The Issue Task — Directions, Example, Issue Themes and Directives

The Analyze an Issue writing task is one of two you'll perform during the GRE Analytical Writing section. This page provides the general test directions for this task; describes and shows what a typical Issue essay prompt looks like; lists some common GRE Issue-topic themes; and lists the six different Issue directives (specific tasks).

General Directions for the Analyze-an-Issue Task

The following directions are similar to the ones that will appear on your screen when the timed Issue writing task begins. You'll dismiss these directions to view the essay prompt by clicking on the DISMISS DIRECTIONS button.

Directions: During this portion of the exam you will need to analyze the issue presented and explain your views on it. There is no "correct" answer. Instead, you should consider various perspectives as you develop your own position on the issue.

Writing Your Response: Take a few minutes to think about the issue and plan a response before you begin writing. Be sure to organize you ideas and develop them fully, but leave time to reread you response and make any revisions that you think are necessary.

Evaluation of Your Response: College and university faculty members from various subject-matter areas will evaluate the overall quality of your thinking and writing. They will consider how well you:

  • organize, develop, and express your ideas about the issue presented
  • provide relevant supporting reasons and examples
  • control the elements of standard written English
To review these directions at any time during this section, click on HELP.

The Analyze-an-Issue Writing Prompt

A GRE Issue writing prompt consists of two components:

  • An issue-related statement — a one- or two-sentence assertion, claim, recommendation, or statement of one or more views or policies

  • A directive (instruction) for responding to the Issue statement

Following is GRE-style Issue prompt. The statement (in this case, a claim) is similar in theme to some of the ones in the official pool. The directive is one of the six different ones used for GRE Issue prompts.

In order to be effective, political leaders must make decisions based on their personal convictions rather than on public opinion.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and explain your reasoning for your position. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to consider the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.

Common GRE Issue Themes

The Issue statements in the official pool embrace a broad range of topics that are of general intellectual interest. Here's just a small sampling of GRE Issue topic themes:

  • individual initiative vs. conformity and teamwork
  • the qualities of an effective leader
  • the comparative value of formal education vs. practical experience
  • personal privacy issues in the new information age
  • the social duties of government vs. private enterprises and citizens
  • the importance of innovation vs. tradition and convention
  • weighing public interest against self-interest
  • the role of humanities vs. the role of science and technology

Keep in mind that this is only a partial list, and that several different Issue topics might cover the same general theme but from different angles.

The Six Different Issue Directives

The Issue directive will ask you to perform one of six tasks (listed below), depending on the nature of the Issue statement — for example, whether it involves an assertion, claim, recommendation or policy choice.

NOTE: The six directives listed below are based on the ones provided at the official GRE website, but their wording may differ slightly.

  1. Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement, and explain your reasoning.

  2. Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim.

  3. Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and with the reasons on which the claim is based.

  4. Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation, and explain your reasoning.

  5. Discuss which view on the issue more closely aligns with your position, and explain your reasoning.

  6. Discuss your views on the policy, and explain your reasoning.

Each directive provides the further instruction to develop and support your position by considering more than one position on the issue and by explaining how those considerations shape your position. (The precise instruction varies, depending on the directive.)

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