The GRE Issue Essay provides a brief quotation on an issue of general interest and asks you to evaluate the issue according to specific instructions. You must then support one side of the issue and develop an argument to support your side.
Yes, you will be making an argument in this essay, but don't confuse it with the GRE Argument Essay, in which you'll poke holes in another author's argument. Here, the focus is on supporting the issue. Think of it like this: In the GRE Issue Essay, you'll develop your own argument with respect to one side of an issue.
Or, as GRE testmaker Educational Testing Service (ETS) puts it, you'll be "required to evaluate the issue, consider its complexities, and develop an argument with reasons and examples to support your views.”
However you choose to look at it, one thing is certain: the better organized your essay, the clearer it will be to the grader, and the higher it will score.
How to structure the GRE Issue Essay
The GRE Issue Essay is similar in structure to the classic five-paragraph short essay. You may opt for four to six paragraphs, but the template we walk you through plans for the classic five.
Here's how to put it to use.
Although the grader will have access to the specific assignment you received, your essay should stand on its own, making clear the assignment you were given and your response to it.
Start with a sentence that clearly restates the issue you were assigned, followed by a sentence with your position on that assignment—your thesis. Next, introduce the specific reasons or examples you plan to provide in each of the next three paragraphs: one sentence for each of the forthcoming paragraphs.
It is key that you consider exactly what's being asked of you in the assignment, and make sure the language you use in your intro paragraph demonstrates that you understand the specific instructions for that assignment. For instance, if the task tells you to “address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position,” you will need to show at least two strong reasons or examples that the opposing side could use—and then explain why those reasons or examples are incorrect.
Structure your first paragraph in this way, and you’re well on your way to effectively indicating that you understand the assignment, are organized, have considered the complexities of the issue, and can effectively use standard written English—all components of a strong essay that's destined for a great score.
Each of your body paragraphs should do three things:
- introduce one of your examples
- explain how that example relates to the topic
- show how the example fully supports your thesis
You should spend the majority of each body paragraph on the third step: showing how it fully supports your thesis.
Also check out 6 Tips for Crafting A High-Scoring GRE Argument Essay
The “Analyze an Issue” essay is one of two writing tasks on the GRE’s Analytical Writing Measure. This task assesses your ability to think critically about a topic and form a persuasive argument in support of your position.
You’ll be presented with a statement, recommendation, claim, or policy that can be discussed from a variety of perspectives. After considering several points of view, you must craft a clear and compelling case for your own position on the issue.
Each issue comes with a specific set of instructions. These instructions may include addressing the possible consequences of implementing a certain policy, providing reasons or examples that could be used to challenge your position, discussing circumstances in which adopting a recommendation may or may not be advantageous, and considering ways in which a statement may or may not hold true.
You have 30 minutes to complete the writing task, and your essay will receive a score ranging from 0-6. A score of 0 indicates that your essay is off topic, simply copies the topic, or is illegible/unreadable. To learn more about the scoring guide, visit ETS: Scoring Guide for the Issue Task.
To score a 6, your essay must indicate a clear and insightful position supported with specific reasons and examples, maintain focus and logical organization, convey ideas with effective vocabulary and varied sentences, and demonstrate a superior use of English conventions. Minor errors are acceptable.
Six Tips to Score a 6 on the GRE Issue Essay
- Practice. Prior to taking the GRE, write practice essays for at least 3-4 different prompts. Set a clock for 30 minutes to practice working under the time constraints of the actual test.
- Spend 5-10 minutes planning your essay. Consider multiple perspectives, and generate a list of supporting reasons and examples. Choose to argue the perspective with the most compelling list.
- Use specific, relevant reasons and examples. Be as specific as possible with your reasons and arguments, and avoid generalizing. Make sure that all of your supporting details are relevant to your position, and explain how each piece of evidence supports your point.
- Make a strong, confident argument. Make your position extremely clear. Don’t go back and forth on the issue. Use strong language such as “necessity,” “unacceptable, “must,” etc.
- Address counterclaims. You should briefly mention 1-2 strong counterarguments from different perspectives—and then explain why you disagree with these points. The conclusion is a great place to include this information.
- Ensure that you follow all directions. Make sure you address all parts of the directions for your task. Read the prompt carefully, underlining key components. Before time is up, check that your essay has clearly answered to each of these elements.
How WriteLab Can Help You Prepare for the GRE Issue Essay
WriteLab provides specific, actionable feedback on concision, clarity, logic, and grammar. All four of these aspects contribute to your overall score on the “Analyze an Issue” writing task. As you complete practice essays, you can upload them to the WriteLab app and instantly receive helpful suggestions for improvement.
For example, WriteLab helps you use strong, specific verbs to increase the clarity of your writing. The software even advises you to vary the length of your sentences, which is specifically mentioned in the GRE’s scoring guide.
Comments include suggestions about deleting unnecessary words, revising general and vague words and phrases, and avoiding overly wordy sentences. Attention to these details will strengthen and clarify your argument.
WriteLab not only provides useful comments, but also asks questions designed to push critical thinking. For instance, you’ll be asked questions prompting you to provide specific details or evidence to develop your claims.
“Superior conventions” is a criterion for a perfect 6 on this writing task, and WriteLab’s input about spelling and grammar includes explanations that can improve your use of conventions.
Overall, viewing and considering WriteLab’s comments and questions can lead to better writing and a higher score on the GRE’s “Analyze an Issue” writing task.