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?

The Revised General GRE: All the Details

The Revised General GRE was introduced in August 2011. But if you are thinking of giving the GRE just now, it is still all pretty new to you. So, what is the test like? What are the sections, what are the questions like and what are the challenges? Contained in this blog are links to descriptions of every section in the GRE and a description of some of the most important challenges they offer.

Click on the links below to go to he individual posts.

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Free GRE Tips on Preparing for the Verbal Section

Guiding Principles

I. First Techniques, Then Timing

When working on your practice material, first get comfortable with the techniques and start focusing on timing only when you have reached a high level of accuracy and confidence with the techniques. If you try to push yourself to do the questions faster, without first getting a good grasp of the techniques, you will end up making more mistakes and losing confidence. So,start by getting accurate and confident with the techniques first.

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How to Crack the GRE

Here’s a compilation of terrific tips on how to crack that all important exam – the GRE. The first set is from Dilip Oak’s Academy’s top scorers. The second set is from the academy itself.
Tips from Our Top Scorers

Quantitative Comparison Questions: Doubtful D!

~ by our Maths Faculty

Now, here’s a tip about the weird GRE question type called Quantitative Comparison or simply QC. As we know, in QC questions there are two columns, ‘A’ and ‘B’, containing some quantities. Our job is to evaluate the quantities and compare their magnitudes. In QC questions, the options are always as follows:



(A) Quantity under Column A is GREATER THAN quantity under Column B

(B) Quantity under Column A is LESS THAN quantity under Column B

(C) Quantity under Column A is EQUAL TO quantity under Column B

(D) RELATIONSHIP CANNOT BE ESTABLISHED using the given information.

Now look at this example:


x2 – 2x – 24 = 0

y2 – 3y + 2 = 0


Column A Column B

x y


The question asks us to compare ‘x’ and ‘y’. In order to get the answer, we need to solve both the quadratic equations. When we do this, we get the following values: x (4, -6) and y (2, 1)

Thus, if we pick 4 as the value of ‘x’, it is greater than both values of ‘y’. Hence, option (B) and option (C) can be rejected outright.

Now, we are left with only two options, (A) and (D). But if we pick -6 as the value of ‘x’, it is less than both the values of ‘y’ so, we have to eliminate option (A) and thus, we have option (D) as the final answer!

Why was this example given? To show you that is that the only time we need to be extra cautious when solving QC questions is when we think that the answer is probably option D!

Now, try this one:


X < (1/X)


Column A Column B

X X2



see answer here

Did You Know these Facts about GRE Math?


~ By our Quantitative Reasoning Faculty


April is almost over and the countdown to the exam has already begun. You want a good overall score and if you’re an engineer, you are most probably thinking that getting 165 on Quant shouldn’t be too much of a problem (the typical engineer approaches maths questions with a raw “Just bring ‘em on” kind of arrogance and usually gets most questions right). But here’s the problem: sometimes even those with a strong background in maths may not cross the 160 mark – and when that happens, dreams of a score in the 325+ range come crashing down. To prevent that unhappy outcome, here are some basic insights about the way the math works on GRE.

One fundamental reason why some students don’t get the scores they should, is that they simply don’t understand the way the exam ‘TALKS’ maths. What this means is that the GRE test has its own way of defining mathematical terms. If you don’t understand the definitions used in the GRE exam, then time and time again you are going to end up making errors on questions you should have got right – and you are likely to end up feeling frustrated and demoralized. So, let’s have a look at a few basic differences between Indian maths and American math.

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Answers to Practice GRE Test Quant Questions

Post: Did You Know these Facts about GRE Math?

Question: How many positive integers, less than 20, are either an even multiple of 2 or, a multiple of 9 or, the sum of a positive multiple of 2 and a positive multiple of 9?

Answer: There are 11 such integers:

  • Multiples of 2 – 4, 8, 12, 16 (total 4)
  • Multiples of 9 – 9, 18 (total 2)
  • Sums of a positive multiple of 2 and a positive multiple of 9 – 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 (total 5)


Post: Quantitative Comparison Questions: Doubtful D!



X < (1/X)

Column A Column B

X X2


Answer:: (D)

The given inequality is X< (1/X).

This is possible only in two cases:

(1) If 0 < X < 1 OR

(2) X < -2

Now, you need to compare ‘X’ with ‘X2’

If you pick the value of ‘X’ from 1st range, let’s say ‘X’ = ½, then X > X2, thus the possible answer is option (A) and hence, options (B) and (C) can be eliminated.

But if you pick up the value of ‘X’ from the second range of values, lets say X = -3, then X < X2.

That means we are not able to reach to any unique conclusion using the information given, thus the answer is option (D)


An Easy Way to Learn GRE Words (Through Roots) Part 2

Word RootsIf you found the last post on roots helpful, here are 2 more roots which cover 25 GRE words. For those of you who have come directly to this post, here’s a link that will help you understand why we are talking about roots so much: go to first roots post. (But basically, it helps to make learning the GRE words much easier).

genus generis (14 words)

The Latin word genus (cognate with Greek ‘genos’ and the Sanskrit root ‘jan’) has produced a number of English words. Genus has two basic forms: ‘genus’ and ‘generis’ (the second of which is more important because most derived words in English and other modern European languages have come from it whereas ‘genus’ exists as a single English word).

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GRE Prep for Oak’s Students – Vocabulary Learning and Revision

Vocabulary Learning and Revision (to be started preferably 3-5 months in advance)

The largest, most time-consuming component of your GRE preparation is vocabulary revision. Achieving a good level of basic preparation involves getting familiar with around 4,000 words commonly used on GRE test. To really understand a word you need to know its range of meanings, some of its important secondary meanings, its usage (illustrated by sample sentences using the word) and it is often useful to know the roots of the word. Dilip Oak’s Academy has provided two very useful aids for learning and revising these various aspects. Described below is how you can use them both at home and outside.


At Home:

When at home use VaiVocabulary. VaiVocabulary is one of the best vocabulary learning softwares available in the market. It has a number of features which help to make vocabulary learning really effective. Here are some tips on how to get the most of it:

  • Try out all the features in order to select which combination works best for you – some of the more important features are given below:
    • Pictures – these are connected to the meaning and help to remind you of the meaning.
    • Sample sentences or usage – remember you don’t understand the meaning when you learn the definition: real understanding comes when you see how the word is used in sample sentences.
    • Video’ – most of this is really audio, but the videos give really good explanations of word meaning and lots of additional sample sentences.
    • Mnemonics – ways of linking the meaning of the word with the form of the word; many are given; select the ones you find most useful.
    • Word origins – these are the roots of words which help you to understand the meanings of words rather than just learning them by heart.
    • Synonyms – the easy synonyms help you to understand the meaning of a word better; the hard ones extend your vocabulary.
  • Mark any word you cannot remember ‘very difficult’ by default so that you will be able to repeatedly revise it; lower the rating when you get better at remembering.
  • most important: sincerely go through all quizzes, the rapid revision (it comes up at the beginning of a new session) and the difficulty-based revision sessions.
  • The VaiVocabulary DVD has a tutorial that will take you through all the available features and explain how to use them
  • If you run into any problems with installing or using the DVD contact the Academy – all the problems can be fixed one way or another, but don’t let problems prevent you from the enormous benefits of using this great vocabulary learning software.

Outside (i.e. when you are not at home): Use FlashCards and FlashCard Companion

  • The FlashCards contain 4,000 GRE words and their meaning; 2-3 shades of meaning are given for every word.
  • The FlashCard Companions are booklets which give you a sample phrase for every meaning of every word in the FlashCards.
  • Every page in the FlashCard Companion booklet corresponds to a FlashCard. The number of the FlashCard is given at the top of the page. Word numbers are also given for ease of reference.

GRE Prep – Preliminary Reading

One of the most important aspects of preparing for reading comprehension in the GRE is preliminary reading – that is, reading to be done before you start tackling GRE RC passages in order to prepare you for the challenges that those passages will throw up.

One challenge that you will face on Reading Comprehension passages is that they tend to be about unfamiliar topics and concepts; and talk about unfamiliar terms and fields. They use difficult phrasing and vocabulary, and complicated sentence structure. The only way to get used to the level of complexity you will find in GRE passages is to read widely.

Another challenge is the fact that reading passages on screen means that you may not be able to see the whole passage at a time, and may have to scroll up and down to read the rest of the passage. This is very different from reading on paper, where you can usually see the whole passage on screen at a glance. The fact that, when reading longer passages onscreen, you will not be able to see the whole of the passage at once makes comprehending the passage much more difficult.

Reading widely both on paper and onscreen will help you build up the skills that you need to meet the challenges presented by reading comprehension passages in the GRE. The reading material suggested here is arranged, and should be read, in the following order:

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