GRE Analytical Writing

AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment) of the GRE is the first and the foremost section of the GRE test. It tests your ability to reason, thinking, logical analysis, and writing capacity using the Standard English language. AWA consists of two essays, one is the issue essay and the other one is the argument-based essay.

Both the essays are allocated half an hour each and there are no breaks in between. One has to write the essays continuously. There is no word limit and the scoring is from 0 to 6 with a one-point increment scale.

The issue essay is topic-based, the candidate has to give his/her opinion on a specific topic and give reasonable evidence to support his/her claim substantially. The candidate has to arrange their essay coherently and has to present cogent arguments.

The argument-based essay has an argument and the candidate is asked to give alternate explanations, provide any faults with the assumptions, or anything more of the sort. The candidate doesn’t have to give any new information and is not asked to take a stand or give an opinion. The candidate has to find assumptions and give solutions to the faulty assumptions to make the argument stronger.

AWA is evaluated by a human reader and an e-reader according to the standards set by the GRE. Your AWA score is not released along with the other scores at the end of the test, it is released along with the official scorecard roughly 2 weeks after the test.

Different sections on the Analytical Writing

The GRE Analytical Writing Assessment or the AWA is the essay-based section of the GRE. It is the first section with two question types and half an hour time slot for each question.

The first question is the issue-based question. The question will contain two parts, the first part provides the issue on which the essay has to be written. Usually, these topics are very general and do not require any special knowledge of the topic. Generic questions require generic examples but they have to be substantial and support the claims. The second part of the question has the TASK. It contains what is expected of the candidate for the essay, usually, they ask the candidates to express the extent to which they agree with the topic or disagree with the topic. Also, they ask the candidate to detail the situations where their position might not hold water, in the sense, one has to also detail the challenges that one might encounter while taking a certain position.

The second question is an argument-based essay, wherein the candidate is given an argument passage and is asked to give alternate explanations, find assumptions, and give points to strengthen the argument. In this case, the candidate is not asked to give an opinion. Arguments lessons learned during the verbal reasoning will help in deconstructing the arguments, finding assumptions and testing the strength of the claims in the argument.

Finally, both the questions demand an essay out of the candidate. So, their English writing skills take a pivotal role in the essay.

GRE Analytical Scoring pattern

The Analytical Writing Assessment of the GRE is scored on a scale of 0 to 6, with a one-point increment. Both the Issue and the Argument essays are scored on band descriptors.

The issue essay is judged on how well the essay is articulated and how insightful the position is. The candidate has to develop the position fully with compelling evidence and persuasive examples. Additionally, the candidate has to sustain a well-focused, well-organized and coherently connected essay. Moreover, the essay is evaluated on the basis of the Standard English Conventions: sentence structures, fluent vocabulary and grammar conventions.

The Argument essay is evaluated based on whether the candidate has clearly identified all the aspects of the argument. Additionally, the candidate has to provide relevant evidence, cogently connected ideas and must connect them with clear transitions. Additionally, strong alternative explanations are required to support the argument-based essay. Also, the essay is judged upon the Standard English Conventions: Vocabulary, grammar and fluency in the language.

Finally, the presentation of points and English language skills should be the fine finishings that an essay should possess.

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Analytical Writing Comparison

Issue Task Question GRE MCQ-1
Argument Task Question GRE MCQ-2

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About the GRE Exam


What is the format of the GRE?

The GRE test consists of three sections:

  • Analytical Writing
  • Quantitative Reasoning and
  • Verbal Reasoning

The Analytical Writing section will always come first. It consists of two tasks and will take an hour to complete.

After the writing section, test-takers will face two verbal and two quant sections. Along with these four, there will be an experimental section(unscored) that is either a quant or a verbal section.

On the whole, these five sections will appear in a random order on the GRE test. To get a better hold of the format, test-takers are encouraged to take a GRE practice test.

What is the word limit for AWA?

There is no particular word limit for AWA, students can decide their comfortable word range.

Are there any predictable topics for the AWA?

There are no standard topics that repeat. But, the topics are very generalist in nature and they do not require any specialist knowledge of any particular field.

Is a very good vocabulary mandatory for AWA?

AWA judges you upon standard English Conventions, which is just one of the evaluating criteria. But, having a strong hold on vocabulary is always a good thing.

Does preparing for verbal reasoning help me with the AWA?

Yes, the arguments section in the GRE will help in writing your AWA essays. The patterns, the techniques to find claims, evidences and assumptions are helpful in deconstructing the issue and argument essay questions.

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