GRE Analytical Writing - Approach
The recommended approach to Analytical Writing involves both pre-test preparation and test-day strategy. Because the writing style is predetermined and the content selected from a fixed pool of essay prompts, it is possible to prepare thoroughly for the Analytical Writing section by writing practice essays during test preparation. It is also important to understand the intent of each writing task, as well as how it will be scored. The Issue and Argument Tasks are intended to be complementary: the Issue Task compels you to construct your own argument about a topic, while the Argument Task directs you to evaluate someone else's argument.
The Analyze an Issue task presents an opinion and requires the student to evaluate the issue and develop a reasoned argument with examples to support your view. Before writing, be sure to read the instructions carefully and consider the issue from several perspectives, paying attention to its complexity. Your task is to present a compelling position on the issue in accordance with the instructions.
The Analyze an Argument task presents an argument and requires the student to evaluate it according to specific instructions, considering the logical soundness of the argument rather than trying to agree or disagree with it. The passage will make a case for some course of action or interpretation of events by presenting claims backed by reasons and evidence; your task is to discuss the logical soundness of the author's case according to the specific instructions by critically examining the line of reasoning and use of evidence.
One of the most important considerations while preparing for the Analytical Writing portion of the GRE is time management. The style of writing required to perform well can be developed systematically, but this requires focused preparation. While you are studying for the test, you should develop a standard essay structure for each writing task that you can use to consistently and efficiently organize your thoughts. For some students this may mean always using a five-paragraph essay structure; for others, this may mean a particular style of analyzing the prompt to find assumptions or develop an opinion. What matters is that on test day you can approach the writing tasks confidently and begin planning and writing your essay without wasting any time.
In addition to developing a systematic approach to your writing process, while preparing for the exam you should also get comfortable with the time constraints by practicing your writing under time conditions. By allowing yourself only 30 minutes to plan and construct your essay, you can practice writing in near-official conditions, especially if you utilize the pools of essay prompts provided by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), administrators of the GRE. You will need to budget time to consider the prompt and its specific instructions before you begin writing your response. Practicing under time constraints can help you develop your ability to plan and write quickly, so that your official essays reflect your true writing ability, regardless of your essay prompts.
ETS offers numerous resources to students preparing for the Analytical Writing sections. The ETS website is the most authoritative source for descriptions of how the writing sections will be graded, sample essays for each scoring level, and a variety of preparation advice and context for writing your essays. In addition, the ETS website also contains every possible essay prompt that may be presented on test day, for both the Argument Task and the Issue Task.
Manhattan Review offers one free GRE practice test to all GRE students, which includes an Analytical Writing section that is computer-graded, using an algorithm similar to that used by ETS to grade official GRE Analytical Writing submissions. Additional computer-graded writing sections are available to students who enroll in one of our preparation programs. ETS also provides a computer-scoring service called "Scoreitnow!" that can help you gauge and analyze your writing, which can grade your essay, receive diagnostic feedback, and allow you to compare your response to other scored essays. Scoreitnow costs $20 for two Analytical Writing topics – you may choose select one topic from each category, or you may get two topics in the same category. You may either select the topics you want to write about from the pool of possible essay topics, or you can choose the "Test Experience Option" to have the computer select your essay topics for you, one from each category.