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GRE - Analytical Writing section (AWA), ACE it!

The Graduate Record Examination, better known as the GRE, is one of the most common standardized tests for students completing undergraduate degrees. Much like the necessity of the SAT or ACT to gain entry into an undergraduate program, the GRE provides a step toward entry into post-graduate programs in the United States and a few outside countries. The GRE is broken down into portions, consisting of three major sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing.

What AWA tests?

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.


"Analytical Writing-measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills, specifically your ability to articulate and support complex ideas clearly and effectively."


As with most writing portions of standardized tests, the AWA section should demonstrate the capability of writing to the level of education received up to this point in a person's life. The AWA provides the test-taker with several different options for subject or task to focus on for writing. The purpose is to test the ability to respond to a specific task, rather than a general idea.

AWA Structure

The AWA consists of two essays: the Issue and the Argument. The Issue first brings up the idea of the issue being presented; the GRE will list instructions with an issue of choice. This issue will be open to various points to allow for discussion; the test-taker must choose one side to discuss and not flip-flop between several different views. The second step is to analyze the side chosen and be able to present a clear, logical argument with facts to support the chosen point. The Argument, the second of the two essays, allows the test-taker to criticize someone else's argument (written by the writers, not another student). The test-taker describes the argument and then proceeds to address flaws in the argument, using hypothetical examples and supporting evidence, either from personal experience or information presented previously in the argument.

Things to Remember

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 completing the essay. Many students only skim over directions and miss critical information needed to write the essay.

AWA Scoring

The AWA is scored on a six-point scale, with six being the highest possible score that can be achieved; the lowest possible score is a zero. The scoring range is displaying in half points, meaning it starts at the lowest, zero, and rises by 0.5 of a point until a six (the highest) is reached. If a student receives a zero, it means the essay was completely unscorable; the only possibility of this occurrence would be if the essay were completely off topic or if it was not legible. A six is described as a well-articulated essay that addresses the issue at hand and strongly supports the stance on the issue with clear, understandable facts.

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