Why must you brainstorm in AWA on GRE?

While writing an essay on GRE, many students face challenges in completing the essay in time. Even if they do manage to write it in time, the essays are not well-developed as there are some loose ends here and there. According to ETS, among all test-takers average essay writing score is about 4, which indicates that most of the students are able to analyse the issue but fail to develop sufficient connection among the points and examples. Moreover, there are minor grammatical errors. (For more details click here.) To avoid such mistakes thinking and planning is essential. When you have analysed the point and corresponding example, penning it down is easy, as you can concentrate on one task a time.

However, when we underline the importance of thinking or brainstorming before writing essays in classroom course, many students (at least in India) are not very comfortable with the idea of spending some time on it.


Lack of time

In the essay writing task, you are asked to write about 350 words. However, ‘how many words are actually enough?’ is the question. If we consider the ideal essays by ETS in Official GRE guide, they are of on an average of 500 words. It can be easily deduced that in order to pen down an impressive essay which has sufficient reasoning and examples with fine control over language, one needs to write about 500 words. So, the problem is, are 30 minutes enough to write 500 words?

Trial and error

While attempting their first essay students start writing the essay right from the first whistle, that is, without brainstorming they start typing. Chances are they are not able to finish the writing task within given time and may well fear the tall demands of the task. With trial and error they may acquire few skills but may not be able to reach their full potential.


While attempting the essay without contemplation, all points are not available at hand at the beginning. As students start writing, a flow of thought begins and they may get points which are relevant but should have been placed before already written point or they may think of a suitable example after a few minutes. Now, after realising what corrections are beneficial, students are tempted to edit, adding an extra task to already two. This multi-tasking consumes extra time.

Reasons for brainstorming

Reason 1

Many argue that they may not have sufficient time to write the essay as they don’t have enough time in current conditions where they start writing from first minute. It is very well established that average typing speed in the world is about 40 words per minute. Technically, if you are aware of what to write you should be able to write 400 words in 10 minutes. Let’s cut a slack of 50%, still students can write 400 words in 20 minutes. Therefore, to write about 500 words students can dedicate 24 minutes with 50% slower typing compared to world average.

Reason 2

Multi-tasking stresses mind and in fact, students end up committing more mistakes than they would have committed otherwise. The best reply your mind gives to such stress is that it switches itself off. Just to illustrate it further read following situations and see if you can correlate with any one of it.

If you are college student and if you have already written a GRE essay in 30 minutes, you may have observed many grammatical errors after completing the essay. You may have not noticed them while writing, but afterwards when the stress was relieved.

If you have been working already, it is easy to correlate the switching off the brain with a situation when you wrote your first official mail. Despite extraneous efforts, you might have found out the that you could have avoided many silly mistakes.

Therefore, it follows that if you can think about the points and corresponding examples to be presented on the essay within 5 minutes and then write an essay, chances are your essays would have right flow of the reasoning alongside relevant illustrations. While typing you can ignore extra points that may distract you from the task at hand.

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In this lecture, you are going to learn about Graduate Record Examination (GRE), an exam conducted by Educational Testing Services (ETS). GRE is an important step towards your dream of education abroad after graduation. In this lecture to GRE

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  5. How important is vocabulary?
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Introduction to ‘Analyse an issue’ on GRE

On GRE-General test, first task that you must take on is ‘Analyse an issue’. You get exactly 30 minutes to type your response in console. GRE expects you to write about 350 words, however It is observed that a well-discussed take on an issue would consume about 500 words. In this task, you are presented with an issue that is pervasive in society. This issue is followed up with a set of instructions which are presented later. You must follow the instruction while discussing the issue in natural manner. A sample task is given below.

Some people believe that government funding of the arts is necessary to ensure that the arts can flourish and be available to all people. Others believe that government funding of the arts threatens the integrity of the arts.

Write a response in which you discuss which view more closely aligns with your own position and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should address both of the views presented.

Above is just a sample. Educational testing Services (ETS) has published total eight such instructions in its Official Guide to GRE. Each task is accompanied by one of the following sets of instructions.

  1. Write a response in which you 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.
  2. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.
  3. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.
  4. Write a response in which you discuss which view more closely aligns with your own position and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should address both of the views presented.
  5. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reasons on which that claim is based.
  6. Write a response in which you discuss your views on the policy and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.

It is evident that in GRE, instructions appear complicated, however a closer look will help us understand essentially, they are very similar. One common thread is observed among these instructions is you are going to see one of the following elements in the main topic.

  1. Statement
  2. Recommendation
  3. Claim
  4. View
  5. Claim and reason
  6. Policy

Once you find these elements, you are asked to analyse the ways an issue can be looked upon or circumstances in which the topic may change its significance or consequences of the given subject. While discussing all possible sides GRE asks you to use valid reasons and relevant examples in order to take a position. So, independent of the variety of the instructions, your line of actions is same in every situation.

What is the purpose of this essay?

Many students find the tedious question pointless as writing sensible matter on the kind of subjects GRE puts forth, demands very high levels of efforts. The point is GRE test-makers expect that as graduate student, you are able to think about any given time from maximum possible points of view before reaching a conclusion. Even while endorsing a side you should be able to assess all possible sides. So, the ‘Analyse an Issue’ essay tests your ability to “explore the complexities of an issue or opinion and, if appropriate, to take a position that is informed by your understanding of those complexities.

Is it necessary to have analysing skills?

Let’s assume that, after your M.S. you join an experimental laboratory, you should be able to think about all possibilities that can explain possible outputs of the experiment. In other case, after your M.B.A. while taking an important decision you should be able to think about all circumstances and select an option which has lowest risks involved and maximum benefits. GRE has introduced this essay writing task to find glimpses of these abilities in your thinking process and hence asks you to evaluate the issue like this.

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.


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.


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.

GRE Vocabulary: Confusing words 1

We have picked up few confusing words on GRE in this series of blogs.

Breach and Broach


Used as a noun

  1. an act of breaking or failing to observe a law, agreement, or code of conduct.

“a breach of confidence”

  1. a gap in a wall, barrier, or defence, especially one made by an attacking army.

“a breach in the mountain wall”

Used as a verb

  1. make a gap in and break through (a wall, barrier, or defence).

“The rocket breached all speed.”

  1. (of a whale) rise and break through the surface of the water.

“We saw dolphins breaching through surface of the water.”


Used as noun

  1. Machinery; a tool used for elongating the hole

Used as verb

  1. Raise for discussion/ to mention or suggest for the first time

“He broached the subject, which the house was avoiding for a long period of time.”

  1. To tap or pierce

“He broached beer from keg”

Vindicate and Vindictive


Used as a verb

  1. to clear from accusation, set free

“The court vindicates the accuse”

  1. to justify

“Subsequent evidences vindicated his intentions.”


Used as an adjective

  1. disposed or inclined towards revenge

“After the incident, he turned vindictive.”

  1. Proceeding from or showing revengeful spirit

“vindictive rumors”

GRE Argumentative Essay 2

 Hello, students!

Very similar to our attempts for IELTS this is new series for GRE argumentative essays. I hope you will love this to the way you loved for IELTS.

The following appeared in a letter from a homeowner to a friend.

“Of the two leading real estate firms in our town—Adams Realty and Fitch Realty—Adams Realty is clearly superior. Adams has 40 real estate agents; in contrast, Fitch has 25, many of whom work only part-time. Moreover, Adams’ revenue last year was twice as high as that of Fitch and included home sales that averaged $168,000, compared to Fitch’s $144,000. Homes listed with Adams sell faster as well: ten years ago I listed my home with Fitch, and it took more than four months to sell; last year, when I sold another home, I listed it with Adams, and it took only one month. Thus, if you want to sell your home quickly and at a good price, you should use Adams Realty.”

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 these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.


In the letter, a homeowner is trying to convince his friend that of the two leading Realty Firms in the town Adam’s Realty is better in every aspect. He supports his claim using evidences which compare the two firms on various business aspects. In the process he assumes that both firms have employees with very similar capabilities. He is not clear about the sphere of influence in the types of Real Estates these firms have. He also assumes that industry is insulated from the time effects and the results in the past can comfortably depict today’s scenario.

First, the author assumes that employees of the both firms are equally efficient and hence the output of about 40 employees must supersede the 25 employees many of whom are part time. Although the assumption may sound plausible on the surface, one needs to take care of the experience and business contacts of these agents. It may happen that of 25 employees of Fitch Realty are vastly experienced and need to work part time only, whereas Adam’s employ fresh graduates only who lack both. If this assumption is proven false then the argument loses one of the important evidences of the comparison of number of employees.

Second he assumes that revenue of the two firms can be one of the important ways of comparing the business. In the process he is not clear about the portfolio of the two firms. Adam’s may be involved in Commercial space, which are far more expensive than residential properties.  He also uses the average deal size of the two companies for comparison. While doing so, he conveniently neglects the profitability in the two deals. It may happen that Fitch is famous for selling houses which are in city outskirts at very high profitability while Adam’s are dealing with premium properties which are easily saleable and may not be that profitable.

Third, Author sights his personal example, where he highlights the timeline of the two deals through the two firms, but doesn’t even attempts to look at the basic flaw in the timeline assumption. How can the recent market condition be compared with that of ten years in past? It is very much possible that in recession period he might have sold his property with Fitch’s Realty which would have done a good job considering the tough times, whereas Adam’s may have had a cakewalk in the booming Real Estate Market. Author also conceals the conditions of the two houses he dealt with. Size, age, condition of the houses matter a lot in the deal and that’s why his assumptions has flaws of wrong time line and vagueness.

In conclusion, the author must provide information which would help the reader realistic comparison of the two firms. He must put efficiency of the employees as well as niche advantages both firms are offering in residential houses. It will be great to have a look at the profitability each firm is having. While giving personal example, extra details on the two properties as well on the timeline would prove vital for the comparison of the two firms.

GRE Argumentative Essay 1

Hello, students!

Very similar to our attempts for IELTS we are starting this new series for GRE essays. I hope you will love this to the way you loved for IELTS.

The following appeared as a letter to the editor from a Central Plaza store owner.

“Over the past two years, the number of shoppers in Central Plaza has been steadily decreasing while the popularity of skateboarding has increased dramatically. Many Central Plaza store owners believe that the decrease in their business is due to the number of skateboard users in the plaza. There has also been a dramatic increase in the amount of litter and vandalism throughout the plaza. Thus, we recommend that the city prohibit skateboarding in Central Plaza. If skateboarding is prohibited here, we predict that business in Central Plaza will return to its previously high levels.”

Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.


Store owner in the letter writes a plea to the editor to deter skateboarding so that business in Central Plaza can see its lost glory. In the attempt, he lacks precise data and facts to prove his side and it seems he relies more on emotions to reach conclusion. In order to achieve the said goal, he needs to answer few questions; answers to which can help him reach a rational and justified solution.

Author relies on ‘belief’ of the shopkeepers in Central Plaza. He needs to keep emotions at bay and survey shopkeepers, current buyers and past buyers of the Central Plaza, so that he can reach conclusive evidence. In his survey he must include these questions: How much is the actual increase in skateboarding in absolute terms? Is the increase periodic? How many people have actually dropped Central Plaza form their shopping destinations and have selected some other shopping destinations? Are there any other issues for this apathy towards Central Plaza? It may have happened that, the skateboarders have periodically increased in the Central Plaza. Also there are chances that a better and bigger shopping complexes have opened in the vicinity which is preferred to older shopping destinations and increase in skateboarders was just a coincidence.

Furthermore, author claims to observe increased litter and vandalism in the shopping place. He needs to answer few questions in the regard: Whether this hike in litter is just case of lack of maintenance? If yes then what is the contribution of skateboarders in it? He must include these questions in his survey so that real source of vandalism can be established. Equal possibility of negligence from cleaning service exists which may have ruined the area.

Finally, author’s claim is based on hidden assumption that only by restricting skateboarding the Central Plaza will see its past glory and return to the normal business. He must include few more questions on his survey to bolster his evidences further. He must ask: Is enough infrastructure facilities like parking, food places and directions provided to shoppers? Are the shoppers well informed about the new products in the market? What kind of shops does the Central Plaza have? Are shoppers buying products which are available in the Central Plaza from a shopping website? In this era of “Experience Economy”, nobody can deny the need for good experience to the shoppers. Through the answers to these questions he must ensure that shoppers are treated well and assisted throughout their buying experience. He also needs to enlist the products and types of the shops so that he is sure the trend of online shopping is not affecting the business of Central Plaza.

In the end, author needs to establish thorough scientific survey that majority of stakeholders feel that skateboarders are promoting garbage in the building which is affecting the business adversely. He also needs to make sure that threat of bigger and better shopping destination and online shopping are not threatening the business environment in Central Plaza. After working on these questions only he will be able to reach his desired result.