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The GRE Analytical Writing Section — Basic Format and Skills Tested

The GRE Analytical Writing section is the first timed section of the GRE exam. This section involves two separately timed writing tasks:

  • Analyze an Issue
  • Analyze an Argument

Here are some additional facts about this exam section:

Sequence: Analytical Writing is the first timed exam section; either writing task can come before the other

Time limit: 60 minutes (30 minutes for each separately-timed task)

Testing format: You use the built-in word processor to compose your essays (handwritten responses are not permitted)

Skills tested:

  • Your ability to articulate, develop and support complex ideas

  • Your ability to formulate and evaluate arguments

  • Your ability to maintain a focused, cohesive, and coherent discussion

  • Your control the English language (word choice and usage) and the conventions of standard written English (grammar and sentence structure)

The "Analyze an Issue" Task (30-minute time limit)

This component is designed specifically to gauge your ability to present a position on an issue effectively and persuasively. Your task is to compose an essay in which you respond to a brief (1-2 sentence) statement involving an issue of general intellectual interest. You'll be directed to consider more than one perspective, to adopt a position on the issue, and to develop and support that position. The testing system will select your Issue prompt randomly from a large pool.

The "Analyze an Argument" Task (30-minute time limit)

This component is designed specifically to gauge your critical-reasoning and analytic (as well as writing) skills. Your task is to compose an essay in which you analyze a paragraph-length argument — but not to present your own views on the argument's topic. The testing system will select your Argument prompt randomly from a large pool.