The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is the first section that you’ll encounter in the GRE exam. Most tend to neglect the AWA essay section while preparing for the exam thinking it is not as consequential as the other GRE sections. However, the GRE AWA score plays an essential role in determining your eligibility, especially if you are planning to apply for a research-oriented program abroad. 

Through the course of this article, we’ll provide information on the score level descriptions, GRE AWA score averages, the percentiles, the ways to improve the scores and more.


The AWA section consists of two tasks — Analyze an Argument and Analyze an Issue — that intends to measure your ability to think critically, analyze a given prompt and reason through writing. Your performance in the AWA section is an indicator of how well you can express your thoughts in the English language, which is necessary for the masters and doctoral courses. Now, let’s take a look at the two tasks:

  • Analyze an Issue – The GRE Analyze an issue task measures your ability to critically think about a topic and express your ideas in writing. The task presents an issue statement followed by certain instructions. Your task is to evaluate the statement based on the given instructions, think about the issue from different perspectives, and write a response. While writing a response, you are also required to provide reasons to support them. You’ll get 30 minutes to complete this task.
  • Analyze an Argument – The GRE Analyze an Argument task assesses your ability to comprehend, and evaluate the arguments given. The task also measures how well you express your opinion on  the argument. The task presents a passage, where the author makes a case for some course of action or interpretation of events by providing claims backed by evidence. Your task is to critically examine the evidence presented to support the  claim, identify if the evidence supports the argument, and write whether the claim is logically correct. You’ll get 30 minutes to write your response.

How is GRE AWA Scored?

AWA scoring is done in two parts, let us learn more about the same. The two tasks in the AWA section of GRE are first scored by one trained rater. These evaluators are trained to provide scores on the basis of the overall quality of your essay. Once that score is given, a computerized program developed by ETS scores your essay. These e-raters are capable of identifying features of the essay pertaining to your writing proficiency. After that, the ETS considers the average of these two scores to give the final score. If there is a mismatch  between the scores, another trained rater re-evaluates the essays, and the ETS provides a final score based on the average of the scores provided by the human raters. 

The GRE Score Level Descriptions

Though the GRE Analytical Writing comprises two writing tasks, scores are reported in a combined form, as it is more reliable than reporting separate scores for each task. The AWA section is scored on a scale of 0-6 with half-point increment and doesn’t not contribute to the overall GRE score

If you are looking for a more comprehensive breakdown of scores, given below are the different score levels and the criteria for the same.

Score 6-5.5 

  • If you construct and support your claims with highly persuasive evidence or relatable examples.
  • Use precise vocabulary and effectively convey the meaning.
  • Provide an in-depth analysis of complex ideas. 
  • Make minor mistakes that don’t impede the meaning of the essay. 

Score 5-4.5

  • If you provide a thoughtful analytical interpretation of complex ideas.
  • Use good sentence structure and vocabulary.
  • Develop main points and provide convincing evidence to support them.
  • Maintain good control over the usage of language. 
  • Even if the writing has minor errors, it doesn’t change the meaning of the essay.

Score 4-3.5

  • A fair analysis of the ideas.
  • Supports the claims with relevant examples.
  • Conveys the meaning sensibly.
  • Decent control over the structure of sentences and language usage.
  • Errors that could affect the clarity of the essay.

Scores 3-2.5

  • Average competence in writing.
  • Writing is flawed in one of the given ways — weak analysis, flaws in organization of the ideas, weak sentence structure or language with errors that further leads to lack of clarity.

Scores 2-1.5

  • Serious flaws in the writing.
  • The writing is defective in at least one of these ways — strong flaws in analysis or development, issues in the organization of ideas, serious problems in language usage and sentence structure with errors that affect the meaning of the essay.

Scores 1-0.5

  • Fundamental issues in analytical writing.
  • The writing is flawed in any of the following ways  — extremely confusing and irrelevant content, slight to no development of ideas, pervasive flaws in sentence structure and language usage that results in incoherence.

The Average GRE Scores 

The field of study that you’re interested in pursuing is one of the important factors that affect the average GRE scores. Each higher education field asks for a separate AWA cut off during the admission process. Generally, the engineering and the science programs tend to have lower AWA score cut-offs, compared to those in arts, social sciences. 

Given below is a table that highlights the GRE AWA score averages for different fields of study.

Higher Education FieldAverage AWA Score
Arts and Humanities4.0
Physical Sciences3.4
Life Sciences3.7
Social Sciences3.9
Other Fields3.6

GRE AWA Score Percentiles

Just like the average scores, it is imperative that you are well-acquainted with the GRE AWA score percentiles. Your score percentiles tell you how well you have performed in the section compared to other candidates. The higher the GRE AWA percentile, the better your performance is.

To avoid further confusions, here’s a table of AWA percentiles (data is taken from the official GRE website).

AWA ScoreScore Percentile

If you check the table, you can see no percentile ranks are available for the scores from 0.5 to 1.0. This indicates that no candidates have scored below 1.5 in the analytical writing section.

Tips to Improve AWA Scores

Here are some tips to improve your Analytical writing section scores: 

  • Get acquainted with the topics – The tasks in the AWA section include prompts from a broad range of subjects — from arts and humanities to the philosophical and physical sciences.  Though the task doesn’t measure your specific content knowledge, it is always good to know the content areas from which the questions are asked. Knowing the topics and practicing the essays in these areas can boost your confidence and help you craft responses accordingly.  
  • Practice time management – You get only 30 minutes to complete each task in the AWA section. To reduce the stress and pressure on the actual exam day, practice time management during the preparation. For eg., decide how much time you will spend creating an outline of an essay, reading instructions, writing the introduction, etc. 
  • Conduct a mock review – The official GRE website provides sample essays that you can refer to during the preparation. Take the prompt available on the official website and write a response. Once finished, compare your answer to that of the response available in the essay. This will help you analyze and identify the mistakes and improve your writing accordingly. You can also score your essay based on your performance. 
  • Follow a structure – Maintain a structure and flow throughout the essay. An essay without a structure holds no value as it creates confusion. Hence, take a few minutes, make an outline of the essay, note down the important points you need to include and then start writing. 
  • Edit your work –  It is obvious that you might make errors unknowingly, especially when you’re typing fast. Hence, once you finish writing, take time to read over and edit your work to avoid ending up with an essay full of typing errors. 

We hope now you are well aware of the GRE AWA scores and tips to improve them. So keep the above information in mind and start practising.

Created on

GRE AWA Scores - Quick Quiz

Take this short quiz to test your knowledge of the GRE

1 / 3

First round in an interview for ABC company is an aptitude test which contain 20 questions. Barry took the first round and he got a total of 17 points in the test. In the test each correct answer will be worth 2 points and each wrong answer will yield a -1 point and blank answer yields nothing.


Quantity AQuantity B
Number of questions he answered correctly15

2 / 3

With the number of opportunities booming up in the field of Data Science, many data scientists are seen to move from one company to another, changing jobs several times in their career. However, DataBox Inc is well known in the industry for high employee retention rates. DataBox credits its success in retaining employees to its informal and non-hierarchical organisational structure. 

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports DataBox’s explanation of its success in high retention rates?

3 / 3

Shashi’s __________ diction is unambiguous; he picks his words with pristine devotion and articulates them in way as though every syllable needed private attention.

Your score is

The average score is 22%



  • What does a GRE AWA 93 percentile mean?

A GRE AWA percentile of 93 means you’ve performed better than 93% of other test takers. 

  • What is the maximum score I can get in AWA GRE?

The maximum score you can achieve is 6. 

  • What is the average GRE AWA score needed to pursue graduate studies in the humanities stream?

The AWA cut off requirement changes based on the field of study you choose. The average AWA GRE cut-off for humanities stream is 4.0.

Good luck!


Talk to an expert?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.