What Your GRE Essay Scores Really Mean - dummies

What Your GRE Essay Scores Really Mean

By Ron Woldoff, Joseph Kraynak

Before you can score well on the GRE essay, you need to have a basic grasp of how the essay section is graded. Your essays are graded one at a time, first by a trained evaluator, and then by a computerized ETS system. Your final score for each essay is the average of the two scores.

If the two scores differ by more than a couple points, which is uncommon, then your essay goes to a third, human evaluator, and your score for that essay is the average of the two humans’ scores. You get one score for each essay (0 to 6, the higher the better), and your final writing score is the average of the two essay scores.

Knowing what the evaluators look for in your essays enables you to more effectively target your writing for a score of 6. Following are the descriptions evaluators associate with each essay score as they grade your essays:

  • Outstanding (6). The essay demonstrates the ability to develop a position on an issue, identify strengths and weaknesses of an argument, support personal views and insights, and write with clarity, focus, and interest — in other words, you don’t sound bored. The essay may have a grammar or spelling error but otherwise is well-written with control of the language, good diction (word choice), and variety of sentence structure.

  • Strong (5). The essay demonstrates a generally thoughtful analysis of the argument or presentation of the issue. Presentation is logical, and main points are well-supported. The essay may have minor errors in grammar and spelling but demonstrates control of the language, good diction (word choice), and variety of sentence structure.

  • Adequate (4). The essay demonstrates overall competence in analyzing the argument or presenting the issue, organizing and supporting thoughts, and expressing them clearly. It may not flow smoothly due to a lack of effective transitions, and it may contain some errors, but it demonstrates sufficient control of the language.

  • Limited (3). Competent but flawed, the essay misses the main point or ideas in the argument or presents the issue poorly, lacks order, offers little or no support for the ideas presented, and contains occasional glaring errors or lots of minor errors in grammar, diction, and mechanics.

  • Seriously flawed (2). The essay completely misses the point, presents the author’s point of view with no support or irrelevant support, is poorly organized, and is riddled with errors in grammar, diction, mechanics, and sentence construction.

  • Fundamentally deficient (1). The essay demonstrates little or no evidence of the ability to understand or address the issue or analyze the argument. In addition, the essay contains extensive errors in grammar, diction, mechanics, and sentence structure.

  • No essay (0). This one is self-explanatory: If no essay is submitted or only garbage is typed in, the essay score is 0.

The essay section demonstrates your ability to communicate and think critically, which isn’t measured anywhere else on the GRE. Whether or not your target school places emphasis on the essay scores, these scores are a reflection of you as an applicant. Furthermore, the essays are first, so if you get flustered during this hour of two essays, it will affect your performance on the rest of the test. Essay-writing strategies are easy to learn, and with a little guidance and practice, you’ll write excellent essays that reflect well on you and carry you through the test.