GRE Analytical Writing

The Analytical Writing section is always the first section of the test to be administered and consists of two 30-minute essay-writing tasks, a task to "Analyze an Issue" and a task to "Analyze an Argument". The Issue task presents an opinion on an issue along with specific instructions on how to respond to the issue, constructing an argument with reasons and examples to support your views. The Argument task presents an argument and asks you to evaluate it according to specific instructions, evaluating its logical soundness rather than agreeing or disagreeing with it. ETS intends the tasks to be complementary: one task asks you to take a position and provide evidence to support your view, the other requires you to evaluate someone else’s argument by assessing its claims and evaluating its evidence.

Both Analytical Writing tasks are intended to test critical thinking and the ability to articulate and evaluate complex arguments and discussions. The essays must be written in accordance with provided instructions. The writing section is scored on a scale of 0-6 in 0.5 point increments, with a score of 6.0 representing a "cogent, well-articulated critique of the argument [that] conveys meaning skillfully" and a score of 0.0 representing a paper that is "off topic, in a foreign language, merely copies the topic, consists of only keystroke characters, or is illegible or nonverbal". Although the Analytical Writing section consists of two discrete tasks, the score is reported as a single combined number. The reported score represents an average of the scores for each task.

Individuals taking the computer-delivered test will use a basic word processor developed by ETS. The ETS word processor contains the following functionalities: insert text, delete text, cut-and-paste and undo the previous action. Tools such as a spell checker and grammar checker are not available in the ETS software, in part to preserve fairness with those examinees who must handwrite their essays at paper-delivered administrations.

The ETS recommends that even superior writers spend time preparing for the Analytical Writing tasks, because it is important to understand how the skills are measured and how the tasks are scored. The ETS has also published the entire pool of essay prompts for all Issue and Argument tasks. The tasks relate to a diverse range of subject, but no prompt requires knowledge of specific content.