The GRE analytical writing section measures your ability to articulate your ideas through structured and well-reasoned writing.
A good GRE AWA score lets universities and business schools know not only that you are a good writer, but also that you are capable of critical thinking and logical reasoning.
What is the GRE Analytical Writing section?
The GRE Analytical Writing section consists of two parts: the Issue essay and the Argument essay. You have 30 minutes for each essay. Both test your ability to introduce a convincing thesis statement and then defend it. The GRE essay section does not assess specific content knowledge.
The Issue task tests your ability to develop and support your own viewpoint on an issue. You need to either agree or disagree on an issue and support your position.
The Argument task requires you to evaluate an argument. You will need to consider the logical soundness of the argument rather than agree or disagree with the position it presents.
The two tasks are complementary. One requires you to construct your own argument and the other requires you to evaluate someone else’s argument.
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Preparation and Scoring
ETS, the organization that administers the exam, stresses the importance of proper preparation:
Everyone — even the most practiced and confident of writers — should spend some time preparing for the Analytical Writing measure before arriving at the test center.
To do well on the section, test takers have to understand the skills measured and how the tasks are scored. It is also useful to review the scoring guides, sample topics, scored sample essay responses and rater commentary for each task.
To help you prepare for the essay section, GRE has published the entire pool of tasks from which your test tasks will be selected. You might find it helpful to review the Issue and Argument pools:
The GRE Analytical Writing score is based on a 0–6 scale. Each essay receives a score from at least one trained marker. The essay is then scored by a computerized program developed by ETS. If the human and the computer’s scores are close, the average of the two scores is used as the final score. If they are too wide apart, a second human score is obtained, and the final score is the average of the two human scores.
How to achieve a top score in GRE Analytical Writing
Before we offer specific tips, here are some general ones. Graders look for the three C’s: clarity, coherency, and cogency. This means that your text needs to be clear with a high degree of logical interconnectedness between sentences and passages. Cogency means that your ideas and arguments should be backed by strong evidence or examples.
Moving beyond the three C’s, style and grammar are also important. Make no mistake, sloppy sentences and limited vocabulary will undermine your grade. The same goes for grammar, although one or two grammatical mistakes will not prevent you from obtaining a perfect score if the rest of your essay is great.
Analyze an Issue tips
Keep your focus
You will be pressed for time and won’t be able to argue both sides of an issue, so pick one of the arguments and focus on it. Avoid the middle-of-the-road approach because it may render your argument too complicated and unconvincing. It’s more important how you defend your point than what point you defend.
ETS, the owner of the GRE exam, states:
The GRE raters scoring your response are not looking for a “right” answer — in fact, as far as they are concerned, there is no correct position. Instead, the raters are evaluating the skill with which you address the specific instructions and articulate and develop an argument to support your evaluation of the issue.
Provide specific examples
This is also important for the Analyze an Argument task. One of the problems that could arise if you don’t offer specific examples is that your arguments can be easily rebutted. Be specific, draw examples from actual events or even your personal life. Yet, be careful not to let examples take up most of the text.
It’s not a good idea to write in the first person in the issue essay. Expressions like “I think” or “in my opinion” will antagonize the raters. It’s already clear that the issue essay contains your opinions and arguments. The only exception to this rule is when you use your personal experience as an example in a body paragraph.
Analyze an Argument tips
There is always something wrong with the argument
You can rest assured that the argument you will have to analyze will be flawed and cover the topic insufficiently. There is no reason to agree with the argument even if it contains one or two reasonable, valid points. Instead, identify the weak spots in the argument and attack them.
The middle-of-the-road approach would be as harmful for your essay in the Analyze an Argument section as it would be for your text in the Analyze an Issue section. Trying to argue moderately would prevent you from making compelling points and make you appear indecisive.
Support your point with evidence
Every single one of your ideas or objections should be followed by specific examples to back them up. Always use relevant examples and think carefully if they support your argument with sufficient evidence.
Think about the issue from several points of view, considering the complexity of ideas associated with those views. Then, make notes about the position you want to develop and list the main reasons and examples you could use to support that position.
The GRE Analytical Writing section is not to be underestimated, even if you are confident in your writing and critical thinking skills. Prepare diligently to achieve the score that will help you achieve your goals.