The AWAs – What You Need to Know About Them

January 24th, 2014

| Last Updated on February 15, 2019
Analytical Writing GRE

AWA expands to Analytical Writing Assessment. There are two tasks tested in the AWA section: The Issue and the Argument Tasks, each with a time frame of 30 minutes. These tasks are distinct: you need to approach each of these tasks with a different set of perspectives. More on that in a bit; let’s first look at a few facts about the AWA sections.

What’s a Good Score?


Your AWA score will be reported with the official score report within a week of your taking the test. The AWA is scored between 0-6. Getting a 6 is difficult, although, getting a 4 or a 5 isn’t (as long as you know how your essay needs to be written). It isn’t necessary that you get a 6 on the AWA, remember that the AWA score is more or less a hygiene factor, very few schools insist on a 5+ score!

A score that is 4 and above is considered good on the GRE. Although, getting a 3.5 or anything below that could hamper your chances of getting into the school you have in mind. Let us put this in perspective: according to the scoring guide that ETS released this year a 3.5 on the AWA represents a percentile score of 29 (that’s a pretty sucky place to be in on the percentile front!), a 4 on the other hand puts you at the 48th percentile.

That said, understand that on the day of the test – you’ll have to spend an hour of the initial testing taking time on the AWA sections. This could potentially stress you into underperforming on the Verbal and Quant sections. Our goal is to avoid this!

Keep Calm and Create Templates


The best way to avoid letting the AWA stress you out is by creating templates. Like discussed previously, each of the tasks require you to do different things. Let’s find out what these are!


The AWA Issue Essay:


These are essentially a “general essay”. You will be given a prompt to which you respond by discussing your opinion. You will be required to substantiate this opinion with some evidence. That’s all there is to it.


Here is a sample prompt from the ETS pool of Issue Essays:

Scandals are useful because they focus our attention on problems in ways that no speaker or reformer ever could.”


There are two ways you could approach this – either develop an argument that speaks in favor of scandals or one that speaks against them.You could use examples from real world instances, things you’ve read in books or even personal experiences to substantiate your point.Remember to clearly illustrate how this scenario helps prove your perspective though!


A template for the Issue Essay will look something like this:


1. Your opinion:

2. Example 1:                                        Significance:

3. Example 2:                                        Significance:

4. Example 3:          (if any)                   Significance:


Analyze the Issue prompt and fill in this template on your scratch paper before you start writing. Doing this ensures that you spending less time thinking and therefore get less stressed! This also ensures that you adhere to a good structure while writing the essay.

The AWA Argument Essay:

This is quite different from the Issue essays. There is no scope for “your opinion” here. You’ll be given an Argument, an opinion or a suggestion backed by some evidence, which you are expected to critique.

To give you an analogy- while writing the issue essay think like a journalist. While writing the argument essay, think like a lawyer.

Here is a sample argument from the ETS pool of Argument Essays

Arctic deer live on islands in Canada’s arctic regions. They search for food by moving over ice from island to island during the course of the year. Their habitat is limited to areas warm enough to sustain the plants on which they feed and cold enough, at least some of the year, for the ice to cover the sea separating the islands, allowing the deer to travel over it. Unfortunately, according to reports from local hunters, the deer populations are declining. Since these reports coincide with recent global warming trends that have caused the sea ice to melt, we can conclude that the purported decline in deer populations is the result of the deer’s being unable to follow their age-old migration patterns across the frozen sea.”

That argument suggests that the decline in deer population is caused by global warming. Realize that the flaw in logic is that no other potential causative factors are discussed or dismissed; in other words the author assumes that there is no other cause. But maybe there are outher causes; perhaps overhunting caused the decline?

In the argument essay you are supposed to analyze the argument, expose the flaw in reasoning and also suggest why these flaws weaken the argument.

A template for the Argument Essay will look something like this:


What the author says and why:

Flaw #1: Biggest flaw in the argument
(in case of the previous example, it was the causation)

Flaw #2: Second Biggest Flaw

Flaw #3: (If any)


The information you fill out for this, is all you will need to write the argument essay!


1.It’s relatively easy to get a 4 on the AWA sections.

2.It’s important not to lose your cool during the test.

3.Follow templates to avoid the stress of having to “Think” your way into writing the essays!

This will ensure that you have the mental bandwidth to approach the Verbal and Quant sections without “diminishing” your capacity! 🙂

Hope you found this informative; do let us know what your other AWA peeves might be by leaving a comment below!

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