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How GMAT Essays are Evaluated and Scored

Each GMAT test taker is awarded an Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) score on a 0-6 scale (in half-point intervals). Here you'll learn how GMAT essays are evaluated and how the AWA scoring system works.

Evaluation by a GMAT Reader and by E-Rater

Immediately after you test, your GMAT essay will be sent electronically to a central processing location. Within one week thereafter a human reader will read and score your essay. All GMAT essay readers are college or university faculty members; most are either English or Communications professors.

Every GMAT reader is instructed to employ the same holistic grading method, by which the reader assigns a single score from 0 to 6 (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6) to an essay based on overall writing quality, as follows:

6 — outstanding
5 — very good
4 — good
3 — adequate
2 — less than adequate
1 — poor
0 — no substantive response

In evaluating the overall quality of your writing, your GMAT reader will take into account four general skill areas:

  • Content: your ability to present cogent, persuasive, and relevant ideas and arguments through sound reasoning and supporting examples

  • Organization: your ability to present your ideas in an organized and cohesive fashion

  • Language: your control of the English language—specifically, your diction (word choice and usage) and syntax (sentence structure)

  • Grammar: your facility with the conventions of standard written English (grammar and punctuation)

Which of these areas is most important? Statements by GMAC representatives suggest that the first two areas are more important than the last two. However, writing style, grammar and diction — i.e., your ability to communicate ideas effectively in writing — may influence the reader as well. So the bottom line is that you should strive to demonstrate competency in all four areas. Of course, if you're weak in one area, you can still achieve a high overall score by demonstrating great strength in other areas.

A computerized essay-scoring engine called E-Rater will also evaluate and rate your essay on a 0-6 scale (also in full-point intervals) for grammar, syntax, word usage, diction, idiom, spelling and punctuation, syntactical variety, and topical analysis.

How AWA Scaled Scores are Calculated

In three steps, here's how your AWA score is determined:

  1. Your essay is evaluated and scored independently on a 0-6 scale (in full-point increments) by a GMAT reader and by E-Rater.

  2. If E-Rater's score is within 1 point of the human reader's score, then your final AWA score is the simple average of these two scores. (AWA scores are in half-point intervals.)

  3. If E-Rater's score differs from the human reader's score by more than 1 point, then a second, very experienced reader will read and grade the essay, and your final AWA score will be the simple average of the scores awarded by the two human readers. (E-Rater's score will be disregarded.)

Example: E-rater assigns a score of 3 to an essay. A GMAT reader assigns a score of 4 to the same essay. Since the difference is within 1 point, the final AWA score for the essay is 3.5 (on the 0-6 scale).

Example: E-rater assigns a score of 3 to an essay. A GMAT reader assigns a score of 5 to the same essay. (The difference is greater than 1 point.) A second human reader reads the essay and assigns a score of 4 to it. The final AWA score is 4.5 (the average of 4 and 5).

Your AWA Percentile Rank

In addition to your AWA scaled score of 0–6, you'll receive an AWA percentile rank (0% to 99%) for your writing. This rank indicates how you performed relative to all other test takers. For example, a percentile rank of 60% indicates that you scored higher than 60% of all other test takers and lower than 40% of all other test takers.

NOTE: Percentile rankings indicate how you performed relative to the entire GMAT test-taking population during the most recent 3-year period.