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How GRE Analytical Writing (Essay) Scores are Determined

Among the three scaled scores awarded each GRE test taker is an Analytical Writing score on a 0-6 scale (in half-point intervals). Here you'll learn how GRE essays are evaluated and how the essay-scoring system works.

Evaluation and Scoring by GRE Readers

Immediately after you test, your GRE essays will be sent electronically to a central processing location. Shortly thereafter, each of your two GRE essays will be read and evaluated. Two readers will read and score your Issue essay, and two different readers will read and score your Argument essay. Each reader will evaluate your writing independently, and no reader will be informed of any other reader's score. GRE readers are college or university faculty members; most are either English or Communications professors.

Each reader will employ a "holistic" grading method by which he or she assigns a single score from 0 to 6 (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6) based on the overall quality of your writing in response to the assigned task. All readers employ the same specific evaluation criteria.

Criteria for Evaluating GRE Essays

In evaluating the overall quality of your writing, the GRE readers 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? The first two areas are far more important than the last two. However, writing style, grammar and diction — i.e., your ability to communicate ideas effectively in writing — may influence readers 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.

How Analytical-Writing Scaled Scores are Calculated

You'll receive a single Analytical Writing score for both of your GRE essays. In four steps, here's how that score is determined:

  1. Each of your essays is graded, on a scale of 0-6, by two GRE readers.

  2. For each essay, if the two grades differ by more than one point, then a third, very experienced reader reads the essay and adjudicates the discrepancy.

  3. Your final grade for each essay is the average of two grades (or the adjudicated grade).

  4. Your final Analytical Writing score is the average of two final grades — one for each of your two essays — rounded up to the nearest half-point.

Determining Your Percentile Rank for GRE Analytical Writing

In addition to providing a scaled score of 0–6, the score report you receive will indicate a percentile rank (0% to 99%) for your writing performance. Percentile rankings are reported to test takers but not to the schools.

Your percentile rank indicates how you performed in relation to the entire GRE test-taker population over a recent multi-year period. For example, a percentile rank of 60% means that you scored higher than 60% of all other test takers and lower than 40% of all other test takers. Percentile rankings for Analytical Writing compare all test takers, not just those responding to the same particular prompts.

NOTE: Percentile rankings are also provided for Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning scores.