Given the sheer number of students who ask me this question, I am surprised that there are so few resources that offer such a service. So what do you do when you’re desperate? Well you have a few options to consider.
For $13 dollars, the ETS ScoreItNow! Essay Grader will grade two of your essays. While I have never used the service myself—nor, for that matter known anyone who has—I’m sure the score is pretty accurate. The only downside is that’s all you get—ETS does not provide any feedback on the essays themselves. Nonetheless, if you feel that you are not improving on the essay, then you should definitely consider the service offered by ETS.
For those who don’t necessarily want to part with their money, or who actually want more than just a score, here are a few other options.
Find a friend
I know, I know, this may seem like a cop out answer. But the truth is that having a second pair of eyes, even untrained, can be really beneficial to finding your flaws. First, you need to have a friend with a pretty strong essay writing skills. Next, you need to ask them nicely, or at least offer them a cup of coffee. You should let them know that you only had 30 minutes to write your essay, and so the GRE people aren’t expecting Pulitzer Prize-winning material.
You should also tell them to pay attention to the following: structure, logical flow of ideas, and persuasiveness of examples. They should not be looking for fancy-sound GRE words. At the same time, your writing should be relatively sophisticated and should vary up the sentence structure so it doesn’t sound choppy.
Compare your work
I have a mock essay on our blog. There are a few essays in our product as well. Many test prep books have mock essays out there. Usually these essays cover the spectrum of grades, from a ‘2’ to a ‘6’. (A ‘0’ is essentially passing out and drooling on the keyboard; or typing away in Swahili).
See which essays your essays are similar to in terms of score. Since mock essays usually have an explanation for their respective scores, you should see if your essay is lacking in similar ways.
The kindness of strangers
Urch.com is a popular GRE forum, which thousands of GRE aspirants visit each day. If you post your essay and ask for some feedback, someone may provide some (I’ve seen this happen before). While this someone may not be an expert, often a second pair of eyes can be helpful.
One way to check your writing is to cut and paste the text into a Word doc. Are there many green lines (Word’s only slightly intrusive way of indicating that something may be grammatically awry)? By going into ‘Tools’ on the menu bar, you can get an explanation for what is wrong with your sentence.
Of course such analysis will tell you nothing of structure or logical flow of your ideas. Still, knowing that your grammar and spelling are not up to snuff can help you work to improve your score by as much as a point.
Though getting feedback on your AWA essays may be tough, don’t lose heart. Most likely one (if not more!) of the resources above will pan out. And don’t forget: nothing makes you a better writer than practice, feedback, practice, feedback.