Top Three Tips to Improve your AWA Score Reply

I’m going to do something bold here: I’m not going to include one of the most common–if not the most common–essay writing tips. And that is organization. Surely, you contend, that must be one of the top three tips. Arguably so. But it is also the one that many GRE students internalize and obsess over, often to the exclusion of other, arguably, more important aspects.

Additionally, most of us (let’s be honest: practically all of us) have had the five-paragraph structure hammered into our heads long before we were able to legally drive a car. The AWA, though, has its own rules, which many are aware of, stuff that can impress the graders (just writing a standard paragraph essay isn’t one of them). The following three tips will shed insights into what the graders are looking for.

  1. Read real sample essays

Both essays are graded from 0.0 to a 6.0. A zero score essentially means that you decided to fall asleep, your forehead pressed on the keyboard, a torrent of gibberish appearing on the screen. A 6.0 is a well-crafted essay, full of analysis, nuanced thinking, specific examples, and stylistic, sophisticated writing. There’s even a specific rubric describing exactly what each 1-point increment on the six-point scale means.

But I would recommend skipping this part. Interpreting the descriptions of those scores is too subjective. Really, what does “stylistic, sophisticated writing” mean to the GRE grader?

Well, to get that answer all you have to do is read the sample essays of actual student responses. This can be found online or in the GRE ETS Official Guide. You’ll get to see the kind of response that merits a ‘2’, a ‘4’, and a ‘6’. Below each response, the GRE graders themselves have given an analysis of the essay: what it did well, and what it could do better. When you go to write your own practice essay, you’ll already know what the GRE graders are looking for–and aren’t looking for.

  1. Work on sentence construction

One thing the graders love is logical flow. Your sentences should have key transition words (“for example,” “however,” “therefore,” etc.) that allow you to persuasively make your point. When you lack that logical flow, even if you have the right ideas coursing through your brain, your writing becomes muddled, and the test graders become confused.

To avoid this, go back to the basics: sentence construction. What is the difference between an independent and a dependent clause? What transition words most effectively link ideas within–and between–sentences?

This is the kind of logical organization that gets overlooked in favor of holistic organization: intro, three body paragraphs, and conclusion. But as long as you have a clear topic sentence for your paragraph, and your ideas logically flow from that first sentence and end with a clear statement of your point at the end of the paragraph, it isn’t that big of a deal whether you write two body paragraphs or four body paragraphs. (Though make sure you do have a clear intro and a conclusion–neither of which, by the way, has to be more than a few sentences.)

  1. Don’t time every practice essay

When learning a new skill, or even refining an old one, you have to practice or develop it under non-stressful conditions. Otherwise, it is difficult for such learning to take root. However, many mistakenly assume that it is always a bad idea to write the AWA essays without having a time limit. Unless, the essay is two days off and there really isn’t much time for “learning to take root,” begin without a timer. (I’d recommend at least 30-days to prep for the GRE–check out this helpful GRE study guide.)

For example, if you’ve been practicing clause construction by writing simple example sentences (“Because I gave myself plenty of time to prep for the GRE, I felt prepared. Nonetheless, I arrived 15 minutes late to the test center”), you’ll want to give yourself time to apply what you’ve learned about clauses when writing a practice essay. Or, if you’re just learning how to identify logical fallacies in the Argument essay, you’ll want to give yourself time to identify these fallacies and express them logically. Conversely, starting the timer will put you in a “flight or fight” mode and you are likely to fall back into your old habits (which for many is to write whatever comes to mind).

Once you’ve noticed improvements in your writing, give yourself a “soft” time limit. Keep practicing until you are writing comfortably within this time limit. Then put a slightly more aggressive time limit in place, until you are finally down to the allowed time. Your final score will thank you.


Chris Lele is the GRE Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 8 million views.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

How Many Times Should You Take The GRE And When Should You Start? Reply

how-many-times-should-youThese days, many students are realizing that submitting GRE scores is a part of the graduate school application process. With this reality in mind, you may be wondering when you should start preparing for the GRE and how many times you should take it. Review the short outline below to obtain answers to these questions and more:

It’s Never Too Soon To Start

If you’re wondering when you should begin preparing for the GRE, know that it’s never too soon to start. Familiarizing yourself with the format and content of the exam can alleviate test anxiety and empower you to attain a higher score. As such, it’s a good idea to get started immediately. Luckily, there are a wide range of learning resources at your disposal. For example, companies like ETS, Barron, Peterson’s and Kaplan provide a wide range of test prep material you can use to study for the Verbal, Math, and Written components of the exam.

Taking online courses in the fields of English, Math, and Writing is another technique you can implement to prepare for the exam. If you’ve already obtained your bachelor’s in English, you may want to consider completing an online masters computer science program. This can make you a more competitive candidate for a grad school program while also sharpening your reasoning skills.

How Many Times Should You Take The GRE?

Before you decide how many times you should take the GRE, consider the following facts:

  • You can take the computer-based test once every 21 days.
  • You may take the GRE up to five times within one year.
  • If you cancel your GRE scores, the test that you took still counts towards the five annual test dates.

There are several reasons why an individual might want to take the GRE again or several times. Generally, the reason pertains to the score. In some cases, an individual might not have had sufficient time to prepare for the exam. When this happens, a substandard score may be the unwanted outcome. If you know that the score you’ve obtained is below the average score that individuals admitted into the learning institution attained, it’s definitely a good idea to retake the exam.

Keep in mind that you can take the GRE as many times as you want and submit your highest scores to the college in question. However, if you’re taking the test over and over to try to attain a perfect score, keep in mind that the GRE is not the only component of your application process. You’ll also want to concentrate on other critical elements like your letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, curriculum vitae, writing sample, etc.

If you’re serious about acing the GRE so that you can get into your dream school, now is the time to start studying. Review the information and instructions found in this quick reference guide to get on the path to an excellent score today!


Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

Don’t Procrastinate, Register to take the GRE 1

Register for the GRESo you’ve just started up school again (or you’re getting ready to). Summer is over and it is time to get back into the college routine. Getting registered and prepared for a new school year can be a crazy process. There are many things to do in a short period of time. You’ve received your financial aid package, bought your books, and are probably getting settled back into school life. Starting a new school year is stressful and full of activity, especially your senior year. Even though it may be difficult to add even one more thing to your busy schedule, you should take the time to schedule to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). It’s important because the sooner you register, the better.

The Revised General Test

You’ll take the GRE revised General Test as part of your preparation for graduate school. The test is a requirement for most graduate schools and business schools. The GRE test is one of the first steps you should take toward preparing for graduate school. You can take the test up to 5 times in a 12-month period, so by registering now, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to re-take the test if you are not satisfied with your results. If you take the test multiple times, you get to choose which test results you submit to graduate or business schools. Also, different schools have different deadlines when it comes to submitting the GRE during the application process. It’s best to take the test as soon as possible so that you are ready to submit your results as soon as your chosen grad school is ready to receive them.

Registering before Preparation

What if you’re not prepared to take the test yet, should you still register? Yes! Once you register, you’ll have access to test preparation software developed by the same people who develop the test itself. It’s one more test to prepare for, one more thing to study, but the sooner you start, the more successful you are liable to be.

Even if you are unsure that you will pursue a graduate degree, it’s still a good idea to take the test. Taking the test allows you to be prepared if and when you do decide to get a graduate degree. The last thing you want is to decide to apply for a graduate program only to find that you don’t have time to take the test before the school’s deadline. Your test scores are held for five years, so even if you decide to take a break before applying to graduate school, or decide not to go to graduate school but change your mind later, you can still submit these scores. It is always good to keep your options open. Be smart and be prepared.