GRE Overview  |  Analytical Writing  |  Verbal Reasoning  |  Quantitative Reasoning  | »

GRE Issue Prompt (Topic) and Sample Essay

The GRE Issue writing task is designed to test your ability to communicate a position on an issue effectively and persuasively. Your basic task is to analyze the issue presented, considering more than one perspective, and to develop and support your position on the issue. There is no "correct" answer. [Issue format and directions]

The following GRE-style writing prompt consists of an Issue statement followed by a directive for responding to the statement. Keep in mind: the Issue statement here is not from the official pool, and so you won't see this one on the actual GRE.

GRE Issue Prompt

Some people believe that government regulation is needed in order to ensure the safety of consumer goods, while others believe that voluntary efforts of the producers of those goods suffice.

Write a response in which you discuss which view on the issue more closely aligns with your position and explain your reasoning. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address both views expressed above.

Following is a sample essay that responds to the above Issue prompt. As you read the essay, keep in mind:
  • Some phrases are highlighted to help you see the structure of the essay and how it responds to the specific directive. (The exam's basic word processor does not provide this feature.)

  • This essay is brief enough to plan and type in 30 minutes. But it was not composed under a strict time limit. Be assured that you can attain a top score with an essay that's less polished and a bit briefer than this one.

  • The essay is intended as a benchmark response — one that would earn a top score of 6. But it is by no means "the" correct response to the prompt. Another top-scoring essay might be organized differently, adopt a contrary position, or provide other supporting reasons and examples.

Sample Essay (475 Words)

The extent to which government should oversee the production of goods by the private sector is a complex issue involving a tug-of-war between the interests of public safety and free enterprise. On balance, however, I tend to agree that consumer safety is best left to the private sector, given the dubious effectiveness of government regulation and the proven tendency of our corporate culture to set its own safety standards irrespective of those set by government.

One compelling argument against such regulations is that they are costly to administer and enforce, and can even be counterproductive. Government regulatory agencies tend to be unwieldy bureaucracies; thus administrative delays can frustrate the purpose of regulations, particularly those designed to curb activities that pose an immediate threat to the public's safety or health. Moreover, the costs of administering and enforcing government regulations are passed on to the same taxpayer-citizens whom the regulations are designed to protect, thereby countervailing their value.

A second compelling argument against such regulations is that they are ineffectual when it comes to large corporations, which have the power and financial resources to undermine them. Specifically, in my observation the private sector tends to view potential civil and criminal penalties simply as business risks to be weighed against the potential profit accruing by violating the law. Two other responses to government regulation are common as well: circumventing them by relocating to places where it is legal to produce harmful products, and lobbying lawmakers to modify or repeal regulations that serve to reduce profitability.

Those who disagree with my view might argue that, left unfettered by regulation, private enterprises will naturally sacrifice product safety for profit — because the profit motive is what drives them. Thus absent product-safety regulations, the argument goes, consumers would find themselves in constant peril of injury, illness, and even death.

However, this argument overlooks the offsetting economic and social benefits of free enterprise. By maximizing profits, businesses provide jobs, stimulate the economy, and facilitate innovation and progress. The argument also ignores the fact that many corporations today actually go further than regulations require in ensuring that their products are safe. Many car manufacturers, for instance, design their automobiles to exceed government safety guidelines. Admittedly, such safety measures are probably born not of social conscience but of self-interest; after all, consumer-friendly products attract consumers and thus can enhance longer-term profits. Regardless of the motive, however, the empirical evidence is that businesses produce safe goods whether or not they are subject to government regulation.

In conclusion, I acknowledge that the private sector's profit motive is not about to yield to a collective social conscience any time soon. Nevertheless, given the ineffectiveness of government regulation and the economic benefits of a laissez-faire economic system, product-safety issues are best resolved by the producers of products — and ultimately by consumers who choose to buy or not buy them.