The GRE Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section comprises two essay tasks: the Issue essay and the Argument essay. Test takers are allotted 30 minutes for each essay. The Issue essay asks you to respond to a statement or a claim that relates to politics, education, technology, or culture. Essentially, you have to take stance on the given claim and defend your stance. The Argument essay asks you to find the flaw in the logic behind an author’s position. The position is provided in a paragraph or “the argument” and thus requires a thorough reading of the given argument.

How are the essays scored?

Each essay receives a score by a human grader and an e-rater score on a scale of 0 to 6. If these scores differ by less than 0.5, the human score stands. If they differ by more than 0.5, a second human scores the essay, and the two human scores are averaged to get a final score. The e-rater score won’t supplant the human score(s).

What do the graders look for?

Your essay needs to be clear, coherent, and cogent.

You must express your stance and ideas in a clear manner. If you jumble your words or simply throw in unnecessary words or your ideas are ambiguous, you will get a low score. Your essay should have a set of ideas [ideally 3 arguments that will make up the 3 main body paragraphs] that logically connect to one another. That is when your essay is coherent.

Secondly, you should provide convincing evidence to back up your thesis/claim. You can throw in some vague, hypothetical example, but doing so won’t make your essay cogent. Give an example that is a verifiable fact or a relevant personal anecdote.

The other factors that the human grader assesses are:

Style – an essay, albeit with good arguments and examples, with broken or run-on sentences and unsophisticated vocabulary will be scored lower than an essay with proper syntax and GRE-level vocabulary. However, make sure you do not make ill-use of the diction. Use a word only if you are sure of its actual and/or contextual meaning.

Grammar & Spelling – Even though the graders won’t nit-pick at grammar, grave grammatical errors will cost you points. Incorrect subject-verb agreement, improper use of pronouns, and misspelled common words can negatively impact your score. However, one or two minor grammatical mistakes won’t stop an essay from getting a perfect score, as long as everything else about the essay is perfect.

Note that the graders take around 30 seconds to grade an essay. They scan to make sure that you have clearly organized your information and that your paragraphs begin with a topic sentence, explain your argument, and flow into examples that support your argument. The graders make sure you have written a conclusion that summarises and re-iterates what you’ve already stated.

How long do my essays have to be?

Believe it or not, of two essays that are identical, except for the length, the longer one will receive the higher score. That doesn’t mean you should scribble away, giving unnecessary, irrelevant information, hoping that a 1000 word essay will automatically give you a 6. Substance matters. Ideally, you should write a five-paragraph essay with an introduction para, three main body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The ideal word limit for Issue essays in between 550 and 650 words and for Argument essays is between 500 and 600 words.

Note that six short paragraphs of 4 sentences each do not mean a long essay. The length of the paragraph matters. Each paragraph should be of approximately 100 words, and each of those paragraphs has to flow logically and defend your thesis.

The E-rater

The e-rater evaluates how you write, not what you think. It will, primarily, asses and score you on the following criteria:

  1. Grammar (subject–verb agreement, etc.)
  2. Usage (then vs. than, etc.)
  3. Mechanics (spelling and capitalization, etc.)
  4. Style (redundancy and passive voice)
  5. Organization (thesis statement, main points, supporting details, examples, conclusions)
  6. Development (main points precede details and examples)
  7. The use of vocabulary

However, the e-rater doesn’t understand the meaning of your essay nor does it make a reasonable judgment about the essay’s overall quality. Hence, to get a higher score from an e-rater, make sure your grammar and diction are proper. For instance, in the Argument essay, instead of writing “The manager says that…”, write “The author of the argument concludes that…”. Use words such as author, conclusion, premise, reasoning, justification, assumption, insufficient evidence, etc. to boost your scores.

No matter how your name is printed on your certificates or mark sheets, how your name appears in your passport matters the most when you want to register for the GRE.

Let’s consider the following:

Your name is Priti Maneklal Shah.

Your name is Priti.

Your father’s name is Maneklal.

Your last name or surname is Shah.

But, in many Indian passports, people have their father’s name in their first/given name.

So, if your passport says:

Surname: Shah.

Given Name: Priti Maneklal

then, in your GRE account, you will enter Priti Maneklal as the first/given name and NOT

First name – Priti

Middle name – M

Last name – Shah

To summarise:

  • The first/given and last name/surname you use when you register — and the spelling of that name — must EXACTLY match (excluding accents) the name printed on the identification (ID) documents [ONLY a valid passport to be carried in original for Indians] that you will present on the day of the test. If it does not, you may be prohibited from taking the test or your test scores may be cancelled after you take the test.
  • Do not register under a nickname and do not register with only an initial as your first name.
  • You have the option to include your middle initial, but it is not a requirement.

If you have already created an account and have made an error while entering your name, don’t fret. Just write an email to Please have the following information available when sending the email:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Test date
  • Registration number

You can also call ETS on 91-1244517127 or 000-800-100-4072 between Monday and Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. IST (except for local holidays)

For detailed information on the same, refer to the following page:

Admission to the Master’s program in US universities depends on several criteria. Apart from focusing on academics, universities give importance to GRE scores. Doing well in your GRE increases the weightage of your application. The best definition of a good GRE score is that it should get you into your school of choice.

Most colleges have a cut off GRE score, or a minimum score that you must meet for your application to be considered. Sometimes meeting this cut off score is enough for the school to feel confident about your quantitative, verbal and analytical skills, but it is recommended that you score higher than the cut-off score to improve your chances of being admitted. Some schools are more accommodating and flexible. They assess your overall profile if you fail to meet their GRE cut-off score. Hence, before you begin studying for the GRE, it’s a good idea to know the score that you need to achieve. Here is a list of the minimum score required by some universities in the USA.

Here is the list of average GRE scores for each university for Engineering Master’s program for the year 2016-17. 

UNIVERSITY Avg Quants Avg Verbal Avg AWA
1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 165 160 4.3
2 Stanford University 167 159 4.2
3 Georgia Institute of Technology 164 155 3.9
4 University of California Berkeley 165 157 4.2
5 California Institute of Technology 169 161 4
6 Carnegie Mellon University 166 155 3.6
7 University of Michigan— Ann Arbor  167 154 3.4
8 Purdue University— West Lafayette  164 154 3.7
9 University of Illinois— Urbana- Champaign  165 155
10 University of Texas— Austin (Cockrell)  163 156 3.9
11 Texas A&M University— College Station  164 153 3.5
12 University of Southern California (Viterbi)  166 151 3.4
13 Columbia University (Fu Foundation)  167 155 4
14 Cornell University  165 155 3.6
15 University of California— San Diego (Jacobs)  166 155 3.6
16 University of California— Los Angeles (Samueli)  166 154 3.7
17 Princeton University  166 162 4.5
18 University of Wisconsin— Madison  164 155 3.8
19 Johns Hopkins University (Whiting)  167 154 3.5
20 Northwestern University (McCormick)  166 152 4
21 University of California— Santa Barbara 163 155 3.7
22 University of Pennsylvania  165 156 3.7
23 Harvard University  166 160 4.1
24 University of Maryland— College Park (Clark)  163 152 3.5
25 North Carolina State University  164 154 4
26 University of Washington  163 156 3.8
27 University of Minnesota— Twin Cities 163 153 3.6
28 Virginia Tech  162 154
29 Duke University (Pratt)  164 156 3.8
30 Rice University (Brown)  167 154 3.3
31 Ohio State University  164 153 3.6
32 Pennsylvania State University— University Park  162 152 3.5
33 University of Colorado— Boulder  161 154 3.7
34 Boston University 164 154 3.6
35 University of California— Davis  163 154 3.7
36 Vanderbilt University  165 151 3.2
37 University of California— Irvine (Samueli)  164 151 3.3
38 Northeastern University  162 150 3
39 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute  163 156 3.9
40 University of Virginia  165 154 4
41 Arizona State University (Fulton)  162 150 3.4
42 University of Florida  163 152 3.6
43 University of Pittsburgh (Swanson)  162 149 3.3
44 Iowa State University  168 156 3.5
45 New York University (Tandon)  164 150
46 University of Rochester  166 152 3.3
47 University of Delaware  168 155 3.2

Average GRE Scores for each University


SENDING GRE and TOEFL SCORES TO THE UNIVERSITIES – This article answers your doubts about sending gre and toefl scores to universities|
Sending the GRE and TOEFL scores to the Universities during the application process can be tricky. Below are some FAQs and common mistakes made by students during the process:
[1] If the University does not want the test scores do I still send them?
Good and reputed Univs will always want them. So, if you have a good score, then please do send it. It will work in your favor. Read More

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