If you are planning to take the GRE exam, then you should know one of the sections that you need to master is the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment section, or the GRE AWA for short. The GRE AWA is an equally important section in the exam besides the other two — Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections. Though it doesn’t contribute to your composite score, you must prepare for it thoroughly as most universities give a lot of importance to this score in addition to the composite score. So, let’s acquaint you with the AWA section of the GRE exam. 

AWA GRE Topics

The Analytical Writing Assessment section is divided into two parts — GRE Analyse an issue and GRE Analyse and Argument. Each has a 30-minute time duration. 

  • Analyse an Issue: Under ‘analyse an issue’ topic, you are provided an issue and are required to present your arguments and support your opinions with specific examples. You are required to answer this question/topic based on specific instructions (on how to respond to the issue) that is presented to you.
  • Analyse an Argument: On the other hand, under the ‘analyse an argument’ you are provided with an argument. Based on specific instructions, you are required to evaluate the argument presented or the claim made, as opposed to strengthening or weakening the argument that is presented to you.

The overall aim of the AWA topics for GRE is not the same. While an analyse-an-issue topic aims to test your ability to present a view and support it with examples, the analyse-an-argument topic aims to test your ability to gauge someone else’s argument by analysing their claims and evaluating the evidence they provide.

AWA GRE: What is the Medium? 

The GRE AWA section is available in both methods of test deliveries —  the computer-delivered and the paper-based. If you choose the computer-delivered test, then you will be provided with a word processing tool that is developed specifically by ETS to conduct this section of the test. The word processor involves basic tools such as insert or delete text, cut and paste and undo command. In order to be fair to those taking a paper-based test, the word processing tool does not have any spelling or grammar check feature. 

Moreover, if you are opting for a paper-administered test, then you must ensure that your handwritten essays are transcribed into the test booklet that will also contain the answers to your verbal and quant sections. Furthermore, you will be required to write clearly and quickly. While there is no AWA word limit in the GRE, it is recommended to keep your AWA essay short. Hence, it is essential you take some time to organize your thoughts and structure your arguments well before you start writing. 

Why is the GRE AWA Section Important?

Even though the AWA section does not contribute to the composite score you will receive for your GRE, this section is not to be treated with less importance. The universities you apply to will use this score to check your skills in articulation, critical thinking, logical reasoning, and writing. 

For any masters course you might pursue abroad, you will definitely be expected to write plenty of essays, research papers, thesis statements, and more, so make sure you don’t take this section lightly. Practice some GRE AWA sample questions over the course of your GRE study plan so that you are not caught unaware when your exam date rolls around.

AWA GRE Scores and Evaluation

The purpose of the AWA section of the GRE exam is to assess your critical thinking skills and your ability to clearly articulate your arguments. Based on this, your write-ups are scored on a scale of 0-6, 6 being the highest and representing a well-articulated criticism of the argument, and 0 being the lowest score, representing that you do not meet the requirements of the AWA GRE section. Moreover, the Analytical Writing Assessment has a 0.5-point increment system. Although there are two topics in this section, the score provided is an average of the two topics and is presented as a single score. 

Furthermore, the scoring of your analytical writing section is carried out by a human and a computer grading system. First, your essay is graded holistically by a trained evaluator who analyses your essay and grades you based on the overall quality. Second, your essay is reviewed by ETS’s computer program called “E-Rater”. This computer program helps to standardize test scores across different writing styles and knowledge backgrounds. However, if there are significantly large differences between the computer and human scores, then the essays are evaluated by a second human. The final scores are the average of both the scores, as rated by the two trained evaluators, and are rounded to the closest half-point interval.

What is a Good GRE AWA Score?

As mentioned above, the AWA section of the GRE is scored on a scale of 1-6 with 0.5-point increment.

Score RangePerformance
5.5 – 6Excellent
4.5 – 5.0High
3.5 – 4.0Average
0.0 – 3.0Low

99% of students score below 6, whereas 98% score below 5.5. The percentile then dips, with 92% scoring below 5. 82% score below 4.5, and 59% score below 4. Regardless of the college, you are applying to, it would be wise to aim high for your AWA section.

GRE AWA Preparation Tips

A commonly asked question by most GRE candidates is how to prepare for AWA GRE? Here are some tips that may help you as you prepare for the Analytical Writing Assessment section in the GRE:

  1. Make sure you practice AWA GRE sample questions for both the ‘analyse an issue’ and ‘analyse an argument’ task. Include it in your study plan, as it is easy to overlook this section sometimes, and think that you can “manage”. However, taking this section for granted would be setting yourself up for failure, as it is as important as the other sections in the exam.
  2. Practice creating an outline for your essay. You may use the ETS AWA samples to create your own essay outline or template. This will help you get your thoughts in order and you will be able to make sure you have covered all relevant aspects of your argument.
  3. Read sample essays for both the ‘analyse an issue’ and ‘analyse an argument’ tasks written by other students. This will help you understand what kind of essay is usually looked upon favourably, and also make you comfortable with the essay structure.
  4. Grammar is important – if required, brush up on basic grammar concepts over the course of your preparation. Reading well-written essays will also help cement the elements of a well-constructed sentence in your mind. While you are not being graded especially for grammar in the GRE AWA section, it is important to the quality of your articulation, so make sure you have enough practice.

Now that we have explained in detail about the AWA GRE section, the GRE AWA pattern, the method of evaluating this section, and the AWA GRE score pattern, we hope you’re in a better position to begin your GRE AWA preparation. It is essential that you write quickly and at the same time keep your focus throughout the 30-minute duration of the analytical writing assessment task while building your arguments. ETS recommends that even good writers should spend some amount of their preparation time practising the GRE AWA tasks. To enhance your preparation further, do check out the pool of essay prompts or AWA GRE example essays published by ETS. 

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GRE AWA Short Quiz

Test your knowledge on the concepts of GRE Verbal and Quant by taking this 5-minute quiz.

1 / 3

 The new stand-up comedy show in the city is so funny that we __________ until our stomachs and sides hurt really bad.

2 / 3

Many companies now have employee assistance programs that enable employees, free of charge, to improve their physical fitness, reduce stress, and learn ways to stop smoking. These programs increase worker productivity, reduce absenteeism, and lessen insurance costs for employee health care. Therefore, these programs benefit the company as well as the employee.


Which of the following, if true, most significantly strengthens the conclusion above?

3 / 3

For a product costing $x, at tax of 1.5% is levied upon it. For every bill that is made, a service charge of $12 is added. A final bill of $336.8 is made out to a customer.

Quantity AQuantity B

Your score is

The average score is 26%



  • How much time will I have to solve this section?
    You will have a total of 1 hour to complete the whole section – but since both questions are timed individually (30 minutes for each section), you will not be able to use the time provided for one question to solve the other question in case you finish early.
  • What should I do to prepare for the AWA section in the GRE?
    You should read sample essays, practice creating an outline for your thoughts that you can elaborate upon, and also read other literature to improve your familiarity with common grammar concepts in the English language.
  • The AWA section does not count toward my composite GRE score. Why should I prepare for it in the first place?
    Even though this section does not contribute to your official GRE score, all of the colleges you apply to will use your score on this section to measure your articulation skills and your ability to logically reason while presenting a coherent argument. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring this section in your study plan!

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