GRE Analytical Writing Sample Essays
The GRE ® essay section is also referred to as the AWA or the GRE ® Analytical Writing Assessment which experts believe is one of the most neglected sections of the GRE ® test. Most test-takers believe that they can master the section in a few days at the most. A couple of GRE ® sample essays should be sufficient. The outcome is not desirable with an average global score of 4.0 with the Indian score even lower.
GRE ® Essay Sections
This Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) portion is made up of two parts:
- Issue essays
- Argument essays
It is aimed at measuring the following:
- Communicate intricate thoughts distinctly and effectually
- Back notions with appropriate explanations and illustrations
- Scrutinize claims and supplementary proof
- Maintain a well-focused, articulate argument
- Command the components of standard written English
The structure of the GRE ® essay has been designed to test your ability to write a cogent thesis statement that you must defend over the course of several paragraphs.
- You are allocated a time limit of 30 minutes to complete each section. The is the first section and the structure of the test does not allow you to skip it and come back to it later.
- The GRE ® Essay expects you to analyze your critical thinking abilities.
- This allocated topic is usually a statement that is rather broad in nature.
- You will be evaluated for your capabilities to reason analytically and to debate the given topic from your perspective.
- You will need to support your viewpoint with appropriate instances and substantiation and structure your answer according to the precise guidelines that will be associated with the task.
- It is difficult to understand the requirements of this task without first going through relevant GRE ® sample essays.
How to use this Guide for AWA Passage Writing?
- There are two ways by which you can make use of this guide not just to improve your essay but also to master essay grading.
- Begin by taking a look at some of these perfectly scored sample essays.
- Remember that these samples that you go through will help you understand sentence structures, body paragraphs, etc. You should never ever think of copy-pasting direct sentences when you are writing your test as that will be considered as plagiarism.
- Use the guide in a manner that helps to incorporate features that help to highlight your position on the issue.
- The secondary objective of using this guide is to overcome your writing weaknesses in conjunction with essay grading.
- To ensure that you score high, begin the process with the rubrics for the Issue and Argument Tasks and subsequently zero in on the section that you find most difficult to meet.
- The idea is for you to identify the areas that you have trouble with the most. By taking adequate GRE ® prep, and going through samples and essay responses from experts, you will be able to overcome these difficulties.
Knowing how to get that perfect score is important. Find out more about GRE ® Score and the grading system.
How does the GRE ® essay work?
- With two parts to the GRE ® Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), you are allotted 30 minutes for each essay.
- This is aimed to test your ability to write a thesis statement that is cogent, which you should be able to support with adequate evidence over the course of the essay.
What is the difference between the Issue and Argument essays?
- A sample topic reads like – “It could be argued that the most important technological breakthroughs have happened by chance and through surprise discoveries. However, others argue that deliberate, well-planned research with specific goals is the only way to ensure technological advancement.
- Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.”
- You are expected to respond by analyzing this general statement by taking a stance over a matter that is understandably complex.
- You may get similar topics encompassing several different areas such as politics, education, or culture.
- A sample topic reads – “SuperCorp recently moved its headquarters to Corporateville. The recent surge in the number of homeowners in Corporateville proves that Corporateville is a superior place to live then Middleburg, the home of SuperCorp’s current headquarters. Moreover, Middleburg is a predominantly urban area and according to an employee survey, SuperCorp has determined that its workers prefer to live in an area that is not urban. Finally, Corporateville has lower taxes than Middleburg, making it not only a safer place to work but also a cheaper one. Therefore, Supercorp clearly made the best decision.
Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on the assumptions and what the implications are if the assumptions prove unwarranted.”
- In contrast to the Issue essay, the Argument essay will ask the author to dissect the logic behind the stance or position taken by him or her.
Where can I find sample topics?
- You can log on to the ETS website where they publish pools of Issue and Argument essay topics.
- These topics have been taken from previous tests.
How are the essays scored?
- There is an initial human grader of the essay who has received rigorous training to qualify to be a grader.
- He or she is typically a university literature/writing professor.
- Additionally, there is an ‘E-rater’ which is an automated essay grader.
- This system ensures that the human grader has justifiably scored the essays without bias or prejudice.
- The final score is an average of the two scores and the result rounded off to fit the half point scale.
How does the GRE ® AWA scoring range work?
- Take a look at the scoring guidelines that will help you understand where you stand with the score that you have received.Compare the essays that you have written with sample essays in order for you to get a sense of what score you might receive for them.
- Compare the essays that you have written with sample essays in order for you to get a sense of what score you might receive for them.
Is there anywhere I can get my essays graded?
- You can have someone that you trust give you their honest feedback.
- Alternatively, ETS offers a service to grade your sample GRE ® AWA essays but that does not give you any feedback, only the score.
- You can also access forums where you can upload your sample essays to get insights and analysis.
What do the graders look for?
- When your essays are graded, the three key pillars that graders look for that determine your score are clarity, coherency, and cogency.
- You must communicate your ideas as clearly as you can which should be logically connected to one another as you transition between sentences and paragraphs.
- Whatever be your claims, it should be supported by sufficient evidence and examples that are sustainable.
- Style of writing is important which means you should avoid essay with choppy sentences, bad grammar, misspellings and unsophisticated vocabulary.
- A typical grader takes 30 seconds to score your essay if he or she is satisfied with clear organization of your information, check if your paragraphs start with a topic sentence and flow into specific examples that support your analysis.
How long does my essay have to be?
- The substance in your essay is of paramount importance as long as it has been clearly bifurcated into a five-paragraph format including an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
- Keep a lookout for your paragraph lengths as long paragraphs minus logical matter will not grab you better scores.
How do I practice for GRE ® Analytical Writing?
- Practice makes it perfect and it is no different for the GRE ® Analytical Writing Assessment.
- Get a better command and facility on the language by writing more.
- Create an outline and brainstorm on your position and think of a relevant example to support your claim.
- Set aside time to edit your practice essays.
- Look through tons of approved sample essays and correlate it with the grades that they have received.
- While grammar is not of top priority as clarity of thought, it still holds weight and must be given its due importance in the scheme of things.
How do I improve my grammar and style?
- You can improve your grammar by going through books such as William Zinsser’s On Writing Well.
- To improve on your writing style, a book that comes highly recommended is Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.
- You may consult other resources to complement these books and help in an overall improvement of grammar and style.
Are there any sample essays I can read?
- Sample Issue Essays from ETS
- Sample Argument Essays from ETS
- The essays on the ETS website have been written by students.
- You can use these essays as benchmarks to assess your own levels of writing.
GRE ® Sample Essays for the Issue Task
ETS provides brief information about an issue of common interest and tells the test taker to evaluate and analyze it. The candidate is required to essentially develop a sound argument for the issue and support it with examples.
ETS Essay Pool for Issue Essays (1 to 10):
The GRE ® Issue essay is similar in structure to the classic 5-paragraph short essay. You can go through the following links for familiarizing yourself with GRE ® sample essays pertaining to the Issue task.
- GRE ® Issue Essay-1: "We learn through direct experience; to accept a theory without experiencing it is to learn nothing at all."
- GRE ® Issue Essay-2: "Laws should not be rigid or fixed. Instead, they should be flexible enough to take account of various circumstances, times, and places."
- GRE ® Issue Essay-3: "People are too quick to take action; instead, they should stop to think of the possible consequences of what they might do."
- GRE ® Issue Essay-4: "It is possible to pass laws that control or place limits on people's behavior, but legislation cannot reform human nature. Laws cannot change what is in people's hearts and minds."
- GRE ® Issue Essay-5: "Success in any realm of life comes more often from taking chances or risks than from careful and cautious planning."
- GRE ® Issue Essay-6: "Originality does not mean thinking something that was never thought before; it means putting old ideas together in new ways."
- GRE ® Issue Essay-7: "It is always an individual who is the impetus for innovation; the details may be worked out by a team, but true innovation results from the enterprise and unique perception of an individual."
- GRE ® Issue Essay-8: "The study of an academic discipline alters the way we perceive the world. After studying the discipline, we see the same world as before, but with different eyes."
- GRE ® Issue Essay-9: "If people disregard the great works of the past, it is because these works no longer answer the needs of the present."
- GRE ® Issue Essay-10: "As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more complex and more mysterious."
GRE ® Sample Essays for the Argument Task
The GRE ® Argument Essay asks you to change perspective from the one you had for the Issue Essay. Your essay should be about 5-6 paragraphs in which you will criticize an argument, describe how it could be improved, and reiterate that it is overall weak and unconvincing.
ETS Essay Pool for Argument Essays (1 to 10):
Take a look at the following sample argument essay topics:
- GRE ® Argument Essay-1: "Seven years ago, homeowners in nearby Brookville community adopted a set of restrictions on how the community's yards should be landscaped and what colors the exteriors of homes should be painted. Since then, average property values have tripled in Brookville. In order to raise property values in Deerhaven Acres, we should adopt our own set of restrictions on landscaping and house painting."
- GRE ® Argument Essay-2: "Of the two leading real estate firms in our town, Adams Realty, and Fitch Realty, Adams is clearly superior. Adams has 40 real estate agents. In contrast, Fitch has 25, many of whom work only part-time. Moreover, Adams' revenue last year was twice as high as that of Fitch and included home sales that averaged $168,000, compared to Fitch's $144,000. Homes listed with Adams sell faster as well: ten years ago, I listed my home with Fitch and it took more than four months to sell; last year when I sold another home, I listed it with Adams, and it took only one month. Thus, if you want to sell your home quickly and at a good price, you should use Adams."
- GRE ® Argument Essay-3: "A jazz music club in Monroe would be a tremendously profitable enterprise. Currently, the nearest jazz club is 65 miles away; thus, our proposed club, the C Note, would have the local market all to itself. Plus, jazz is extremely popular in Monroe: over 100,000 people attended Monroe's jazz festival last summer, several well-known jazz musicians live in Monroe, and the highest-rated radio program in Monroe is 'Jazz Nightly,' which airs every weeknight. Finally, a nationwide study indicates that the typical jazz fan spends close to $1,000 per year on jazz entertainment. It is clear that the C Note cannot help but make money."
- GRE ® Argument Essay-4: "Mesa Foods, a manufacturer of snack foods that currently markets its products within a relatively small region of the country, has strong growth potential. Mesa enjoyed a 20 percent increase in profits last year, and its best-selling product, Diabolique Salsa, has had increased sales over each of the past three years. Since Omni Inc. is interested in reaching 14-to-25-year-olds, the age group that consumes the most snack food, we should buy Mesa Foods, and concentrate in particular on marketing Diabolique Salsa throughout the country."
- GRE ® Argument Essay-5: "During the past year, Alta Manufacturing had thirty percent more on-the-job accidents than nearby Panoply Industries, where the work shifts are one hour shorter than ours. Experts believe that a significant contributing factor in many on-the-job accidents is fatigue and sleep deprivation among workers. Therefore, to reduce the number of on-the-job accidents at Alta and thereby increase productivity, we should shorten each of our three work shifts by one hour so that our employees will get adequate amounts of sleep."
- GRE ® Argument Essay-6: "Previous experience has shown that our stores are most profitable in areas where residents are highly concerned with leading healthy lives. We should, therefore, build our next new store in Plainsville, which has many such residents. Plainsville merchants report that sales of running shoes and exercise clothing are at all-time highs. The local health club, which nearly closed five years ago due to lack of business, has more members than ever, and the weight training and aerobics classes are always full. We can even anticipate a new generation of customers: Plainsville's schoolchildren are required to participate in a 'fitness for life' program, which emphasizes the benefits of regular exercise at an early age."
- GRE ® Argument Essay-7: “In Megalopolis, the number of law school graduates who went to work for large, corporate firms declined by 15 percent over the last three years, whereas an increasing number of graduates took jobs at small, general practice firms. Even though large firms usually offer much higher salaries, law school graduates are choosing to work for smaller firms most likely because they experience greater job satisfaction at smaller firms. In a survey of first-year students at a leading law school, most agreed with the statement that earning a high salary was less important to them than job satisfaction. This finding suggests that the large, corporate firms of Megalopolis will need to offer graduates more benefits and incentives and reduce the number of hours they must work.”
- GRE ® Argument Essay-8: "Given that the number of people in our country with some form of arthritis is expected to rise from 40 million to 60 million over the next twenty years, pharmaceutical companies that produce drugs for the treatment of arthritis should be very profitable. Many analysts believe that in ten years Becton Pharmaceuticals, which makes Xenon, the best-selling drug treatment for arthritis, will be the most profitable pharmaceutical company. But the patent on Xenon expires in three years, and other companies will then be able to produce a cheaper version of the drug. Thus, it is more likely that in ten years the most profitable pharmaceutical company will be Perkins Pharmaceuticals, the maker of a new drug called Xylan, which clinical studies show is preferred over Xenon by seven out of ten patients suffering from the most extreme cases of arthritis."
- GRE ® Argument Essay-9: "In the next mayoral election, residents of Clearview should vote for Ann Green, who is a member of the Good Earth Coalition, rather than for Frank Braun, a member of the Clearview town council, because the current members are not protecting our environment. For example, during the past year, the number of factories in Clearview has doubled, air pollution levels have increased, and the local hospital has treated 25 percent more patients with respiratory illnesses. If we elect Ann Green, the environmental problems in Clearview will certainly be solved."
- GRE ® Argument Essay-10: "Two years ago, our consultants predicted that West Egg's landfill, which is used for garbage disposal, would be completely filled within five years. During the past two years, however, town residents have been recycling twice as much aluminum and paper as they did in previous years. Next month the amount of material recycled should further increase since charges for garbage pickup will double. Furthermore, over ninety percent of the respondents to a recent survey said that they would do more recycling in the future. Because of our residents' strong commitment to recycling, the available space in our landfill should last for considerably longer than predicted."
Issue Essay 1: Technology and Human Ingenuity
The topic assigned here is: “As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate.
Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.”
- The essay on this specific issue prompts the author to take a position instead of deterring their ability to reason about how technology will stimulate the human race to reach greater goals in life.
- The sample essay looks at a number of possible avenues by which it strikes the right chord with the GRE ® essay rubric criteria to attain that perfect score.
- The primary rubric criteria are the way in which the author adopts an insightful and clear stance on the given issue in the essay.
- Over the entire course of the essay, the author articulates his or her position about the possibilities of embracing new technology as opposed to being fearful of it.
- Paragraph 1: The author recognizes the fact that “technology has revolutionized the world.”
- Paragraph 2: The author elucidates the thinking behind the declaration in the prompt - “The assumption is that an increased reliance on technology negates the need for people to think creatively to solve previous quandaries”.
- Paragraph 3: The author refutes the rationale that was deliberated in paragraph 2, writing that “reliance on technology does not necessarily preclude the creativity that marks the human species.”
- Paragraph 4: The author progresses with her counterclaim one step further, stating that “technology frees the human imagination.”
- Paragraph 5: The author additionally cultivates the notion from Paragraph 4, stating “By increasing our reliance on technology, impossible goals can now be achieved.”
- Paragraph 6: This final paragraph successfully ends the essay with a fully expressed thesis that also computes to what went before: “There is no need to retreat to a Luddite attitude to new things, but rather embrace a hopeful posture to the possibilities that technology provides for new avenues of human imagination.”
- The author’s clear-cut rationalizations of her opinion and logic augment the lucidity of her position, while the nuanced content of the position itself establishes perception into the issue.
Issue Essay 2: Cooperation Vs. Competition
The topic assigned here is: “The best way for a society to prepare its young people for leadership in government, industry, or other fields is by instilling in them a sense of cooperation, not competition.”
Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons or examples that could be used to challenge your position.
- The author of this sample Issue essay has decided on a position on the issue by siding with the cooperation and not competition which is the preferred value to inculcate in young adults in preparation for government
- The last line of the first paragraph “I would have to agree that the best way to prepare young people for leadership roles is to instill in them a sense of cooperation,” makes a clear declaration that absolutely fulfills the first part of the criteria.
- The conclusion, particularly the last two sentences reiterates this stance.
- Just being clear on your stance alone will not help you achieve that perfect score as you need to complement it with demonstrable insights into the core issue.
- In the second part, the author takes on a two-pronged approach in order to answer the essay question as opposed to just clarifying how cooperativeness spearheads optimistic results in government, industry, and other fields and competitiveness results in negative consequences.
- In the opening and closing paragraphs, the author makes this position even more categorical.
- The following rubric criteria deal with how successfully the author fosters his standpoint with examples and reasoning, for example, by reviewing the downsides of competition.
- Opening with general perceptions of human behaviors at school and the office to present his argument, the author then deftly segues into precise instances of competitiveness gone bad.
- Each illustration is used by the author to drive his point down deeper with a final round off that competitiveness can help people only up to a certain point, but the price is that it is also “damaging and in due course quite disparaging.”
- The logical interlinking of notions through paragraphs is the third parameter that makes this a perfectly scoring essay.
- The manner in which the paragraphs are connected, the core focus still remains on the issue.
- The author’s skill of using accurate language to communicate precise meaning epitomizes the author’s grasp of the language.
Argument Essay 1: Mason City Riverside Recreation
The topic assigned here is: “In surveys, Mason City residents rank water sports (swimming, boating, and fishing) among their favorite recreational activities. The Mason River flowing through the city is rarely used for these pursuits, however, and the city park department devotes little of its budget to maintaining riverside recreational facilities. For years there have been complaints from residents about the quality of the river’s water and the river’s smell. In response, the state has recently announced plans to clean up Mason River. The use of the river for water sports is therefore sure to increase. The city government should for that reason devote more money in this year’s budget to riverside recreational facilities.
- The outcome of the survey is binding and demonstrative.
- The explanation of why Mason River is not being used is by reason of its smell and contamination.
- Getting rid of the contamination in the river will help free you from the smell thus leading to more residents using it.
- The author recognizes the supposition that complaints point to countless people wanting to use the river and scrutinizes it by interpretation across potential situations other than the one exhibited in the prompt.
- The understanding comes from the information that the exact opportunities deliberated by the author are exceedingly believable alternative clarifications for the facts that would transform the validity of the prompt’s assumption.
- The outcome of her assessment concludes that there are unsatisfactory data to back the theory that Mason River is not used due to its smell and contamination.
- The author of this sample GRE ® essay accomplishes the prerequisites of a textbook scoring Argument essay is by delivering wide-ranging support for each of her key points.
- All through the essay, the author is able to illuminate accurately why every single assumption made is challenging by sourcing instances that exactly validate her argument.
- What makes this sample Argument essay achieve a perfect score is how it has been organized logically, with clear transitions between ideas.
- The author of this GRE ® essay sample is able to meet the first part of this requirement with a simple five-paragraph organizational structure: an introduction, one paragraph for each assumption discussed, and a conclusion.
- Additionally, an Argument essay must be detailed and actual in its argument of notions, with minimum errors that the author successfully met with using purposeful language to efficiently and clearly get her point across.
Argument Essay 2: Super Screen Movie Advertising
The topic assigned here is: “According to a recent report from our marketing department, during the past year, fewer people attended Super Screen-produced movies than in any other year. And yet the percentage of positive reviews by movie reviewers about specific Super Screen movies actually increased during the past year. Clearly, the contents of these reviews are not reaching enough of our prospective viewers. Thus, the problem lies not with the quality of our movies but with the public’s lack of awareness that movies of good quality are available. Super Screen should, therefore, allocate a greater share of its budget next year to reaching the public through advertising.”
Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.”
- The first aspect of the essay examines how it successfully the content recognizes and assesses the portions of the argument that bears a close resemblance to the demands of the task.
- As part of the conclusion, there are many queries that Super Screen is answerable to prior to making use of this advertising director’s plan.
- There is a need to closely look into the actual numbers for viewership and positive reviews and ascertain the relationship that their target audience has with movie reviewers and establish how their target audience feels about their movies.
- The author strikes on the three key points that should be taking into consideration prior to reaching an agreement with the advertising director’s plan: viewer and review numbers, audience reactions to reviews, and whether or not reviews are a useful metric by which to measure movie success.
- An example that the author puts forward in relation to a particular argument can be found in the third paragraph of this GRE ® essay sample.
- The paragraph begins by asserting the question that requires an answer – “What the number of positive reviews was and how it compared to pass reviews?”
- Subsequently, post this preliminary recognition of the question, the author also justifies how responding this question would have an influence on the effectiveness of the recommendation: “If the increase in positive reviews was from 1% to 2%, allocating more money to advertising to emphasize this fact is likely to have less impact than if the money were instead budgeted towards improving film quality.”
- The author of the GRE ® essay sample fulfills the requirement of sustaining every question she elevates the argument in the prompt by presenting how its reaction would shape the recommendation.
- The author has also developed and connected notions in a clear and logical fashion.
- The organization of this GRE ® argument essay sample facilitates in accomplishing this by steering the author’s views into an introduction, four body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
- A perfect-scoring Argument essay must make use of complex and precise language, with few errors that the author of this essay has achieved.
Introduction – GRE ® Analytical Writing Sample Essays
Just like your verbal and Quant sections, you need tons of practice to master the essay section too. Go through these GRE ® sample AWA and response essays that will help test your ability.
Essay Response Score 6
The statement linking technology negatively with free thinking plays on the recent human experience over the past century. Surely there has been no time in history where the lived lives of people have changed more dramatically. A quick reflection on a typical day reveals how technology has revolutionized the world. Most people commute to work in an automobile that runs on an internal combustion engine. During the workday, chances are high that the employee will interact with a computer that processes the information on silicon bridges that are .09 microns wide. Upon leaving home, family members will be reached through wireless networks that utilize satellites orbiting the earth. Each of these common occurrences could have been inconceivable at the turn of the 19th century.
The statement attempts to bridge these dramatic changes to a reduction in the ability for humans to think for themselves. The assumption is that increased reliance on technology negates the need for people to think creatively to solve previous quandaries. Looking back at the introduction, one could argue that without a car, computer, or mobile phone, the hypothetical worker would need to find alternate methods of transport, information processing, and communication. Technology short circuits this thinking by making the problems obsolete.
However, this reliance on technology does not necessarily preclude the creativity that marks the human species. The prior examples reveal that technology allows for convenience. The car, computer, and phone all release additional time for people to live more efficiently. This efficiency does not preclude the need for humans to think for themselves. In fact, technology frees humanity to not only tackle new problems but may itself create new issues that did not exist without technology. For example, the proliferation of automobiles has introduced a need for fuel conservation on a global scale. With increasing energy demands from emerging markets, global warming becomes a concern inconceivable to the horse-and-buggy generation. Likewise, dependence on oil has created nation-states that are not dependent on taxation, allowing ruling parties to oppress minority groups such as women. Solutions to these complex problems require the unfettered imaginations of maverick scientists and politicians.
In contrast to the statement, we can even see how technology frees the human imagination. Consider how the digital revolution and the advent of the internet have allowed for an unprecedented exchange of ideas. WebMD, a popular internet portal for medical information, permits patients to self-research symptoms for a more informed doctor visit. This exercise opens pathways of thinking that were previously closed off to the medical layman. With increased interdisciplinary interactions, inspiration can arrive from the most surprising corners. Jeffrey Sachs, one of the architects of the UN Millenium Development Goals, based his ideas on emergency care triage techniques. The unlikely marriage of economics and medicine has healed tense, hyperinflation environments from South America to Eastern Europe.
This last example provides the most hope in how technology actually provides hope for the future of humanity. By increasing our reliance on technology, impossible goals can now be achieved. Consider how the late 20th century witnessed the complete elimination of smallpox. This disease had ravaged the human race since prehistorical days, and yet with the technology of vaccines, free-thinking humans dared to imagine a world free of smallpox. Using technology, battle plans were drawn out, and smallpox was systematically targeted and eradicated.
Technology will always mark the human experience, from the discovery of fire to the implementation of nanotechnology. Given the history of the human race, there will be no limit to the number of problems, both new and old, for us to tackle. There is no need to retreat to a Luddite attitude to new things, but rather embrace a hopeful posture to the possibilities that technology provides for new avenues of human imagination.
- Rater Commentary for Essay Response — Score 6
- The instances are convincing, have been developed with careful thought are logically aligned and well supported.
- The transitions within ideas and paragraphs are smooth.
- With a complex and varied sentence structure, the essay adheres to all standard norms of written English, i.e., grammar, usage, and mechanics.
- Even though there are periodic errors visible, the essay still meets all the requirements thus attaining 6 which is the top GRE ® score for analytical writing.
Essay response score 5
Surely many of us have expressed the following sentiment, or some variation on it, during our daily commutes to work: "People are getting so stupid these days!" Surrounded as we are by striding and strident automatons with cell phones glued to their ears, PDA's gripped in their palms, and omniscient, omnipresent CNN gleaming in their eyeballs, it's tempting to believe that technology has isolated and infantilized us, essentially transforming us into dependent, conformist morons best equipped to sideswipe one another in our SUV's.
Furthermore, hanging around with the younger, pre-commute generation, whom tech-savviness seems to have rendered lethal, is even less reassuring. With "Teen People" style trends shooting through the air from tiger-striped PDA to zebra-striped PDA, and with the latest starlet gossip zipping from juicy Blackberry to teeny, turbo-charged cell phone, technology seems to support young people's worst tendencies to follow the crowd. Indeed, they have seemingly evolved into intergalactic conformity police. After all, today's tech-aided teens are, courtesy of authentic, hands-on video games, literally trained to kill; courtesy of chat and instant text messaging, they have their own language; they even have tiny cameras to efficiently photo-document your fashion blunders! Is this adolescence, or paparazzi terrorist training camp?
With all this evidence, it's easy to believe that tech trends and the incorporation of technological wizardry into our everyday lives have served mostly to enforce conformity, promote dependence, heighten consumerism and materialism, and generally create a culture that values self-absorption and personal entitlement over cooperation and collaboration. However, I argue that we are merely in the inchoate stages of learning to live with technology while still loving one another. After all, even given the examples provided earlier in this essay, it seems clear that technology hasn't impaired our thinking and problem-solving capacities. Certainly it has incapacitated our behavior and manners; certainly, our values have taken a severe blow. However, we are inarguably more efficient in our badness these days. We're effective worker bees of ineffectiveness!
If technology has so increased our sense of self-efficacy that we can become veritable agents of the awful, virtual CEO's of selfishness, certainly it can be beneficial. Harnessed correctly, technology can improve our ability to think and act for ourselves. The first challenge is to figure out how to provide technology users with some direly-needed direction.
- Rater Commentary for Essay Response — Score 5
- The strengths and weaknesses of this essay are clearly evident in the language used.
- While some of the flowery representations do have a powerful impact, at times the descriptions are awkwardly placed, with the comparisons often being stressed.
- The author has used complex vocabulary and syntax consistently – “Surrounded as we are by striding and strident automatons with cell phones glued to their ears, PDA's gripped in their palms, and omniscient, omnipresent CNN gleaming in their eyeballs, it's tempting to believe..."
- Too much reliance on abstractions in the essay has not borne the desired effect as it lacks appropriate reasoning.
- On the whole, the essay demonstrates credible ideas with examples with thoughtful analysis, taking an overall complex approach to the issue, thus earning a score 5.
Essay Response Score 4
In all actuality, I think it is more probable that our bodies will surely deteriorate long before our minds do in any significant amount. Who can't say that technology has made us lazier, but that's the keyword, lazy, not stupid? The ever-increasing amount of technology that we incorporate into our daily lives makes people think and learn every day, possibly more than ever before. Our abilities to think, learn, philosophize, etc. may even reach limits never dreamed of before by average people. Using technology to solve problems will continue to help us realize our potential as a human race.
If you think about it, using technology to solve more complicating problems gives humans a chance to expand their thinking and learning, opening up whole new worlds for many people. Many of these people are glad for the chance to expand their horizons by learning more, going to new places, and trying new things. If it wasn't for the invention of new technological devices, I wouldn't be sitting at this computer trying to philosophize about technology. It would be extremely hard for children in many poorer countries to learn and think for themselves without the invention of the internet. Think what an impact the printing press, a technologically superior machines at the time, had on the ability of the human race to learn and think.
Right now we are seeing a golden age of technology, using it all the time during our everyday lives. When we get up there's instant coffee and the microwave and all these great things that help us get ready for our day. But we aren't allowing our minds to deteriorate by using them, we are only making things easier for ourselves and saving time for other important things in our days. Going off to school or work in our cars instead of a horse and buggy. Think of the brainpower and genius that was used to come up with that single invention that has changed the way we move across this globe.Using technology to solve our continually more complicated problems as a human race is definitely a good thing. Our ability to think for ourselves isn't deteriorating, it's continuing to grow, moving on to higher though functions and more ingenious ideas. The ability to use what technology we have is an example.
- Rater Commentary for Essay Response — Score 4
- Developing a clear position, the author presents appropriate reasons to hold true and explain in support of the issue.
- The point on technology usage is supported with relevant concepts that show how it enables users to access data and information and their potential that users would not normally have access to.
- The ‘golden age’ point has also been appropriately supported by the basic description of our technologically saturated social condition.
- Paragraph 3 on coffee pots to the benefits of technology to cars does showcase that the overall development and organization of this essay does live through the rare bouts of misdirection.
- The essay seamless flows from one idea to another but often only scratching the surface level of the core issue rather than probing in-depth.
- Taking the analysis further, the author creates a marked distinction between the essay and the level 3 response that supports the idea of technology advancing to help progress human thinking abilities, drawing an intelligent parallel between the promise of the modern sophisticated technology (computer) and the actual "impact" of equally "promising" and pervasive technologies of the past (printing press).
- The reason why this essay has received a score of 4 as the language meets the expectations and the author has demonstrated a satisfactory control over it.
- Overall, the mistakes are minor in nature and do not really hinder with the clarity of the notions being presented.
Essay Response Score 3
There is no current proof that advancing technology will deteriorate the ability of humans to think. On the contrary, advancements in technology had advanced our vast knowledge in many fields, opening opportunities for further understanding and achievement. For example, the problem of debilitating illnesses and diseases such as Alzheimer's disease is slowing being solved by the technological advancements in stem cell research. The future ability to grow new brain cells and the possibility to reverse the onset of Alzheimer's is now becoming a reality. This shows our initiative as humans to better our health demonstrates the greater ability of humans to think.
One aspect where the ability of humans may initially be seen as an example of deteriorating minds is the use of the internet and cell phones. In the past humans had to seek out information in many different environments and aspects of life. Now humans can sit in a chair and type anything into a computer and get an answer. Our reliance on this type of technology can be detrimental if not regulated and regularly substituted for other information sources such as human interactions and hands-on learning. I think if humans understand that we should not have such a reliance on computer technology, that we as a species will advance further by utilizing the opportunity of computer technology as well as the other sources of information outside of a computer. Supplementing our knowledge with internet access is surely a way for technology to solve problems while continually advancing the human race.
- Rater Commentary for Essay Response — Score 3
- The author has been able to transcend beyond the superficial strata of the core issue.
- How technology has advanced overall human know-how in multiple domains and the way forward is to supplement the usage to “surely a way for technology to solve problems while continually advancing the human race."
- However, the author has failed to offer sufficient evidence to support this point.
- Point two is where the author has created an outline by citing the need for regulation/supplementation and cautions of the flipside of depending on technology heavily which is vague and restrictive - "Our reliance ... can be detrimental. If humans understand that we should not have such a reliance ... we will advance further."
- Much of the second paragraph is filled with loosely connected generalizations which need more groundwork.
- Some minor language errors are also present in this essay. However, the author’s meaning and implications are clear, thus earning this essay a score of 3.
Essay Response Score 2
In recent centuries, humans have developed the technology very rapidly, and you may accept some merit of it, and you may see a distortion in society that occurred by it. To be lazy for humans in some meaning is one of the fashion issues in these days. There are many symptoms and reasons for it. However, I can not agree with the statement that technology makes humans be reluctant to think thoroughly.
Of course, you can see the phenomena of human laziness along with developed technology in some places. However, they would happen in specific conditions, not general. What makes human to be laze of thinking is not merely technology, but the tendency of humans that they treat them as a magic stick and a black box. Not understanding the aims and theory of them courses the disapproval problems.
The most important thing to use thechnology, regardless of the new or old, is to comprehend the fundamental idea of them and to adapt suit tech to tasks in need. Even if you recognize a method as an all-mighty and it is extremely over-spec to your needs, you can not see the result you want. In this procedure, humans have to consider as long as possible to acquire adequate functions. Therefore, humans can not escape from using their brains.
In addition, the technology as it does not vain automatically is created by humans. Thus, the more developed tech and the more you want a convenient life, the more you think and emit your creativity to breakthrough some banal method sarcastically.
Consequently, if you are not passive to the new tech, but offensive to it, you would not lose your ability to think deeply. Furthermore, you may improve your ability by adopting it.
- Rater Commentary for Essay Response — Score 2
- This essay is no better than a score 2 simply because of the language used.
- Serious errors in grammar, only specific moments of clarity, sentence mechanics and usage of terms minus meanings contribute to this.
- If one were to overlook the obvious flaws, the author has made an effort to respond to the prompt - "I can not agree with the statement that the technology makes humans be reluctant to thinking thoroughly."
- However, the author has not been successful in his assertion of - "Not understanding the aims and theory of them [technology] courses the disapproval problems" and "The most important thing to use the technology ... is to comprehend the fundamental idea of them."
- Overall, the essay presents a badly inconsistent but not essentially lacking in an endeavor to produce and sustain its statements.
Essay Response Score 1
Humans have invented machines but they have forgotten it and have started everything technically so clearly their thinking process is deteriorating.
- Rater Commentary for Essay Response — Score 1
- The author’s manner of using significant terms from the prompt "technically" (technologically), "humans," "thinking" (think) and "deteriorating" (deteriorate) clearly demonstrates that the essay is topic and offers evidence of understanding.
- It also shows the author’s inability to create an appropriate response that is in adherence to the instructions and guidelines provided - ("Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement above and explain your reasoning for the position you take."
- The language used also demonstrates that the essay is no better than a level 1 as the sentences formed are not coherent.
6 Tips for a Perfect-Scoring GRE ® Essay
Go over these fundamental pointers that should help you get that perfect score on your four GRE ® essays.
- The common factor in all perfect-scoring GRE ® sample essays is an introduction and a conclusion.
- Ideally, you need to introduce the core ideas in the first few lines, not necessarily a paragraph and ensure that you wrap them up at the end of the essay.
- It is imperative that the author states their position on the issue clearly.
- While you may scrape through a vague standpoint in an Argument essay and still score a 4.0, the same approach will not work in an Issue essay where you may just get a 3.0.
- Regardless of the essay type or prompt, in order to get that perfect score, you will need to include a statement that clarifies your position and the extent to which you agree or disagree with it.
- From the sample essays and their analysis, one aspect that is clearly identifiable is the need for the author to concentrate on relevant support for any claims or statements being made.
- It is always more persuasive if the essay demonstrates claims that have been backed up by sufficient evidence than just making general points.
- Therefore, going backward, if you are unable to find sufficient support for your arguments, then in all probability, that is a sign that you need to rethink your position or draw inspiration from another part of the argument that will withstand critique.
- The communication of your notions and ideas and the support that you provide transcends polished writing, perfectly worded or spelt essays.
- Issues that have been clearly-explained with compelling examples, evaluations and assessments by cutting through the heart of the argument is bound to get a higher score in comparison to imprecise essays that have been skillfully crafted.
- A key factor in any of the essays getting a high score is a seamless and smooth transition of ideas between paragraphs that have been linked at multiple levels.
- Even ideas within paragraphs should have linguistic transition levels.
- All of the GRE ® essay samples adhere to the basic standard five paragraph routine that includes an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion.
- The ETS website states, “You are free to organize and develop your response in any way you think will enable you to effectively communicate your ideas about the issue.”
- But having your essay organized across these five paragraph formats it will save you the time of having to figure out a new organizational strategy for every essay you write.
- And the more consistently you stick to a simple (but clear) organizational structure, the faster you’ll get at it until organizing your thoughts logically comes as second-nature.
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Gre prep online guides and tips, 4 top-scoring gre sample essays, analyzed (issue + argument).
The best way to figure out how to get a high Analytical Writing score is to look at a GRE essay sample, but doing so without any guidance can be overwhelming. How do you show insight? Do typos affect your score? What’s a good way to keep your essay organized?
We’ll answer all these questions for you (and more!) in this article by analyzing four real GRE essay examples and highlighting the key features you’ll want to include in your own essays.
How to Use This Guide
Before we get to the GRE sample essays and their analyses, I’ll highlight two best ways to use this guide to improve your essay and get a great scoring essay yourself.
First, use the perfect-scoring sample GRE essays in this guide as models of possible ways to accomplish the essay tasks . By this, I don’t mean you should plagiarize entire sentences, paragraphs, or essays – that’s both wrong and against GRE code of conduct (it will disqualify your entire test if discovered). Plus, there are so many prompts (152 Issue prompts and 176 Argument ones) that it’s unlikely you’d be able to use any of these exact essays anyway.
What you can and should do is incorporate the features highlighted in the analyses below in your own essays. For instance, if you’ve been struggling with how to logically connect ideas within paragraphs in your own essays, take a look of some of the examples of logical connection I point out in this article and see how they fit within the context of the full essay. You can then practice replicating successful connections between ideas in your own practice essays.
The other main way to use this guide is in conjunction with the essay grading rubrics to help ferret out your writing weaknesses and work on them. Start with the rubrics for the Issue and Argument tasks and identify which criteria are most difficult for you to meet. Even if you can’t articulate precisely what your weakest spot is (e.g. failing to logically connect your ideas within paragraphs), you can at least narrow down the general rubric area you most struggle with (e.g. organization in general).
Once you’ve identified the general area you have the most trouble with, read the GRE essay examples and our analyses in this article to find concrete instances (rather than the abstract descriptions) of the rubric criteria. For more information about the different rubrics for the different essay tasks, read our articles on how to write perfect-scoring GRE Issue and Argument essays .
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Because this article is on the longer side, we’ve created a table of contents to enable you to jump to a specific essay example or task type:
Table of Contents: GRE Essay Examples
Issue essay 1: technology and human ingenuity, issue essay 2: cooperation vs. competition, argument essay 1: mason city riverside recreation, argument essay 2: super screen movie advertising.
The first of the GRE sample essays we’ll be looking at is written in response to the following “Analyze an Issue” prompt:
As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate.
Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.
The essay written on this Issue prompt takes the position that rather than hindering our abilities to think for themselves, technology will spur humanity on to achieve ever-greater things. The full text of this GRE essay sample can be found on the ETS website .
In this analysis, I’ll go over the different ways in which this essay meets the GRE essay rubric criteria for a perfect scoring Issue essay . The first of these rubric criteria I’ll be discussing is the way the author takes a clear and insightful stance on the issue in the essay.
The author’s position that instead of fearing new technology, we should embrace its possibilities is methodically articulated over the course of the entire essay, culminating in the essay’s conclusion with a full thesis statement (“There is no need to retreat to a Luddite attitude to new things, but rather embrace a hopeful posture to the possibilities that technology provides for new avenues of human imagination.”). Below is an outline of how the author expresses her thesis throughout the essay:
- Paragraph 1 : The author acknowledges “technology has revolutionized the world.”
- Paragraph 2 : The author explains the reasoning behind the statement in the prompt (“The assumption is that an increased reliance on technology negates the need for people to think creatively to solve previous quandaries”).
- Paragraph 3 : The author counters the reasoning she discussed in paragraph 2, writing that “reliance on technology does not necessarily preclude the creativity that marks the human species.”
- Paragraph 4 : The author advances her counterclaim one step further, stating that “technology frees the human imagination.”
- Paragraph 5 : The author further develops the idea from Paragraph 4, stating “By increasing our reliance on technology, impossible goals can now be achieved.”
- Paragraph 6 : This final paragraph concludes the essay with a fully articulated thesis that also sums up what went before: “There is no need to retreat to a Luddite attitude to new things, but rather embrace a hopeful posture to the possibilities that technology provides for new avenues of human imagination.”
The author’s straightforward explanations of her thinking and logic enhance the clarity of her position, while the nuanced content of the position itself demonstrates insight into the issue.
The next area a perfect-scoring Issue essay must demonstrate mastery of is the development of its position through compelling and persuasive examples and reasoning . The author of this essay accomplishes this task by providing examples to support each idea she discusses and, furthermore, explaining not only the content of the examples but also why the examples support her position.
Here’s an example from paragraph 5:
By increasing our reliance on technology, impossible goals can now be achieved. Consider how the late 20th century witnessed the complete elimination of smallpox. This disease had ravaged the human race since prehistorical days, and yet with the technology of vaccines, free thinking humans dared to imagine a world free of smallpox. Using technology, battle plans were drawn out, and smallpox was systematically targeted and eradicated.
In this example, the author begins by laying out the main idea to be discussed (impossible things can be achieved by relying more on technology). She then supports this idea with the example of the impossible problem of smallpox and the steps taken that led to its eradication.
The great thing about the way the author explains her reasoning and examples is the concision and precision with which she gets her information across. Rather than going off into a discussion about the damage caused by smallpox, or staying too vague by mentioning how “diseases” had been solved by the use of vaccines, the author chooses a specific example (smallpox) and mentions only the details relevant to proving her point . This kind of precise writing takes practice, but being able to effectively sum up an example and why it supports your position in just a couple of sentences is essential if you want to get a high score on the GRE Issue essay.
Focus, organization, and logical connections are the third criterion that a perfect-scoring essay needs to fulfill. In the case of this GRE essay sample, the author achieves this organization and focus by linking ideas both within paragraphs (as seen in the previous example) as well as between paragraphs . Let’s look at the way the author transitions between the end of paragraph four and the beginning of paragraph five:
The unlikely marriage of economics and medicine has healed tense, hyperinflation environments from South America to Eastern Europe.
This last example provides the most hope in how technology actually provides hope to the future of humanity. By increasing our reliance on technology, impossible goals can now be achieved.
The author connects the two paragraphs by continuing paragraph four’s discussion of ways human imagination has been pushed by technology (technology combining economics and medicine has solved a problem) with paragraph five’s exploration of how this example has led to achieving things previously considered impossible. The smoothness of the transition between the two paragraphs is effected both by presenting the content of the next paragraph as a logical progression from what was just discussed as well as by using language (“this last example”) that connects the two on a more superficial level.
By keeping paragraphs tightly linked on both the surface level of sentence structures as well as on the deeper level of content being discussed , the author of this essay also keeps her writing focused and cohesive.
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The last quality a perfect-scoring essay must demonstrate is precision of language and flow in writing . The author of this GRE Analytical Writing sample fulfills this requirement by using language to precisely and economically convey meaning throughout her essay. Here’s one example of precise and effective use of language in the essay:
This disease had ravaged the human race since prehistorical days, and yet with the technology of vaccines, free thinking humans dared to imagine a world free of smallpox.
In this excerpt, the author uses the evocative word “ravaged” to show the dire extent of the problem solved by technology, reinforcing that the issue was previously considered impossible to cope with. She also uses the phrase “humans dared to imagine” in this sentence, which ties the example being discussed back to the previous paragraph’s discussion of human imagination.
While there are a couple of minor errors in this excerpt (“prehistorical” should be “prehistoric,” “free thinking” should be “free-thinking”), they do not significantly change the meaning of the author’s words and so do not detract from the overall effectiveness of the author’s language.
Return to Table of Contents
The second of the GRE Issue essay samples I’ll be analyzing is written in response to the following prompt about the values of cooperation vs. competition:
“The best way for a society to prepare its young people for leadership in government, industry, or other fields is by instilling in them a sense of cooperation, not competition.”
Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons or examples that could be used to challenge your position.
The sample Issue essay written in response to this topic takes the stance that cooperation, not competition, is a preferable value to instill in young people in preparation for government. You can read the full essay on page 108 of this PDF . Read on for a discussion of the different ways in which this essay meets the requirements for a perfect score.
As with the previous GRE essay sample, we’ll start by looking at how this essay meets the perfect-scoring essay criteria of stating a clear and insightful position (as required by the essay task). The author fulfills the first part of the criteria with his clear statement of his thesis in the last line of the very first paragraph:
I would have to agree that the best way to prepare young people for leadership roles is to instill in them a sense of cooperation.
He reiterates this clear position with the last two sentences of his conclusion:
Getting to be President of the United States or the managing director of a corporation might require you to win some battles, but once you are there you will need diplomacy and people-skills. Those can be difficult to learn, but if you do not have them, you are likely to be a short-lived leader.
To achieve a perfect Issue essay score, however, it’s not just enough to be clear in your position; your position must also demonstrate insight into the issue . The author of this essay accomplishes this second part by choosing a two-pronged approach to answering the essay question. Rather than merely explaining how cooperativeness leads to positive outcomes in government, industry, and other fields, the author also explains how competitiveness leads to negative outcomes.
Thus, the author makes his position clear by stating it in the opening and closing paragraphs of the essay and shows insight by taking the more complex position that not only is cooperation good, but competition is bad.
The next of the rubric criteria we’ll discuss has to do with how well the author develops his position with examples and reasoning . A great example of this development can be found in the second paragraph of this essay, which discusses the drawbacks of competition.
The author begins his discussion of competitiveness by arguing that it’s a quality that doesn’t need to be “instilled” because it’s already present. Beginning with general reasoning about human behaviors at school and the office to introduce his point, the author then neatly segues into specific examples of competitiveness gone amok (Hitler in Germany and the recent economic meltdown in America).
With each example presented in the essay, the author pushes his position along a little further. He moves from discussing the most extreme historical cases (genocide) to more recent events (economic recession), concluding by focusing in on one person’s life and career (Tiger Woods). This final example allows the author to reach his final destination in his discussion of competitiveness: yes, competition can serve people well up to a certain point, but the price is that it is also “detrimental and ultimately quite destructive.”
The third way this essay meets the requirements of a perfect-scoring essay is through the logical connection of ideas within and between paragraphs . The transition between the end of paragraph two and the beginning of paragraph three provides a stellar example of this skillful connecting of ideas:
It [competitiveness] served him well in some respects, but it also proved to be detrimental and ultimately quite destructive.
Leaders who value cooperation, on the other ahnd, have historically been less prone to these overreaching, destructive tendencies.
On the face of it, the author only connects the two paragraphs by using a transition phrase (“on the other hand”) that sets up the next paragraph as contrasting with what came before. While this kind of transition would be good enough for a lower-scoring essay, though, the author does not just leave the connection between the two paragraphs at that. Instead, he also connects the two paragraphs by keeping the focus on the same issue from the end of one paragraph to the beginning of the next.
The content-level transition between paragraphs occurs when the author transitions from discussing the “detrimental and ultimately quite destructive” competitiveness of Tiger Woods directly into claiming that cooperation-valuing leaders are “less prone to these overreaching, destructive tendencies.” This twofold linkage of content (deeper level) and transition phrase (more surface level) makes it clear to the reader that the discussion of leaders valuing cooperation follows logically the discussion of negative outcomes for competition-valuing leaders.
The final 6-level quality demonstrated by this GRE Writing sample is its use of skillful and precise language to convey specific meaning . Overall, the language in this essay is formal and academic , despite the profligate use of first person point of view by the author (which can make writing seem less formal). The following sentence exemplifies the author’s command of language:
The recent economic meltdown was caused in no large part by the leaders of American banks and financial institutions who were obsessed with competing for the almighty dollar.
Despite the minor error in this sentence (it should read “in no small part,” rather than “in no large part,”), the author’s meaning is absolutely clear: competition led to the meltdown. Strong vocabulary choices like “economic meltdown,” “obsessed,” “almighty dollar” are what make this an effective statement of the author’s position. Compare the above excerpt to a more milquetoast version of the same statement:
The recent economic downturn was mostly caused by financial leaders who wanted to earn lots of money.
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This second sentence has the same basic meaning as the real excerpt from the essay. Because it doesn’t use particularly precise or compelling language, however, this watered-down version ends up minimizing the magnitude of problems caused by competitiveness (which undercuts the author’s point). This vaguer version of the essay excerpt also lacks the word “competing,” which makes it useless as an instance of competition among leaders leading to negative consequences.
The original excerpt from the essay, and indeed the entire GRE essay example, is so strong precisely because it manages to pack in specific relevant language that adds to, rather than detracts from, the author’s meaning.
The next essay I’ll be analyzing is written in response to the following “Analyze an Argument” prompt:
In surveys Mason City residents rank water sports (swimming, boating and fishing) among their favorite recreational activities. The Mason River flowing through the city is rarely used for these pursuits, however, and the city park department devotes little of its budget to maintaining riverside recreational facilities. For years there have been complaints from residents about the quality of the river’s water and the river’s smell. In response, the state has recently announced plans to clean up Mason River. Use of the river for water sports is therefore sure to increase. The city government should for that reason devote more money in this year’s budget to riverside recreational facilities.
Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on the assumptions and what the implications are if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
The GRE Argument essay sample I’ll be analyzing critiques the numerous assumptions made and ultimately concludes that the argument for spending more money on Mason City’s riverside recreational facilities rests on faulty assumptions.
The full text of this essay can be found on the ETS website . Be sure to read through the essay first before coming back to read my analysis of it. We’ll start by looking at the ways in which this GRE essay sample identifies and examines the argument given in the prompt in an insightful way:
There are three key assumptions made by the argument that are identified in the essay:
#1 : The survey results are valid and representative
#2 : The reason Mason River isn’t used is because of odor and pollution
#3 : Cleaning the pollution in the river will get rid of the odor and then lead to more usage by residents
The Argument essay example we’re looking at examines each of the assumptions by considering the implications if the assumptions made by the article turn out not to be true . Here’s part of the essay’s investigation of the second assumption listed above:
Though there have been complaints, we do not know if there have been numerous complaints from a wide range of people, or perhaps from one or two individuals who made numerous complaints.
The author identifies the assumption that complaints indicate many people want to use the river and examines it by reasoning through possible scenarios other than the one presented in the prompt. The insight comes from the fact that the specific possibilities discussed by the author are highly plausible alternative explanations for the facts that would change the validity of the prompt’s assumption. It’s very possible that the complaints were not made by every single resident, or even a majority of residents, as the prompt seems to assume, but were in fact only made by a few people.
As a result of her analysis, the author ultimately concludes that there is insufficient information to support the assumption that Mason River isn’t used due to its odor and pollution.
The next way the author of this sample GRE essay fulfills the requirements of a perfect-scoring Argument essay is by providing comprehensive support for each of her main points . Throughout the essay, the author is able to explain exactly why each assumption made is problematic by using examples that precisely illustrate her argument.
Consider how this is approached in the second paragraph of the essay. The author starts the paragraph by presenting the assumption made in the essay argument that the survey results can be relied upon. She then proceeds to decimate that assumption with multiple examples of ways in which the survey could be flawed and not be an accurate representation of the residents’ opinions, as can be seen in the following excerpt:
For example, the survey could have asked residents if they prefer using the river for water sports or would like to see a hydroelectric dam built, which may have swayed residents toward river sports. The sample may not have been representative of city residents, asking only those residents who live upon the river. The survey may have been 10 pages long, with 2 questions dedicated to river sports. We just do not know.
The thoroughness of the author’s support for her point is magnified by the specificity of the scenarios she proposes . Stating “the survey might not have been representative of the city residents” would have been far less compelling a point than stating “[t]he sample may not have been representative of city residents, asking only those residents who live upon the river.”
Another important ideal a perfect-scoring Argument essay must live up to is being organized logically, with clear transitions between ideas . The author of this GRE essay sample is able to meet the first part of this requirement with a simple five-paragraph organizational structure : an introduction, one paragraph for each assumption discussed, and a conclusion.
Accomplishing the logical connection and development of ideas throughout the essay requires a little bit more finesse, but the author still manages it. Here’s an example from the beginning of the third paragraph of a skillful transition:
Additionally, the author implies that residents do not use the river for swimming, boating, and fishing, despite their professed interest, because the water is polluted and smelly.
In the above example, the author uses the transition word “additionally” to connect the ideas that will follow with what went before. The example also references the previous paragraph’s discussion of the unreliability of the survey of residents (“their professed interest”) and links it to the current discussion of pollution and smell being the cause of low participation in riverside recreational activities. The combination of these two methods of connecting the two paragraphs results in a smooth logical flow from one idea to the next.
Lastly, a perfect-scoring Argument essay must be precise and effective in its discussion of ideas, with few if any errors . The author of this essay successfully meets this standard by using purposeful language to efficiently and clearly get her point across, as can be seen in this example from paragraph three:
While a polluted, smelly river would likely cut down on river sports, a concrete connection between the resident’s lack of river use and the river’s current state is not effectively made.
The author contrasts the prompt’s assumption (“a polluted, smelly river would likely cut down on river sports”) with the “concrete connection” that is not present. The essay as a whole is not completely devoid of errors (for example, the author writes “afffected” instead of “affected”), but the errors are few and do not have a negative impact on the clarity of the writing.
The last of the GRE essay examples I’ll be analyzing at is written in response to this “Analyze an Argument” prompt:
The following is taken from a memo from the advertising director of the Super Screen Movie Production Company.
“According to a recent report from our marketing department, during the past year, fewer people attended Super Screen-produced movies than in any other year. And yet the percentage of positive reviews by movie reviewers about specific Super Screen movies actually increased during the past year. Clearly, the contents of these reviews are not reaching enough of our prospective viewers. Thus, the problem lies not with the quality of our movies but with the public’s lack of awareness that movies of good quality are available. Super Screen should therefore allocate a greater share of its budget next year to reaching the public through advertising.”
Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
The essay written in response to this “Analyze an Argument” prompt raises and evaluates questions about how many viewers and reviews of Super Screen productions there actually were, if there is a strong relationship between how movie reviewers and general audiences react to movies, and whether or not the percentage of positive reviews about a movie reflects how much of an impact reviews have on audiences.
The full text of this GRE essay sample can be found on p. 112 of this PDF . Read through the essay first, then check below for an analysis of its positive (and negative) qualities.
The first aspect of the essay we’ll analyze is how it succeeds in identifying and examining the parts of the argument that are relevant to the task . In the essay’s introduction, the author mentions that there are questions that need to be asked (“Before this plan is implemented, however, Super Screen needs to address some questions about its possible flaws”), but he really hammers it home in the conclusion by specifying which questions need to be answered:
In conclusion, there are many questions Super Screen needs to answer before using this advertising director’s plan. They need to look carefully at actual numbers, both of viewership and of positive reviews. The also need to identify the relationship that their target audience has with movie reviewers and determine how their target audience feels about their movies. Fianlly they need to take a nuanced look at the movie reviews that they use in their advertising.
With this conclusion, the author hits the three main points that need to be considered before agreeing to the advertising director’s plan : viewer and review numbers, audience reactions to reviews, and whether or not reviews are a useful metric by which to measure movie success.
An instance of the author identifying a particular argument can be found in the third paragraph of this GRE essay sample. The paragraph starts by clearly stating the question that needs to be answered (what the number of positive reviews was and how it compared to past reviews). After this initial identification of the question, the author also explains how answering this question would have an impact on the usefulness of the recommendation: if the increase in positive reviews was from 1% to 2%, allocating more money to advertising to emphasize this fact is likely to have less impact than if the money were instead budgeted towards improving film quality.
Another quality all perfect-scoring Argument essays must contain is strong and thorough support for each point discussed . The author of the GRE essay sample we’re analyzing fulfills this requirement, supporting every question she raises about the argument in the prompt by showing how its answer would affect the recommendation.
A good example of this all coming together happens in paragraph five of the essay:
Finally the studio must ask whether the percentage of positive reviews is really a relevant way to measure the potential impact of movie reviews. There are dozens of movie reviewers but when deciding whether to not to go to a movie, the general public will usually pick from among the 10 most popular movie reviews. These are the reviews that will impress the public if they are included in advertising. If the most popular movie reviewers disliked Super Screen movies that a larger number of small time film bloggers reviewed positively, Super Screen needs to think of a new advertising strategy.
In this paragraph, the author opens by identifying the element of argument to be discussed (are positive reviews a useful way to measure the impact of movie reviews in general?). She then develops this point through reasoning about why the answer to this question might contradict the assumption made in the argument (people mostly use popular reviews to decide on what movies to see, rather than the ratio of popular to negative reviews).
The author ends this paragraph by conclusively showing that the answer to the question raised in this paragraph is crucial for determining whether or not Super Screen should follow the advertising director’s plan: if the percent of positive reviews isn’t a good way to measure movie impact and the real issue is that relatively few popular movie reviewers liked Super Screen movies, then the recommendation of the advertising department is unreasonable.
The third requirement for a perfect-scoring Argument essay is that it must develop and connect ideas in a clear and logical fashion. The organization of this GRE argument essay sample helps accomplish this by routing the author’s thoughts into an introduction, four body paragraphs, and a conclusion . Each body paragraph of the essay is centered around one or two related questions. A good example of this can be found in paragraph four, which contains two related questions about the relationship between audiences and movie reviewers:
Finally, Super Screen needs to ask what the relationship is between its viewers and the movie reviewers cited in the memo. Using a survey distributed to its target audience, Super Screen could determine if movie reviews have an effect on their audience’s decision to go see a movie, whether movie reviewers tended to have the same taste as the target audience and exactly whether or not movie reviews are reaching the audience. Super Screen also needs to consider how its movie choices have affected the separate movie reviewer and audience populations. If the studio has switched from making mega- blockbuster action movies to more nuanced dramas, the general public may be less willing to go see their movies even though movie critics prefer the dramas to the action movies.
The above paragraph starts out by discussing if Super Screen’s target audiences are affected by reviews and whether their audiences and movie reviewers have the same taste, then segues into discussing if the studio’s film-making choices have affected audiences and movie reviews. The transition between the two different questions being discussed is effected by the simple use of the word “also” in the third sentence of the paragraph:
Super Screen also needs to consider how its movie choices have affected the separate movie reviewer and audience populations. [bolded for emphasis]
The last sentence of the paragraph again links back to the discussion of audience taste vs. reviewer taste, reinforcing the close and logical connection between the two questions discussed in the paragraph.
Finally, a perfect-scoring Argument essay must employ varied and precise language, with few errors . Earlier, we discussed paragraph four as a particularly strong example of the author’s effective development of ideas. The last sentence of this paragraph contributes to this efficacy through the use of specific language :
“If the studio has switched from making mega-blockbuster action movies to more nuanced dramas, the general public may be less willing to go see their movies even though movie critics prefer the dramas to the action movies.”
The use of the descriptor “mega-blockbuster” to describe the action movies preferred by the masses effectively conjures up something that is the diametric opposite of a “nuanced drama.” In addition, the author’s contrasting of the “mega-blockbuster action movies” with “more nuanced dramas” parallels the second half of the sentence’s contrasting of the preferences of the general public vs. those of the (possibly) more refined movie reviewer.
There are a few minor spelling errors (e.g. in “attendence” instead of “attendance”), and the last two body paragraphs both start with “finally” (which is a little repetitive), but in general, this is a skillfully written essay. It’s not perfectly polished like an essay you’d turn in for school, but that’s absolutely OK. In the grand scheme of the GRE essay scoring rubric, writing flourishes matter much less than clarity of thought and precision of language.
6 Tips for a Perfect-Scoring GRE Essay
To wrap up this article, I’ll go over some of the key points you should take from the four GRE sample essays I analyzed in this article.
#1: Include an Introduction and a Conclusion
One thing that all these perfect-scoring GRE sample essays had in common was an introduction and a conclusion . It doesn’t have to be a full paragraph, but you need to at the very least introduce your ideas at the beginning of your essay and wrap up your conclusions at the end of it.
#2: State Your Position Clearly
In my notes to myself on one of the GRE Issue essay examples I analyzed above, I observed that the author “states her thesis early and often” because of the way her position was made clear throughout the essay. While obviously you don’t want to just repeat the same sentence over and over again, it is imperative that you include at least one clear statement of your position in your essay , preferably in your introduction paragraph.
The importance of clearly stating your position varies between the two GRE essay tasks somewhat. For the Argument essay, you might be able to get away with a vague summary of the points you’ll cover and still get a 4.0 or above on the essay; by contrast, it’s nearly impossible to get above a 3.0 on the Issue essay if you do not clearly state your position on the issue, as that is integral to the essay task itself.
Whatever the prompt or essay type, if you want to get a perfect score on your essay, you’ll need to include a clear statement of your position on the issue or what points you’ll be analyzing in regards to the argument in the prompt.
#3: Be Specific in Your Support
All of the perfect-scoring GRE essay examples analyzed in this article contained specific and relevant support for the claims made by the authors. In the Issue essay examples, the authors drew upon well-defined examples and concise examples that directly supported the author’s position on the issue. In the Argument essay samples, the authors focused in on several specific parts of the arguments and debated their validity using specific hypothetical scenarios and questions.
The takeaway of this for your own writing is that the specific is always more persuasive than the general when it comes to supporting a point. And if you can’t find specific support for your position or for the flaw you’ve found in an argument, then that’s a good sign that you need to consider changing your position or finding another part of the argument to critique.
#4: Explain Your Support Clearly
As I discussed in my analyses of the four GRE Writing samples, whether or not your writing is polished and perfectly worded and spelled is not nearly as important as your successful communication of your ideas and how they are supported . In the GRE essay, all is precision, and analyses of issues that use clearly-explained compelling examples or analyses of arguments that cut to the very heart of why an argument is flawed with supporting explanations will ultimately score higher than beautifully crafted but logically imprecise essays.
#5: Use Transitions
All of the authors of the GRE essay examples analyzed in this article are able to maintain focus and organization in their essays by employing multi-level transitions that link ideas between and within paragraphs on both content and linguistic levels. In your own writing, be conscious of when you are changing from discussing one idea to another and make sure the transition is smooth. Even just adding transition words like “additionally” or “in contrast” to the beginning of new ideas can help your writing flow better.
#6: Stay Organized
While all of the GRE essay examples used in this article were written in response to different prompts, they all adhered to basically the standard five-paragraph , introduction-body paragraphs-conclusion format.
There’s no reason to take extra time away from your analysis of the questions to figure out a unique organizational structure for each essay when the five paragraph essay will get it done just as well (if not better). This is not because other forms are not possible; as the ETS website says, “You are free to organize and develop your response in any way you think will enable you to effectively communicate your ideas about the issue.”
But the utility of the five paragraph form is that it’s a tried-and-true way to keep your essay organized . Using it will save you the time of having to figure out a new organizational strategy for every essay you write. And the more consistently you stick to a simple (but clear) organizational structure, the faster you’ll get at it, until organizing your thoughts logically comes as second-nature (especially important in a timed essay environment when every second counts).
Now you know what it takes to get a perfect essay score. But do you actually need to get a perfect 6.0 on GRE Writing? Find out with our discussion of what a good GRE Writing score is .
Curious about how the criteria mentioned in this article translate into numerical scores? Read our article on how the GRE essay is scored to learn more!
Need to boost your essay score quickly? We have 15 great tips and strategies that help you improve your Analytical Writing score .
Ready to dive into practice essays with some practice topics? Use our guide to the 328 official GRE essay topics to get started.
Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?
Author: Laura Staffaroni
Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel and fulfill their college and grad school dreams. View all posts by Laura Staffaroni
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GRE sample essays to nail the GRE Analytical writing section!
Worried about your performance in the gre analytical writing section follow the instructions, tips, and methods in this blog, and learn from these 8 gre sample essays to nail your exam, table of contents, gre sample essays | an overview, gre analytical writing section, issue essay, sample topics, gre sample essay response with the highest score (6):, gre sample essays response with a medium score (3):, argument essay, what do graders look for, how is the gre analytical writing section scored, how to practice for the gre analytical writing section, as for tips to nail the gre analytical writing section-.
A lot of students find the Quants and the Verbal sections of the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) exam fairly easy to deal with. It’s the GRE Analytical Writing section that gives almost everybody a run for the woods. To reduce your nervousness and help you prepare for the GRE Analytical Writing section, I have included in-depth details about each question type and shared tips on how to nail it. Along with that, you will also find some GRE sample essays to help you. So, what are you waiting for? Dive in!
Before we begin, it’s important to understand what the GRE Analytical Writing section is all about and why it’s so important.
The GRE Analytical Writing section tests a student’s critical thinking and analytical writing skills.
In simpler words – universities want to make sure that their students know how to construct complex ideas, analyze them, and express their thoughts on paper.
So the Analytical Writing score helps them see if a student will perform well while giving presentations, doing projects, or writing papers and assignments for a class.
Consequently, the Analytical Writing section in GRE consists of two tasks-
- The “Analyze an Issue” task – 30 minutes
- The “Analyze an Argument” task – 30 minutes
Below, we talk about each of these tasks, what they test, and look at a few sample essays.
The “Analyze an Issue” task will present an opinion to you. This opinion can be about any general topic, like technology, economics, health, etc.
But don’t worry about not knowing too much about these topics. If you usually keep up with the news, it will be straightforward to come up with a response.
Now, after reading the opinion, you will go through a set of instructions on how to respond to that issue.
All you have to do is evaluate the issue, come up with an opinion, and use clear arguments and examples to support your opinion.
Give it a whirl and see how you’re performing-
- A nation should require all of its students to study the same national curriculum until they enter college. Write a response in which you discuss your views on the policy and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.
- The best way to teach is to praise positive actions and ignore negative ones. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold and explain how these considerations shape your position.
- In any field of inquiry, the beginner is more likely than the expert to make important contributions. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold and explain how these considerations shape your position.
GRE sample essays with analysis
Now that you have practiced writing a couple of essays, take some time to look at this GRE sample essay for the “Analyze an Issue” task.
Not only will it help you see which areas you can improve on, but it will also help you look at the same topic from a different perspective.
As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate.
Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold and explain how these considerations shape your position.
The statement linking technology negatively with free thinking plays on the recent human experience over the past century. Surely there has been no time in history when the lived lives of people have changed more dramatically. A quick reflection on a typical day reveals how technology has revolutionized the world. Most people commute to work in an automobile that runs on an internal combustion engine. During the workday, chances are high that the employee will interact with a computer that processes information on silicon bridges that are .09 microns wide. Upon leaving home, family members will reach through wireless networks that utilize satellites orbiting the earth. Each of these common occurrences could have been inconceivable at the turn of the 19th century.
The statement attempts to bridge these dramatic changes to a reduction in the ability of humans to think for themselves. The assumption is that increased reliance on technology negates the need for people to think creatively to solve previous quandaries. Looking back at the introduction, one could argue that without a car, computer, or mobile phone, the hypothetical worker would need to find alternate methods of transport, information processing, and communication. Technology shortcircuits this thinking by making the problems obsolete.
However, this reliance on technology does not necessarily preclude the creativity that marks the human species. The prior examples reveal that technology allows for convenience. The car, computer, and phone all release additional time for people to live more efficiently. This efficiency does not preclude the need for humans to think for themselves. In fact, technology frees humanity not only to tackle new problems but may itself create new issues that did not exist without technology. For example, the proliferation of automobiles has introduced a need for fuel conservation on a global scale. With increasing energy demands from emerging markets, global warming becomes a concern inconceivable to the horse-and-buggy generation. Likewise, dependence on oil has created nation-states that are not dependent on taxation, allowing ruling parties to oppress minority groups such as women. Solutions to these complex problems require the unfettered imaginations of maverick scientists and politicians.
In contrast to the statement, we can even see how technology frees the human imagination. Consider how the digital revolution and the advent of the internet have allowed for an unprecedented exchange of ideas. WebMD, a popular internet portal for medical information, permits patients to self-research symptoms for a more informed doctor visit. With increased interdisciplinary interactions, inspiration can arrive from the most surprising corners. Jeffrey Sachs, one of the architects of the UN Millenium Development Goals, based his ideas on emergency care triage techniques. The unlikely marriage of economics and medicine has healed tense, hyperinflation environments from South America to Eastern Europe.
This last example provides the most hope in how technology actually provides hope for the future of humanity. By increasing our reliance on technology, we can now achieve impossible goals. Consider how the late 20th century witnessed the complete elimination of smallpox. This disease had ravaged the human race since prehistorical days, and yet with the technology of vaccines, free-thinking humans dared to imagine a world free of smallpox. Using technology, battle plans were drawn out, and smallpox was systematically targeted and eradicated.
Technology will always mark the human experience, from the discovery of fire to the implementation of nanotechnology. Given the history of the human race, there will be no limit to the number of problems, both new and old, for us to tackle. There is no need to retreat to a Luddite attitude to new things but rather embrace a hopeful posture to the possibilities that technology provides for new avenues of human imagination.
There is no current proof that advancing technology will deteriorate the ability of humans to think. On the contrary, advancements in technology have advanced our vast knowledge in many fields, opening opportunities for further understanding and achievement. For example, the problem of debilitating illnesses and diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease is slowly being solved by technological advancements in stem cell research. The future ability to grow new brain cells and the possibility of reversing the onset of Alzheimer’s is now becoming a reality. This shows our initiative as humans to better our health and demonstrates the greater ability of humans to think.
One aspect where the ability of humans may initially be seen as an example of deteriorating minds is the use of the internet and cell phones. In the past, humans had to seek out information in many different environments and aspects of life. Now humans can sit in a chair, type anything into a computer, and get an answer.
Our reliance on this type of technology can be detrimental if not regulated and regularly substituted for other information sources, such as human interactions and hands-on learning. I think if humans understand that we should not have such a reliance on computer technology, we as a species will advance further by utilizing the opportunity of computer technology as well as other sources of information outside of a computer. Supplementing our knowledge with internet access is surely a way for technology to solve problems while continually advancing the human race.
The “Analyze an Argument” task, on the other hand, will ask you to analyze both sides of an argument about an issue according to specific instructions.
So rather than agreeing or disagreeing with a given issue, you will have to consider the logical strength of an argument.
Again, the argument can be on any general topic of interest, like technology, economics, health, etc. But if you usually keep up with the news, it will be effortless to come up with a response.
Now that you know what this task expects of you, you can get to writing-
1. “To reverse a decline in listener numbers, our owners have decided that WWAC must change from its current rock-music format. The decline has occurred despite population growth in our listening area, but that growth has resulted mainly from people moving here after their retirement. We must make listeners of these new residents. We could switch to a music format tailored to their tastes, but a continuing decline in local sales of recorded music suggests limited interest in music. Instead, we should change to a news and talk format, a form of radio that is increasingly popular in our area.”
Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
2. “A jazz music club in Monroe would be a tremendously profitable enterprise. Currently, the nearest jazz club is 65 miles away; thus, the proposed new jazz club in Monroe, the C-Note, would have the local market all to itself. Plus, jazz is extremely popular in Monroe: over 100,000 people attended Monroe’s annual jazz festival last summer; several well-known jazz musicians live in Monroe; and the highest-rated radio program in Monroe is ‘Jazz Nightly,’ which airs every weeknight at 7 P.M. Finally, a nationwide study indicates that the typical jazz fan spends close to $1,000 per year on jazz entertainment.”
Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence can evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
3. “In an effort to improve our employees’ productivity, we should implement electronic monitoring of employees’ Internet use from their workstations. Employees who use the internet from their workstations need to be identified and punished if we are to reduce the number of work hours spent on personal or recreational activities, such as shopping or playing games. By installing software to detect employees’ Internet use on company computers, we can prevent employees from wasting time, foster a better work ethic at Climpson, and improve our overall profits.”
Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
Now that you have practiced writing a couple of essays, take some time to look at this GRE sample essay for the “Analyze an Argument” task.
In surveys, Mason City residents rank water sports (swimming, boating, and fishing) among their favorite recreational activities. The Mason River flowing through the city is rarely used for these pursuits, however, and the city park department devotes little of its budget to maintaining riverside recreational facilities. For years there have been complaints from residents about the quality of the river’s water and the river’s smell. In response, the state has recently announced plans to clean up Mason River. The use of the river for water sports is therefore sure to increase. The city government should, for that reason, devote more money to this year’s budget for riverside recreational facilities.
Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on the assumptions and what the implications are if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
While it may be true that the Mason City government ought to devote more money to riverside recreational facilities, this author’s argument does not make a cogent case for increased resources based on river use. It is easy to understand why city residents would want a cleaner river, but this argument is rife with holes and assumptions and, thus, not strong enough to lead to increased funding.
Citing surveys of city residents, the author reports city residents’ love of water sports. It is not clear, however, the scope and validity of that survey. For example, the survey could have asked residents if they preferred using the river for water sports or would like to see a hydroelectric dam built, which may have swayed residents toward river sports. The sample may not have been representative of city residents, asking only those residents who live on the river. The survey may have been 10 pages long, with 2 questions dedicated to river sports. We just do not know. Unless the survey is fully representative, valid, and reliable, it can not be used to back the author’s argument effectively.
Additionally, the author implies that residents do not use the river for swimming, boating, and fishing, despite their professed interest, because the water is polluted and smelly. While a polluted, smelly river would likely cut down on river sports, a concrete connection between the resident’s lack of river use and the river’s current state is not effective. Though there have been complaints, we do not know if there have been numerous complaints from a wide range of people or perhaps from one or two individuals who made numerous complaints. To strengthen his/her argument, the author would benefit from implementing a normed survey asking a wide range of residents why they do not currently use the river.
Building upon the implication that residents do not use the river due to the quality of the river’s water and the smell, the author suggests that a river clean-up will result in increased river usage.
If the river’s water quality and smell result from problems that can be cleaned, this may be true. For example, if pollution causes decreased water quality and aroma by factories along the river, there is certainly a solution for this. But if the quality and aroma result from the natural mineral deposits in the water or surrounding rock, this may not be true. There are some bodies of water that emit a strong smell of sulfur due to the geography of the area. This is not something that a clean-up can resolve. Consequently, a river clean-up may have no impact on river usage. Regardless of whether the river’s quality is able to improve or not, the author does not effectively show a connection between water quality and river usage.
A clean, beautiful, safe river often adds to a city’s property values, leads to increased tourism and revenue from those who come to take advantage of the river, and a better overall quality of life for residents. For these reasons, the city government may decide to invest in improving riverside recreational facilities. However, this author’s argument is not likely significantly persuade the city government to allocate increased funding.
Surveys speak for the people; however, surveys do not always speak for the whole community. A survey completed by Mason City residents concluded that the residents enjoy water sports as a form of recreation.
If that is so evident, why has the river not been used? The blame can not solely be placed on the city park department. The city park department can only do as much as they observe. The real issue is not the resident’s use of the river but their desire for a more pleasant smell and more pleasant sight.
If the city government cleans the river, it might take years for the smell to go away. If the budget is changed to accommodate the clean-up of the Mason River, other problems will arise. The residents will then begin to complain about other issues in their city that will be ignored because of the great emphasis being placed on the Mason River.
If more money is taken out of the budget to clean the river, an assumption can be made. This assumption is that the budget for another part of city maintenance or building will be tapped into. In addition, to the budget being used to clean up Mason River, it will also be allocated to increase riverside recreational facilities.
The government is trying to appease its residents, and one can warrant that the role of the government is to please the people. There are many assumptions being made; however, the government can not make the assumption that people want the river to be cleaned so that they can use it for recreational water activities. The government has to realize the long-term effects that its decision will have on the monetary value of its budget.
While both the Issue and the Argument essays seem similar, graders look at both these tasks differently.
When it comes to the “Analyze an Issue” task, they see if a student-
- Forms a clear and thoughtful opinion on the issue
- Comes up with cogent arguments and examples to support the opinion
- Is able to sustain a well-focused, well-organized analysis, connecting ideas coherently
- Conveys ideas using effective vocabulary and sentence variety
For the “Analyze an Argument” task, they see if a student-
- Forms a clear understanding of the argument
- Develops ideas cogently , organizes them logically, and connects them well
- Comes up with coherent arguments and examples to support the opinion
However, as you can see, the main idea stands out clearly – the graders are looking for students with good vocabulary, clear decision-making ability, cogent (you might want to Google that :P) thought processes and coherent expression.
Although the GRE Analytical Writing section consists of two essays, they are not scored separately.
You will be scored anywhere between 0 and 6, in 5-point increments, for both the essays you write.
Almost nobody gets a score below 2-2.5 because most students are able to write down something sensible.
However, a score of 4 or greater is considered to be a good score for this section (go through the GRE sample essays on the ETS website and read graders’ comments on essays that have been scored 4 and above).
Moreover, your GRE Analytical Writing Score will be separate from your GRE overall score, which comprises the Quantitative and Verbal section reports.
Here’s a step-by-step process (with tips) on how to prepare for the GRE Analytical Writing section-
- Pick up a random essay question and write about it
- Read the GRE sample essays for that question and gauge what your score might be
- Go through graders’ comments on these GRE sample essays and find out where you went wrong
- Take up another essay and write
Keep on doing this on a loop until you feel you have reached the score you are aiming for.
- Keep a standard essay structure in mind – Introduction, Problem Statement, Solution, Benefits of the solution, Drawbacks of the solution, and Conclusion.
- Dedicate each para to one heading, and understand that they do not necessarily have to be in this order.
- Make sure you use examples to support your argument – you can either use an extended example or multiple ones. But without them, your argument will seem flimsy.
- Write the entire essay first. Don’t listen to the critical side of your brain just now. Once you’ve finished your first draft, you can always come back and edit.
- If there is one writing tip one could never give enough of, it’s this – practice, practice, practice!
There you have it! Everything you need to know about the GRE Analytical Writing section is here – pattern, scoring, GRE sample essays, sample answers, and GRE Analytical Writing question tips.
If you feel like we missed out on something or have any doubts, feel free to drop a comment or reach out to us !
We’d be very happy to help.
Like this blog? Then read the blog on GRE sample test | Everything you need to know about this exam!
Question 1: What is a good GRE Writing score?
Answer: Anything about 4.5 is considered a good score.
Question 2: How do I start my introduction?
Answer: Provide your reader with a clear understanding of what your topic is about and what direction you will take it in.
Question 3: Do essays matter for GRE?
Answer: Yes, the GRE essays are scored on a separate scale; they are not part of your total GRE score.
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Sample Essay Responses and Rater Commentary for the Argument Task
Sample Essay Responses and Rater Commentary for the Argument Task
The sample essays that follow were written in response to the prompt that appears below . The rater commentary that follows each sample essay explains how the response meets the criteria for that score. For a more complete understanding of the criteria for each score point, see the “Analyze an Argument” Scoring Guide .
In surveys Mason City residents rank water sports (swimming, boating and fishing) among their favorite recreational activities. The Mason River flowing through the city is rarely used for these pursuits, however, and the city park department devotes little of its budget to maintaining riverside recreational facilities. For years there have been complaints from residents about the quality of the river’s water and the river’s smell. In response, the state has recently announced plans to clean up Mason River. Use of the river for water sports is therefore sure to increase. The city government should for that reason devote more money in this year’s budget to riverside recreational facilities.
Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on the assumptions and what the implications are if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
Note: All responses are reproduced exactly as written, including errors, misspellings, etc., if any.
Essay Response — Score 6
While it may be true that the Mason City government ought to devote more money to riverside recreational facilities, this author’s argument does not make a cogent case for increased resources based on river use. It is easy to understand why city residents would want a cleaner river, but this argument is rife with holes and assumptions, and thus, not strong enough to lead to increased funding.
Citing surveys of city residents, the author reports city resident’s love of water sports. It is not clear, however, the scope and validity of that survey. For example, the survey could have asked residents if they prefer using the river for water sports or would like to see a hydroelectric dam built, which may have swayed residents toward river sports. The sample may not have been representative of city residents, asking only those residents who live upon the river. The survey may have been 10 pages long, with 2 questions dedicated to river sports. We just do not know. Unless the survey is fully representative, valid, and reliable, it can not be used to effectively back the author’s argument.
Additionally, the author implies that residents do not use the river for swimming, boating, and fishing, despite their professed interest, because the water is polluted and smelly. While a polluted, smelly river would likely cut down on river sports, a concrete connection between the resident’s lack of river use and the river’s current state is not effectively made. Though there have been complaints, we do not know if there have been numerous complaints from a wide range of people, or perhaps from one or two individuals who made numerous complaints. To strengthen his/her argument, the author would benefit from implementing a normed survey asking a wide range of residents why they do not currently use the river.
Building upon the implication that residents do not use the river due to the quality of the river’s water and the smell, the author suggests that a river clean up will result in increased river usage. If the river’s water quality and smell result from problems which can be cleaned, this may be true. For example, if the decreased water quality and aroma is caused by pollution by factories along the river, this conceivably could be remedied. But if the quality and aroma results from the natural mineral deposits in the water or surrounding rock, this may not be true. There are some bodies of water which emit a strong smell of sulphur due to the geography of the area. This is not something likely to be afffected by a clean-up. Consequently, a river clean up may have no impact upon river usage. Regardless of whether the river’s quality is able to be improved or not, the author does not effectively show a connection between water quality and river usage.
A clean, beautiful, safe river often adds to a city’s property values, leads to increased tourism and revenue from those who come to take advantage of the river, and a better overall quality of life for residents. For these reasons, city government may decide to invest in improving riverside recreational facilities. However, this author’s argument is not likely significantly persuade the city goverment to allocate increased funding.
Rater Commentary for Essay Response — Score 6
This insightful response identifies important assumptions and thoroughly examines their implications. The essay shows that the proposal to spend more on riverside recreational facilities rests on three questionable assumptions, namely:
that the survey provides a reliable basis for budget planning
that the river’s pollution and odor are the only reasons for its limited recreational use
that efforts to clean the water and remove the odor will be successful
By showing that each assumption is highly suspect, this essay demonstrates the weakness of the entire argument. For example, paragraph 2 points out that the survey might not have used a representative sample, might have offered limited choices, and might have contained very few questions on water sports.
Paragraph 3 examines the tenuous connection between complaints and limited use of the river for recreation. Complaints about water quality and odor may be coming from only a few people and, even if such complaints are numerous, other completely different factors may be much more significant in reducing river usage. Finally, paragraph 4 explains that certain geologic features may prevent effective river clean-up. Details such as these provide compelling support.
In addition, careful organization ensures that each new point builds upon the previous ones. For example, note the clear transitions at the beginning of paragraphs 3 and 4, as well as the logical sequence of sentences within paragraphs (specifically paragraph 4).
Although this essay does contain minor errors, it still conveys ideas fluently. Note the effective word choices (e.g., “rife with . . . assumptions” and “may have swayed residents”). In addition, sentences are not merely varied; they also display skillful embedding of subordinate elements.
Since this response offers cogent examination of the argument and conveys meaning skillfully, it earns a score of 6.
Essay Response — Score 5
The author of this proposal to increase the budget for Mason City riverside recreational facilities offers an interesting argument but to move forward on the proposal would definitely require more information and thought. While the correlations stated are logical and probable, there may be hidden factors that prevent the City from diverting resources to this project.
For example, consider the survey rankings among Mason City residents. The thought is that such high regard for water sports will translate into usage. But, survey responses can hardly be used as indicators of actual behavior. Many surveys conducted after the winter holidays reveal people who list exercise and weight loss as a top priority. Yet every profession does not equal a new gym membership. Even the wording of the survey results remain ambiguous and vague. While water sports may be among the residents’ favorite activities, this allows for many other favorites. What remains unknown is the priorities of the general public. Do they favor these water sports above a softball field or soccer field? Are they willing to sacrifice the municipal golf course for better riverside facilities? Indeed the survey hardly provides enough information to discern future use of improved facilities.
Closely linked to the surveys is the bold assumption that a cleaner river will result in increased usage. While it is not illogical to expect some increase, at what level will people begin to use the river? The answer to this question requires a survey to find out the reasons our residents use or do not use the river. Is river water quality the primary limiting factor to usage or the lack of docks and piers? Are people more interested in water sports than the recreational activities that they are already engaged in? These questions will help the city government forecast how much river usage will increase and to assign a proportional increase to the budget.
Likewise, the author is optimistic regarding the state promise to clean the river. We need to hear the source of the voices and consider any ulterior motives. Is this a campaign year and the plans a campaign promise from the state representative? What is the timeline for the clean-up effort? Will the state fully fund this project? We can imagine the misuse of funds in renovating the riverside facilities only to watch the new buildings fall into dilapidation while the state drags the river clean-up.
Last, the author does not consider where these additional funds will be diverted from. The current budget situation must be assessed to determine if this increase can be afforded. In a sense, the City may not be willing to draw money away from other key projects from road improvements to schools and education. The author naively assumes that the money can simply appear without forethought on where it will come from.
Examining all the various angles and factors involved with improving riverside recreational facilities, the argument does not justify increasing the budget. While the proposal does highlight a possibility, more information is required to warrant any action.
Rater Commentary for Essay Response — Score 5
Each paragraph in the body of this perceptive essay identifies and examines an unstated assumption that is crucial to the argument. The major assumptions discussed are:
that a survey can accurately predict behavior
that cleaning the river will, in itself, increase recreational usage
that state plans to clean the river will actually be realized
that Mason City can afford to spend more on riverside recreational facilities
Support within each paragraph is both thoughtful and thorough. For example, paragraph 2 points out vagueness in the wording of the survey: Even if water sports rank among the favorite recreational activities of Mason City residents, other sports may still be much more popular. Thus, if the first assumption proves unwarranted, the argument to fund riverside facilities — rather than soccer fields or golf courses — becomes much weaker. Paragraph 4 considers several reasons why river clean-up plans may not be successful (the plans may be nothing more than campaign promises or funding may not be adequate). Thus, the weakness of the third assumption undermines the argument that river recreation will increase and riverside improvements will be needed at all.
Instead of dismissing each assumption in isolation, this response places them in a logical order and considers their connections. Note the appropriate transitions between and within paragraphs, clarifying the links among the assumptions (e.g., “Closely linked to the surveys …” or “The answer to this question requires…”).
Along with strong development, this response also displays facility with language. Minor errors in punctuation are present, but word choices are apt and sentences suitably varied in pattern and length. The response uses a number of rhetorical questions, but the implied answers are always clear enough to support the points being made.
Thus, the response satisfies all requirements for a score of 5, but its development is not thorough or compelling enough for a 6.
Essay Response — Score 4
The problem with the arguement is the assumption that if the Mason River were cleaned up, that people would use it for water sports and recreation. This is not necessarily true, as people may rank water sports among their favorite recreational activities, but that does not mean that those same people have the financial ability, time or equipment to pursue those interests.
However, even if the writer of the arguement is correct in assuming that the Mason River will be used more by the city’s residents, the arguement does not say why the recreational facilities need more money. If recreational facilities already exist along the Mason River, why should the city allot more money to fund them? If the recreational facilities already in existence will be used more in the coming years, then they will be making more money for themselves, eliminating the need for the city government to devote more money to them.
According to the arguement, the reason people are not using the Mason River for water sports is because of the smell and the quality of water, not because the recreational facilities are unacceptable.
If the city government alloted more money to the recreational facilities, then the budget is being cut from some other important city project. Also, if the assumptions proved unwarranted, and more people did not use the river for recreation, then much money has been wasted, not only the money for the recreational facilities, but also the money that was used to clean up the river to attract more people in the first place.
Rater Commentary for Essay Response — Score 4
This competent response identifies two unstated assumptions:
that cleaning up the Mason River will lead to increased recreational use
that existing facilities along the river need more funding
Paragraph 1 offers reasons why the first assumption is questionable (e.g., residents may not have the necessary time or money for water sports). Similarly, paragraphs 2 and 3 explain that riverside recreational facilities may already be adequate and may, in fact, produce additional income if usage increases. Thus, the response is adequately developed and satisfactorily organized to show how the argument depends on questionable assumptions.
However, this essay does not rise to a score of 5 because it fails to consider several other unstated assumptions (e.g., that the survey is reliable or that the efforts to clean the river will be successful). Furthermore, the final paragraph makes some extraneous, unsupported assertions of its own. Mason City may actually have a budget surplus so that cuts to other projects will not be necessary, and cleaning the river may provide other real benefits even if it is not used more for water sports.
This response is generally free of errors in grammar and usage and displays sufficient control of language to support a score of 4.
Essay Response — Score 3
Surveys are created to speak for the people; however, surveys do not always speak for the whole community. A survey completed by Mason City residents concluded that the residents enjoy water sports as a form of recreation. If that is so evident, why has the river not been used? The blame can not be soley be placed on the city park department. The city park department can only do as much as they observe. The real issue is not the residents use of the river, but their desire for a more pleasant smell and a more pleasant sight. If the city government cleans the river, it might take years for the smell to go away. If the budget is changed to accomodate the clean up of the Mason River, other problems will arise. The residents will then begin to complain about other issues in their city that will be ignored because of the great emphasis being placed on Mason River. If more money is taken out of the budget to clean the river an assumption can be made. This assumption is that the budget for another part of cit maintenance or building will be tapped into to. In addition, to the budget being used to clean up Mason River, it will also be allocated in increasing riverside recreational facilites. The government is trying to appease its residents, and one can warrant that the role of the government is to please the people. There are many assumptions being made; however, the government can not make the assumption that people want the river to be cleaned so that they can use it for recreational water activities. The government has to realize the long term effects that their decision will have on the monetary value of their budget.
Rater Commentary for Essay Response — Score 3
Even though much of this essay is tangential, it offers some relevant examination of the argument’s assumptions. The early sentences mention a questionable assumption (that the survey results are reliable) but do not explain how the survey might have been flawed. Then the response drifts to irrelevant matters — a defense of the city park department, a prediction of budget problems and the problem of pleasing city residents.
Some statements even introduce unwarranted assumptions that are not part of the original argument (e.g., “The residents will then begin to complain about other issues” and “This assumption is that the budget for another part of city maintenance or building will be tapped into”). Near the end, the response does correctly note that city government should not assume that residents want to use the river for recreation. Hence, the proposal to increase funding for riverside recreational facilities may not be justified.
In summary, the language in this response is reasonably clear, but its examination of unstated assumptions remains limited and therefore earns a score of 3.
Essay Response — Score 2
This statement looks like logical, but there are some wrong sentences in it which is not logical.
First, this statement mentions raking water sports as their favorite recreational activities at the first sentence. However, it seems to have a ralation between the first sentence and the setence which mentions that increase the quality of the river’s water and the river’s smell. This is a wrong cause and result to solve the problem.
Second, as a reponse to the complaints from residents, the state plan to clean up the river. As a result, the state expects that water sports will increase. When you look at two sentences, the result is not appropriate for the cause.
Third, the last statement is the conclusion. However, even though residents rank water sports, the city government might devote the budget to another issue. This statement is also a wrong cause and result.
In summary, the statement is not logical because there are some errors in it. The supporting setences are not strong enough to support this issue.
Rater Commentary for Essay Response — Score 2
Although this essay appears to be carefully organized, it does not follow the directions for the assigned task. In his/her vague references to causal fallacies, the writer attempts logical analysis but never refers to any unstated assumptions. Furthermore, several errors in grammar and sentence structure interfere with meaning (e.g., “This statement looks like logical, but there are some wrong sentences in it which is not logical”).
Because this response “does not follow the directions for the assigned task” and contains errors in sentence structure and logical development, it earns a score of 2.
Essay Response — Score 1
The statement assumes that everyone in Mason City enjoys some sort of recreational activity, which may not be necessarily true. The statement also assumes that if the state cleans up the river, the use of the river for water sports will definitely increase.
Rater Commentary for Essay Response — Score 1
The brevity of this two-sentence response makes it fundamentally deficient. Sentence 1 states an assumption that is actually not present in the argument, and sentence 2 correctly states an assumption but provides no discussion of its implications. Although the response may begin to address the assigned task, it offers no development. As such, it is clearly “extremely brief … providing little evidence of an organized response” and earns a score of 1.
Understanding the Context for Writing
Preparing for the Argument Task
How to Interpret Numbers in Argument Topics
Tips for this Section
Sample Argument Task
Sample Essay Responses
Pool of Argument Topics
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A complete collection of the best GRE essays
by Talha Omer, MBA, M.Eng., Harvard & Cornell Grad
In about the gre.
The AWA section of the GRE has to do with essay writing . This is the only section of the test that doesn’t have MCQ-type questions. Instead, you have to write two essays . In one, you have to analyze an issue , whereas you have to analyze an argument in the other one. You receive 30 minutes per essay , and your performance is scored on a 0-6 point scale in half-point increments.
Many test-takers don’t pay much heed to the essay writing portion of the test, thinking it doesn’t carry much significance. However, this is not necessarily true and depends on the program you are applying to.
Traditionally, humanities and arts programs have placed greater emphasis on AWA scores. This makes sense because these programs typically contain far more writing assignments than STEM programs . Moreover, a mathematics or physics paper can do without elevated prose as the emphasis is on the logic of arriving at a mathematical proof.
However, a Political Science student , on the other hand, has to express their thoughts purely in words. They have to structure their arguments and back them up by evidence and derive conclusions. Hence, such programs tend to pay more attention to the GRE essay score .
A significant hurdle that students face during their GRE prep is not being able to assess their writing . This is one of the few significant disadvantages of self-studying for the GRE. Unlike, Verbal and Quant sections, you cannot get away with one-word answers. Nor are there any formulas to help you.
You need to have an excellent understanding of what the examiners look for in an essay to score in the 4-6 range. Prep-books can only take you so far, and online courses that offer essay evaluation cost an arm and a leg.
Fortunately, ETS has released different official resources to help students grasp what they look for in an essay. You will learn about the scoring system , what raters look for in an essay, and read official essays taken out from actual GRE papers.
Sample Essay Responses and Rater Commentary for the Argument Task
The first thing any test-taker should do is read the official sample essays published by ETS on its website. These essays are taken from genuine GRE past papers , and they are all responses to the same “argument task.”
What is great about this resource is that ETS has included a detailed commentary from the rater to all the different responses. Each essay response is scored on a 1-6 scale, and there are a total of six essays, one for each score-point.
Moreover, the essays are left untouched without any corrections to either spelling or grammar. I would suggest that you first go here and read what ETS requires in an essay response . Once you understand that, go over to the sample essays , read the issue task, and write your essay without reading any responses.
Once you are done, compare your writing to the sample responses and determine what score you are likely to get for it. The commentary is the most valuable part of all this.
In this Article
Official Topic Pools for both essays
Magoosh awa blog articles, prepscholar awa library, kaplan awa articles, manhattan prep awa articles.
Students often don’t know this, but ETS has published all the issue and argument topics on its website. Your test tasks are selected from the following two pools. That’s right. You can know in advance what topics GRE will test you on.
Issue Topic Pool Argument Topic Pool
Downloadable sample essays with commentaries # 1
This is the first sample essay compilation published by ETS. You will find a detailed explanation of raters’ scores for each essay. Half of the responses are taken from the issue topic and the other half from the argument topic.
The topics remain the same. However, multiple essays correspond to a different score-point on a 1-6 scale. Read the essays and then pay special attention to what the examiner is saying in the commentary. The essays appear in their original state without any correction to spelling or grammar.
Downloadable sample essays with commentaries # 2
This downloadable PDF file contains a detailed explanation of how essays are scored, and each sample essay is followed by commentary.
Half of the essay responses are taken from “analyze an issue” and the other half from “analyze an argument.” I also like how ETS has included a complete breakdown of what each score-point means.
Moreover, if you don’t have access to an online course to evaluate your essays, the commentary will give you a lot of insight into writing responses.
Downloadable sample essays with commentaries # 3
This is the third and final compilation of sample essays published by ETS. It contains responses for both writing tasks as well as commentaries and scoring information.
These three PDFS should be plenty for anyone looking to improve their AWA performance. Pay special attention to what the commentaries point out. There are explicit instructions on what to write and what to avoid.
If you want to learn more about how graduate schools view your AWA score, go here .
Non-official GRE AWA Resources
Magoosh is quite the big name in test-prep circled, and their GRE online course is top-rated and affordable. One of the great things about Magoosh is that they publish helpful material regarding GRE on their blog for free.
Their library of AWA articles contains a wealth of knowledge and helpful tips regarding essay writing.
You can visit their AWA library here .
You have probably come across PrepScholar’s GRE blog if you have been searching GRE stuff online. They have the most popular and extensive GRE blog out of all the different companies out there. If you want to learn about the AWA section of the test, I highly suggest you check out their blog.
You can visit their AWA blog here .
Kaplan isn’t mainly known for its blog posts, but they have some interesting articles on the test’s essay portion. They don’t do analysis-type pieces. However, their various articles on AWA tips and tactics are very informative.
You can visit their AWA articles here .
Manhattan Prep is a well-known test-prep company mainly known for its premium GRE courses. They don’t have as frequent a blog as either Magoosh or Manhattan, but you should nonetheless check out their AWA articles.
Visit Manhattan’s AWA articles here .
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GRE Issue Essay: Strategies + 8 Real Student Essays with Scores
When you sit down at the computer on test day, the very first thing that you’ll encounter is the GRE Issue essay, which is part of GRE Analytical Writing . For a lot of test-takers, this is the point at which they freeze. But not you! In this article, Magoosh’s experts will guide you through the most important steps in writing the GRE AWA Issue essay. In addition, we’ll take a look at student examples of the GRE “Analyze an Issue” task so that you can understand what gets a high score—and what doesn’t—on the official exam.
Table of Contents
An overview of the gre issue essay, top 5 awa issue strategies, student gre issue essay analysis: prompts, essays, and grading samples.
First things first: what do you need to do for the GRE AWA Issue essay? It’s different than the Argument essay . Your goal here is to read through the prompt, then agree or disagree with the premise—and explain the extent to which you agree or disagree. Think you can’t prepare in advance? You’d be wrong! There are two main things you can do to get ready for the first part of the Analytical Writing section .
Review the Topic Pool
First, because the prompts are drawn from a GRE topic pool, you can have some idea of what the Issue task will look like before test day. Don’t memorize all of them! But do take a look to see what types of topics you’ll come across, and think generally about how to approach them (tip: see below!). It’s also a good idea to take a peek at the ETS GRE analytical writing sample essay responses to get a broad sense of the scoring—though we’ll get more into this below.
Plan of Attack
Second, come up with a plan for approaching the GRE “analyze an issue” task. Not sure where to start? We can help! Here’s an example of an overall process you can use to address any Issue task in a high-scoring way:
- Read the directions carefully
- Brainstorm and outline pros and cons
- Choose a side
- Choose reasons and examples to support those reasons (especially important for claim and reason prompts )
- Select a concession point
- Go ahead and write!
- Don’t forget to leave around two minutes for proofreading and editing
Now that you have the basics down, let’s take a look at some more detailed strategies you can use to maximize your score on the GRE Issue essay.
1. Be Organized
Even an impassioned, cogent response falls apart if it is not bundled into essay form: the introduction, a few body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
The Intro should not be needlessly long as you try to stuff in everything you want to say (remember, you only have 30 minutes!). The Intro should serve only to introduce the topic. Most importantly, the Intro must have a clearly defined thesis statement and explain your stance clearly. This should be ONE of the many points of view about the topic, not more than one. Often it is easiest for the writer—and the reader—if the last sentence in the Intro is the thesis.
The body paragraphs should develop your thesis. Finally, the conclusion should recap what’ve you said (don’t try to add any new information).
2. Focus Your Paragraphs
Stay focused on analyzing the issue. Make sure your sentences link together, and be sure to develop an example, so that by the end of the paragraph you can persuasively—and clearly—show how your example supports your thesis. In other words, explain how these considerations make your point true.
3. Keep It Engaging
Repetitive sentence structure makes for repetitive reading. Vary up the way you write—don’t be afraid to use a colon (or a dash), drop in a semi-colon, and vary up the syntax. Noun followed by verb followed by adjective implies that you are a hesitant writer. Regardless of your analysis and organization, the overall impression your essay leaves on the graders is a resounding meh .
4. Be Specific
Hypotheticals are fine, if you can use them to convincingly back up your point. However, that’s the tough part; “some people,” “mankind,” or “you” are dull, vague abstractions. If you trying to show that knowledge can sometimes be used for destructive ends, “Oppenheimer’s knowledge of nuclear fusion allowed him to create the most destructive weapon the world had ever known” is far more impactful than, “scientists can sometimes use knowledge to hurt us.”
5. Stay On Topic
Perhaps the most important (lest you wonder why you received a ‘1’ on your essay) is to keep your essay on topic. Imagine you had to write on the mock prompt on knowledge I used above. If you begin talking about how technology is destructive because smartphones cause us to become insular… you have totally forgotten to answer the question, “Knowledge can sometimes be used for destructive ends.” Address the most compelling examples, yes—but the most compelling examples that relate directly to your topic!
So now you know what the GRE AWA Issue tasks should do, it’s time to take a look at how sample essays meet (or fail to meet) these criteria—and how this affected their scores. All of the following essays were written in response to the GRE Issue prompts , so check them out if you haven’t already, and then come back to analyze some examples!
Note: We’ve formatted the essays so that you can see the prompt and instructions first, then try writing your own response (this is great practice!). Once you’ve done that, click on the “essay and analysis” arrows to view examples of graded student essays and see how yours compare.
GRE Issue Essay Prompt 1: University Requirements
Prompt Universities should require students to take courses only within those fields they are interested in studying. Instructions Write a response in which you discuss your views on the policy and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.
Some people believe that universities should put stringent policies in place that require students to take courses only within a chosen field of study, thus harshly limiting the breadth of knowledge that they are able to study. Concentrating on only one field is important in terms of developing expert knowledge and specialization, but it is also crucial that the student hone a well rounded knowledge of the nature of the world so that their field of specialization is accented with courses from outside disciplines as well. It is for this reason that I believe that students should focus their study on a specific field yet also be allowed and encouraged to accent and expand their specialized knowledge by sampling courses from other areas of specialty as well.
Our current globalizing world contains diversity of knowledge, culture and creed that is increasing at a rapid pace and in order to succeed in a world such as this, it is necessary to hone a diverse skill set of knowledge and expertise. Therefore, university policies should encourage students to accent their study of a specific discipline with outside courses that will enhance the breadth of their knowledge about the nature of the world. A student studying medicine, for example, clearly needs to focus the majority of their time on understanding the inner workings of the human body on a scientific level. However, it is also crucial for them to have a more general knowledge of the way in which humans function on an individual or cultural scale (i.e. psychology and anthropology), because effective doctors are not simply capable of diagnosing diseases, but can also interact effectively, with individual and cultural sensitivies, with their patients in order to provide the most well-rounded care. A mathematician who knows only about math and knows nothing about the ancient civilizations whose cultures discovered geography will be ill-suited to make math interesting to his future students or to understand the real world implications of the equations he slaves over daily. A one-dimensional course of study will only serve to foster bias and an uncritical approach to life in such students. Thus, because we live in a world that is multi-faceted, it is important for every specialist to learn a bit about specialities outside of their main discipline in order to augment their understanding of the world at large.
When universities provide a structure of encouragement for their students to augment their specified studies by selecting some courses from outside their discipline, there are some possible consequences, such as the potential for students to change their mind about what they want to focus on. Some may say this is an inefficient use of time and that it will confuse students. However, I would argue that it will foster a wider breadth of knowledge that is ultimately beneficial for any student; a student that started studying biology but then switched to psychology, for example, will always appreciate and pay heed to the importance of our life sciences and will not neglect to consider how the functions of the body may affect someone’s mental health. The existence of knowledge in a wider range of disciplines will only provide the student with more information with which to take charge in a world that is highly complex and rapidly changing all the time, and so allowing them to experiment a little and change their mind once or twice is to their benefit rather than to their detriment.
In conclusion, I disagree that universities should require students to take courses only within their specific, chosen field of study. When students are able to focus their study on one specific topic but then augment it by sampling courses from other disciplines, their knowledge becomes more wide ranging and interdisciplinary, thus providing a better foundation for them to succeed in a rapidly globalizing world. While they may change their minds as to their preferred topic of study one or two times, they will ultimately succeed by having a wide breadth of knowledge that will teach them to approach the world without a subject specific bias. Overall, it is best that universities allow their students to take courses outside of their chosen course of study in order to diversify their pallate of knowledge.
Issue Essay Analysis
This GRE Issue essay starts off with a strong intro that clearly articulates the author’s position. The essay is also very long, and the body paragraphs well developed. In terms of ideas this is a strong—though if slightly limited—essay. It makes a compelling case for interdisciplinary learning. A physician studying anthropology will be more culturally sensitive; a psychologist who studied biology will have a great appreciation for the biological underpinnings of the psyche. The writer justifies this well-roundedness in terms of relevancy: a one-dimensional person will struggle in our complex, globalized world. As well thought out and supported as these points, they are far too similar, and this essay would have benefited from picking another example that argues in favor of allowing students to take courses outside of their majors. Another flaw is the essay doesn’t directly addresses the directions: “should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy.” Is a world of well-rounded, complex individuals the consequence of allowing students to choose subjects outside of their majors?
Stylistically this essay is not perfect, and I have some minor grumblings.
The ongoing debate about whether a university should require students to take courses only within their fields of study or take extra classes to fulfill graduation requirements is an interesting one. There any many valid arguments to each side and it is not a simple black or white choice when deciding who is right. However, by requiring students to only take courses within their major, it allows for students focus on taking classes that are only applicable to their future careers and allows them to save money in a time where saving money is equally important to a college degree.
In many situations, students will finish high school and go on to college with an idea of what they want to do with their life. For students who are in majors such as engineering or the a science field such as chemistry or biology, it is important to for them to stay on top of all of their course work because of the higher number of courses that they must take in order to fulfill the university requirements for a degree. Many of these students knew before they entered college that this would be the case and gladly accepted that challenge, however by requiring students to take extra general education classes to fulfill their diploma requirements seems counter intuitive to a level of education where students are beginning to focus and narrow in on their future career goals. By forcing say a engineering student to take music theory or British literature just simply to fulfill a general education requirement and having that class conflict with a engineering major course seems to prevent these students from coming to college and fully obtaining their goal as quickly as possible.
The other aspect to consider is the financial aspect. In many of these situations, the students are under pressure to finish their degree as soon as possible because of many state budget cuts to education which limit the number of classes offered with in their major. Not only does this mean extra classes that students must take and thus more money they have to spend because tuition is usually based on a per unit fee, forcing these extra classes upon can have a longer impact if they are forced to stay longer in college than they originally assumed they would. College already charges an extremely large amount to attend and that already does not take into account the other expenses that students have to pay (such as room and board, food, and books), but adding on extra semester, quarters, or even years because a student had to take general education classes instead of strictly major classes is an unfair system to put a student through.
As with any situation though, there are always exceptions to the rule. For one not every student enters college with the same career focus and direction as their peers. Many students will come into college unsure of the direction they want to take and many students who think they know what direction they want to go, end up changing their minds (sometimes multiple times). By requiring students to take classes from a broad range of spectrums, Universities can help students narrow down what career path they may want to follow. Many times students may have a preconceived notion of what a subject may be about and not want to try it, yet by requiring it, they may be able to find themselves in a new class with something they may choose to pursue in the future, something they perhaps never would have considered. There is also something to be said about being able to take higher education classes simply for the benefit of wanting to learn about something that interests you. College allows you to do that and by making it a requirement, it allows students a bigger chance to do that.
Overall though, universities that force students to take upwards of 10-12 general education classes just to fulfill a requirement for their diploma seems unfair. When a student comes into college with a specific end game in site, the universities should not hinder their goals by overloading them with extra requirements and instead focus on helping hem obtain their goals as quickly as possible. The time and financial benefits that could be reaped by not requiring students to take these classes could have a direct impact on the success of all students as well as the future communities they intend to help.
Score: 5.0 This essay covers most of the bases: it offers analysis on both sides of the issue, it throws in a few sentences that address the specific instructions, and it, for the most part, clearly articulates a position. The essay does not wow with thorough analysis, great sentence variety (or indeed any stylistic flourishes). In other words, it gets the job done without making too many missteps.
While I award this essay a ‘5’, there are moments when that score seems shaky. This is not mainly due to the ideas (though the generalizations don’t help: “As with any situation though, there are always exceptions to the rule”); at times the sentences become overloaded and tend to digress.
Word choice could have also been a little more dynamic. “Large”, “bigger”, etc. could be spiced up a little more: “astronomical”, “excessive”, etc.
In addition to making the sentence more readable, and varying up the syntax a little, the essay could have been improved with a little more analysis. I would have like to say more than taking more courses is expensive. Sure, that is a totally valid point, but to spend an entire paragraph on it the overly long first paragraph about students who are not engineers as well.
Additionally, the last body paragraph is confusing: “There is also something to be said about being able to take higher education classes simply for the benefit of wanting to learn about something that interests you. College allows you to do that and by making it a requirement,it allows students a bigger chance to do that.” Is the author implying that colleges shouldn’t require students to take only course in their field (which would go against the main point of the essay)? And by saying that colleges make “it a requirement” that college require students to take courses outside their field?
Had this paragraph been a little clearer and had the writer expanded the scope of the financial issue, this essay—along with a little more dynamic writing and sentence variety—could get at least a definitive ‘5’, if not a ‘5.5’.
Liberal arts colleges and professional schools often debate whether they are required to develop well-rounded individuals. The primary purpose of universities is to establish the ground work for future field experts and specialists, meaning the developing into other fields would detract from the development of specialization. A basic understanding of how to delve into other fields is all that’s necessary.
A college degree in a field suggests that a graduate has the basic understanding of a specialized field, and they may continue to develop into a true expert. At every level of the collegiate process, students have further expansion into their speciality. For instance, science majors start with basic fundamentals that are required for latter learning. They soon go off into their own fields, isolated from the humanities and, often, other science majors. Because students usually have only four years to achieve a set requirement of tested standards in a particular field, universities must push students into their fields quickly. There simply isn’t enough time to truly explore all the possible fields of study at the university level. Exploratory learning shouldn’t be required as it doesn’t serve any purpose when the student won’t continue to explore in those extracurricular fields.
If a student were to only hole themselves away into the fields of physics, they may never truly understand how their physical knowledge relates to society and the social world. Universities tend to have to weigh this “roundedness” against the need to produce future field experts. The outcome is introductory classes that relate to your field, but intertwine with other fields of study, and push students to explore on their own time. These initial exploratory classes would be necessary for any field of study anyway, as creativity and individual pursuit is essential for any expert to further their field’s knowledge.
These exploratory classes are necessary for students to apply their growing expertise, but leaving their fields of study should be done on their own because they can only expand into the elementary levels of other fields within their time restraints at the university level. In this way, students aren’t led by the hand through fields they aren’t interested in, but they would still have the capability to explore their fields if they truly were intrigued. Allowing students to create their own directions, intertwining their interests, creates dynamic individuals who are happier with their degrees and more productive to the world through their specialization.
Universities are meant to develop future experts and specialists in particular fields of study. They should lay the groundwork for students to be able to explore of fields, but not in a way that detracts from their field’s work. At a moment when their time is so precious, students can’t afford to be left behind in their fields as they are forced by curriculum to explore unwanted alternatives.
There are some things about the essay that I like: it brings up interesting ideas relating to the prompt. Do specialists with “roundedness”contribute more to their fields than those specialists who focus only on their fields? The sentence variety makes things flow along nicely, until the middle of the essay, where the author becomes vague. Indeed, at times I’m not sure which side of the prompt the author is arguing.
For example, at the end of the second paragraph he states: “Exploratory learning shouldn’t be required as it doesn’t serve any purpose when the student won’t continue to explore in those extracurricular fields.”
The very next sentence—the first sentence of the third paragraph—says the exact opposite: “If a student were to only hole themselves away into the fields of physics, they may never truly understand how their physical knowledge relates to society and the social world.” Suddenly,the paragraph is arguing against what the previous paragraph stated.
The second to last paragraph is weighed down in abstractions, without a useful specific example to clear things up. Consider the topic sentence: “These exploratory classes are necessary for students to apply their growing expertise, but leaving their fields of study should be done on their own because they can only expand into the elementary levels of other fields within their time restraints at the university level.” There is a lot going on here, and I really had to reread the sentence several times to get what the author was saying. The ETS graders won’t take this much time. And given that the essay has already pulled an about-face in the previous paragraphs, makes this sentence even more obfuscatory.
The conclusion is much clearer than the rest of the essays, and allows me to understand what the essay was trying to say alone.Compare the clarity of this sentence to the one I mentioned in the previous paragraph: “They should lay the ground work for students to be able to explore of fields, but not in a way that detracts from their field’s work.”
So how to grade an essay like this? Strong analytical skills, sophisticated writing, and solid organization….yet, a contradictory—and at times muddled (the clause in the intro, “….meaning the developing into other fields) leads to a confusing essay.
The author states that students should only take classes within their realm of study. Although, students may gain more of a grasp on what they are studying, this requirement fails to take in what students can learn outside of their required classes. To say that students can only take classes within their concentration is occluding them to knowledge that they may learn in other fields of study.
For example, universities typically require students to pick their major, as well as a minor. Some programs may also require students to select a few elective classes as well, so students can establish themselves as more rounded individuals.
Also, taking classes outside of a student’s field of study may help boost the student’s overall GPA. For example, if a student has an in major GPA of 2.5 and an out of major GPA of 3.2, then the overall GPA will increase. However, it could be vice versa as well. If someone isn’t doing that great in their elective classes, it could bring their overall GPA down.
If this policy is implemented, the consequences may be severe. One consequence could be that a student may not be able to graduate on time because they may not have enough credits. Or they may not meet the GPA requirements to graduate because they failed a few classes within their major.
If the university decides that students can only take courses within his or her chosen field of study, then the university may not produce well rounded individuals.
This essay is an example of a 4.0—just barely—that is undeveloped and thus on the short side. It is not an example of a longer, totally one-sided ‘4’ that ignores the directions (notice how the final body paragraph addresses the “consequences” mentioned in the instructions).
What the author has written is an intelligent response to the prompt. She doesn’t simply agree with the prompt, but takes the opposing side, providing support (“To say that students can only take classes within their concentration is occluding them to knowledge that they may learning other fields of study.”). In passing, I should mention that “occlude” is used incorrectly. This is not a major problem, but remember that, if you use GRE words, make sure you know how to use them correctly.
I do not agree with the stated policy to allow students to only take course within their chosen fields of study. Instead I feel that students should should have the opportunity to take course outside of their major for the following reasons.
First, I feel that taken course outside ones major gives students variety, and exposure to experiences or interactions they may not have considered previously. Take for example Lisa, an engineering student who spends countless hours studying. Realizing that she needed a change of place an outlet of some sorts decides to take a modern dance course just for fun. What ultimatly was that Lisa learned to relax which interned helped her study more effectively and perform better in her engineering course.
Then take Monique, a political science major who doesn’t know how to swim. decided to take a swimming course and not only learned to over come her fear, but gained confidence in other other aspects of o her live.
Thirdly, lets consider Jason, a physics major who only took courses in his major. He became such an expert in his field us study, but became increasing socially award because of his inability to converse or relate to his peers.
In the even both Lisa and Monique were not able to take course outside of their major, I fear that they would have succumb to the pressure that sometimes too often over takes students adjusting to university lift. By deviating from their mandatory set of course they found a renew focus and inner strength that they may have never know before. Jason however, didn’t fair as well due to his strict focus in University
University is about diversity and gaining new experience for growth and development. Not being allowed to explore this diversity limits the over experience and potential stunts the education growth and perspective of students
Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes mar the effectiveness of this essay. Specifically, commas are misused (or not used at all), incorrect words are used (“interned”, “award” vs. “awkward”). I think many of these mistakes can be remedied if the student spends some time editing.The point in editing isn’t to catch the nitpicky errors but the glaring ones (of which this essay has many).
Next, the essay has very predictable development: take one-side of the prompt, and then come up with three hypothetical examples to support the point. There is zero analysis. This essay could have been improved and gotten within striking range of a ‘4’, or at least a ‘3.5’, had it simply addressed the instructions: “consider the possible consequences of implementing….” Of course, addressing the grammatical and spelling errors would have helped the essay.
Prompt 2: Lasting Legacy
Prompt Those who see their ideas through, regardless of doubts or criticism others may express, are the ones who tend to leave a lasting legacy. Instructions Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.
A famous author once remarked that “Winners never quit and quitters never win”. People who see their ideas through, however unpragmatic it may be considered by others are the ones who have truly made a difference.
History is replete with examples of people who were perceived as crazy, illogical and even insane by laymen, yet when their ideas were sedulously worked upon, by the creator , day after day, combined with long hours of toil, the result was nothing, short of marvelous.
Lets’s take the example of the Indian freedom struggle fought by Gandhiji on the basis of Satyagraha. It was very difficult for the Britishers to assume that India would be freed one day under the leadership of a loin cloth covered ordinary looking man without the use of weapons or bloodshed. The reason that Indian freedom could be achieved was the unflagging determination of Gandhiji and the uncommon methodology used of winning freedom by peace and not bloodshed.
Looking not far, I can recall the example of Galileo who was reviled and persecuted by the Church authorities for challenging the existing norms that pervaded the society that time. Galileo’s fierce determination , not to give up on his ideas even during harsh criticism paved the way for modern space research.
Another convincing example is of the Wright Brothers. Who would have ever imagined that it is indeed possible to fly like a bird and traverse different parts of the globe. I am sure that the Wright brothers were reviled when they first came up with this idea of developing an aeroplane. But, again today their invention has become a legacy.
Though there are several examples of people winning through odds because of their determination and unflagging spirit and creating noteworthy inventions, there could be times when this may be the cause of much trouble. Consider the doggedness of Hitler.though he was criticised for his heinous atrocitities on the Jews, he still did not stop the atrocities. These are few examples when people with strong determination can create an ill legacy instead of a legacy.
The writing in this essay has a lot of punch and makes reading it easy. However, there is little to no analysis. Like many essays on this prompt, the essay takes an extreme position, and beyond a vague, jumbled mention of Hitler, does not address the instructions: “…you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true.”
As an SAT essay goes—basically you can take a relatively strong position—this is a good essay. Even then, some of the examples lack persuasiveness: “I am sure the Wright brothers were reviled.” Maybe they weren’t (they actually were, somewhat), but to say “you think” vs. “many notable scientists mocked the Wright Brothers notion of human flight” makes the essay far more tentative than it should be.
Also, the examples are very sparse, especially Galileo. Some more development would have perhaps bumped this essay to a ‘4.5’. But without any analysis, and by failing to take into account the other side, this essay gets only a ‘4.’
Although, doubts and criticism expressed regarding a particular by others seem valid at the particular time of inception of time, if the person follows through his idea or well cherished dream, then he may become success in his endeavor and leave a lasting legacy. So, people who see their ideas through, regardless of doubts or criticism others may express, are the ones who tend to leave a lasting legacy.
New ideas takes time to be accepted by general public, and during the time from the inception till the acceptance, the person who invented or discovered that idea, may be criticized or oppressed. Galileo was put into house arrest for his entire life for his heliocentric model of the solar system, because it came in direct conflict with the church’s geocentric model which regarded Galileo’s theory as heresy. Later, Galileo’s model was readily accepted. So, it’s really important that the people should see their ideas through criticism and doubts of others and shouldn’t be daunted, since other people are not connected to the idea or dream or feel the strength of idea in the same way as the person who invented that idea.
If a person doesn’t
This essay struggles from a lack of clarity. The first two sentences are overloaded with words, and so it is difficult for a reader to figure out what the writer is trying to say. Since the essay graders do not have time to figure out what you are trying to say, you will be penalized. Luckily, the thesis is clear—though it is an almost exact rewording of the prompt.
The Galileo example—while expressed in language that is clearer than that found in the intro—isn’t that developed. We learn that he was arrested and confined for heresy. The essay automatically assumes that this is the same as criticism. I would say the church’s actions against Galileo are a little stronger than mere criticism.
What saves this essay from a sub-3.0 is the final sentence, which discriminates between the person with the idea and those who only have an inkling of that idea. However, this idea is not explored in more depth (and doesn’t really connect to the Galileo example). Indeed the essay ends there.
Prompt 3: Risky Action
Prompt People should undertake risky action only after they have carefully considered its consequences. Instructions Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.
People should undertake risky action only after they have carefully considered its consequences.
People should not let their fears prevent them from taking important risks in life. Taking risks is what allows us humans to achieve success, joy and ultimate fulfillment. However, prior to taking any risky action, it is essential that people should carefully consider the consequences.
For example, there are some risky actions that are life-threatening such as skydiving. Of course, before you can begin to skydive, you must learn the basics of this sport. Additionally, by also studying what can go wrong during a skydive, and learning how to react to that scenario, that person will have the knowledge and ability to stay calm and hopefully make better decisions that will allow them to get out of a bad situation rather than falling into a panic.
This also pertains to decisions about money and business. Everyday people are making decisions that are ‘make or break’. For those who really understand the consequences of their actions, they are able to make a wiser decision that may have less of an impact on them if the business or investment deal goes awry. However, but not educating oneself, the consequences of one’s action are likely to be more severe.
Sometimes, knowing the consequences of an action causes fear that will stops us from taking any risky actions. As a result we miss out on potential successes and most of all “joy”. Therefore, by understanding the consequences, one can eliminate feat, learn how to react in a smarter fashion and lead a much more enriching life than if they had never taken those risks at all.
This is a decent skeleton of an essay. But that’s the problem—it is only a skeleton and the ideas need a lot more fleshing out if this essay is to get at least a ‘5’. For instance, in the skydiving example, the writer barely scratches the surface. What are some things that a skydiver could possibly learn to help them make this risky endeavor less risky? How much less risky would they make sky diving? Is there a point where something is so risky that even if we take measures to prevent disaster from happening that something bad could still happen ( skydiving in bad weather, or bungee jumping in a country that offers low prices—and also low quality equipment). In calculating risk, shouldn’t we also weigh the payoff. For the skydiving example, is the thrill worth the danger, even if one has taken the necessary precautions and learned proper technique.
For more analyses of student Issue essays, check out this post .
A Final Word
Now that you’ve reviewed student samples from across the spectrum of GRE Issue task grades, you’ll have a better sense of what you need to do to get those high scores! More than anything, practice will help you get the score you want on test day. So take a look at the Issue pool, pull up a blank document, and get practicing! Best of luck on test day as you master the GRE Issue essay.
Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard ) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He’s been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News , GMAC , and Business Because . In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE , GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube , LinkedIn , Twitter and Facebook !
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49 responses to “GRE Issue Essay: Strategies + 8 Real Student Essays with Scores”
Hello Magoosh team
First of all, thank you for your amazing tips about the issue essay.
But I still have a question about this task “if I write only two paragraphs, and mainly focus on only one side” Can I still get at least 4 points by doing this
Thank you very much for your kindness and time
By “two paragraphs”, do you mean two body paragraphs? You should aim for an introduction, 2 body paragraphs, and a conclusion. In other words, you should have 4 paragraphs. 🙂 As long as you use strong examples and make your point very clear, you should be able to get 4 points on the exam even without a third body paragraph.
When giving examples whilst supporting our point, can we mention an borrowed idea or opinion and elaborate on it in our own words? Let’s say I mention an idea from Yuval Noah Harari and credit him? Will this be considered plagiarism in any way
You can definitely mention an opinion as long as you state the original source. For example, you can say: “According to Yuval Noah Harari, […]” and that would be acceptable. 🙂
Hello Firstly, thank you for this wonderful article. I have a question which is: How can I say a concession point without making any contradictions to previous paragraphs? I hope that my question is clear. Thanks
Hi there! Thank you, we’re glad you found it helpful. 🙂 I’d recommend reading over the example essays in this blog post to see how they handle the concession point. In addition, be sure to check out our blog article 12 Tips to Ace GRE Writing as well.
I have a question regarding where to include the concession point in my essay. Does it receive its own paragraph within the body of the essay, or does each supporting idea have a concession point paired with it? And do you include the concession point in the intro and conclusion as well?
Hi Joe! You can add a third body paragraph that discusses your concession if you have time, but you can also just make a quick concession point, say at the end of your second body paragraph. Just remember that the goal is to use the concession to prove your point. The most common mistake is to spend too much time on the concession, so it can be safer to do less than more. I would not recommend bringing up a concession in the introduction or conclusion. It’s possible, but it’s just too risky. Use your concession to say, “While it may seem that people are distracted by their cell phones, they are actually socializing while looking at their screens. Therefore, technology brings people together.” Something like that is a strong, quick concession, whereas if you spend a paragraph going on and on about how people never talk anymore, you run the risk of arguing for the other side! Hope that helps 🙂
Hi, It is OK to write issue essay from first person perspective?
There is no specific prohibition of the first person and some people do well on the essay and use the first person. But I tend to recommend avoiding first person language, especially “I think” and “in my opinion.” Both of these phrases tend to be redundant because you usually can take these phrases out of the sentence and your sentence will still maintain its meaning and grammar. You can completely avoid the first person and your writing will likely end up with a more sophisticated tone.
If you do use the first person, I’d recommend that you use it once in the introduction paragraph for your thesis, and that is it.
I recommend taking a look at some of the sample essays written on some topics. These are released by ETS, the testmakers, and will give you an excellent idea of what a great, good, and poor essay will look like. You’ll notice that the essays rated 5 and 6 do not have first person language but the other, lower scored essays do.
I guess I am a lot of thoughts to put on, but facing trouble to make my writing more persuasive. Can you please suggest how i can make my writing more persuasive as to better reflect my thoughts.
In the AWA issue Essay, being persuasive is all about using evidence. Anytime you make a claim, think of the reasons people might doubt that claim. Address all of those most obvious doubts. Also think about any questions people might ask you to get a better idea about what you’re saying in your essay, and why you’re saying it. Always put forth a very complete set of supporting details and argumentative evidence.If you think you won’t have the time or space to complete your argument within the time and pace limits of AWA, then choose a different argument, or find a way to simplify your argument.
One set of directions states to “discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement…” I’m confused by “extent.” Does this mean that ETS simply wants us to take a side either in agreement or disagreement and explain why? Or by “extent” do they mean that it is okay to strongly disagree, or to somewhat agree, etc.
The second option is more accurate–another way to think about “extent” is “degree.” So not only do your agree or disagree, but what are the limitations of that opinion? I hope that helps! 🙂
Can you write in first person on either GRE essays?
There is no specific prohibition of first person and some people do well on the essay and use the first person. But I tend to recommend avoiding first person, especially “I think” and “in my opinion.” Both of these phrases tend to be redundant. You usually can take these phrases out of the sentence and your sentence will still maintain its meaning and grammar. So, you can completely avoid first person and writing in a more sophisticated tone.
If you do use first person, I’d recommend that you use it once in the introduction paragraph for your thesis. And that is it.
I recommend taking a look at some of the sample essays written on some topics . These are released by ETS, the testmakers, and will give you an excellent idea of what a great, good, and poor essay will look like. You’ll notice that a 5 and 6 do not have first person but the other lower scored essays do.
I hope that helps! 🙂
Hi Chris! I have a questions about the intro paragraph/thesis statement. Do you have to include the points you plan on discussing in your body paragraphs in your intro/thesis?
It’s not necessary to state your points verbatim in your intro — in fact, it will probably save you time not to do so 🙂
My exam is on 13th February and I have about 1 month from now on. I tried to focus on verbal and math section more until now and did not spend enough time on AW section of the GRE. Would you recommend writing one essay per day to gain acceleration on practicing ?
Any suggestion would be appreciated. Thanks.
I am so sorry this didn’t get answered quickly, but hopefully our advice can help! I’d suggest that you first take a look at these ETS topic pools:
List of AWA Issue Prompts List of AWA Argument Prompts
Familiarize yourself with these topics, and then write several practice essays of your own using these ETS topics as a way to familiarize yourself with the questions and expectations. If you are careful to answer the actual question posed by the AWA tasks and you prepare yourself by knowing what will be expected of you on that day, you won’t have any trouble getting a good score. 🙂
Oppenheimer used nuclear fission, not fusion. 🙂 The GRE grader do not care if your facts are correct, though.
Firstly, thanks for keeping up with the blog. It’s been a great help.
Secondly, I was wondering if there is any way to insert special characters on the Gre essay software during the exam – such as those required in ‘vis-a-vis’ or ‘blase’ or ‘cliche’. If not, should these phrases/words be avoided? I’m from India and keyboards here don’t have these characters on them by default.
That is a good question. I have no idea of the keyboards here allow you to do so. Regardless, I don’t think ETS will hold that against you. Of course, there is a computer grader, but maybe it has been programmed not to dock. Still, I can’t image ETS being so picayune as to do you for not having the proper diacritic.
Hope that helps!
One thing that concerns me when writing my essays in the issue part is that a lot of the examples that come to my mind are not that well-known in the Anglosphere. I’m German, and I often think of something German scientists or politicians did or said, events that happened in Germany or things taught in German high school. The example essays that I compare my essays to usually score high by drawing on a wide range of examples that are well-known in the US. Stating my examples, that the examiner has possibly never heart of, either requires a longer explanation, for which I don’t have time, or googling on part of the examiner.
What would you suggest? In theory, the GRE should not be culturally biased. But I am afraid if I simply drop unknown German examples, the examiners might be confused.
Thank you for your advice,
PS: To know what I mean, I thought of some examples for you. Let’s say the issue is about privacy and I refer to the surge in users of the Posteo.de email client, a Berlin-based start-up whose unique selling point is that they protect their clients’ privacy as much as possible. Or in an essay about rebellion I could refer to the way the German authorities dealt with house occupiers in Dresden in contrast to those in Berlin after the fall of the Berlin wall – the occupiers in Dresden were given proper rent contracts while those in Berlin were forcefully evicted, causing violent clashes with the police. Or when writing about technology, I might want to cite the website dawanda.de where people sell self-crafted goods. I know that there exists a similar format in the US – etsy – but I am not that familiar with it and would not feel comfortable writing about it and would prefer the German example. This issue comes up for me with almost every essay I write at least once!
I am on the same boat and would love to see this question answered!
Hi Holing and Cornelia!
I know this is a late reply, but hopefully it can help others in your positions. 🙂
It is perfectly fine to use non-US examples for the GRE essays, but you want to make sure you give relevant context and information on the events so that the reader doesn’t have to guess whether or not your example really applies to the point you are trying to make. If you can do that, then any examples from your own country should be fine. 🙂
Hi, I have read in most sites that practicing essays is the best way to go for AW. But writing a full length AW issue essay or argument essay takes 30 mins each for a time limited atmosphere. So my question is while practicing from the ets pool of topics, do we need to write full length essays for every topic or just structuring and brainstorming on the topic and writing mock essays 3-4 times will be enough?
30 minutes for each essay can definitely be tough to fit into your schedule! Doing quick structuring/brainstorming is a good alternative when you don’t have a lot of time. However, especially as you near your exam date, make sure to sit down and do a few full-length essays (not all in a row, but maybe one every few days) just so you can feel comfortable with the experience. I hope that helps! 🙂
Hello people of Magoosh,
I have a question about writing a thesis for an issue task. I noticed that in the video lesson, the thesis contained a statement indicating choosing a side. However, there’s no mention of the main points covered in the body paragraphs. Is that a good practice? Don’t you think that a reader ought to know what to expect in the body paragraphs just from reading the thesis statement?
Referred thesis: “a college curriculum should be designed around the career a student will pursue upon graduation”
Excellent question! In a typical, untimed essay you definitely would want to let the reader know what is coming. The intro and thesis should give the reader some idea of where the discussion is headed and what will be discussed. This is a common practice in American essay writing.
But with the GRE, our strategies are a little different. Since we have such a limited amount of time to write an essay, we recommend spending as little time as possible writing the introduction and conclusion. The bulk of your time should be spent crafting the body paragraphs. As such, we only recommend stating your opinion or stance on the topic and not worry about prefacing your examples and reasons.
This isn’t to say that you can’t do this. If you are a quick writer and have the time, then you can definitely indicate what the main points of your body paragraph will be. 🙂
I just started practicing the AWA and am following the 90-day study plan for beginners. I’m trying my best to follow the outlined time structure you suggested in the videos, but in my first two essays I’ve always run out of time and always seem to produce mediocre work. Would you recommend that I practice writing without a time limit for now? Or should I just keep working with the time limit and would I gradually improve with more practice?
Hi Lara, Happy to help!
First, I recommend to keep practicing. Writing the essays on the GRE is a particular type of skill that needs lots of practice. So keep your head down and keep at it.
Second, if you feel like you need extra practice, try writing an essay more often. Instead an essay a week, write two. This will give you more opportunities for improvement.
Third, I recommend that you keep timing yourself. It doesn’t help to be good at writing an essay in an hour. We need to be good at writing an essay in half an hour.
One thing that I have done with my students in the past is have them write only an introduction or only an introduction and body paragraph in a set amount of time. So give yourself a time limit of 8 minutes and see if you can complete an introduction and body paragraph. This allows you to practice writing under time constraints and you can take baby steps towards completing an essay in 30 minutes.
I hope that this helps! Best of luck in your studies! 🙂
I just started reading the book you recommended: On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. Although I would love read all of it, I don’t have much time to spare. Could you suggest what chapters would most benefit us for the GRE AWA ?
Good question! I think the grammar-related passages are important. As are the chapters that relate to crafting sentences and creating paragraphs.
Hi Chris, Do you know if there are any sites where I can find high scoring sample essays? I’ve been practicing but feel as though I’m in a void as I have no point of comparison. Getting feedback from family and friends is helpful, but I’d just feel so much better if I could compare my essays to actual GRE essays. I could only find one sample set on the ets website…
It seems that only gre.org offers example essays. Just google “example GRE essays” and it should be the second hit.
Besides that there aren’t too many others I can think of that are online. Writing higher scoring essays, ‘5.5-6’ for blog posts is something I plan to do soon though :).
Hello! I would enormously appreciate if you can clarify me this. Which link are you referring to in the following sentence?:
” For practical advice on practicing: the link below provides access to hundreds of essay prompts by ETS”.
I cannot find it anywhere and it would be of invaluable help for me to have these essay prompts in order to practice.
Thank you very much!
No problem :).
Here is the link: http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/analytical_writing/issue/pool
Thanks for your quick response!
So I just found out ETS has started employing their e-rater technology. Thoughts?
Thanks for reporting that! Well, I hope it is better than the GMATs, which apparently counts number of words, a couple of transition sentences, etc. I guess time will tell.
whats e-rater technology, mentioned by J, Chris??
Sometime it seems that we cannot write enough in the issue task.
If we practice one essay per day, who will rectify this and will tell us how to improve our score in analytic. So that we can BUT ALL feel confident to write essay with positive tone.
Yes, that is true, and indeed I need to write another post on generating ideas.
As for somebody to give you feedback, find a trusted family member or friend. Of course, that person would not want to read everyone of your essays, but as long as you get feedback every once in awhile that will help :).
This sentence is dead-on, “If you think you did poorly on the essays, that knowledge could very well affect your performance on the rest of the test.”
I recently talked with a student who was consistently scoring in the 80th percentile on math and verbal in practice. But he wasn’t prepared for the writing section on test day and it affected his concentration throughout the rest of the exam. He scored in the 60th percentile. Doing well on writing can definitely set a positive tone for the rest of the exam.
Yes, I am happy to hear that student’s experience echo my thoughts. Really, “Doing well on writing can definitely set a positive tone for the rest of the exam” is perhaps the greatest GRE tip that nobody has ever heard of.
Did u mean non-native below?? “Two of the preeminent prose stylists of the English-language novel were both native-English speakers.”
Ha! Yes, I definitely did. Thanks for catching that :).
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Table of Content
GRE Analytical Writing Topics: Important GRE AWA Topics
The GRE analytical writing topics demand deep critical thinking for better analysis and presentation. The GRE AWA topics from the two sections (Issue & Argument) of the test are complementary to each other. While one needs a personal argument with evidence, the other expects you to evaluate someone else's argument by assessing its claims and evaluating the evidence it provides. The 7 categories of GRE essay topics are: Education, Technology and Society, Cities, Arts, Government and Power, Intellectual Endeavors, and Philosophical.
In this blog we dwell at length about different GRE essay topics and the possible type of questions commonly asked in the GRE test.
What is GRE Analytical Writing(AWA)?
The GRE essay topics for analytical writing tests your critical thinking capacity and analytical skills of writing. The primary aim here is to articulate and support complex ideas, construct and evaluate arguments for a coherent discussion. The GRE AWA topics comprises two analytical writing tasks that are separately timed:
- Argument Essay
- Issue Essay
You will be given 30 minutes separately to complete both the essays. The GRE AWA topics for both essays need to be approached differently. For that you must be clear about the differences between the two.
Suggested: Everything About GRE Exam 2023
GRE Argument Essay
The GRE argument essay topics tests your ability to understand, analyze and evaluate arguments. Your task here is to depict your thoughts in writing vividly. You will be given a short passage that demands a definite course of action and interpretation backed by reasons and evidence. You must be keen enough to critically examine the line of reasoning and present logical and convincing evidence.
Sample GRE Argument Topics
Mentioned below are some sample GRE analytical writing topics for argument essays taken from the official GRE website:
- "Salicylates are members of the same chemical family as aspirin, a medicine used to treat headaches. Although many foods are naturally rich in salicylates, for the past several decades, food-processing companies have also been adding salicylates to foods as preservatives. This rise in the commercial use of salicylates has been found to correlate with a steady decline in the average number of headaches reported by participants in our twenty-year study. Recently, food-processing companies have found that salicylates can also be used as flavour additives for foods. With this new use for salicylates, we can expect a continued steady decline in the number of headaches suffered by the average citizen of Mentia."
Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
- "A jazz music club in Monroe would be a tremendously profitable enterprise. Currently, the nearest jazz club is 65 miles away; thus, the proposed new jazz club in Monroe, the C-Note, would have the local market all to itself. Plus, jazz is extremely popular in Monroe: over 100,000 people attended Monroe's annual jazz festival last summer; several well-known jazz musicians live in Monroe; and the highest-rated radio program in Monroe is 'Jazz Nightly,' which airs every weeknight at 7 P.M. Finally, a nationwide study indicates that the typical jazz fan spends close to $1,000 per year on jazz entertainment."
- "In a controlled laboratory study of liquid hand soaps, a concentrated solution of extra strength UltraClean hand soap produced a 40 percent greater reduction in harmful bacteria than did the liquid hand soaps currently used in our hospitals. During our recent test of regular-strength UltraClean with doctors, nurses, and visitors at our hospital in Worktown, the hospital reported significantly fewer cases of patient infection (a 20 percent reduction) than did any of the other hospitals in our group. The explanation for the 20 percent reduction in patient infections is the use of UltraClean soap."
Write a response in which you discuss one or more alternative explanations that could rival the proposed explanation and explain how your explanation(s) can plausibly account for the facts presented in the argument.
Suggested: GRE Analytical Writing Sample Essays
GRE Issue Essay
The GRE issue essay topics evaluates your ability to think critically about a given topic of general interest and clearly express your views about it in writing. Each issue statement provides a claim that you can be seen and analyzed from different perspectives and applicable to multiple situations or conditions.
Sample GRE Issue Topics
Mentioned below are some sample GRE analytical writing topics for issue essays taken from the official GRE website:
- Governments should place few, if any, restrictions on scientific research and development.
Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.
- The luxuries and conveniences of contemporary life prevent people from developing into truly strong and independent individuals.
Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.
- The best way to teach — whether as an educator, employer, or parent — is to praise positive actions and ignore negative ones.
Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.
Suggested: How to write GRE AWA Essays?
So this was a gist of the questions for GRE analytical writing topics and their question patten. Now let us see some tips to tackle AWA topics for GRE with answers:
Tips to Prepare for GRE Analytical Writing Topics
Be it GRE issue topics or argument topics, you may follow the following approach for an informative essay:
- Before taking the GRE Test, carefully go through the sample topics, essay responses and rater commentary for each task of the section. Review the scoring guides for each task as well. It will offer a deeper understanding of how GRE essays are evaluated and the most important elements of the essay.
- You are given 30 minutes each to complete the GRE argument topics and issue topics. So utlize every moment with care.
- Save a few minutes at the end of each timed task to check for obvious errors like spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, etc.
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Frequently Asked Questions About GRE AWA Topics
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