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Tips for Writing GRE Essays — Analyze an Issue

Following is a list of tips for the Analyze-an-Issue writing task — one of two you'll perform during the GRE Analytical Writing section. (The time limit for each writing task is 30 minutes.)

  1. Take notes as if you're debating the issue. Jot down as many points as you can think of for and against each side of the issue. For each point and counterpoint, try to think of at least one good supporting reason or example. Number your points in a logical order in which to present them, and you'll have a good outline for your essay.

  2. Address the specific directive. The Issue prompt consists of an issue-related statement and one of six different directives, which vary according to the issue statement at hand. Be sure you respond to the specific directive presented.

  3. Adopt any position you can convincingly support. Don't waste time thinking about what position on the issue you should adopt — or what position a GRE reader would want you to take. The readers don't care about your opinions; what they do care about is how persuasively you support your position with relevant reasons and examples as well as how effectively you communicate your ideas.

  4. Let the reader know up front where you stand. There's no reason to begin your Issue essay by restating or paraphrasing the writing prompt. A better way to begin is to acknowledge the complexity of the issue and to indicate your position on it.

  5. Go for breadth, not depth. Try to cover both sides of the issue, and acknowledge credible arguments for both sides. Don't dwell on any single point. But don't try to cover every angle, either; otherwise, you might not have time to develop each of your ideas with relevant reasons and examples.

  6. Recapitulate for the reader. Try to reserve time for a final paragraph in which you recapitulate (sum up) your thesis — reiterating where you stand on the issue in the final analysis, and why. This concluding (summary) paragraph is generally not the place for additional examples, reasons or other ideas.