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Good verbal and quant, poor AW


brianambuel

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I am wondering what people know about the importance of the AW score relative to the verbal and quantitative scores.  I am applying to MPH programs with an emphasis on policy and management.  I received a 165 on verbal and 161 on quantitative (95th and 83rd percentile respectively).  However, I bombed my AW section, receiving a 3.5 in the 30th percentile (not sure what happened; I have always received positive feedback on my writing and consider it a strength).  

 

Where does that leave me as far as overall GRE standing?  Do my strong scores in verbal and quant outweigh a bad AW score?  How will admission committees view this?  Any feedback is appreciated.  Thanks!

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It truly seems to depend on the school.

 

Apparently many schools don't care about AW at all. However, some schools do take AW scores into consideration for admissions and funding purposes.

 

I think your GRE is fantastic aside from the AW score. Focus on making your SOP and CV very strong to show that the AW is a fluke.

 

FWIW I majored in English and scored 5.0 on the AW my first GRE attempt but only 4.0 on my second. It's frustrating to be sure!

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AW Scores on the GRE can be quite misleading.

 

If your writing sample shows clear, critical, analytical and innovative writing style, perhaps it will make up for the GRE-AW score. If you are also submitting TOEFL/IELTS scores and if they are good, they will also make up for it. 

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Thanks for the feedback.   

 

It truly was disappointing to receive a 3.5, but I believe that my SOP is strong.  For my own sanity, I'm going to assume that a well written and thoughtful SOP will outweigh a low AW score.   I hope that is the case!  

 

Fingers crossed. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had a 160 in VR, have had two publications one of which I am first author, a 115 page Master's thesis, a couple of kickass personal statements, and a 3 on my AW.  I took the GRE twice and got a 160 in VR twice but I got a 4 in the first GRE. I wasn't particularly happy with the 4 but it demonstrates the subjective nature of the AW section of the GRE.

 

Only one of the five schools to which I applied even mentions the AW part of the GRE. If everything else is good, no sweating this out,

 

I'm talking to myself almost as much as I am talking to you.

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You don't mention if you're an international student or what type of schools you plan on applying to (e.g., top ranked programs with an excess of qualified applicants or....). If you're an international student, a lower AWA score would be more significant; similarly, if you're applying to the top programs in your field, competition among highly qualified candidates becomes more extreme and your AWA score more significant. Other issues to consider is whether the program is requesting a writing sample as part of the application process and whether your program/field of study is writing intensive.

The AWA is by no means a precise measure of students' writing skills, so it becomes less meaningful as long as you hit a minimum of around 4. A score below a 4 will be noticed and raise questions/doubts, though there is no saying for sure whether a 3.5 alone will be cause for rejection. In most cases, it is not the AWA score alone that is problematic, but the way the lower AWA score magnifies or functions in relationship to other concerns an AdCom may have regarding your candidacy.

One thing that could offset any possible doubts about your academic writing (which is not really the same as writing a SOP) is if your letters of recommendation specifically address your strong writing skills or excellent course papers. Ironically, though the AWA is not given the same importance as the other sections of the GRE, strong academic writing skills are actually a better predictor of student success in graduate humanities and social science programs than high GRE Verbal and Math scores. You should be fine as long as other aspects of your application demonstrate that you're a strong writer.

Good luck!

Edited by PeakPerformance
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