Everything You Need to Know About the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment

If you are currently prepping for your GRE or want to do so soon, this article is just what you are looking for. Knowing your test’s sections will give you an overview of how you should prepare and divide your time. Not to mention, getting a glimpse of what’s to come on your exam day will for sure help put your nerves at ease.

Today’s headliner is the GRE’s Analytical Writing Section. Continue reading to get introduced to the third section in the GRE.

Today’s main topics to be discussed will be the following:

  1. What is the GRE Exam?
  2. What is the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment Section?
    • What is this section testing?
    • What is this section made up of?
      • Analyze an Issue
      • Analyze an Argument
      • Duration
    • What are the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment Section scores like?
      • Score Percentile 2021
    • Apex’s GRE Analytical Writing Assessment Section Studying tips

What is the GRE Exam?

The GRE, also known as, The Graduate Record Examinations, is a standardized exam done for the sake of testing the test-taker’s ability to think outside the box when it comes to analytical writing, mathematics, and vocabulary. The majority of GRE test takers are students looking into Business Schools and in some cases Law Schools and also students considering  Master’s (M.A., M.S., M.Ed.), MBA’s, or Doctorate (Ph.D., Ed.D.).

This GRE test consists of three main sections. These sections being Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing Assessment Section. 

All these sections’ scores will, later on, sum up and make a minimum total of 260 and a maximum total of 340. 

What is the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment Section?

Now that the bigger picture is clear, let’s talk about our main focus for today, The Analytical Writing Assessment Section.

This section aims to test your ability to critically think and write analytically. It also aims to assess your skills when it comes to articulating, supporting complex ideas, constructing and evaluating arguments, alongside your ability to discuss coherently. 

The GRE Analytical Writing Assessment has two separately timed tasks. These two different sections are:

    • Analyze an Issue task
    • Analyze an Argument task

Now, let’s break down these two different tasks asked of the GRE test-taker to complete. 

Analyze an Issue task

In this task you are given a particular point of view on a specific issue, which is then followed by instructions on how to respond to that issue. You are expected to evaluate the issue at hand while considering its complexities. You should also develop and present an argument, backing it up with reasoning and examples.  

This task in specific aims to assess your ability to express your thoughts in the form of writing, while linking different points together to make a solid point. These types of questions can be discussed and interpreted in many different ways. You are asked to present your point of view on this issue, as well as your stance on it. 

Before anything, make sure to read the issue and the instructions that follow carefully. Take a minute and see the issue presented from several different points of view. After that, make an outline of what you want your essay to look like. Do not forget your examples and supporting details!

Analyze an Argument task

Similarly to the “Analyze an Issue” task, you are to evaluate a particular argument while following specific instructions. However, what makes this task different is the fact that you are asked to consider the logical soundness of the argument given, rather than agree or disagree with the provided stance. 

Like the whole GRE Analytical Writing Assessment, this task aims to test your critical thinking and analysis. Your writing skills, when it comes to voicing your opinion, are also under the telescope here.

As mentioned before, in this specific task, you are expected to discuss the logical soundness of the provided case by examining critically and providing reasoning and evidence. 

While reading the given argument, take note of the following:

    • What is mentioned, and what is not.
    • What is used as support or proof.
    • What is clearly stated, and what should be inferred. 

Make sure to keep a close eye on the structure of your argument and how you linked pieces of evidence together. While doing that, assess the harmony of the points and if they are linked logically, and in a way that makes sense. You do not want your argument to fall short and sound blocky. 

Each task in the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment Section is allocated half an hour to be completed. That means that these two tasks are timed separately, meaning that once you are done with the first task, the half an hour timer starts again for your next task. 

These two different tasks complement each other. That is, one task requires you to put together your own argument, and that is through taking a position and backing it up with supporting details. The other one requires you to assess another person’s argument by evaluating the argument’s evidence and claim. 

What are the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment Section scores like?

As we all know by now, the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment Section includes two different tasks, but that does not mean that these tasks will have two different scores recorded. For a more reliable score, you are provided with one single score that ranges from 0 to 6, in half-increments*

* In half-point increments: Suppose you got a 4/6 on the Issues essay and a 5/9 on your Argument essay. This then means that your total GRE Analytical Writing score would be 4.5. Your final Writing score—the average of the two essays— is then rounded up to the nearest half-point.

GRE  Analytical Writing Assessment Section Percentile (2021):

Score 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0 5.5 6
Percentile 0 0 1 5 13 37 54 80 91 98 99

Apex’s GRE Analytical Writing Assessment Section Studying tips

  1. Choose your words carefully:  When writing during this part of your GRE Exam, make sure to pick the best words that would best express what you mean to say. Focus on using strong words, and avoid using weak words. That would then result in strong, declarative statements. Keep in mind that having your two tasks written perfectly with strong vocabulary would sure help in boosting your final AWA score!
  2. Focus on your transitions: Moving from one point to the other can be difficult and sometimes challenging. For that reason, use just the right transition word when shifting from one idea to the other. Transition words like, “Moreover, On the contrary, Not only, Similarly”, would help a harmonious essay seem organized and coherent. Which is exactly what you should be aiming for while writing your AWA tasks.
  3. Refute the opposing view at the end: When it comes to your GRE ISSUE ESSAY, do not forget to refute the other point of view. Considering that this specific task provides you with a certain point of view that you are considered to evaluate, a lot of GRE test-takers tend to forget to refute the opposing point of view at the end of your essays. Remember, the structure is similar to that of an argument essay. 
  4. Practice: To mentally feel at ease, you need to feel like you have grasped the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment Section’s material and type of questioning. Knowing what you will be asked and getting the gist of this section will for sure help you in acing this section. 
  5. Avoid using the First Point of View: While providing reasoning and backing up your argument, and even when you are stating your stance, avoid at all costs, using the First Point of View. That is, do not use self-reference. Avoid statements like, “I believe”, “I found that”, or “I say” at all costs. Using such statements will weaken the credibility and trustworthiness of your tasks. Your readers want to see how you are utilizing professional sources and where you fit them in your essays.

Long Story Short 

Every GRE Test-taker should take the AWA section in their GRE seriously, and allocate ample time for prepping before the big day. Knowing the skills that you will be tested on will guide you into knowing what and where to spend time on while studying for this specific section. 

Take your time to fully understand and grasp the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment Section material. With the right amount of dedication and hard work, acing your GRE is more than possible.

If you are looking for professional help to boost your GRE performance, head to our official website and book your 30 minutes complimentary assessment session, now!

Contributor: Lilas Al-Sammak

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