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How to improve my AW score from 4.5 to 5.5 in one month?


twodrifters

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I got my official results for the revised GRE General Test today, with both Verbal and Quantitative in the high-90th percentiles. However, I only got 4.5 for AW. It's not too surprising because I worried too much about Verbal and Quantitative, and ignored AW until three days before the test. I'm applying for PhD programs in the social sciences and many of my target schools pretty much require a minimum of 5.5 AW to be considered a strong candidate. What do I do to improve my AW score in one month? Any recommendations for books? Many thanks!

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wow peculiar. I have not heard about a program that cares. fwiw I got into top ten places with aw below 4, and from conversations it seems that people do not take a look at the AW. Anyway if you need half a point maybe you could ask for a regrade? It takes some time and money but I guess it is better than rewriting the whole thing.

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What's more likely--jacking up your AW score during a retest or having your verbal/quant go down? I wouldn't risk retaking it, personally. If you really did score in the upper 90th percentile on both quant and verbal, adcomms will probably be interested in you.

Have you called that department you referenced above and ask them how important it really is? Or have you spoken to profs you're interested in working with? That could help clarify things for you.

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I got a 6, and only practiced the writing section one time on a GRE Powerprep II practice test. The night before the exam, I read through the Kaplan book and basically followed what they said. From what I can tell, it seems like the ETS graders are looking for some very basic things.

1) Length. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but ETS isn't looking for witty.

2) Concrete, specific examples. While I have seen other posters complaining that ETS rewards people who make up facts, I don't think you have to quote statistics in order to get a good score. I certainly didn't. I cited two fairly well-known historical examples in my opinion essay, without having to make anything up. Is that what got me the 6? I can't say for sure, but obviously it didn't hurt.

3) Rhetorical questions. Apparently the graders reward these, as they see them as a sign of rhetorical sophistication. I used one or two.

4) A few $20 vocab words. Certainly don't use words that you don't totally understand or that don't fit the context, but maybe go into the exam with four or five relatively flexible vocab words in mind that you can try to weave in. I specifically remember using the word fiduciary.

Again, I can't say that these pointers are what caused me to do so well. I have always been good at standardized tests, and writing is a strong suit of mine. But my understanding is that ETS rewards a very specific kind of essay, so I followed the recommendations of Kaplan to a T and it worked out very well for me. It's easy to be cynical, but the fact is these graders only have a few minutes to read through your essay. You want to give them clear signs that you are a good writer by their definition, whether or not you agree with its validity.

Hope this helps, and good luck!

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Well, if you REALLY want to improve your score, you could always practice on the official published pool of questions:

http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/analytical_writing

You could actually practice writing a practice essay for each topic (or at least an outline). I took the GRE yesterday, and both of my AW topics were from their published list...

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wow peculiar. I have not heard about a program that cares. fwiw I got into top ten places with aw below 4, and from conversations it seems that people do not take a look at the AW. Anyway if you need half a point maybe you could ask for a regrade? It takes some time and money but I guess it is better than rewriting the whole thing.

I know. My friends who are in T-10 programs as you would agree on the general ignorance of the AW score in the admissions process. I'll double check with UCSD since the minimum scores listed on their website are still using the old GRE format.

I got a 6, and only practiced the writing section one time on a GRE Powerprep II practice test. The night before the exam, I read through the Kaplan book and basically followed what they said. From what I can tell, it seems like the ETS graders are looking for some very basic things.

1) Length. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but ETS isn't looking for witty.

2) Concrete, specific examples. While I have seen other posters complaining that ETS rewards people who make up facts, I don't think you have to quote statistics in order to get a good score. I certainly didn't. I cited two fairly well-known historical examples in my opinion essay, without having to make anything up. Is that what got me the 6? I can't say for sure, but obviously it didn't hurt.

3) Rhetorical questions. Apparently the graders reward these, as they see them as a sign of rhetorical sophistication. I used one or two.

4) A few $20 vocab words. Certainly don't use words that you don't totally understand or that don't fit the context, but maybe go into the exam with four or five relatively flexible vocab words in mind that you can try to weave in. I specifically remember using the word fiduciary.

Again, I can't say that these pointers are what caused me to do so well. I have always been good at standardized tests, and writing is a strong suit of mine. But my understanding is that ETS rewards a very specific kind of essay, so I followed the recommendations of Kaplan to a T and it worked out very well for me. It's easy to be cynical, but the fact is these graders only have a few minutes to read through your essay. You want to give them clear signs that you are a good writer by their definition, whether or not you agree with its validity.

Hope this helps, and good luck!

I think you are very right that the AW graders look for a particular type of writing and there are "unspoken rules" such as the ones you listed.

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