ScoreItNow! tool v.s. GRE essay portion
July 18, 2011 1:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm studying for the GRE. Is the ScoreItNow! essay tool really accurate? What could I be doing better?

I've taken two of the ScoreItNow! essays (one argument, one issue) and gotten a 5 on each. I cannot, for the life of me, determine if this is truly accurate or not. I feel as though my arguments and reasonings are pretty solid. What am I doing wrong? Should I be adding more of those 'buzzwords'? I really, really want a 6 and I need to know if the ScoreItNow! is an accurate reflection of The Real Test.

tl;dr : Are the ScoreItNow! tool assessments an accurate reflection of the GRE essay portion?
posted by 200burritos to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure if this is helpful. I have not used score-it-now. I have, however, graded essays for ETS for the GRE and ... something else (it was a while ago). The difference between a five and a six is generally almost nothing. A six needs to be clear, use biggish vocabulary words correctly, have reasoning and transition sentences, have a thesis that is complex, have a conclusion that is warranted and led to by the supporting paragraphs and needs to be interesting. It needs to have no errors. It shouldn't use the passive voice. There is a rubric they use that theoretically means that the same essay will be scored the same by everyone applying the rubric accurately. I am skeptical of the rubric. I am even more skeptical of there being software that can read and assess an essay though to be fair we usually read an essay for about 90 seconds, so maybe it's equally good.

That said, the biggest things you can do to improve are reduce errors to zero and make your transitions very clear and effective. Learn some good vocab-type words and use them correctly. Eliminate teeny useless words. Sorry if this is not what you were looking for, but I hope it was helpful.
posted by jessamyn at 1:13 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

No idea if this product is accurate or not but Jessamyn's advice seems pretty much dead on based upon my experience.

Make sure you lead with a strong thesis statement. This is going to be the foundation of your entire essay, so make sure it's completely clear to the reader what position you will be presenting. Stylistically, the thesis statement should be the final sentence of the first paragraph. The remaining paragraphs should all support that initial thesis statement.

Start each paragraph with a topic sentence. That topic sentence is what will be covered in each paragraph. Don't include stuff deep in a paragraph that you haven't laid the groundwork for in your topic sentence. Too many writers seem to go with one or two large paragraphs when a larger number of small paragraphs linked together with clear transitions presents an easier argument to follow.

Avoid the passive voice. Avoid weasel words. You aren't being graded as to whether your essay is factually correct so use bold, active statements and then labor to support those statements.

I have no idea how important vocabulary is to the graders but it seems that using a simple word correctly is much more important than trying to convince someone that you have a enormous vocabulary. After all testing vocabulary seems to be the domain of the verbal section of the exam.

Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to revise your thesis and topic statements. A good essay is not a matter of how much you get out but how effective your writing is at presenting an argument or an explanation.
posted by vuron at 1:45 PM on July 18, 2011

I used ScoreItNow when I took the GRE three years ago. I got 6s on all my sample essays, and did not make 6s on the actual essays. I was terribly disappointed. So: I say not accurate.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 2:40 PM on July 18, 2011

When I was preparing for the GRE, the book I was using said that the single best predictor of high scores on the essay portion was the length of the essay.
posted by andoatnp at 2:43 PM on July 18, 2011

Following up: I wanted to let everybody know that when I took the GRE, I just wrote as much as I could and edited very little. I explored every single idea I had about the two topics. I got a 5.5, and I think it is because I just kept writing and writing and writing and writing and writing. I believe that my issue essay was the one that got a 5. I absolutely think it was a terrible piece of writing, but at least it was long and had numerous examples from the Real World. I'm pretty sure that my argument essay got me a 6--I just countered everything I could think of plus offered solutions to the flaws.

Best of luck to anybody reading this question!
posted by 200burritos at 2:25 PM on December 26, 2011

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