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Gmat Essay Scoring Rubric

Plenty of students want to improve their writing, and the only real way to do so is writing, and writing a lot.

But there is a catch-22 here: how do you improve your writing if you aren’t a good writer? How can you identify places to improve if you don’t know what needs improvement? How can you identify an error if you commit the error? These are all valid concerns, but trust me, you just need to start writing.

But we won’t send you out to sea without a life vest. We now have an essay rubric that breaks down the four aspects of writing that count towards your score—Quality of Ideas, Organization, Writing Style, and Grammar & Usage.

If you don’t know what those are now, you will soon. Each column represents one aspect of writing and each row represents a level from 0 to 6. Each cell of the rubric describes a specific aspect of writing at a specific level.

Download the Magoosh Essay Rubric (you can also download the printable PDF by clicking here) and get started!

How to Use the Rubric

After completing the essay, you’ll need to check the four aspects of your writing. Even better, if ask a friend to look over the essay and provide you a score. Give each aspect of your essay a score ranging from zero to six.

Total all four scores and find the average. Now you have a sense of your writing score. Round scores up as follows: Round a score of 4.25 to 4.5 and a score of 3.75 to 4.

Of course evaluating your own writing will be hard if you don’t know what to look for, but this is a perfect time to improve and practice. Taking a break between writing your essay and evaluating it will help to give you a more objective eye. Also, reading the essay aloud will help you to hear errors.

If you are unsure about your style, grammar, and usage, plug your essay into the Hemingway App. This is not a perfect piece of software, but its better than nothing and will catch a lot of grammar and usage errors.

Quality of Ideas:

  • Are the ideas creative, compelling, and relevant?
  • Did you use an expected, typical example?
  • Did you talk about two sides of the issue or just one?
  • Were you attacking the major components of the argument or just the minor ones?
  • Were the reasons feasible, believable, and relevant to the topic?

 

Organization:

  • Is there an introduction and conclusion?
  • Does the response flow from paragraph to paragraph?
  • Are there a lot of structure words to guide the reader, such as “for example,” “first,” or “further”?
  • Is it easy to find the main idea of a paragraph and determine what the specific details supporting that idea are?
  • Is it easy to understand the development of an idea and how it relates to the passage as a whole?

 

Writing Style:

  • Is there a mix of short sentences and long sentences?
  • Is there a variety of sentence structures—simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex?
  • Are the same words often repeated or are there a lot of synonyms and rephrasing?
  • Are the sentences easy to read?
  • Can the reader understand the ideas in a sentence?
  • Do readers have to re-read a sentence multiple times to understand it?

 

Grammar and Usage:

  • Are there misspelled words?
  • Are the lists and comparisons parallel in structure?
  • Are there any subject-verb agreement errors or pronoun-antecedent errors?
  • Are there any run-on sentences or sentence fragments?
  • Are commas, dashes, and semi-colons used correctly?
  • Are there any modification problems—dangling modifiers or ambiguous ones?

 

Takeaway

If you don’t know a lot of the phrases and questions above, you’ll have a lot of practice and learning to do. But better to do it now, then wait until you have to write a paper in your grad school class.

Most people fired from a job aren’t surprised. They know where they have slacked and why they lost their job. I am sure that you can read your writing and know that there are problems (or that everything is great). I hope the rubric gives you a little more traction for evaluating your writing so that you know what you need to work on to improve.

 

Note: Some students might wonder why the rubric is for the GRE and GMAT. Both test evaluate essays in the same way, so the rubric will work for either test. 🙂

 

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The Score Report

An official GMAT score report consists of five parts:

  • Verbal Scaled Score (on a scale from 0 to 60)
  • Quantitative Scaled Score (on a scale from 0 to 60)
  • Total Scaled Score (on a scale from 200 to 800)
  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) Score (on a scale from 0 to 6)
  • Integrated Reasoning Score (on a scale from 1 to 8)

The total score is a scaled combination of the verbal and quantitative scaled scores, and thus reflects a student's overall performance on the multiple-choice sections of the test. The AWA and the Integrated Reasoning sections are scored independently; scores for these sections do not affect the 200-800 scaled score.


The Verbal and Quantitative Sections

To compute the scaled score for the Verbal and Quantitative sections, GMAT uses an algorithm that takes the following factors into account:

  • the number of questions answered within the time permitted
  • the number of questions answered correctly
  • the statistical characteristics (including level of difficulty) of the questions answered

At the beginning of each section, the GMAT presents a question in the middle range of difficulty. If the question is answered correctly, the next question will be harder and the test-taker's score will adjust upwards. If the question is answered incorrectly, the next question will be easier, and the test-taker’s score will adjust downwards. (The test taker does not see this adjustment because the score is not revealed until the entire test has been completed.) Thus, the algorithm is constantly recalculating the scaled score as the student progresses through the section.

As a test-taker answers more questions, the algorithm receives more information about his or her skills and is able to calculate an accurate score with greater and greater precision. Consequently, the questions at the beginning of the section are weighted much more heavily than questions near the end of the section. For example, by the time Question 36 appears, the computer has had 35 questions from which to derive the proper score range. So even if Question 36 were answered correctly, the increase in score would be minimal compared to the increase in score if Question 2 had been answered correctly.

Upon completing the GMAT, test-takers must decide whether or not to keep their scores. Those who choose to keep their scores are able to view the total scaled score along with the separate Verbal and Quantitative scaled scores. Those who choose to cancel cannot view any scores.

The real value of a GMAT score is determined by its percentile ranking. A percentile ranking indicates the percentage of test-takers who scored at or below a particular score: the higher the percentile ranking, the more competitive the score. Percentile rankings in the charts below reflect the most current data from the GMAC (through July 2015).

The following table shows the 61 possible GMAT total scaled scores and the percentile rankings assigned to each.

Scaled Score Percentile Scaled Score Percentile
760-8009952034
7509851032
7409750030
7309649027
7209448025
7109147023
7008946020
6908645019
6808444017
6708243015
6607942014
6507641013
6407140011
6306939010
620663809
610623708
600593607
59056340-3506
580523305
57049310-3204
56046280-3003
55043250-2702
54040220-2401
53036200-2100

While total scaled scores range from 200 to 800, approximately half of all test takers score between 400 and 600.

The verbal and quantitative scaled scores are also assigned percentile rankings. The following table shows the possible verbal and quantitative scaled scores and the percentile rankings assigned to each.

Verbal Quantitative
Scaled Score Percentile Scaled Score Percentile
45-51995197
44985087
42-43964977
41944871
40914765
39894662
38854559
37834454
36814352
35764247
34724145
33694043
32673939
31623838
30603736
29573633
28523529
27473428
26443326
25403224
24373121
23333020
22312918
21272817
20232714
19202613
18182512
17152411
16132310
151021-228
149207
13718-196
12516-174
11413-153
10310-122
927-91
7-816
60

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

The AWA essay receives two scores on a scale of 0 to 6, at least one of which comes from a human reader. The other score, however, may come from a computerized evaluation program. If the scores from the two readers are identical or differ by exactly one point, they are averaged to obtain the final score for that essay. If the scores differ by more than one point, an expert human reader determines the final score.

The following table lists all of the possible AWA scaled scores and the percentile rankings assigned to each of them.

AWA Score Percentile
690
5.581
5.057
4.543
4.020
3.513
3.06
2.55
1.0-2.03
0-0.50

Over 90% of test-takers receive a scaled score of 3 or higher on the AWA. Since human readers are involved in the AWA grading process, students cannot view their AWA scores on the same day that they take the test. Students who choose to keep their scores receive an official GMAT score report via regular mail approximately two weeks later that includes their AWA score.


Integrated Reasoning

The Integrated Reasoning section is scored on a scale of 1 to 8, in one-point increments. This section is not computer adaptive.

Test-takers will not be able to view their Integrated Reasoning scores on the same day that they take the test. Those who choose to keep their scores will receive an official GMAT score report via regular mail approximately two weeks later that includes the Integrated Reasoning score.

Score Percentile
892
782
669
554
440
327
213
10