The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) involves 1 hour of Writing Assessment. The Analytical Writing Assessment Section
involves 2 tasks of 30 minutes each, totaling up to ONE HOUR of critical thinking, constructing and deconstructing of ideas,
and writing. You use 30 minutes to “Analyze an Issue” and 30 minutes to “Analyze an Argument”. Thus, Writing Assessment
involves anywhere between an estimated 30% to 45% of the time you use to take the exam (depending on whether you
take the Computer Based Test or the Paper Delivered Test), and should not be taken lightly at all. Rather, the test taker
must probe into the scoring style of the AWA essays, and approach these sections with thorough practice and keen
understanding of the mission behind including this section in the Test. On many occasions the AWA essays can go directly into the hands of Admission Committees of the Universities where the test taker applies or intends to apply for higher education, and hence the student has to make sure he leaves a good first impression of his critical thinking, his ability to break down a megalith of an issue or an argument into smaller portions to deal with, and his articulation abilities.
It is true that the Analytical Section is scored separately, and that the AWA score is not reported along with the GRE score. The AWA Section is scored on a scale of 0-6. A prepared student will face this section with aplomb, whereas an unprepared student will use up most of the time in understanding the battle and devising a
battle strategy. Lack of practice will lead to nervousness and lack of hold over time. Thorough practice will mean that the stipulated time is divided wisely to understand the statement of the Issue or the Argument, understand what is required of the question, jot down points that need to be written down in response, add compelling examples where necessary, organise the notes for proper negotiating power of the planned essay, break down the essay into paragraphs when topics shift, and have some remainder time for a quick proof-reading. Another advantage of thorough practice of writing assessment is that you are made to sit for that extra 1 hour before the other sections are delivered to you, making it a very close simulation of the real world scenario. That one hour can enthuse and charge you up for the rest of the test if you are wellpracticed and do well on it, or it may drain you and spoil the rest of the test for you. Thus, it is important to regard the AWA section as
(at the least) an extra hour of test of mental focus, and as warmup time before the Verbal and Quantitative sections come into the picture.
As stated earlier, the AWA Sections has 2 tasks:A. Analyse an Issue B. Analyse an Argument The 2 tasks are more or less complementary, in the sense that in
analyzing an issue, you construct your own argument and power negotiate in its favour through proper articulation and apt
examples, whereas in analysing an argument, you deconstruct the line of argument to find possible weak links that can be pointed out and capitalised on. A list of AWA topics can be found at www.ets.org/gre/awtopics.
Whether it is an Issue Essay or an Argument Essay, it is important to budget one’s time accordingly:
1. Understand what is being stated
2. Understand what is being asked out of you
3. Plan your response by taking notes point wise, and arranging
them so they look best when put together as an essay
4. Write down the response
5. Proof read
Being persuasive is the key while writing down the responses. The thoughts have to be well articulated, and bolstered by befitting examples, shifts of thoughts should be dealt with by wise paragraphing, and the conclusion has to be crisp, clear and a summary of the essay. The writing style does not matter much so long as the evaluators get a feel that you are persuading them properly, using sound examples to your support, and have understood the topic properly.
PREPARATION STRATEGIES:The best way to prepare for AWA essays is through group work followed by exchanging essays and evaluating each others’ essays for possible weaknesses. The practice can start in an untimed fashion during the early days, but must be converted to timed practice as you get deeper into preparation mode. Consulting some journalists, writing strategists, or philosophy professors to understand the nuts and bolts of critical thinking and lucid persuasive writing. All of this and a LOTS and LOTS of practice will make you perfect or near-perfect. And yes, …… reading a lot always helps in life!
HAPPY AWA’ING!!! 🙂
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