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GRE Analytical Writing: 10 Expert Tips to Boost your Score

 

Claire has been preparing feverishly for the GRE exam. She has taken several practice tests and has been able to meet her target scores in the GRE Verbal Reasoning and GRE Quant Reasoning sections. With only one week left for the D-day, she suddenly realizes that she had been so engrossed in mastering the Verbal and the Quant topics that she did not allow time for preparing for the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section.

Does this sound familiar? Well! This is a common situation that many students are faced with when they sit down to prepare for the GRE. They might postpone the AWA preparation either because they feel it’s too simple to prepare for an essay or because they aren’t aware of what is actually tested in the GRE analytical writing section.

Fret not! We have carefully handpicked the 10 best tips that would help you get a great score in the Analytical Writing section too.

First, let’s take a look at “why” it’s important to “prepare” for the GRE Analytical Writing section. Here are the top reasons that preparation would save you:

  • The GRE analytical section is the first section of the GRE. Always!
  • Doing well in the first section improves your confidence.
  • Universities look at your AWA scores as a way to measure your ability to articulate in the language, especially for non-native speakers of English.
  • Besides this, colleges also use the analytical writing score to decide a student’s eligibility for a program, more so when there are two candidates with the same score.

Now, let’s look at a few tips to help you tackle ANALYTICAL WRITING with ease.

 

Know What is Tested in the GRE ANALYTICAL WRITING Section

Know What is Tested in the GRE ANALYTICAL WRITING Section

The Analytical Writing section has two tasks – the GRE Issue Essay and the GRE Argument Essay. The most fundamental step towards an efficient essay is to understand what is expected in each of the tasks. While the objective of the Issue task is to write a persuasive essay, the argument task requires candidates to analyze or evaluate an author’s argument logically. This would require different approaches to address each of the tasks.

 

Be Aware of the Topics Used by ETS in the Issue and Argument Prompts

Be Aware of the Topics Used by ETS in the Issue and Argument Prompts

Having an understanding of the commonly used topics would aid the students in answering the question tasks even better. We’ve identified the frequently tested topics used by ETS in the GRE analytical writing section:

  • Education
  • Governance & ruling (not politics, though!)
  • Arts
  • Business
  • Culture
  • Technology
  • Philosophy

When you know the topics tested, practicing becomes easier. Sample prompts on these topics can be accessed on “ETS AWA pool of GRE sample Essays of issue and argument topics”.

 

Read and Understand the Directions Thoroughly

Read and Understand the Directions Thoroughly

The GRE Issue essay and the GRE argument essay each come with a question task that tells candidates how to address each task. The differences in the question tasks or directions are what make the essays quite different in approach too. Here is an example of an issue question task and an argument question task:

Directions for Issue Task–“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.”

Directions for Argument Task–“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.”

Most often, an effective, high-scoring essay is one that addresses these task instructions in a fully developed manner. Notice in the examples above that the questions begin in the same manner and then shift focus. For instance, in the directions for the issue task, the question expects students to take a position and argue in favor of it using relevant reasons and examples(“…discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree…In developing and supporting your position…”). Contrarily, the question for the argument task expects candidates to pick examples from the argument that would decide the effectiveness of the author’s argument (“…describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation…..and explain how these examples shape your position…”)

 

Practice for Time Management too

Practice for Time Management too

Utilizing the allotted time for each of the tasks in the GRE analytical writing section is crucial to writing convincing essays. Each of the two tasks is allotted 30 minutes. Students need to remember that if the first task is completed within 30 minutes, the extra time will not be carried forward to the next task. Hence, students need to deploy the 30 minutes for each task as wisely as possible. Here are a few steps that would help manage time better:

Step: 1 – Brainstorm your ideas (3-5 mins)
Step: 2 – Organize your ideas (1-2 mins)
Step: 3 – Type (18-19 mins)
Step: 4 – Proofread (3-4 mins)

While you throw in as many ideas as possible in your essays, do remember to keep in mind that the clock is ticking away with every word you type.

 

Put on your Thinking Cap First

Put on your Thinking Cap First

This is the most important step to any form of writing. It wouldn’t be a wise thing to either immediately start typing the essay or to accelerate your think tank for the first 20 minutes and start typing only towards the end of the time. On your scratchpad, simply jot down the ideas that you feel would make your essay better: for the issue task, consider the pros and cons that are related to the issue statement. Furthermore, choose compelling examples to support each side of the issue topic. Next, decide which side has the most effective reasons and examples. This is the position you need to take. The most common error made by candidates is that of taking a side emotionally or impulsively, which might make the essay a mess.

For the argument task, note down the most obvious assumptions and flaws in the argument. Remember to always refute the assumption and identify flaws as this would convince the graders of your ability to articulate. While you do not have to write about all the flaws, choosing the most obvious or important ones would earn you points.

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Getting Things in Order

Getting Things in Order

Writing a coherent essay is definitely going to earn you a high score. It is important to organize your points and paragraphs while typing. Spending a few minutes to do this will definitely save you a lot of time and your score. So, make sure that you start with the most gripping reason and/or example in the issue essay. Similarly, in the argument task, organize the ideas with the most logical assumption and flaw placed early in the essay. On the contrary, you may also consider trying the unconventional way and start from the least important and finish with the most important point. This would create a sense of anticipation for the reader and would give your essay the much-needed powerful, captivating finish. Every essay should ideally consist of an introduction, several brief body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Besides getting the ideas in order, it is also vital that you arrange your paragraphs in order too.

 

Qualitative Approach or Quantitative Approach?

Qualitative Approach or Quantitative Approach?

It is important that you write as much as you can in both the issue and the argument essays. If you notice the description for a score of 1, you might notice how short and choppy it usually would be. Clearly, a fully developed essay would surely earn a score of 5.5 or even 6. This makes quantity seem more essential. But wait! While you focus on writing as much as you can, you also need to be cautious of the quality of your writing. Make sure not to repeat ideas and/or examples in the issue essay.

 

What’s your Line of Argument?

What’s your Line of Argument?

The topic sentence or thesis sentence is a way of introducing your reader to the prompt and sets the stage for the rest of the essay. You may include:

  • A brief summary of the prompt (in your own words)
  • Your position
  • A prelude to the supporting points

 

Fully Developed Ideas – The Meat

Fully Developed Ideas – The Meat

While you write the crux of the essay i.e., the body paragraphs, remember to develop your ideas or reasoning by elaborating them. Also, adding relevant examples would enhance the significance of your reasoning. While doing this, do not forget to tie your example to the respective main idea/reasoning to help the reader understand and appreciate your stance even better.

 

Proofread

Proofread

The final and much-neglected, yet the most significant step is to ensure that you proofread your essay. The analytical writing section of the GRE offers students only the basic word processing tools. In other words, there aren’t any “auto-correction” and auto-suggestion” options for students to instantly rectify mistakes that could occur while typing. This makes proofreading a true savior for GRE candidates! While it is common to make grammatical, spelling, and capitalization errors in typing, these lapses need to be fixed before submitting the essay. Grammar and punctuation errors are definitely considered by ETS towards the final essay score and while the graders may not penalize a student for every error made, the most obvious errors that distort meaning and comprehension would never miss the readers’ attention.

 

Although the GRE analytical writing section could appear overwhelming at first, once you get down to practicing sample topics using these tips, you can notice a significant improvement in your approach and scores. Mastering the approach might take time, but it’s definitely worth the time and effort as the techniques will help get you the desired score. While you practice topics, do read a few sample essays from online sources that would help you get an idea of how a good essay should be.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs

Ques 1. What is the average GRE AWA score?

The analytical writing section of the GRE is scored on a scale between 0 and 6 in half-point increments. The average score expected by universities is between 4 and 4.5.

Ques 2. Is 4.0 a good score on the GRE AWA section?

While ETS might make a big deal of a difference between a score of 4 and a score of 4.5, universities are bound to consider 4 a very good score for admissions if the verbal reasoning score is also good.

Ques 3. Can you skip the GRE AWA section?

It is possible to skip a section on the GRE exam, considering the features of the test. All you need to do is skip both the issue and the argument tasks in this section. Yet, skipping the AWA section might prove to be a disaster, especially if you are aiming for a top university for admissions and a higher score in the verbal reasoning section.

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