AWA Time Saving Tips

AWA Time Saving Tips - Image by Magoosh

The AWA essay is no easy task. It is basically a 30-minute sprint in which you must display the poise of a ballerina. Even those who’ve trained for months find themselves running out of time at the end. Below are five time-saving GRE writing tips that can help you change an amazing 33-minute essay into an amazing 30-minute essay.


Write the intro last

Many times people obsess about the perfectly worded introduction sentences. A better strategy is often to write a thesis and then embark on your analysis paragraphs. These paragraphs are more important in determining your score than is the intro paragraph, something many forget as they painfully try to write a polished opening. By writing the entire essay, the first sentence almost writes itself.

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Don’t belabor the conclusion

Sometimes people feel they have to go out with a bang, feeling that they will somehow get that extra .5 points by writing something utterly profound. Oftentimes such a tendency to elaborate leads to off topic sentences that may actual hurt one’s score. Keep it short and sweet is a good credo both for the conclusion and the intro.


The perfect word syndrome

Oftentimes students have a good flow going, sentences virtually unspooling themselves…until that perfect word flits just out of reach. Instead of continuing the flow, students abruptly stop and fish about for this word. Sometimes it is a good idea to write a placeholder word (such as ‘good’) and then come back to the word at the end. Remember overall coherency of ideas is far more important than that one crackerjack word.


Don’t forget to edit

This actually takes time, but it is important, in trying to find ways to save time, that you don’t sacrifice the important last step of proof-reading your essay. Editing will often make a .5 point or, in the instances of egregious spelling, an entire point difference.


More efficient brainstorming

Interestingly this is the very first step, but is one people spend too little time. While this may seem counterintuitive, remember that an extra minute of planning can lead to a clearer vision of what you have to write. A vague outline, on the other hand, will slow down the entire pace of your writing, especially in the latter paragraphs (because we tend to over think the beginning and under think the end).


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16 Responses to AWA Time Saving Tips

  1. Damilola June 30, 2016 at 7:14 am #

    Thanks for these great tips, usually nervous when it comes to essays, but I feel encouraged by your tips to successful essay writing, also I really don’t know who around me will be fit to grade my writings, thanks.

  2. Luna September 30, 2015 at 6:06 pm #

    Hi Chris!

    I am not a Native English Speaker, I am having a lot of trouble increasing my AWA at least 1 point. What sort of tools could you recommend me to use in order to strengthen my writing skills?
    I have a strong writing background in my language but it did not work very well in English (according to my AWA scores)
    Thank you!!!

  3. John February 8, 2015 at 6:21 am #

    I used to neglect planning and creating outlines before writing essays, but after reading your tips and trying it in practice test, I’m pretty sure that they are crucial for completing a task effectively and in time. Thank you Chris! 🙂

  4. Kat October 30, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Are there any strategies to help with brainstorming? I can’t seem to come up with good examples for my Issue task, only hypothetical ones. Thanks


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele November 4, 2013 at 9:24 am #


      One good way of jumpstarting the example-generating part of your brain is to look at other GRE essays. You can find these in the ETS guide, the Manhattan books, Kaplan, Princeton, etc. The high-scoring essays will almost always use specific examples that they use to develop their points. You’ll also get a sense of what it means to use examples in such a way that they are helping you prove your main point, not just summarize a story or incident.

      Once you get to this point, try 5-minute brainstorming sessions, where you come with stances (either pro or con) and then specific example(s) to back up each point. It will be tough going at first but keep knocking out these 5-minute sessions and eventually you’ll find that you’ll be able to come up with solid examples in just a few minutes.

      Good luck!

  5. emma March 1, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    I have been following these guidelines and have been able to manage time better!!
    Thanks a ton, Chris!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 1, 2013 at 11:39 am #


      That’s great!! I’m always happy to hear when students successfully implement these strategies :).

  6. sib October 12, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    The ETS GRE Official website mentions that the writing tasks-both, argument and issue analysis would feature from the question pool in the website, although not verbatim. I’m assuming, the subject matter appearing on the test day will not be alien to me. Is the claim made on the official website adhered to? Or is there a considerable possibility of other topics appearing on the test day especially regarding the issue task?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 12, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

      Hi Sib,

      From what I’ve experienced, and from what students have said, the prompt will be almost identical to the prompts on the ETS site. I have yet to hear of any jarringly alien prompts.

      Hope that helps!

      • Sib October 13, 2012 at 5:24 am #

        Thanks for the feedback Chris 🙂

  7. Ingrid September 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    Thanks so much for these tips! I will be taking the test Sept 27th. I can’t wait to report back on my score ( because of course it’s going to be awesome!) Thanks Chris and Team Magoosh!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris September 26, 2012 at 11:50 am #

      Great, I am happy we’ve bee helpful. Good luck on your test, and look forward to hear how you do :).

  8. ahmed September 15, 2012 at 6:31 am #

    Hi Chris,

    writing intro last????? Don’t you think it’s too risky. If we don’t get the content for intro at the last moment, the time may elapse and we may end up with incomplete intro part. Which would be very strange

    • Chris Lele
      Chris September 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm #


      As long as you keep an eye on the clock that shouldn’t be a problem. Again, this format is not for everyone, just for those who struggle writing the intro and thus have less time remaining to write the more important of the essay – the body.

      Also if you practice using this technique, you’ll get used to it, so the calamity you describe – not writing an intro at all – is not likely to happen.


  1. TOEFL Tuesday: Writing a Better Independent Essay – Tip 1 | Magoosh TOEFL Blog - September 15, 2015

    […] you have studied the GRE with Magoosh, you may have heard this tip before. The idea is simple: write the introduction paragraph last, after you have written the body […]

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