The Revised GRE Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is the exclamation point at the end of your GRE sentence. Your overall GRE score is determined by the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections; your GRE Writing score does not count toward the total score – it sits on your GRE score report as a category in itself. Translation: you better rock the GRE Writing section, because it is not averaged into the total score. If you screw up, the admissions counselors will see it clearly.
Revised GRE Analytical Writing Overview
The Analytical Writing section on the GRE requires you to write two essays in one hour:
- One Analyze an Issue essay: 30 minutes
- One Analyze an Argument essay: 30 minutes
GRE Issue Essay
You'll be given two prompts to choose from with this task. The prompts will make some sort of claim about an issue and your job is to make a case for your views on the issue. You'll be assessed on your critical thinking and persuasive skills more than you will your grammar, writing style, and spelling.
Sample Issue Topics (From ETS):
"If a goal is worthy, then any means taken to attain it is justifiable."
"Most people are taught that loyalty is a virtue. But loyalty—whether to one's friends, to one's school or place of employment, or to any institution—is all too often a destructive rather than a positive force."
GRE Argument Essay
Here, you won't be asked to persuade anyone; you're simply analyzing someone else's argument, dissecting their logic, examining their reasoning and scrutinizing their evidence. In this task, no one cares about your opinion. No one wants to know if you disagree or agree with the prompt. The only thing you have to answer is this: Is their argument any good? If not, why not? You only get one prompt and only 30 minutes to prove your critical thinking skills.
Sample Argument Topic (From ETS):
A recent study suggests that people who are left-handed are more likely to succeed in business than are right-handed people. Researchers studied photographs of 1,000 prominent business executives and found that 21 percent of these executives wrote with their left hand. So the percentage of prominent business executives who are left-handed (21 percent) is almost twice the percentage of people in the general population who are left-handed (11 percent). Thus, people who are left-handed would be well advised to pursue a career in business, whereas people who are right-handed would be well advised to imitate the business practices exhibited by left-handers.
GRE Writing Scores
The two essays are graded holistically by two GRE trained graders. Their two scores are averaged into the final score from 0 - 6, rounded up to the nearest half. (You could get a 3.5, for instance). The national average right around a 4. From ETS, here are the descriptions for what the scores mean:
- A score of 5.5 or 6: Sustains insightful, in-depth analysis of complex ideas; develops and supports main points with logically compelling reasons and/or highly persuasive examples; is well focused and well organized; skillfully uses sentence variety and precise vocabulary to convey meaning effectively; demonstrates superior facility with sentence structure and language usage, but may have minor errors that do not interfere with meaning.
- A score of 4.5 or 5: Provides generally thoughtful analysis of complex ideas; develops and supports main points with logically sound reasons and/or well-chosen examples; is generally focused and well organized; uses sentence variety and vocabulary to convey meaning clearly; demonstrates good control of sentence structure and language usage, but may have minor errors that do not interfere with meaning.
- A score of 3.5 or 4: Provides competent analysis of ideas; develops and supports main points with relevant reasons and/or examples; is adequately organized; conveys meaning with reasonable clarity; demonstrates satisfactory control of sentence structure and language usage, but may have some errors that affect clarity.
- A score of 2.5 or 3: Displays some competence in analytical writing, although the writing is flawed in at least one of the following ways: limited analysis or development; weak organization; weak control of sentence structure or language usage, with errors that often result in vagueness or lack of clarity.
- A score of 1.5 or 2: Displays serious weaknesses in analytical writing. The writing is seriously flawed in at least one of the following ways: serious lack of analysis or development; lack of organization; serious and frequent problems in sentence structure or language usage, with errors that obscure meaning.
- A score of 0.5 or 1: Displays fundamental deficiencies in analytical writing. The writing is fundamentally flawed in at least one of the following ways: content that is extremely confusing or mostly irrelevant to the assigned tasks; little or no development; severe and pervasive errors that result in incoherence.
- A score of 0: The examinee's analytical writing skills cannot be evaluated because the responses do not address any part of the assigned tasks, are merely attempts to copy the assignments, are in a foreign language or display only indecipherable text.
- A score of NS: The examinee produced no text whatsoever.
That's it. The GRE Writing section in a nutshell. For further details, ETS has specifics only they can provide as the makers of the test.