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GRE Analytical Writing Section Part 1: A lowdown on the GRE Writing section

What is this GRE Analytical Writing Section about?

The GRE  Analytical Writing Section or AWA, informally known as the “Essay section”, assesses your ability to understand complex ideas, analyse arguments, and construct meaningful, coherent responses to said ideas and arguments. In essence, this section tests the different aspects of writing – spelling, grammar, punctuation and not to forget, content!

How is the AWA section structured?

The AWA section is the first section on the GRE. It comprises of two essays: the Issue and the Argument (More on this a little later). You are provided 30 minutes for each essay.

Each essay is graded on a 0.0 – 6.0 scale, with 0.5 increments. Your AWA score is the arithmetic mean of your Issue and Argument essay scores, rounded up to the nearest 0.5.

What are some of the topics that show up in this section?

Some popular essay topics are from the domains of Technology, Society, Economy, and Education.

The Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test provides an insight into the GRE’s Advanced Writing section. Another ETS resource, the Official GRE VERBAL REASONING Practice Questions Volume 1 contains a few practice topics. Both these resources also contain sample responses for different scores –giving you an idea of what a high-scoring essay looks like.

The ETS website contains the entire pool of topics from which both essay tasks are asked. With over 200 topics for each essay type, it is highly recommend that you practice your responses for at least some of these topics.

What are the types of essays?

The AWA section has two essay types:

Issue

The issue task tests your ability to understand a complex idea and pen your thoughts on the same. Essentially, you are asked to take a stand on a particular idea. You are expected to make a compelling case, complete with examples, on your position regarding the issue.

Argument

The argument task tests your ability to analyse a complex argument. The given argument usually contains a brief passage explaining the problem statement and need for a particular action. The passage also contains some proposed solutions, which are backed by evidence. Your task is to frame a response with regards to the coherence of the given argument. You DO NOT  need to offer your own opinion or agree/disagree on the topic provided.

So that brings us to the big question:

How do I ace this section?

When it comes to writing, there is no “one strategy fits all” approach – different people have different writing styles. In general, a good vocabulary, coupled with clarity of thought and excellent grammar helps. You aren’t expected to produce the next great work of literature!

One of the things that helped me do well was the “KISS” principle – Keep It Simple, Silly!

In the next article, I elaborate on some of the tips, tricks and hacks which helped me ace the Advance Writing Assessment section. Stay tuned for more!

About the Author:

Aditya Natarajan is the Ivy Aspire  GRE expert and will share a series of articles to help you crack the GRE!