GRE Analytical Writing Overview Part I: Analysis of an Issue

“It’s Not GREek” breaks down the Analytical Writing section of the GRE.

The GRE Analytical Writing section can be a stumbling block for many students. However, with practice it can become one of the easiest sections on the test. Scoring on the GRE Analytical Writing  section is based on a 6 point scale that is broken down into half-point increments. The highest possible score would be a perfect 6, and the lowest would be a 0 (reserved for blank or completely off-topic essays). This score is determined based on your performance on the two essays that make up the Analytical Writing section: the Analysis of an Issue essay and the Analysis of an Argument essay. Today, we will focus on the Analysis of an Issue essay.

In the Analysis of an Issue essay, you are presented with a statement and are then asked to write an essay explaining whether you agree or disagree with that statement or with the statement’s reasoning.Typical statements might include claims such as:

“To understand the most important characteristics of a society, one must study its major cities.”

“A nation should require all of its students to study the same national curriculum until they enter college.”

“Governments should place few, if any, restrictions on scientific research and development.”

Success in responding to these prompts is dependent both on one’s general writing skills and on strategies specific to this kind of essay. With regard to general writing skills, it is important to try to maximize both your idea count per sentence and the variety of your diction and sentence structure. Essentially, this means you should avoid diffuse, wordy writing and try to make use of all the vocabulary words you have been studying for the Verbal section of the exam. At the same time, attempt to create a pleasing variety of simple, compound, and complex sentences so that the writing flows nicely.

Turning to strategies specific to the GRE Analysis of an Issue essay, the most important strategy is to memorize and practice all of the possible kinds of prompts you could be given. These prompt types are listed on the official GRE website, and are reproduced here:

  • Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.
  • Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.
  • Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.
  • Write a response in which you discuss which view more closely aligns with your own position and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should address both of the views presented.
  • Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.
  • Write a response in which you discuss your views on the policy and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.

The most successful essays are those that most directly address the specific task indicated by the prompt; less successful responses may be on topic but fail to address the specific task at hand. The official GRE website also lists past Analysis of an Issue essay topics that you can use to write practice essays. Remember, practice makes perfect, so you would do well to take advantage of these resources. For additional help, resources, and strategies that will prepare you for the Analysis of an Issue essay, consider studying with the experts at Test Masters. Until then, best of luck and happy studying!

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