Tuesday, September 26, 2006

AWA section - GRE

AWA - Analytical Writing Assessment

The analytical writing section consists of two timed essay sections.

The first task is "Present your perspective on an issue". In this you will be shown two essay topics - each a sentence or paragraph that expresses an opinion on an issue of general interest. You will be asked to choose one of the two topics and you are given 45 minutes to plan and write and essay that communicates your own perspective on the issue. Whether you agree or disagree with the opinion on the screen is irrelevant. There is no correct or wrong answer. What matters is that you should back up your view with relevant reasons, examples and statements.

The second of the two writing tasks is the "Argument" essay. The task presents a difficult challenge. This time, you will be shown a paragraph that argues a certain point. You will be given 30 minutesto assess that argument's logic. There is no choices of topics for the argument essay. The test makers want you to critique an argument by discussing its logical soundness in 30 minutes duration

The two tasks are complimentary - one requires test takers to construct their own arguments by taking a position on an issue and providing evidence in support of it. The second task requires the test takers to outline some one else's argument by assessing its claims and evaluating the evidence it provides.

IMPORTANCE - The test includes AWA in order to -

1. facilitate the admissions process by assessing higher level critical analytical writing skills of applicants, and
2. provide a performance measure of test taker's ability to make and critique arguments, which help to assess work done by graduate students in most fields.

SKILLS TESTED IN AWA - The skills tested are -

1. articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively.
2. examine claims and accompanying evidence.
3. support ideas with relevant reasons and examples.
4. sustain a well - focussed, coherent discussion.
5. control the elements of standard written english (plays a role to the extent that poor writing skills impede readers' understanding)

HOW THE ESSAYS ARE ADMINISTERED - The analytical writing essay topics will be delivered on computer. You type your essays using a simplified word processor. You will be given a brief tutorial on how to use the word processor. If you are not comfortable with complex word processing program, there is nothing to worry. The program you shall use is simple, and you shall be well acquainted with it by the time you start writing.

COMPARISON WITH TOEFL - The TOEFL and GRE writing measures are very different. The TOEFL writing task is not designed to measure higher levels of thinking and analytical writing, but centers on command of English vocabulary, grammar, spelling and syntax. The tasks on the two tests are not at all comprable, because the TOEFL tests fundamental writing skills. The TOEFL score can supplement an analytical writing score of GRE by helping faculty determine whether a low score on the GRE writing measure is due to lack of familiarity with English or to lack of ability to produce and analyse logical arguments.

SCORING AND REPORTING - For the awa, each essay receives a score from two examiners/readers, using a 6-point holistic scale from 0 to 6. In holistic scoring two readers are to assign scores on the basis of overall quality of an essay in response to the assigned task. If the two readers scores differ by more than one point, the discrepancy is adjudicated by a third examiner, who is a very experienced reader. The scores from the two readings of an essay are averaged. The final score of the essays are then averaged and rounded up to the nearest half point and it is the score which is reported for the analytical writing measure. The primary emphasis in scoring the analytical writing essay is of critical thinking and analytical writing skills than on grammar. Examinees will receive a single analytical writing score, scores are not reported seperately for each essay.

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