The GRE Essay section sounds a bit intimidating, right?
Well, a perfect score on the GRE Essay section would need knowledge of obscure vocabulary, impeccable writing skills, and torrents of practice. But hang on for a second; because the GRE essay is more than just a score. It holds a lot more importance than you think. No. I’m not talking about the importance of language or coherence or logic; but the importance of the first ever section that you are going to face on test day.
I want to address some common confusion about the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) portion of the GRE exam. The AWA section involves two essays, and you get 30 minutes for each essay. And if you finish writing your first essay in 20 minutes, you don’t get 40 minutes for the second essay. If you aren’t new to the GRE format, you’d probably know that the GRE begins with the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) or the GRE Essay section. But, many of you underestimate its importance. You probably think that the GRE essay section is not nearly as consequential as the other sections. Yes, the essays are not part of your total GRE score and are instead scored on a separate scale out of 6.0 in increment of 0.5. Agreed; from the admissions point of view, a difference of 0.5 – 1 point on the GRE Essay doesn’t make or break your chances of getting into your dream school. A 5.0 is almost as good as the 6.0, and unless you score below 4.0 and you are applying to the top schools, you won’t be hurting your chances.
The Big Mistake Most Students Make:
Almost half of the GRE test takers every year are Native English speakers. And these students tend to neglect practicing the AWA section at home, because according to them, it’s not worth investing time on something they are very confident about. But, there are a few vital points that they don’t realize.
We’ve observed what students do when they practice for the GRE, how their approaches have affected their scores on test day, and figured out four reasons as to why the AWA section is an extremely important aspect of the GRE exam.
Reasons Why Practicing GRE Essay is Important:
1. Inflated Scores During Practice
This is the single most important thing to consider when we talk about the importance of the essay section. Students normally tend to skip the essay section when they take practice tests, so they can directly go to the first section of Math/Verbal. Though this might seem like the obvious choice to you, you should consider the aftereffects before jumping into conclusions.
Think about it. The GRE is not a typical test that you encounter at college or elsewhere. It is a marathon. An intense, 3 hour 45 minute journey, which obviously you aren’t accustomed to. Now, if you skip the essay section during practice, you’ll be forfeiting 60 minutes of the total test time, which means you are going to have to sit for 2 hours and 45 minutes only. This translates into an inflated overall score during practice, because you are just that much more active than you will be on test day.
So, you get accustomed to sitting for 2 hours 45 minutes for the test, and your brain is hardwired to concentrate for that much time only. But, on test day, you still have two more sections to finish after you complete 2 hours and 45 minutes. Do you get the point? It’s that extra one hour of concentration that requires sudden attention from your brain, which it sadly isn’t ready for.
This is exactly why thousands of students score very low on their last two to three sections. They simply aren’t ready for the extra time, because their brains feel tired already. So, if you don’t skip the essay during practice, you’ll be writing in the exact test conditions as on test day, thereby training your brain for the big encounter.
2. The Essay Section is a Great Confidence Booster
Since the essay section is the first thing you will see on test day, it is what makes or breaks your confidence. If you ace this section, it will be a confidence booster for the rest of the exam. You will definitely carry the momentum further into the test. But at the same time, if you don’t do well on this section, the momentum won’t be on your side. The added pressure and the worry that you haven’t done well till then, will have a massive effect on your performance thereon.
3. Very Few Get a Perfect Essay Score
According to this ETS Report, only 1 percent of all students writing the GRE, score a perfect 6.0 on the AWA. Which is around 7000 of 700,000 students every year. This statistic alone shows how hard it is to get a perfect essay score. And universities love students who score well in all the sections. They look for students who don’t leave any stone unturned. And it definitely doesn’t make a good impression on you if you have a great GRE score, but a paltry AWA score. So, it goes without saying that you will need lots of practice if you plan to score anywhere close to the perfect figure.
GRE Essay Percentiles
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4. SOPs and Essays
Universities know that most students seek help from consultancies and professional essay writers to help with their Essays and Statements of Purpose. They believe that approaching consultancies makes the entire point behind essays and SOPs moot. Universities know for a fact that if you take help from professional writers, your essays and SOPs don’t sound original, because they all use a basic template that they tweak a little here and there based on your profile, and then send them away. Generally, university admissions committees use your AWA scores to judge whether or not you actually wrote your essays and statements of purpose. If your score is 3.0, for example, but your essays sound brilliant, they would know that you haven’t sent the application on your own. This creates a very negative impression on you, which you don’t want to see happen. Now, it may be true that some admissions committees won’t care as much. But are you willing to take that risk? What if you’re applying to your dream school, that requires you to present every advantage you can? Scoring higher on the GRE but failing to score on the essays doesn’t seem very prudent.
So, make sure you practice thoroughly and score well on the AWA section, so that even if you take help from professional writers, your essays and your AWA score don’t disagree with each other.
All things considered, it’s really not worth taking the risk, and a poor or nonexistent AWA score will not look good to admissions committees.
Now Its Your Turn
So, these are the reasons why you should ditch the idea that GRE Essay section isn’t very important. Start practicing essays right from the beginning, get a perfect 6.0 score, and give yourself some ego boost!
That is what we think about the GRE Essay section. What do you think? Let us know your thoughts about the AWA section in the comments.