lunch downtown.