Introduction to Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) in GRE

As a graduate applicant to US universities students are expected to have certain attributes which require independent thinking, critical reasoning and convincing writing. As a student pursuing graduation, you are supposed to write an original thesis which should reflect all of the capabilities mentioned in previous statement. Analytical Writing section on Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a litmus test of the same.

The Analytical Writing section assesses your critical thinking and analytical writing skills. It assesses your ability to articulate and support complex ideas, construct and evaluate arguments, and sustain a focused and coherent discussion. It does not assess specific content knowledge.

Types of tasks

The Analytical Writing measure consists of two separately timed analytical writing tasks:

1.      a 30-minute “Analyze an Issue” task

The Issue task presents an opinion on an issue of broad interest followed by specific instructions on how to respond to that issue. You are required to evaluate the issue, considering its complexities, and develop an argument with reasons and examples to support your views.

Example:

As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate.

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.

The instructions may change on case to case basis. There are 6 cases in total which we are going to analyze later.

2.      a 30-minute “Analyze an Argument” task

The Argument task presents a different challenge from that of the Issue task: it requires you to evaluate a given argument according to specific instructions. You will need to consider the logical soundness of the argument rather than to agree or disagree with the position it presents.

Example:

In surveys Mason City residents rank water sports (swimming, boating, and fishing) among their favorite recreational activities. The Mason River flowing through the city is rarely used for these pursuits, however, and the city park department devotes little of its budget to maintaining riverside recreational facilities. For years there have been complaints from residents about the quality of the river’s water and the river’s smell. In response, the state has recently announced plans to clean up Mason River. Use of the river for water sports is, therefore, sure to increase. The city government should for that reason devote more money in this year’s budget to riverside recreational facilities.

Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on the assumptions and what the implications are if the assumptions prove unwarranted.

The instructions may change on case to case basis.

How is the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) graded?

Each of AWA essays is scored on a scale of 0 to 6. According to ETS two readers, selected randomly, assess your Issue essay. Similarly, another set of two different readers examine your Argument essay. Each grader will award a 6.0 to the top essays and scores of 0 to essays written on topics other than the one assigned or written in a foreign language.

Generally, it is observed that the graders spend about 30 seconds to 2 minutes on each essay, and give it a score based on pre-defined evaluation criteria such as the overall quality of your critical thinking and writing, as mentioned previously. The graders who evaluate the responses are college and university faculty members who are well aware requirements of academic writing.

The two scores assigned by a set of readers are averaged to note final score of an essay. If the grades given by the two readers differ by more than a point, a third, highly experienced grader is brought in to resolve the discrepancy (i.e., determine your final score for that essay).

Scores awarded in such a fashion is again averaged to reach final score on the scale of 6 for the whole section. You receive your essay scores approximately 10-15 days after your test date.

Why is Analytical Writing Section important?

It is an open secret that your AWA score is not as important as your quantitative and verbal score on the GRE, and getting a 5.0 or 6.0 won’t make or break your chances of getting admitted to the university of your choice. Graduate school admissions officers only bother about your AWA score, if it is too low, or significantly lower than their usual class average. In such cases admission committee may re-read your SOP and LORs, to find out if they were written by you or someone else. Our advice is, it is rather safe to say that the AWA score is an important enough factor when it comes to admissions.

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