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GRE Overview

>The second essay is the “Analyze an Argument” task, for which you will be given 30 minutes, and it is basically the opposite of the previous task. Instead of constructing an argument, you will need to deconstruct an argument that you are given as a prompt. You won’t have a choice of prompts for this one. The prompt will be a short paragraph which draws certain conclusions from stated premises. Your task is to identify the errors of logic and reasoning in the paragraph. Every prompt will have many errors. You may also want to bring up ways in which the argument could be strengthened, or to discuss assumptions underlying the argument which lead to its logical flaws. Your essay will be scored based on the skill with which you analyze the argument given in the prompt, as well as your command of English.

For many graduate programs, the AW score may not be weighted as heavily the Verbal and Quantitative scores. For one thing, it is a new section, and universities may still be getting familiar with interpreting scores on the AW. The

scoring system

is also far less precise than that of the other two sections: there are 13 possible scores on the AW section (6.0, 5.5 etc.) as opposed to 60 possible scores on the other sections (the Verbal and Quantitative sections are scored between 200 and 800 in units of 10). Most people will score in the middle range on the AW. Your score is more likely to receive extra attention if it is unusually high (a 5.5 or a 6.0) or unusually low (below a 4). Whether or not the programs to which you are applying consider the AW score to be as important as your Verbal and Quantitative scores, it is best to be well-prepared. It’s the first section on the test, you must take it, and if you are prepared to write the essays, this section will not be too stressful and you will feel all the more confident when it comes time to start the other sections. If you are concerned about this section, ETS offers a service whereby you can write a sample essay and have it graded (for a fee) by an actual GRE grader. You may also look at the pool of prompts for the essays at the ETS website (

The Verbal Section


The Verbal section of the GRE is 30 minutes long and consists of 30 questions. There are four question types: Antonyms, Analogies, Reading Comprehension, and Sentence Completion. Although you have an average of one minute to answer each question, each question type requires a different approach, and you will spend far longer on Reading Comprehension questions than on the other question types – meaning you must plan to answer Antonyms, Analogies and Sentence Completions in less than one minute. Remember, you will also be using test time to read the passages on which the Reading Comprehension passages are based. 


are the most basic question type on the Verbal section. You will be presented with a stimulus word in capital letters, such as RAPTUROUS. You will then be given five answer choices, which are words or phrases. Your task is to pick the word or phrase that most nearly opposes the meaning of the stimulus. The correct answer choice for the stimulus RAPTUROUS might be “sorrowful,” for example. These questions are a direct test of your vocabulary, as you have no context within which to place the stimulus or the answer choices. Difficult and unusual words are par for the course. There will be an average of 9 Antonyms per Verbal section. 

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