Almost all major competitive examinations have a writing component to assess your ability to express ideas through written words. GRE and GMAT have analytical writing (AWA) sections, scored from a range of 0 to 6.
Unlike the objective part of the exam (MCQ-based), the writing part is subjective and what is “good” for you may just be “average” in the eyes of the reviewer.
In this post, we explore what analytical writing assessment (AWA) is, its importance, sample GRE & GMAT essays and the ways to grade your practice essays.
What is Analytical Writing Assessment?
AWA tests your analytical and critical thinking skills along with your ability to articulate and expand on complex ideas. It does not focus on specific knowledge of the content in question or your opinion on the matter discussed. The cogency of the presented ideas is very important. The main criteria for the evaluation are as follows:
- quality of ideas presented in the write-up
- ability to develop and organize the presented ideas
- logic/reasoning used to support the ideas
- command of the language/grammar
- sentence variety and vocabulary
- length of the essay
The essays are assigned a couple of ratings, one of which can be from an automated essay grading system. The ratings from the 2 sources are averaged to arrive at the final score. However, if the ratings from the bot and the human reviewer differ by more than a point, another human expert evaluates the essay to resolve the discrepancy. Though there is no official word on the ideal length of the essay, a closer analysis of the official graded pool of essays reveal that longer is usually better. 500-600 words is the sweet range you should target to achieve the golden score. Essays that are longer than this usually seem to compromise on the quality.
Note: The electronic system (e-rater) is based on an algorithm that takes into account a variety of linguistic and syntactical features, including (but not limited to) organization and flow of ideas, structure, and organization. The e-rater has a pool of human-graded essays, and the most predictive features for the grade are identified. If your essay resembles a 6-grade essay, you are likely to get a 6. It is not able to detect subtleties such as a brilliant style of presenting arguments or humor.
How important is the AWA?
There is a tendency among the students to defer the preparation for AWA. The general consensus is that a couple of days of preparation before the test would suffice. As a result, the scores for this section are usually abysmal, especially for the Indian cohort. The students usually skip the AWA section during practice as well, which ends up backfiring as it affects the pacing on the day of the test (it is the first section in the case of GRE/GMAT!).
If the AWA score of a candidate is too low (non commensurate with the rest of the test scores), it can raise a red flag. If you have a stellar SOP and a poor AWA, the admission committee could assume that you’ve had generous external help for drafting that all-important statement. For PhD admissions, the AWA section is very important as a huge part of doctoral studies involves writing effective prose.
Sample GRE and GMAT essays
How to get your Essays graded
Free online and paid options to score your GRE GMAT practice essays
During your practice session for the AWA, it can be confusing to keep on churning out essays without knowing if you’re headed in the right direction. Hence, a score/grade for an essay is essential for your preparation (feedback is even better). So, what are your options, apart from self-evaluation?
- MBA Crystal Ball hosted free online AWA essay grader is most probably the best option available in the market to grade your essays online for free. But we admit, we may be biased! You get your score instantaneously, and the grade is pretty reliable (though probably not as accurate as the official rater).
- Official services from the test-setter: if you have to be absolutely sure of your footing, going the official way takes the cake. ETS ScoreItNow! service grades a couple of your GRE essays for $20. You will be provided with reader commentary and diagnostic information. GMAT Write® costs $29.99. However, most students do not opt for these services as usually there are cheaper and equally efficient alternatives available.
- Test preparation companies such as The Princeton Review and Kaplan offer packages for grading the essays (generally as a part of their test series). Experts trained in scoring the essays assign a grade in accordance with the official guidelines and also provide feedback to the candidate. TestBig grades one essay per day for the free account, and unlimited essays for a paid subscription.
- Family and friends: while this may seem to be a an unreliable way, having a fresh pair of eyes for grading can be incredibly helpful. Let them know the constraints and idea behind the essay and provide them with a perfect sample if possible. It is a sure-fire way to discover flaws in your writing. If you’re a student, you can also find a professor in the linguistics department of your college.
- Internet allies: help from forums like Beat the GMAT, GMAT Club, and PaGalGuy can be forthcoming as they have dedicated talk boards for AWA. You can start with being a respectful member and grading other’s essay while earning some “karma”. Hopefully, there will be a kind soul who will offer feedback as you post your essay on the relevant board.
- AWAProfessor™ specializes in the service of GRE/GMAT AWA scoring. The essays are scored by an expert rater and an automated electronic grader. It provides personalized feedback to the student, plus an exclusive portal access to clear doubts from the experts (costs $19.99 as of June 2017). However, it takes about a couple of days for them to revert.
Are you aware of any other options for free online essay grading of GRE and GMAT essays?
– Reviews of the top GRE Online Courses