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Lizzla

Terrible AW score

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I took the GRE two weeks ago and just got my official score reports: Q 730, V 800, AW 3.5.

I didn't feel great about my issue essay but I was pretty confident in my argument essay, and since the two are averaged I wasn't too worried. So the 3.5 is kind of a shock..,my issue essay was mediocre, but it wasn't THAT bad, and certainly not an accurate assessment of my writing skills. (A 3.5 is the 26th percentile)

I don't really want to take the GRE again since I got such good scores otherwise, but I'm worried that a 3.5 might disqualify me out of hand at some of my programs. I'm applying to some top-20 and top-10 programs in sociology, so writing is really important. Writing is one of my strengths (all evidence to the contrary sad.gif); I'm very confident in my writing sample and SOP. I just sort of blanked on my issue essay, and ran out of time before I really was comfortable with what I was turning in. I know that the AW score isn't generally taken as seriously as the verbal and quantitative sections, and adcoms will have examples of the kind of writing that I do with ample time, I'm just nervous...

If I have a strong writing sample and an 800 on the verbal section, will adcom members assume that the AW is a fluke, or is this really going to cost me?

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I doubt seriously that the 3.0 AW will cost you much, if anything, if your GPA is decent (3.3) to excellent (3.6 or above) and your writing samples and statements of purpose are well polished and to-the-point.

An 800V is not 99th percentile by the way, it's 99.75th percentile, i.e., 1 out of about 400 GRE takers score 800 in verbal.

So, I say, not to worry. Write a terrific statement of purpose and the rest of your application will show that the 3.0 is an aberration.

Good luck,

John

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I received a 3.5 on the AW as well, despite a 720Q and 670V (not an 800 like you but still 95% so I'm happy). I too am worried about the AW as a poor blip on my applications. I have an MS in biochem and am looking to pursue a PhD in marine science. Tomorrow I'm sending in my 55$ for a review. I'm not too optimistic about a change in the score, although I thought my essays were strong, the ETS phone rep said they'd refund my money if the score changed, which would not be good practice for such a profitable nonprofit organization. I'll let you know though what happens if you're thinking about the review option.

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Do not worry about the AW scores. Most programs, as I understand it, do not even look at it. They have much better measurements of your writing to look at...like your writing. With those verbal scores, you guys are fine. It's when they see low verbals, low AWs, and AMAZING writing samples/SOP that they get nervous that someone hired a ghost writer.

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I agree with the above posters: your awesome verbal score should set off the not-so-great AW score. I think most schools don't even really care about the AW score. I absolutely do NOT think you should take the GRE again. What you could do is have ETS re-evaluate your writing assessment (http://www.manhattanreview.com/gre-score-faq/#faq10). It cost $55, but if might be worth it if your score goes up after being read by different graders.

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Awa is pretty important for most competitive phd programs. I have researched many programs that ask applicants who achieve below a 4.5 to write a supplemental essay explaining their low score. If you don't retake it I think it would be crucial to explain your low score somewhere in your application, especially because it is probably the most important component of your gre score as a sociology hopeful.

I however do recommend retaking it.

Interesting. I've NEVER seen this in all the programs I researched. Perhaps it depends on the discipline.

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Your writing sample will speak to your writing abilities more so than your AW score on the GRE. i doubt most adcoms will even give it a second thought if you have a strong writing sample.

The writing sample and sop are obviously extremely important, but the AWA should corroborate, not work against them. In analytical writing heavy fields, especially social sciences and humanities, expectations on this section are fairly high (5) or higher. It strikes me that the issue writing section measure verbal fluency more than anything...how quickly can one generate ideas? Parodoxically, then, this section can be difficult for those who are methodical whereas the nature of the argument analysis might be more amenable to a more meticulous cognitive style. ETS claims averaging the issue and the argument task leads to a more reliable score, but I find it unfortunate that they do this because both tasks, I speculate, are not strongly correlated...though there is no data to say one way or the other.

I think the OP has a difficult decision to make given the perfect verbal and the very high overall score. If this were my situation, I would not take the exam but would address the issue somewhere in the application. I'd not make any assumptions that the AWA is irrelevant or assume that the adcom will brush it off. With a low AWA and a great writing sample, the adcom might very well think twice.

Writing samples and sop's are clearly end products of substantial revision and the AWA is a rough and ready first draft under time pressure, so they're obviously different. However, the AWA is all X's effort and no one else's -- so that's why a department might take it seriously as a piece of the admissions puzzle (in the humanities or social sciences). I am not saying that a strong AWA will help an application in any way if the writing sample is mediocre -- it is only helpful to corroborate a strong sample and sop. It says the equivalent of: "I can knock out raw stuff live and I can also produce slick work in a studio with bells and whistles and remixes (under the auspices of a producer)." Next, the question of how to address the issue of the low AWA in the statement or in the app needs careful consideration and I would ask your recommenders on how to handle it. Retaking the exam does not make sense to me given your otherwise stellar peformance, nor does ignoring what might possibly be a considered aspect of your application. Anyway, that's just my hundred dollars.

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It strikes me that the issue writing section measure verbal fluency more than anything...how quickly can one generate ideas? Parodoxically, then, this section can be difficult for those who are methodical whereas the nature of the argument analysis might be more amenable to a more meticulous cognitive style.

That's exactly how I felt about the two writing tasks. By virtue of being a chemistry major and being analytical in nature, the Issue task was very dreadful for me, if only for the reason I had to double check every idea I generated to make sure it was logically consistent or at least realistic. Not to mention I was already slow in generating ideas in the first place.

I felt much at ease with the Argument essay though, the "analytical" theme was much more prominent, and in line with my thought process. It was also a lot more focused since you all you had to do was deconstruct the argument, and pick out all the logical fallacies. I'd say in terms of testing analytical capacity, the Argument task does a far better job.

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It's been a few weeks. I can now say that I am 55$ poorer with the same AW score. None of the schools I'm applying to indicate a minimum for the AW (which appears to be a theme in the hard sciences). Hopefully my SOP will prove I'm able to create coherent sentences. I'm also in the process of writing to several professors to gather more information on their labs. If you haven't done so, it may be of benefit to reach out, introduce yourself and express interest.

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Nikkatimbo, for what it's worth, the AW score is for me, at least, the most problematic part of the test.

I took the GRE back in 2005 and got V-800 and AW-5.5.

I took it again last winter, and beforehand, I used ETS's "Analytical Writing" online test (for a mere $12.00, you can write your essay and get their computer-graded score---one of the "readers" of your AW essay is a computer, if you didn't know that already.) I got a 6.0 ! I was psyched to get an 800/6.0 ..... and three days later, when I took the real live test, I got V-740 (OK, not so bad, but still 60 pts lower than 5 yrs earlier), and a AW-4.5. .... And I really thought I'd aced the AW --- I followed the "keyhole template" religiously, I wrote as fast as I could type, I put in "GRE words" like nascent, asseveration, billingsgate, rodomontade, and the whole nine yards --- all of the things that are supposed to guarantee one at least a 5.0 ---

My point in all this is .... Don't worry about the AW score. Write a super Statement of Purpose and explain your situation (cogently and coherently). And make sure that every word you write in anything you write is correctly spelled and grammatically impeccable. Remember, as even Ph.D-English sometimes forget, that "it's" means "it is" .... "it's" is NEVER a possessive "It's remarkable clarity" etc is ALWAYS WRONG. Anyway, if your writing samples are clear, well organized, and English-grammatico-technically perfect, then you should be OK :)

John

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Sorry to hijack the thread, but I have a similar question and a slightly different situation. I just checked my scores and got 650V (93 p.) and a 4.0 (45 p.) in AW. I'm a native speaker, and writing is one of my better assets, and I thought my essays were fine and was expecting 5.0 or 5.5. I'm applying to programs in the natural sciences (not engineering), so I guess in most situations it doesn't matter... but I'm applying to really competitive top programs. That part concerns me. Considering that I have strong Q (770, 87 p.) and V scores/percentiles, would it be worth retaking? I'd love to get it rescored, but I'd hate to waste $55 if it probably won't change. I think my statement of purpose will turn out really great, and I know a least one of my rec writers thinks I'm a good writer, too. Thoughts?

edit: oh, just noticed that very last post! interesting, hmm. I do still wonder about how much AW matters for more prestigious schools (even in the sciences and engineering) .

Edited by katerific

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AW does absolutely diddly squat for science engineering programs, unless you scored below 3.0, which you didn't. Don't worry about the AW score.

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Hey, this will be particularly relevant to Lizzla, who started the thread, but it's a question for everyone. I had a somewhat similar situation. I got a 710v, a 680q, and - a 4.5 AW. I was kinda freaking out but didn't do anything till it was too late to have it regraded. Now, four years later, I'm applying to grad programs, so I called the GRE, and they told me something very interesting: you can retake only the writing section of the GRE, skipping (or quitting) the other two sections, which will give you a "No Score" in them. So the question is: should I do this? I"m applying to very competitive phd programs in sociology, and I'm satisfied with the verbal/quant scores for them because I think the rest of my application will boost my viability as a candidate. But the AW is kind of a bummer because I really thought I would ace it. Writing is one of my strongest areas.

After I had a phone conversation with two different GRE reps, I confirmed this again with them via email. Here's what they wrote:

Regarding your inquiry:

Candidates who take the computer-based GREĀ® General Test may exit out of individual sections of the test or quit the test during the testing session. However, please understand the implications of exiting a section or quitting the test. Once you exit a section, you cannot return to that section. If you quit the test, you will not receive a score for any section, even for those sections you have already completed.

If you click on "Section Exit" or "Test Quit" by mistake, you will be given the opportunity to reverse or confirm your decision.

If you answer no questions at all in a section (Verbal, Quantitative, or Analytical Writing), that section will be reported as a No Score (NS).

[end quote]

Thoughts, everyone? Should I do this?

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That's exactly how I felt about the two writing tasks. By virtue of being a chemistry major and being analytical in nature, the Issue task was very dreadful for me, if only for the reason I had to double check every idea I generated to make sure it was logically consistent or at least realistic. Not to mention I was already slow in generating ideas in the first place.

I felt much at ease with the Argument essay though, the "analytical" theme was much more prominent, and in line with my thought process. It was also a lot more focused since you all you had to do was deconstruct the argument, and pick out all the logical fallacies. I'd say in terms of testing analytical capacity, the Argument task does a far better job.

It's funny to hear how a science person thinks about the writing. I'm an english person, but also analytical in nature, so I found the argument essay to be like a fun puzzle too (although doing it in 30 minutes was a bit of a crunch).

But the way I conceptualized--and maybe this will help other science people who are analytical--the issue essay was like an argument essay in disguise. There are still the same logical fallacies, the same assumptions, etc. you just have to disclose them more subtly and put them in a context. In a sense, you have to be able to understand the assumptions of the issue more deeply in a contextual sense, but you don't have to explain them as well as in the argument essay. And you can point out problems on "either side" of the issue.

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Just wanted to say I'm in the same boat - I'm applying in Computer Science and my scores were: 800 Quantitative, 630 Verbal, 3.5 AW

I have a few months left before I apply - I've been trying to think of ways to show that I'm not a horrible writer. It seems like from everything I've read that this is a waste of time?

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I wouldn't worry too much about it for CS in general.

That said, you should probably check specifically with programs you're interested in, and ask- it may not be important for all programs, but some (as mentioned in the above thread from last year) may have cutoffs that a 3.5 would negatively effect.

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