“It’s 3.0. Thank God!! Not bad or… maybe.. a little less.. *God, I might be rejected*” as I login to my ETS account to check my AWA score.
Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is one of the sections in the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) which checks your writing ability followed by the language and flow of the content. In short, your view or counterview on the given topic. GRE score is based on the Verbal and Quantitative analysis each carrying a score of 170 making the final sum 340. AWA is treated separately on the scale of 6.
AWA has a much defined structure. It consists of two essays – Issue and Argument – each to be drafted within 30 minutes. While Issue essay demands both, inclination and opposition, on the given topic, Argument clearly asks for a strong counterview on the given proposal. (Check AWA for more details) While many believe that AWA is just a ‘namesake’ parameter and does not hold a strong weightage in your applications to the university overseas, it is definitely the biggest misconception amongst many students.
Some of the following questions and answers might really change your perspective towards the essay writing.
So, Why is AWA Important?
AWA section mainly caters to your thoughts and views on the given topics. It basically checks whether the applicant has the aptitude to understand the topic, his/her opinion and argument on the same followed by a structured layout and supported with foolproof examples.
Its importance is judged at the time when the admission committee is reviewing your Statement of Purpose (SoP) or as many would like to state ’heart of the application process’. If the AWA score is low (say 3.0) and the SoP is simply breathtaking, the adcom (annoying short form for admission committee) is forced to believe that you’ve got it drafted by someone. It becomes easier for them to understand that it is not your writing as the content, idea, flow, language and the complete soul of the purpose does not seem to be in concord with your AWA topics. Of course, it leads to a reject provided your other credentials are so strong that may change their decision for once!
So, Does this mean that if I score low in AWA, I should construct an Average SoP?
NO. It means you should not neglect the AWA part of the GRE and should be hell-bent on scoring as high as you can. Also, many applicants make a very stupid mistake of using profound words and vocabulary within the SoP which is the after effect of studying over 3000 words, of course. It should be noted that any university in any country is primarily looking for ‘why this university’, ‘why this course’ and ‘how will our university help to achieve your goals’. If you’re intentions are clear on these three things and you've explicitly linked them, then a ‘simple-understandable-language’ SoP is always weighed higher than a mere ‘high-frequency-used-words’ one.
Now, if you can blend the content with some correct usage of heavy vocabulary, it's simply icing on the cake.
So, What should be the ideal AWA?
While many universities state their requirements that ‘AWA should be higher 4.0’, ‘Verbal should be +155’ etc., there is definitely no such criteria as every university gives their decision after reviewing the complete profile. If you’re score is terribly low, say 2.0 or so, the chances are high that you’ll be rejected straight away.
Students should make sure that they score atleast 3.0 to avoid rejections or to be psychologically in the safer zone. There have been several cases in the past where the university website mentions a criteria of 4.5 in AWA while the applicant who received an admit had 3.0 (Check Student Profiles on Yocket). But obvious, his/her profile was a stellar.
So, What if I score below 3.0?
Now, if your AWA score is 2.5 or lesser, the chances are high that you’ll be rejected in the screening process of top universities but given a similar case where the applicant also has a higher academic record, some debate competitions on his/her plate, followed by a decent verbal/TOEFL score and a above average SoP, the universities will certainly consider the application or atleast grant him/her a conditional admit stating to retake the GRE exam.
The university knows that this applicant has the aptitude and great communication skills and might have been unfortunate on the GRE day which led to a low score. In such cases, university will always give another chance.
Retaking the GRE if you score below 3.0 is not the only solution because you might have performed exceptionally well in Verbal and Quant and a retake might fetch you a low score leading to more pressure. If you belong to this set, check for your verbal and TOEFL scores. If both are good enough, it is absolutely fine to apply with the same AWA score.
So, How should I aim for a higher AWA?
This is more interest based than actual preparation. For someone who has an affinity towards literature, regular habit of reading good newspapers and an acute understanding of how an article is written, drafting an essay becomes much easier than that boy who skims through a couple of them on the internet and gets the Shakespeare out of him.
Read the given topic carefully. Take 5 minutes and jot down all the points that you would like to agree or disagree with the author. Also, make a note of all the possible examples, facts or references that you would like to present within the content. Sensible segmentation into paragraphs will make the entire content less boring. Short and impactful content is always the winner.
Seniors often advise their junior applicants to prepare for AWA in the last 10 days of the exam. While it may be true for someone but it is highly recommended that you draft atleast 10 to 15 essays of both genre and get it proofread by your seniors or somebody who has a knack for English (school teachers). Reading the Times of India Editorial Column or popular online blogs will help a lot. It gives an idea about how the author presented the topic and bolstered it with various examples (they hold the key for a high score).
As you've been hearing from every nook and corner that SoP is the make or break factor in the applications, hope the basic doubts about AWA, why it should not be ignored, and its relation with the SoP will certainly prepare you for a better score.
Note: Make a note of the various Universities & Courses that you should apply to based on your interest.
Also, check out the simplified MS in US Applcation Process which talks about what you need to do after GRE, how many universities to apply, how to prepare your packets, LoRs and SoP.
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