- The Issue Task
- The Argument Task
Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is one of three skills tested in the GRE exam. The AWA section is always presented first. The importance of this section is usually overshadowed by the other two sections, namely the quantitative section and the verbal section. Most of the GRE aspirants consider practicing for this section as a waste of time as they consider themselves to be well-versed in the English language, but this over-confidence often proves to be detrimental to their GRE score. Practicing for this section will put you in an advantageous position over the others who take this section lightly.
It is recommended that you find out from the university you are applying to how strongly they consider the AWA section. The scores for this section are not part of the total GRE score. They are graded on a separate scale out of 6. Generally speaking, a score above 4 is enough to get you into a decent college but if you are seeking admission into an esteemed university like Harvard, you need to aim for a perfect score of 6, or at least a 5.5. A key thing to note is that your AWA score can also be used to judge how authentic your SOP and application essays are!
The Analytical Writing Assessment section measures your critical thinking and logical reasoning abilities. It is divided into two sub-sections, namely the “Issue” task and the “Argument” task.
In this part, you are asked to “Present Your Perspective on an Issue”. You are given a quotation that states an opinion of an issue which you have to analyze and give your own point of view. You are required to take a stand and substantiate your stand with valid reasons and relevant examples. There is no definite or correct answer to this task. You can either support or refute the views expressed in the quotation. Whatever you write must be relevant to the issue under discussion. One effective approach is to start by introducing both sides of the argument briefly before announcing your stand, then supporting your argument in the succeeding paragraphs and finally coming to an absolute conclusion. Another approach is stating your own point of view, acknowledging the arguments in favour of the other side and then rebutting the arguments one by one. You will be judged mostly on how logically and effectively you present your case. You are given 30 minutes to complete this part.
In this part, you are asked to “Analyze an Argument”. Like the first part, this too is a timed section of 30 minutes wherein you will be given a short passage and asked to judge the logical soundness of the argument the author has made. You are not supposed to take a stand or present your own opinion in this part. You do not have to agree or disagree with the author’s argument either. You are specifically asked to analyze an argument, so try to be analytical rather than being creative. Restate the claim made by the author and evaluate the assumptions made by the author. Point out where the argument lacks evidence and/or logic. Discuss the flaws in the reasoning of the argument. Also, you can suggest ways in order to strengthen the argument.
Grading of the essays
The essays are graded by two readers on a holistic scale ranging from 0-6, with 6 being the highest possible score. In holistic grading, the essay is evaluated as a whole while considering the major elements of content, structure and stances. If the grades awarded by the two readers differ by more than one point, the essay is then graded by a third reader. The final score is calculated by taking the average of the four grades and rounding it off to the nearest half-point. You must have a look at the scoring guide before taking the GRE as it will give you an insight on how the essays are graded. Go through the ‘Reader’s Commentary’ thoroughly to understand what the readers expect in these two essays.
ETS also provides an online service known as ScoreItNow! It is an online writing practice service that helps one in the preparation for the Analytical Writing section of the GRE. ScoreItNow! has a few unique features that can prove to be beneficial to the GRE aspirants. You can submit your essays on this web-based tool and get an immediate score by ETS’s e-rater scoring system. You receive feedbacks on the essays submitted by you and get suggestions on how to improve your analytical writing skills. You can also review graded essays on the topics you select. This tool enables you to judge the level of your preparation.
The two tasks of the AWA section are complementary to each other. As stated earlier, both of these tasks have a time constraint of 30 minutes each. So you need to manage your time accordingly. Check for grammatical errors after completing each of these essays. A few errors can be overlooked but an essay full of grammatical mistakes is bound to lower your score. Follow a direct and clear style of writing. Creativity is always appreciated but try not to experiment too much because you might end up jeopardizing your GRE score. In order to ace the analytical section of the GRE, you would require insightful analytical skills which come from regular practice. Make full use of the practice tests available on the official website of ETS http://www.ets.org/gre/prepare. You should also have a look at the sample essays provided on http://www.gre.org/pracmats.html .
If you work hard through the practice tests, you will be able to perform well in the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section of the GRE.
Best of luck!
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