I am currently studying for my GRE exam and I came across a book which states that GRE essays are sent with the official score reports. How does the admissions committee process these essays?
I am applying for a PhD in computer science.
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I am surprised, but this does appear to be true. From the ets website we have the following:
ETS also makes available test-taker photos and essay responses on the Analytical Writing section of the GRE® revised General Test to designated score recipients as part of an institutional portal. Photos and Analytical Writing essay responses of all individuals who report their scores to institutions on or after July 1, 2014, are included in the portal. The photo and essay responses from each GRE revised General Test administration you select from your five-year reportable history will be made available in the portal as part of your score record to the institutions you designated to receive your scores on or after July 1, 2014.
(In some sense, I'm even more surprised they are making photos of test-takers available.) As for how the admissions committee processes these essays, others on the site can speak more directly to this, particularly in computer science. However, I'm certain this will vary from department to department (assuming any department looks at them at all). I suspect the admissions committee of many departments will not even be aware these essays are available through the ETS institutional portal. Of those that are aware these exist, I would be surprised if much weight were placed on these. These will convey almost no incremental information to an admissions committee. (I suppose if you scored a 0 and the rest of your application was outstanding, and the committee knew these were available, someone might look to see what happened. Maybe.)
I'm on my department's graduate committee and read through all of the applications. I had no idea that the essays were available and am quite certain that my colleagues aren't either. The statement posted in one of the other answers also states that the essay is only available via a portal, which is not something you would typically go visit for each and every application.
Extrapolating from our department to all departments (certainly a sketchy process, though maybe not entirely crazy) I would say: don't worry about it -- nobody's going to read the essay.