Cracking the GRE: Are You Ready for the Analytical Writing Challenge?

Are you ready for AW?

AW Challenging… Really?

If you ask students to name the most difficult section in the GRE, most engineers would say: “Verbal Reasoning” and most non-engineers would say “Quant”. Hardly anyone would suggest that Analytical Writing plays much of a role either in cracking the GRE or getting an admit for an MS in US. For most students taking the GRE exam, therefore, the Analytical Writing section (also called AW) is a surprisingly challenging part. There are several reasons for this.

The Problems of the Engineer

  • First, if you are like most students who come to Dilip Oak’s Academy, you have lost touch with essay writing long ago – your last encounter with this lost ‘art form’ was probably 3-5 years ago in the 10th standard, and whatever you did learn about it has long been buried under the load of highly technical data that you had to stuff your head with during your bachelor’s course.
  • Second, as an engineer (or even a non-engineer) you don’t even understand why AW should be included in the GRE at all (check out this article if you are still not clear).
  • And third, you probably think that since you did essay writing in school, you should be able to manage this section without too much trouble.

However, the AW section is important and it demands that you meet a very specialized (and exhausting) set of requirements.

Why the Big Fuss about AW?

1. Do you understand the issues?

The first Task in AW is always the Issue essay where, you have to think deeply about topics that you most probably have never read about or ever thought you would have to tackle. So, for example:

  • Do you think that getting exposure to another culture will help you understand the culture of your own country?
  • How do you think that a civilization should be judged – on the basis of its scientific and cultural achievements or on the basis of the well-being of its people?
  • And finally, do you think that people in public life should be required to hold to the highest ethical and moral standards and do they have any right to expect privacy?

(For the actual topics, see the pool of issue topics here.)

On these unfamiliar topics, you have to come up with a variety of specific examples that show your insight into the topic; and you have to use these examples to examine the central issue from a variety of different angles. At the very least, you are expected to address both sides of the issue.

2. Getting into arguments

In the Argument essay (see the argument topic pool here), which is the second Task you will tackle in the Analytical Writing section, you have to do several things. Among them, you may have to:

  • evaluate the given argument and its line of reasoning
  • raise questions about its hidden assumptions and flaws
  • set out the evidence required to strengthen or weaken it or
  • examine whether its predictions are likely to come about.

You need to know how to do these things and you need to practice them so that, you can analyze and type in smooth, seamless flow. Further, in both these types of task, you will have to fine tune your essay to meet the specific requirements of the question type you are dealing with in that particular task – and there are 6 different question types in the issue task and 7 different question types in the argument task.

Summing up the Challenge

This means that right at the beginning of the exam, you will have to put in an hour of intense analytical effort to identify the key elements in the argument or issue topic and to produce well-written essays which meet the precise requirements of the task. For this your mind will have to be focused, alert and clear and your fingers will have to have the stamina to put in the 20 minute-burst of near-continuous typing required to generate an essay of 350-450 words, the minimum required to adequately cover an analytical writing topic. It’s not the Olympics but, you need to be physically and mentally prepared for the task. So, here’s the bottom line: if you want to be competent at the AW tasks, you will need careful, well-planned preparation and practice. Make sure you do this well beforehand.

Note: If you are a student at Dillip Oak’s Academy you can take a free Analytical Writing Counseling Appointment (scroll to the end of the page on this link for further details).

Cracking the GRE: Getting Hit by the Analytical Writing Bomb – Why You Must Prepare for Analytical Writing

The AW BombFirst Things First

Here’s a fundamental reason why you should prepare for this section: it is the first section that you will face in the GRE exam – this is always the case. The Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections come in random order, and they only come in afterwards. Only Analytical Writing (AW) has a fixed place in the order of sections in the exam, and that place is right at the beginning of this arduous test. It’s a fact you can’t change, it’s a fact you can’t avoid; and it’s a fact that is fundamental to cracking the GRE.

How It is Supposed to Go

Ideally, you should be well prepared for AW. If you are, it should work out like this: you crack the essays. This gives you a surge of positive energy that sets you up to do well in the following sections. The end result? The confidence you gain in AW helps you get through the other sections with flying colors. You walk out of the test center with your head held high, lifted up with the expectation that now you will get some good admits. It’s a happy thought.

The One Thing You Forgot…

On the other hand, imagine this scenario. You know that your GRE score is of paramount importance and you have put in three or more months of grueling effort to make sure that you do well in the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections. You haven’t really done much about Analytical Writing (after all, the only thing you have to do there is write a few essays, and how difficult is that going to be?). But apart from that you are fairly confident that at this stage nothing is likely to mess up your chances of a great GRE score.

…Turns Out to Be the One You Shouldn’t Have

Image credit: Stencil Revolution
Hugging a bomb?

However, the GRE test begins with AW. As you get into the two essay tasks, each with its specific demands and requirements, you realize that there are important things that you don’t understand about the essay tasks, about analyzing the topics and about how to tackle the specific requirements of the question types. It begins to dawn on you that doing a bit of reading would have given you handy examples to use in your essays. You also realize belatedly that that you should have worked on your language skills; and there’s a sinking feeling in your stomach that tells you that you should have practiced so that thinking and typing would be a smoothly flowing process that would fit into the given time.

The Bomb Explodes

Now, however, it’s too late. You are not prepared for AW; and getting hit by all the challenges posed by the AW tasks right in the beginning of your GRE is a big shock. You somehow manage to get through the AW section, but you have lost confidence, and that hits your ability to perform optimally on the subsequent portions of the test – and your performance on the following sections suffers. Not a very good ending after several months of effort.

The Moral

What’s the moral of the story? Don’t take this section lightly – it sets the tone for your performance in the other sections. Start preparing well in advance and set yourself up for success in AW. For those of you who are feeling a little lost, don’t worry, we have some tips for you that will help you to get a grip on this section in a forthcoming blog. Keep your eyes open for it.

Note: If you are a student at Dillip Oak’s Academy you can take a free Analytical Writing Counseling Appointment (scroll to the end of the page on this link for further details).

Cracking the GRE: Why You Can’t Ignore Your AW Score

Why You Can't Ignore Your AW Score

What Albert Einstein had to Say

A simple survey of most GRE students will show you that Analytical Writing (also known as AW) tends to be one of the most underrated sections of the GRE.

  • Firstly, the general perception is that getting an admit for an ‘MS in US’ depends mostly on your Quantitative and Verbal scores.
  • Further, the AW section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6 which, hardly seems worth bothering about compared to the 260-340 score scale of the other sections of the GRE. So, most students don’t give much importance either to this section or to being adequately prepared for it.

But, as Einstein once pointed out, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” This is certainly true for the AW section of the GRE exam. Especially if you are an ambitious student, you can’t afford to do badly in Analytical Writing. In fact, there are 2 compelling reasons why you should give this section of the exam careful attention. As you will see, good preparation for the GRE will not only help you cracking the GRE, but will help you during your ‘MS in US’ even afterwards.

1. AW Scores Count

Think of it this way: getting a 5 or 6 in AW might not ensure a great admit but an AW score of less than 3 is very likely to deny you one (more about that below). On the other hand, getting a good AW score can give you an edge over the competition. Suppose you and another applicant have a the same GRE score (say, 320/340), a similar academic record and similar work experience. However, there is difference between you: in AW, the other applicant has a 2.5 whereas you have a score of 3.5. The difference in the AW scores is likely to help the admissions committee decide in your favor.

So, if you are very confident about the excellence of your academic record, and that your GRE scores for the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections are going to be great, then maybe you can afford to ignore this section. Otherwise, especially if you are aiming for a top-ranking university, you should think of the competitive advantage that a good AW score can give you.

2. It is Good to Aim High on the AW Section

This is especially true, if you are looking at PhD. programs, or aiming for top-ranking universities and departments. In fact, for some high-ranking programs, an AW score of 4.0 or above is a basic requirement. The reasons for this are quite simple.

  • The professors in most top American universities and departments are looking for students who have good English writing skills. You might be a bright student brimming with great ideas, but what good are those ideas if you cannot convincingly communicate them in your reports, research papers or thesis?
  • Having the requisite language skills also ensures smooth completion of graduate school assignments such as thesis writing or publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals. This is important, since good writing skills on your part gives professors confidence that they don’t need to invest any additional effort in correcting badly written manuscripts or training you in writing.
  • Furthermore, professors often require students to help them in writing manuscripts of research papers or with writing grant proposals. Such activities are an important part of being a good graduate research assistant and it really irks professors if they cannot rely on you for assistance in these matters.

For these reasons, if you are a GRE test taker who is serious about getting into a top ranking graduate program, it is important that you be adequately prepared for the AW section. Your scores will tell your prospective professors whether you are someone who they should choose or someone they should avoid; whether you are someone whose work they will be able to read and enjoy or will have to spend long hours on, painfully correcting every line; whether you are going to be someone who helps them or someone who can’t be counted on to contribute. Guess who they are going to prefer?

Help for Essay Writing in the GRE AW and TOEFL: Hypergrammar from Ottawa University

Prepare to be Sentenced!

One of the most important building-blocks of an essay is the sentence. Writing an essay for an Analytical Writing Task in the GRE or the GMAT – or even the TOEFL Independent Writing Task – means that you will be expressing your thoughts in an academic context. So, you need to use sentences that are acceptable in that kind of context, but also effectively to translate your ideas onto the screen

  • Complex sentences show that you are able to use the language fluently
  • Clear well-formed sentences make your essay easy to understand
  • Variety in sentence construction will make your essay interesting

How can you write like that? Simple, click on the link below and find out:

http://www.uottawa.ca/academic/arts/writcent/hypergrammar/bldsent.html

The link will take you to some useful suggestions published by the University of Ottawa, Canada on ‘Hypergrammar,’ their online resource page for grammar and writing. Use this link to understand:

  • the importance of sentence structure
  • the purpose of different types of sentences,
  • what kind of sentences work best in formal writing assignments such as essays.

Happy reading. Happy writing!

Write Better Essays with OWL – A Simple Aid to Improving Grammar

Essays

For GRE and GMAT test-takers, the Analytical Writing Section may sometimes seem to be an uphill climb. With only a half an hour to brainstorm ideas, make an outline and finally type in the entire essay, it may not always be possible to transfer your thoughts to the word processor exactly as you want. The result is often essays that fall short of what the examiner expects in order to award a 4.

The links below are a part of the Online Writing Lab, a project started by Purdue University, which helps teachers and students in developing their English Language skills and rectifying the errors that they make in their essays. They provide valuable suggestions on how to structure sentences correctly and avoid minor errors in English that we as non-native speakers of the language tend to make. Visit them and start improving your Analytical Writing essays immediately.

Note: if you are taking the TOEFL exam, these links will be a big help to you too.

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UC Irvine – and How I Got Admission There!

This week we bring you Suhas Bhadgaonkar, a software professional, and one of our alumni. He’s here with his experiences in getting admission to UC Irivine.

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Profile:
Name: Sagar Suhas Bhadgaonkar
Degree: BE (Computer Engineering), Univ. of Pune
Work Experience: 2.5+ years in Accenture Technology Solutions, as a Software Engineer
GRE Score: 1400 (Old Scale)/ 322 (New Scale)
Break Up:
Verbal: 640 (Old Scale)/162 (New Scale)
Quant: 760 (Old Scale)/160 (New Scale)
TOEFL: 112/120

____________________________________

My journey to a US university started when an acquaintance came to visit my home in Pune after spending a few years working for Oracle in San Jose. It was mid-May, and some of my other friends from Accenture had got admits from American universities and were planning to get visas and complete other application formalities. There was a ‘buzz’ in the air about going to America. My friend’s visit was like a little piece of sodium dropped into a bowl of water. The thought of the opportunities that lay in wait for me in the US began to bubble up in my mind. When the ‘reaction’ had subsided, higher studies and subsequent professional opportunities in America were the clear focus.

Like a lot of us who are now going to US, I was born and brought up in a middle class family with no immediate relatives in US). So, though the thought of studying further, or doing ‘something’, had been present in my mind for quite a while, I had never planned on going to US for higher education. The examples of my friends started me thinking about pursuing an MS in the USA.

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Cracking the GRE Test – Debanjana Nayak (GRE Score 330/340) – Tips for Quantitative,Verbal and Analytical Writing

Tips

Here’s the next part of Debanjana’s tips – this time with lots of specifics for each section of the test!

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Before starting with this set of tips specifically for the Quantitative, Verbal and AW sections, I must mention that I took classes from Dilip Oak’s Academy and I will be talking a lot about the Academy’s classes and materials because I found them extremely useful in preparing for these sections. In giving these tips, I am also assuming that you too are a student of Dilip Oak’s Academy. Of course, you will have your own experience and perspective, but here’s what I would suggest.

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Why 6 and 8 are Important Numbers for the New GRE Analytical Writing Section

Analytical Writing in the Revised GRE testThose numbers are important because they are part of the changes that make Analytical Writing (earlier called the Analytical Writing Measure) trickier and more demanding on the Revised General GRE,which was released in August last year.

So, what are the changes? Firstly as noted above, the essay section is now called just Analytical Writing (or AW for short). The ETS has been making changes in various aspects of the GRE test to make it more like the GMAT. This is one of them. The second is that the Issue Essay is now just for 30 minutes rather than 45 as earlier. This again, makes the GRE more like the GMAT.

But the ‘6’ and ‘8’ are part of a feature that is entirely unique to the Analytical Writing section of the Revised General GRE test. The numbers come in because now instead of one question type for the Issue Essay, you now have 6, and instead of one question type for the Argument Essay you now have 8. Each of the question types directs the test-taker to do or comment on something very specific relating to the given topic – and in their introductory material the ETS repeatedly states that test-takers should follow the specific directions given for the topic, so obviously it is important that you better know exactly what each question type demands and also how to meet the specific requirements.

To find out more official information about this from the ETS visit the following link:

http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/about/content/analytical_writing

For our perspective, wait for our upcoming blogs on the Issue and Argument Tasks. Till then, happy hunting as you check out the ETS’s requirements for the tweaked and tricky AW section!

Related Links

GRE Overview:

GRE Practical Details:

GRE Maths Tips
GRE Tips From Top-Scoring Students
TOEFL/IELTS

The Revised GRE Test


Online Revised GRE Test Screenshot
Revised Online GRE Test (Screenshot of Dilip Oak's Academy Online Test)

The GRE test, conducted by ETS Princeton, USA, is one of the world’s most widely used tests for admission to universities both in America and worldwide. On 1 August 2011, the ETS introduced the Revised GRE test. This exam lasts for about 4 hours and consists of 3 major of section types:

 

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