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GRE Writing for Ph.D Programs in Philosophy 
15th-Jun-2013 05:57 pm
Hi there, I'm planning on taking the GRE writing next Thursday, and I was wondering what is considered an acceptable score for a Ph.D philosophy program. As it stands now, I'll score well in math and verbal, but the writing section is making me a bit anxious. I've heard 4.5 is a cut off. Has anyone in this community applied to Ph.D programs in philosophy, and, if so, does anyone have any idea of what is considered fine/acceptable/threshold? How much weight is put on the writing section? Thanks for any info!
15th-Jun-2013 11:36 pm (UTC)
I'm not in Philosophy, I am in the sciences (physiology to be specific) but in my experience there wasn't a hard line across the board that every application adhered to. Each program will have their own idea in mind of what they are looking for. They may post a number on their website of what they consider a minimum, but many don't. And just because they have a "minimum" posted, that doesn't mean you can't outweigh a score below that with outstanding scores in the other areas, and outstanding recommendations and other application materials.

Overall though for the GRE Writing section you want to prepare and practice for it. I took it before the changeover but I think that only affected the other sections, I'm pretty sure the writing section stayed the same. My first try I got a 3.5. Then I did a ton of practice essays and studied the sample prompt lists I could find to get ideas of how they asked the questions and what kinds of answers I could create. Then my second try I got a 5.0. =) And that was all with stuff you can download on the internet for free, I didn't do any classes or pay for any books.

Good Luck!!
16th-Jun-2013 08:04 am (UTC)
Encouraging to hear your improvement! Thanks for the suggestion; I'll start looking at the prompts now.
15th-Jun-2013 11:37 pm (UTC)
I applied to CUNY with 4.0 writing score, didn't get in. However, I didn't find any mentions of what threshold is there, if there is any. Don't think that many programs reveal it now.
Good luck with GRE.
16th-Jun-2013 04:45 am (UTC)
I am not in PhD for Philosophy, but I did take the new GRE and scored a 6 on the writing.
I suggest looking at ALL of the writing prompts (available online) and think of a position to take on each with at least two supporting arguments. I swear, you won't be surprised, you won't waste time thinking and can get right down to it which is half the battle.

Good luck!
16th-Jun-2013 08:04 am (UTC)
Thank you for this suggestion. I will take your advice!
16th-Jun-2013 06:11 am (UTC)
Did you take any statewide standardized writing tests in high school? Because I wrote my GRE essay the same way we were taught to do those (5 paragraphs: intro, 3 body paragraphs, conclusion) combined with arguing a point and got a 6.
16th-Jun-2013 08:03 am (UTC)
Ah yes, my test prep tells me this is a good idea. I'm just really nervous I won't be able to finish in time or think quickly enough! Urgh. I'm a pretty good writer; I just get anxious. But yeah, thanks for the suggestion--I'm really not too worried about the argument essay. It's just the issue essay that's giving me a bit of anxiety.
16th-Jun-2013 01:50 pm (UTC)
A strategy that i've used for getting through exams in the UK (which are basically like the writing exam, but with added deep subject knowledge) is to set a specific amount of time to do each section, and write a brief outline before I begin. So, for an hour's exam I'd do:
Plan/outline - 5 minutes
Introduction - point 1, 2, 3 (10 minutes)
Para 1, point 1 (10 minutes)
Para 2, point 2 (10 minutes)
Para 3, point 3 (10 minutes)
Conclusion - reiterate point 1, 2, 3, clever wrap-up (10 minutes)
Review - 5 minutes

Obviously you should adjust as necessary based on time available, but by setting a more or less firm timeline it makes it so you get through the whole thing and don't suffer too badly from and-another-thingitis, which can mess with the flow of your essay. You'll never have time to get it perfect, but this way you can at least get it done, which is the next-best thing.

(Also, if hand-writing, double-space or leave a few lines at the end of each paragraph, so if you genuinely do forget something important you can go back and insert it.)

Edited at 2013-06-16 01:53 pm (UTC)
16th-Jun-2013 02:43 pm (UTC)
If I recall correctly, most of these essays are scored by computer anyway. What this means is using the right range of vocabulary, sentence length, and the typical five paragraph format. What may be a very good argument may not get a perfect score just because of this.
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