GRE Analytical Writing - Issue Task

The Analyze an Issue task measures your ability to think and write critically about a topic of general interest according to a list of specific instructions. Issue statements make a claim that test takers can discuss from multiple perspectives and apply to many different circumstances. This statement is followed by specific instructions for the writing task. You are to make a compelling case for your own position about the issue while following the instructions. The instructions generally take one of several categorical forms: they may tell you to discuss your agreement or disagreement with a general statement and consider circumstances in which the statement may or may not be true, discuss your agreement or disagreement with a recommendation and consider whether it would be advantageous under specific circumstances, discuss the extent of your agreement with a claim and anticipate compelling reasons or examples that could challenge your position, discuss your views on a policy and its likely consequences of implementation, or to discuss two opposing views and explain which is closer to your own. GRE scorers do not care what position you take, but they will evaluate the skill of your argument to address the specific instructions and support your evaluation of the issue, and the strength of your writing as you analyze the information and articulate your position.

Analytical Writing Skills

The Analyze an Issue task is an exercise in critical thinking and persuasive writing, challenging you to develop and communicate an argument in writing to an academic audience, consisting of GRE readers who have been carefully trained to apply the ETS scoring criteria. To get a better idea of how the scoring criteria are applied, you should review the scoring guide and refer to examples of graded essays on the ETS website, paying particular attention to the strategies and structure of high-scoring essays and to the graders' comments that point out any highlights or defects in the essay.

Analytical Writing Preparation

The Analyze an Issue task is intended to assess persuasive writing skills that have been developed throughout a student's education, and is not intended to require any particular course of study or to advantage students with particular training. Rather than using any specific critical thinking or writing strategies, you should be able to respond to specific instructions and use reasons, evidence, and examples to support your position on an issue. An excellent way to prepare for the Analyze an Issue task is to practice writing on some of the published topics, especially those topics for which detailed scores and critiques are available.

You are free to write your responses to the Analytical Writing prompts in any structural or organizational format that suits you. As you are practicing for the GRE, you should develop a technique to analyze and explore Issue Task topics in approximately half an hour – the amount of time that you will have to write your essay on test day. Time management is one of the most crucial components of effective preparation. You should start your essay by outlining your ideas on scratch paper, identifying the major questions you want to ask or ideas that you want to explore. This outline will help structure your writing, give you a reference point to continually guide your work, and help you review your essay near the end of time to ensure that you have covered all of the information that you want to discuss.

The specifics of your writing style do not matter – some students may want to always write a three paragraph essay, or a five paragraph essay, depending on their verbosity and expository skill, while other students may want to react to each prompt individually, structuring their essay in response to how the information is presented. The writing prompts, all of which are publically available on the ETS website, have been designed to be easily understandable and to inspire a variety of complex responses. As long as your essay considers the prompt according to the directions, the direction of your argument does not matter. It is worth saving a few minutes to check the grammar and spelling of your essay, to ensure that you submit high-quality work, but your score will not be dependent on grammatical sophistication or accuracy.

Practice Test

Manhattan Review offers all GRE students one free practice test, including a computer-graded Analytical Writing section that is similar to the program used by ETS. Students who want an even more customized experience can use the ETS "ScoreItNow" program, purchasing the ability to grade two essay submissions using programs specifically adapted to individual writing topics. The best way for students to practice for the Analytical Writing section, however, is to practice writing many analytical essays under timed conditions, hopefully while utilizing the provided GRE prompts online.