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GRE Analytical Writing: GRE Essay

In this section, you will be assigned two topics, the Analysis of Issue and the Analysis of Argument. You will have 30 minutes for each of them. There is no break between them. About two weeks after you take the GRE, you will receive a grade from 1 to 6.

The AWA is scored separately from quantitative and verbal section, but it is rather important to score as high as possible since the top graduate programs consider it highly essential for graduate education. So, do not postpone AWA preparation until the last several days.

The good news is that AWA can be fully prepared. The test-maker, ETS has published all of its essay topics in advance. You can easily download them on the websites. To get full advantage, you should become very familiar with the topic of real essay questions.

1. Visit the ETS website at http://www.gre.org/issuetop.html, and download the Issue questions.
2. Also download the Argument questions at http://www.gre.org/argutop.html.
3. Quickly read through all of the essay questions. Think about how you could respond to these essays. If you get time, respond to at least 5 essays for each section.

How essays are scored?

Your essays will be graded by both e-rater and a human grader. The e-rater is a computer program, designed to evaluate your writing according to the pre-programmed criteria. If the computer and human grader differ greatly in their assessments, a second human is brought into the mix to referee and make the final call. The final step is to average all four scores (two for each essay and round the result to the nearest half point. This becomes the AWA score included on the score report sent to the programs you applied for.
What is a good essay? A good essay will be persuasive in content, well organized in structure, and clear in English language with, if any, very few grammar errors.

General Strategy

The E-rater's main impact is to put more value on highly structured writing and the use of keywords and phrases that it recognizes. If you do not write your essay in the proper format for the E-rater it could lead to a lower score. So, be careful for the following Do and Don't.


• Clearly show your essay organization by using transitional words or phrases, such as “first”, “finally”, “therefore”, etc to make your essay highly structured.
• Carefully read our tens of sample responses to Real Essays to get informed how an E-rater-friendly essay can be.
• Respond to at least five essays each in limited 30 minutes. Make sure you are able to cover every necessary paragraph on the test day.


• Write an essay like a prose or story. The E-rater simply doesn’t like this. Rather, your essay should be logically clear, and succinct in content, more like a summary of strategy report from McKinsey.
• Never type “threefore” for “therefore”. If you do that, the e-rater will assume there is no such word.
• Prepare very carefully for each of the 280 questions. There is one point you should keep in mind. That is, no one can prepare carefully for everything. Remember, GRE is only one of the criteria that the business schools consider. (Other factors such as work experience, and application essays are also very important.)

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