Last Updated: March 08, 2021

GRE Essay

The GRE exam is comprised of three sections in all of which deal with verbal, quantitative, and analytical problems respectively. The sections are therefore called Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. The time given for the entire GRE General Test is 3 hours and 45 minutes where the essay portion/ Analytical Writing section will be given an hour in all.

GRE essay has two tasks that deal with two different ways of analyzing the student’s critical thinking abilities and each of these tasks will be given 30-minutes each only within with the essay will have to be completed. This section is also known as the AWA and will be referred to as the same from here on.

What is AWA?

The Analytical Writing section, also known as the AWA, is used to measure writing skills and the ability to intelligently support ideas and statements with reliable facts and evidence. It does not focus on content-specific knowledge and relies on organizational skills.

Similar to other writing sections of standardized tests, the AWA section requires the demonstration of writing skills that one has gained until their current stage in life. It provides the test-taker with different options for subject-focused or task-focused writing which will be of use to them in their graduate programs. The ability to respond within the given time-frame, to analyze the statements given along with the claims and assumptions that have been made, and to write a well-structured essay based on information they have gathered will be the basic markers according to which students will be graded in this section.

AWA Test Structure

The AWA consists of two tasks: The Issue task and the Argument task. Both of these tasks focus on different skill sets the student may have. They are each given 30-minutes in all within which the student should have written an organized essay either critically analyzing the statements given or expressing their opinions regarding the same depending on the task and what is asked. Most questions will be ambiguous in nature but answers are supposed to have a sense of purpose and direction that the questions may lack.

Issue Task: Learn more about writing the issue essay on How to write the Issue Essay? page.
Argument Task: Learn more about Argument essays on How to write an Argument Essay? page.
The tasks complement each other by requiring the student to provide their own arguments in one section and asking the student to examine someone else’s work in the next. The computer-based examination is generally conducted on a basic word processor with no spelling and grammar check available. All other basic functions will be present in the word processor.

Why is Essay important?

The whole idea of having this section in the paper is to judge the candidate better. Essays give a good insight into one's way of thinking, understanding, reasoning, analyzing & presenting their opinions. This is a section for which learning things by heart won't help as one has to have a deeper insight to write coherently. The essay section in the GRE also is a language test for the student appearing in this test. The essays, in fact, are long passages that are written for expressing one's views/ideas, so one has to write it in a specific format. The student's command of English has to be good, implying that it ought to be not only grammatically correct but also should be in an impressive language.

The issue essay in GRE needs a sufficient amount of prep before the real test. When preparing for this issue essay, one needs to understand and know what all can be asked in an issue essay. The student also ought to know the essay's total word limit, the time allotted as well as the maximum marks they can score in this section.

A score of '4' out of '6' is considered 'competent.' Although it is nice being efficient, one should always strive for good or the best, so it's equally important to put in a little more effort just as one would for the other sections.

Preparing for the Analytical Writing Section

Many students don't prepare themselves for this writing section. It's ironic as it's one of the GRE sections where even preparing on a small scale can create a huge difference on the day of the test. To tackle this section, one must know about writing in a concise and disciplined manner:

Scoring and Evaluation of the GRE Essays

As soon as you give the test, the GRE essays are electronically sent to a centrally based processing location, and shortly thenceforth, each of the 2 GRE essays is read and then evaluated. The essay is given a human score and a computer score the average of which will be the final score.

The Analytical Writing section is scored holistically by a trained rater who uses a 6-point scale. This means that the essay is initially graded for its overall quality than sectional quality. They provide the student with an average score for each task.

The same task is then scored by an e-rater which is a program designed to evaluate essays in GRE and other proficiency tests. The e-rater would look at the presence of general features relating to an essay and provide an average grade accordingly. The student will be given an average of these two grades if the grades coincide. But if the grades do not coincide, a second evaluator is brought in who grades the essay again to get a final score.

To learn more about AWA scoring, go on to our How to ace GRE AWA? page.

Test-Taking Strategies

One of the most important rules of the AWA section is to follow directions carefully. Unlike most writing tests, the tasks given on the AWA will come with specific instructions directed to the topic of the task in question; they relate directly to the prompt given and should be heeded when writing the essay. Many students only skim over directions and miss critical information needed to write the essay. The other pointers are:


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