How to Self Grade your GRE Issue Essay?

Posted by on May 20, 2014 in GRE Verbal | 0 comments

Every now and then students all over Pakistan ask me about how to get their Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) issue essays graded. Well of course the best way to get them graded is through someone who has done well on the GRE essays in the past – but if you can’t find someone with the specific skill set then an alternate would be to self grade it. In this post I will discuss how one can self grade their GRE Issue essays.

AWA score of the GRE exam is used by graduate schools to evaluate your writing and analytical skills. Two separate trainers read these essays and they score each essay based on a few factors. But how do you improve your writing if you aren’t a good writer and cannot identify places that need improvement? To make your life easy, I will share with you the 3 aspects of issue essay writing that count towards your score. These aspects are ‘Ideas & Examples’, ‘Structure and Paragraphing’, and ‘Grammar and Word Usage’.

Aspect 1: Ideas & Examples

You know that in an issue essay you will have to create your own argument on a topic. The most important aspect is providing relevant and convincing ideas that support your side of the story. Moreover if you back those ideas with great examples that are clearly articulated then you will gain a lot of points. Although ETS does not share its grading criteria, but in my experience for every relevant idea and a strong example to back it, you will get 1 to 1.5 points. So if you write on 3 ideas with examples you will easily go up to 4 or 4.5 points.

Aspect 2: Organization and Paragraphing

Giving a great idea backed by a solid example is the most crucial aspect of an issue essay – however if you do not sustain a well focused discussion and have improper paragraphing with no introduction or conclusion, you will lose a few points (1-2 in my experience). If there is no flow from a sentence to next or from a paragraph to the next, or if you haven’t used structure words like ‘Moreover’, ‘Nevertheless’, ‘Therefore’, ‘Hence’ etc. followed by no variation in sentence length, then your write up becomes very boring and clumsy to read. By making sure that your essay is smooth and flowing with proper paragraphing (I recommend a separate paragraph for each idea (and its example) along with different paragraphs for the introduction and conclusion, you will ensure that your passage is well organized. In my opinion a good introduction, conclusion, and ideas (with examples) in different paragraphs will fetch you 1 additional point.

Aspect 3: Grammar and Word Usage

Although the focus of an issue essay is to create a cogent argument that is well structured, you will lose marks if your essay is riddled with mistakes such as those of grammar, spellings, or incorrect word usage. In my experience 8-10 such errors are acceptable, but for more errors the reader will penalize you because then the essay becomes too hard to read – with the reader pausing every second to grasp your error filled message. With no grammar and spell checker available, you must spend some time at the end to make sure that your essay does not have such errors. A few mistakes are unavoidable and the GRE will not deduct marks for those – nevertheless simply ensure that the errors are not many.

In short:

3 Ideas backed with good Examples = 4 points
5 Paragraphs (1 for each intro, conclusion, and 1 for each of the ideas and examples) = 1 point
Little to none grammar or word usage mistakes = 1 point

Total = 6 points 🙂

Here is a simple schematic to help you self evaluate your essays.

For a grade of 5-6:


For a grade of 3.5-4.5:


For a grade of 1-3:


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *