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Will a strong SOP outweigh a lackluster GRE analytical writing score?

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I was absolutely flabbergasted to see a 4.0 as my GRE writing score, but after reviewing I realize that I simply did not follow the formulaic, SAT style they look for, and there's no one to blame for that but myself.

Two English professors reviewed my S's OP and gave me some areas to improve on them, but ultimately gave them overwhelming praise. In addition, I did pretty well on the verbal section (91st pctile).

I guess there's no reason to make this post more verbose than it needs to be; if my writing in a SOP impresses grad school counselors, is there a chance the writing score is--not necessarily dismissed, but close to it? For what it's worth, I have no idea how important or unimportant the score is to them. I'm applying for programs in Urban & Regional Planning, Environmental Resources, Sustainable Development, and several programs within geography departments.

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  • 3 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Agreed.  I got a 4 on the AW section and submitted a satisfactory verbal score and got into some of the programs I really wanted.  I definitely looked at it as a way to explain myself and overcome a mediocre GRE score.  Going into a languages/literatures program, it was a little embarrasing to get that score, but a good SOP can definitely overcome it.  In the end, I got the results I wanted.

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A 4.0 generally won't raise a red flag. 3.0 (maybe 3.5?) or lower would worry me.


Your SOP is extremely important, one of the most important components of your app. The GRE AW is sometimes not even on an adcom's radar.

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