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GRE Essay Prompts

The GRE Analytical Writing section requires you to write two essays—one will be an analysis of an issue and the other will be an analysis of an argument. You will have 30 minutes for each essay. Try your hand at these GRE essay prompts, and read our explanations for what makes a great GRE essay. We pulled these sample questions from our book GRE Premium Prep and from our GRE prep course  materials.

The GRE Issue Essay

The Issue Essay of the GRE requires you to present your opinion on the provided topic.

Issue Topic

You will be given a brief quotation that states or implies an issue of general interest and specific instructions on how to respond to that issue. You will have 30 minutes to plan and compose a response in which you develop a position on the issue according the specific instructions. A response to any other issue will receive a score of zero.

"True beauty is found not in the exceptional but in the commonplace."

Write an essay in which you take a position on the statement above. In developing and supporting your essay, consider instances in which the statement does and does not hold true.

A high-scoring Issue essay accomplishes four key tasks: (1) considers the complexities of the issue; (2) supports the position with relevant examples; (3) is clear and well organized; (4) demonstrates superior facility with the conventions of standard written English. Make sure that you respond to the specific instructions and support your position on the issue with reasons and examples drawn from such areas as your reading, experience, observations, and/or academic studies.

[+] See the Answer

The GRE Argument Essay

The Argument Essay of the GRE asks you to examine and critique the logic of an argument.

Argument Topic

You will be given a short passage that presents an argument, or an argument to be completed, and specific instructions on how to respond to that passage. You will have 30 minutes to plan and compose a response in which you analyze the passage according to specific instructions. A response to any other issue will receive a score of zero.

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.

A high-scoring Argument essay accomplishes these tasks: (1) clearly identifies and insightfully analyzes important features of the argument; (2) develops ideas clearly and logically with smooth transitions; (3) effectively supports the main points of the critique; (4) demonstrates superior facility with the conventions of standard written English. Note that you are NOT being asked to present your own views on the subject. Make sure you that you respond to the specific instructions and support your analysis with relevant reasons and/or examples.

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How to Structure the GRE Issue Essay

The GRE Issue essay is similar in structure to the classic 5-paragraph short essay. You may opt for 4-6 paragraphs, but the template given here plans for 5. The official GRE website states that readers of the Issue essay “are evaluating the skill with which you address the specific instructions and articulate and develop an argument to support your evaluation of the issue.” The better organized your essay is, the clearer it will become to the reader.

[ RELATED:  7 Tips for a Perfect GRE Issue Essay   ]

Template Paragraph 1: The Introduction

As you develop your points, make sure to pepper your analysis with words that guide the reader through the argument you are making. Words such as because, although, furthermore, however, alternatively will catch the reader’s attention while you develop your argument.

Here’s how to structure each paragraph in your template (taken from our GRE study guide ):

Although the reader will have access to the prompt you received, your essay should stand on its own, making clear the assignment you were given and your response to it. Start your essay by clearly restating the issue you were assigned, followed by a sentence stating your position on that assignment–that is, your thesis. Next, introduce the specific reasons or examples you plan to provide in each of the next three paragraphs, one sentence for each of the forthcoming paragraphs.

Consider the specific task you were assigned, and make sure the language you use in your initial paragraph demonstrates that you understand the special instructions in your assignment. For instance, if your task tells you to “be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position,” you will be clear to show at least two strong reasons or examples the side opposing yours can use–and then explain why those reasons or examples are incorrect.

Template Paragraph 2: Body Paragraph 1

  • Bring up your example.
  • Explain how it relates to the topic.
  • Show that it fully supports your thesis.

Template Paragraph 3: Body Paragraph 2

Template paragraph 4: final body paragraph, template paragraph 5: conclusion.

If you find you are running out of time, it is better to include your final body paragraph and eliminate the conclusion paragraph, because the conclusion doesn’t add anything new to your analysis. An otherwise well-developed Issue Essay that lacks a conclusion will not be penalized.

Top 4 Tips for a Strong GRE Issue Essay

Choose a side..

… and stick to it! It doesn’t matter which one—just know that trying to have it both ways will come across as waffling.

Be specific and relevant.

Whether your examples are about Mitt Romney, the mating rituals of octopi, or your Uncle Ralph the compulsive gambler, keep them specific and relevant to the real world. You can have some fun, as long as everything you write supports your argument—and you show how it does.

Make strong, declarative statements.

Charged modifiers, active language, and cause-effect sentences add confidence and distinction. “It is unacceptable for the president to permit Congress to pass the law because it unconstitutionally overextends Congress’ powers…” beats “The president shouldn’t allow Congress to pass the law…” any day.

Refute the other position.

Try introducing the opposing viewpoint in your conclusion—then refute it in one to two sentences, reinforcing your own thesis and ending on a strong point.

GRE Issue Essay Sample

Try this sample GRE Issue Essay prompt for practice. Remember that you’ll have 30 minutes to complete it on GRE Test Day. There are various questions you might be asked to answer on the Issue Essay, so it’s best to practice a few different prompts.

The emergence of the online “blogosphere” and social media has significantly weakened the quality of political discourse in the United States. Reason: When anyone can publish political opinions easily, standards for covering news and political topics will inevitably decline.

Write a response in which you examine your own position on the statement. Explore the extent to which you either agree or disagree with it, and support your reasoning with evidence and/or examples. Be sure to reflect on ways in which the statement might or might not be true, and how this informs your thinking on the subject.

How To Write and Structure GRE Issue Essay

Gre analytical writing essay scoring process.

Your GRE essays will be scored by half-point increments, from 0 to 6 (highest). Two graders will score both this argument essay and your issue essay. A third grader will also score your essays if your two initial graders’ scores differ by more than one point. The graders base scores on their overall impression of your essay — holistically — rather than deducting points for specific errors.

The GRE test maker, Educational Testing Service (ETS) reports a single score—the average of the two essays—rounded up to the nearest half-point. This score makes up the essay portion of your overall GRE score, despite there being two separate essays. You can read more from ETS on specific score level breakdowns here .

[ PREVIOUS :   < What’s Tested on the GRE: Analytical Writing   ]        [ NEXT:   How to structure the GRE Argument Essay >   ]

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Free GRE Practice Questions

What's not to love about free GRE practice questions? We have devised a list that runs the gamut in terms of question type and level of difficulty. If practice makes perfect—which we think it does—then these free practice questions are just what you need to further enhance your hard work. Our Free Practice Questions are designed to give you the thorough understanding of how to go about solving a problem that you need to earn that top score.

Our explanations and breakdowns reveal what to expect from each each GRE question, calling specific attention to common test-taking traps and question-specific challenges. The high caliber of practice questions offers a great diversity of question types spanning across all GRE sections. You won't find a shortage of breakthroughs since each is accompanied with straightforward insights you can easily implement on test day. So what are you waiting for? You've spent hours reading and studying up on the exam, why not take a crack at the 140 free practice questions we have waiting for you at your disposal?

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The Real GRE Essay Questions

Home » Free GRE Prep Course » Free GRE Prep Course » The Real GRE Essay Questions

1. Look at all the Real GRE AWA Questions

To beat the competition, you will need to do some brainstorming for all 400 AWA questions. Any of them could appear on your GRE, so you should spend some time preparing in advance. While there are many questions possible, the good news is there are no surprises. You will be able to review all of the potential questions beforehand.

  • Analyze an Issue
  • Analyze an Argument

Skim through all of the essay questions. You are guaranteed to see one question from each section on test day, so take quick notes on each of the questions. Then go back and read each one again. Pause for a minute to ponder the topic. At least three or four ideas will probably pop into your mind; jot them down. At this point, don’t try to organize your thoughts or commit to a position.

2. Review Sample Essay Answers

We’ve provided ten sample responses for each type of essay. These will help you get a sense of the caliber of writing expected by the GRE graders.

  • There is no one “correct” response to any AWA question.
  • These essays were written in 30-45 minute periods. They represent 5-6 score essays.

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GRE Analytical Writing Practice: Free Questions, Essay Topics and Sample Papers

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Content Writer Study Abroad Exams | Updated On - Jun 28, 2024

A GRE AWA practice test the candidate’s writing skills through an essay as a response to a prompt. It is designed to help candidate’s prepare for the real test by providing candidate’s with an accurate representation of the format, questions, and timing of the GRE  AWA section. Mock tests are a valuable tool for GRE AWA preparation as they:

  • Provide familiarity with the format: GRE AWA mock tests help candidate become familiar with the format and structure of the actual AWA section, so they know what to expect on test day.
  • Improve writing skills: Regular mock tests help candidate develop and improve writing skills, including ability to articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively.
  • Practice time management: Practice writing essays within the 30-minute time limit to get a sense of how to manage candidate’s time effectively.
  • Get feedback: Have someone else read and critique candidate’s essays, providing constructive feedback on areas where they can improve.
  • Track the progress: Monitor the progress by comparing candidate’s mock test scores with previous scores. This will help to identify areas where needed to improve.

By taking regular GRE AWA mock tests,candidate’s can build confidence and become better prepared for the actual exam. Additionally, mock tests can provide valuable insights into writing strengths and weaknesses, allowing candidate’s to focus their preparation efforts on areas that need improvement.

GRE AWA Practice Tips

The GRE AWA is designed to measure ability to analyze and articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively. Here are some ways candidate’s can practice for the GRE AWA section:

  • Write practice essays: Write practice essays on the topics provided in the official GRE guidelines or find additional prompts online. This will help candidate’s get a feel for the type of topics candidate’s may encounter on the actual exam.
  • Study sample essays: Review sample essays and analysis of argument prompts, paying attention to the structure, writing style, and analysis of the arguments presented.
  • Time yourself: Practice writing essays within the 30-minute time limit to get a sense of how to manage candidate’s time effectively.
  • Use the official GRE guidelines: Follow the official GRE guidelines for the AWA section, including the format, length, and type of essays candidate’s should write.
  • Focus on clarity and organization: Make sure candidate’s essays are clear, concise, and well-organized. Writing should be easy to understand and follow a logical structure.

By consistently practicing for the GRE AWA section, candidate’s can improve their writing skills and increase chances of success on the actual exam.

GRE AWA Practice Test

GRE AWA Samples

* The article might have information for the previous academic years, which will be updated soon subject to the notification issued by the University/College.

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GRE Writing Prompts: Your Guide

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Many students preparing for test day are apprehensive about the GRE Analytical Writing essay. After all, there is no way to know exactly which GRE Writing prompts test-takers will see. So, understandably, students worry that there is no way to be fully prepared for all of the possible GRE essay topics that could pop up.

In that respect, however, GRE essay questions are no different from any other type of GRE question you may encounter. After all, you can’t predict exactly which Quant or Verbal concepts will be tested on any given GRE, or what the exact topics discussed in Reading Comprehension passages will be.

Nevertheless, there is still much we can learn about what we’ll face in GRE Quant and Verbal . And, we can still adequately prepare ourselves for whatever may come our way in those sections on test day. The same goes for GRE Writing topics. In fact, in some ways, we have even more information about what we’ll face in GRE essay prompts.

So, breathe a sigh of relief! There is plenty you can learn about the GRE essay topics, so that you go into your exam well-prepared. To help with that preparation, this article will discuss key aspects of the GRE essay prompts and Analytical Writing topics. We’ll also look at some real examples of AWA prompts.

Here is what we’ll cover:

What is gre analytical writing, how many writing prompts are on the gre, the basics of gre essay topics, gre issue topics, using the ets issue topics pool, gre issue tasks: example 1, gre issue tasks: example 2, gre writing prompts: key takeaways, what essays are on the gre, are you only given one prompt per gre essay, how long should gre essays be, can i skip writing on gre test day, is it hard to get a 4 on gre writing, is a 5.0 on gre writing good, what’s next.

To start, let’s review what the GRE Analytical Writing section consists of and what it asks you to do.

The first section you’ll see on the GRE is Analytical Writing. The GRE Analytical Assessment (AWA) prompts you to write an essay, which you have 30 minutes to complete. So, you’ll spend the first half-hour of your exam on Analytical Writing.

Your basic job in GRE Analytical Writing is to write a logically organized essay that demonstrates the following:

  • critical thinking and logical reasoning skills
  • an ability to communicate your ideas clearly and effectively
  • basic English grammar and spelling skills.

You’ll write your essay using the basic word processing program within the GRE test platform. The program features common functions such as delete , undo , cut , and paste .

However, since your own grammar and spelling skills will factor somewhat into the GRE essay scoring, the program does not feature automated spelling or grammar check.

There is no automated spelling or grammar check in GRE Analytical Writing.

Now that we know what the Analytical Writing section is, let’s discuss the basics of GRE Analytical Writing prompts. We’ll start with how many essay prompts you’ll see.

One of the first questions I hear from students who are just learning about GRE Writing prompts is, “How many essay prompts are you given on the GRE?”

Some of this confusion comes from the fact that there used to be 2 essay tasks on the GRE: Analyze an Argument and Analyze an Issue. However, as of September 22, 2023, when the new GRE test (aka the shorter GRE) was released, there is no longer an Argument task in AWA.

So, the Analytical Writing section includes only 1 essay task: the Analyze an Issue task. Let’s discuss what that task requires you to do.

In GRE Analytical Writing, there is only 1 essay task, Analyze an Issue.

The GRE Issue Essay

The Analyze an Issue task, commonly known as the GRE Issue essay, presents a statement of opinion. Your job is to write a response to that opinion.

The opinion may be presented in a single statement that is 1 or 2 sentences long. Alternatively, it may be presented as a 1-sentence “claim” followed by a 1-sentence “reason,” in which the “claim” is the opinion and the “reason” is the reasoning underlying the opinion.

In either case, following the presented opinion, there will be instructions on how to respond to it — that is, what your essay should discuss or accomplish. (We’ll look at some examples of GRE Issue essay prompts shortly.)

Importantly, whether you agree or disagree with the opinion presented in the prompt does not affect your essay score. In other words, there is no “right answer.”

Rather, you should choose whatever position allows you to craft the most logical, coherent, and convincing essay possible. Your position should demonstrate sound reasoning and analysis, and you should be able to support your position with examples.

The GRE Issue essay presents an opinion that you must respond to in your essay.

Now that we understand what the GRE Issue essay is, let’s discuss the topics GRE writing prompts involve.

Let’s start with the good news: GRE Writing topics do not require you to have particular subject matter knowledge. So, there won’t be any GRE Issue topics for which you’re at a disadvantage because you don’t have experience in a certain field of study.

All the information you need to write an effective response to a GRE Issue prompt will appear in the prompt, be common knowledge, or be things you happen to know and can use in your essay.

All the information you need to write an effective response to a GRE Issue prompt will appear in the prompt or be common or incidental knowledge you can draw upon.

That said, there are a few GRE essay themes or broad categories that GRE AWA topics tend to fall into. Let’s take a look.

Broadly speaking, topics for GRE Analytical Writing fall into a few general categories:

  • government and politics
  • society and culture
  • education and research
  • human nature

Remember, you will not need specialized knowledge of any of these GRE Issue categories. But how might GRE Issue essay prompts cover these topics? Well, a GRE Issue prompt might present an opinion about one of the following, for example:

  • a type of program that governments should or shouldn’t fund
  • a way that scientists should conduct their research
  • a procedure that colleges should follow to benefit their students
  • the effect of certain technologies on some aspect of society.

Of course, those are just a few examples. You’ll be happy to know that, regardless of the topic covered or how it’s covered, the opinions presented in GRE Writing prompts will not be expressed in highly technical terms or using obscure references.

Rather, they will be much like opinions you might hear during routine conversations with friends or colleagues, hear on a podcast or opinion segment on the news, or read in a newspaper editorial.

GRE essay themes include government and politics, society and culture, education and research, technology, and human nature.

Now, let’s explore an often-discussed subject among students investigating the GRE essay topics: the ETS Pool of Issue Topics.

The GRE Published Pool of Topics

You may be surprised to learn that the ETS writing prompts that can appear on the GRE are publicly available. In other words, there is a list of possible essay questions for GRE General Tests. This list is called the Pool of Issue Topics, and it features actual GRE Analytical Writing prompts that have in the past and could in the future appear on the test. You can view the GRE Issue essay topic pool PDF online here .

Now, when some people hear that a list of GRE essay topics is readily available online, they make it their mission to pore over every inch of that list. Here’s the thing: there are dozens of sample GRE essay questions in the Pool of Issue Topics. (In total, the GRE essay topics pool is nearly 40 pages long.) So, it is neither practical nor necessary to read through all of the GRE AWA writing prompts in order to be prepared for test day.

Furthermore, it is certainly a waste of your time to attempt to memorize the AWA sample prompts. For one, the wording you see in prompts in the GRE Writing Issue Pool may vary slightly in prompts on your actual exam.

Secondly, you’ll need to carefully read the prompt you see on test day regardless of how many GRE sample prompts you’ve read before. So, please don’t make the mistake of spending your valuable study time trying to commit the GRE list of essay topics to memory.

Let’s discuss how you should use the GRE Issue Pool.

You may be wondering how to most effectively make use of having so many sample GRE Issue topics at your fingertips. First, it is worthwhile to read through some of the prompts in ETS’s GRE Pool of Issue Topics to get a feel for how GRE essay prompts are worded and the ways they cover topics.

Then, as your GRE essay practice in preparation for test day, you should randomly select a few sample GRE essay questions to write responses to. Before you write those practice essays, you may want to check out these GRE writing examples , which feature sample essay responses with scores and reader commentary. You also may want to have a look at the GRE scoring rubric for Analytical Writing , to see the essay characteristics that are associated with different scores.

Now, let me make one important point clear: it is not a wise use of your time to attempt to write responses to every prompt in the GRE Analytical Writing pool, for the following 3 reasons:

  • You do not need anywhere near such a large amount of practice to be able to write a high-scoring GRE essay. So, in writing so many practice essays, you will waste valuable study time you need for other sections of the test.
  • You will burn yourself out on essay-writing by the time test day rolls around.
  • After writing so many essays, even if you recognize the prompt you see on test day, you almost certainly will not remember how you responded to it in your practice essay.

Practice writing responses to a few GRE Writing sample prompts from the ETS Issue Pool online, but don’t go overboard.

Now, let’s look at a couple of GRE Writing prompt samples from the ETS Issue Pool.

Example GRE Essay Questions

To get a feel for what to expect in the Analytical Writing section, let’s review a couple of example essay questions from the GRE Writing Issue Pool. You can find these GRE essay examples in the PDF linked above.

Some people believe that the purpose of education is to free the mind and the spirit. Others believe that formal education tends to restrain our minds and spirits rather than set them free.

Write a response in which you discuss which view more closely aligns with your own position and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should address both of the views presented.

Notice the format of the question: first, an opinion is presented. Below that opinion, we see a few italicized lines of instructions on how to respond to the presented opinion. This format is standard for GRE Issue essay prompts.

Notice also that, while we can say that the topic of the prompt is “education,” a test-taker would not need any particular knowledge of education practices or policies in order to write an effective response.

In other words, a person of any background can form an opinion about the “purpose of education.” Forming that opinion does not require having specialized knowledge or training.

Let’s look at another example from the GRE list of essay topics.

Leaders are created by the demands that are placed on them.

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.

Notice that the language in the instructions in the prompt above is similar in some ways to that in the first prompt, though not exactly the same. If you scan the GRE Writing examples in the ETS Issue pool, you’ll notice some common language among many of the prompts.

However, there are several variations of instructions that could appear in GRE Issue prompts. So, it’s imperative that you always read the instructions in a prompt very carefully. It would be a mistake to skim or read only part way through a prompt because you recognize the wording, and thus assume you know what the instructions are asking you to do.

Always read through the entirety of the instructions in a GRE essay prompt, even if the instructions look similar to ones you’ve seen before!

Now that we’ve done some GRE practice writing prompts, let’s wrap up with the key takeaways from this article and answer some common questions about GRE Analytical Writing.

  • GRE Analytical Writing is the first section you’ll see on your test.
  • The Analytical Writing section features 1 essay prompt, Analyze an Issue, which you have 30 minutes to complete.
  • Your essay should demonstrate critical thinking and logical reasoning skills, clear and effective communication of your ideas, and basic English grammar and spelling skills.
  • The GRE Issue essay presents a 1-2 sentence opinion that you must respond to. Whether your response agrees or disagrees with the presented opinion does not affect your essay score.
  • You do not need specialized subject knowledge to effectively respond to GRE essay prompts.
  • The pool of Issue topics GRE tests can feature is available online. That list features actual ETS GRE Writing prompts.
  • Review and practice some of the example GRE essay questions in the ETS Issue Pool to get accustomed to GRE essay challenges and refine your GRE writing strategies.
  • Do not attempt to memorize all of the GRE Issue essay prompts or determine how to address each GRE Writing question in the topic pool.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Let’s answer a few common questions about GRE Analytical Writing.

As of September 22, 2023, there is 1 essay task on the GRE, the Analyze an Issue task.

There is only 1 prompt per GRE essay. So, you will see only 1 prompt on any given GRE test.

There is no minimum or maximum word count required for the GRE essay. So, conceivably, you could write a high-scoring essay that is 350 words or one that is 600 words. There is no magic number.

That said, in order to effectively develop and support your ideas in a well-organized essay, you’ll need an intro and a conclusion paragraph, plus 2 or 3 paragraphs in between to present and elaborate on your main points. So, we’re looking at a 4-5 paragraph essay.

Now, each paragraph does not have to be overly long; good GRE essays should certainly prioritize quality over quantity. But, in many cases, you may find that 400 words is not quite enough to properly respond to a GRE essay prompt.

Think about it: a 4-paragraph essay (the minimum you’ll need) that is 500 words is only 125 words per paragraph. Those aren’t very long paragraphs!

So, shoot for quality over quantity, but realize that in general, you may need more like 500-600 words to write a cohesive and complete GRE essay.

For the vast majority of GRE test-takers, the answer to this question will be NO. Most graduate schools want applicants submitting GRE scores to have taken the entire GRE, not just parts of it.

So, unless you’ve confirmed that your desired programs don’t consider Writing scores, you should absolutely complete the Analytical Writing section.

For more on this topic, check out our article on the importance of the Analytical Writing score .

A 4.0 is currently a 56th percentile score in GRE Analytical Writing. Note that the mean GRE writing score is currently just under 3.6. So, a 4.0 is slightly better than average. And, generally speaking, schools consider 4.0 a “good” score, though of course each program will have its own standards.

In any case, considering that nearly half of all people who take the GRE are able to score 4.0 or higher on Analytical Writing, I’d say that it isn’t particularly hard to earn that score.

Of course, if you don’t do any Analytical Writing preparation, or you go into your exam without writing strategies in place, scoring 4.0 could be quite hard. So, the answer to whether any particular score on the GRE is “hard” to earn will always be somewhat relative.

A 5.0 is currently a 91st percentile score in GRE Analytical Writing and is generally considered an excellent score. After all, that score would put you in the top 10% of all GRE test-takers.

To read more about how graduate schools view different Writing scores (and other GRE section scores), check out our article on what a good GRE score is .

Looking for GRE essay templates and expert AWA preparation tips and rhetorical strategies? The Target Test Prep GRE Course fully prepares you to dominate any GRE essay question you see on test day. Check out the course for 5 days for just $1 !

You also may be interested in these strategies for combating boredom in Reading Comprehension and these myths about the GRE Verbal section .

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GRE AWA Sample Essays: Analytical Writing Examples

GRE AWA format

The GRE analytical writing sample essays serve as a guide to tackle different topics asked in the GRE exam. You will find GRE AWA sample essays along with topics, scoring guides and preparation tips for both issue and argument essays on the official GRE website. But how to use them wisely and score high in this section?

The first step is to have an in-depth understanding of the GRE AWA essays, and everything related to them. This is what this blog is all about. Here we have discussed the meaning and importance of AWA GRE samples and their nitty-gritty to kickstart your preparation.

What are types of GRE AWA Essays?

As it has been mentioned earlier, the AWA essays of the GRE are divided into two parts: Issue and Argument essays. Both these GRE essay examples 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. 

You will be given 30 minutes for each of the essays. The GRE analytical writing samples for each essay need to be approved differently. Hence it is important to have a clear understanding and solve several AWA GRE samples before appearing for your actual test. Moreover, rigorous practice is a crucial part of GRE preparation . 

Suggested: What is GRE Syllabus 2023?

Now let us dive deeper into the types of GRE AWA essays and some GRE analytical writing sample essays:

GRE Issue Essay Samples

The GRE issue essay 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 can be seen and analyzed from different perspectives and is applicable to multiple situations or conditions. 

GRE issue sample essays from the official GRE website is mentioned below:

  • 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 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.

  • Society should make efforts to save endangered species only if the potential extinction of those species is the result of human activities.

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.

In such GRE AWA sample essays, you must discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement. Your responses may either be strong agreement or strong disagreement, a qualified agreement or even a qualified disagreement. Whatever your opinion is, it must be supported by valid reasons. 

Suggested: GRE Issue Essay Preparation Tips

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GRE Argument Essay Samples

The GRE argument essay 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. 

There are several GRE argument essay samples on the GRE website. Some of them is mentioned below:

  • The following is part of a memorandum from the president of Humana University.

"Last year the number of students who enrolled in online degree programs offered by nearby Omni University increased by 50 percent. During the same year, Omni showed a significant decrease from prior years in expenditures for dormitory and

classroom space, most likely because online instruction takes place via the Internet. In contrast, over the past three years, enrollment at Humana University has failed to grow and the cost of maintaining buildings has increased. Thus, to increase

enrollment and solve the problem of budget deficits at Humana University, we should initiate and actively promote online degree programs like those at Omni."

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

  • The vice president of human resources at Climpson Industries sent the following recommendation to the company's president.

"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.

  • The following is a letter to the head of the tourism bureau on the island of Tria.

"Erosion of beach sand along the shores of Tria Island is a serious threat to our island and our tourist industry. In order to stop the erosion, we should charge people for using the beaches. Although this solution may annoy a few tourists in the short term, it will raise money for replenishing the sand. Replenishing the sand, as was done to protect buildings on the nearby island of Batia, will help protect buildings along our shores, thereby reducing these buildings' risk of additional

damage from severe storms. And since beaches and buildings in the area will be preserved, Tria's tourist industry will improve over the long term."

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.

Here you are required to examine the argument's stated and/or unstated assumptions and analyze if the assumptions prove unwarranted. Your response must discuss both the argument's assumptions as well as the implications of the assumptions for the argument. 

Tips to Use GRE AWA Sample Essays

The GRE AWA sample essays with answers available on the GRE official website are beneficial in polishing your preparation and tracking your overall progress to determine your GRE scores later. But you must equally be keen enough to use those GRE essay examples to your maximum advantage. Let us see how:

  • Always start by skimming through the well-scored GRE analytical writing sample essays. 
  • Try to observe the body of the essay, the flow of sentences, etc., to get an idea of how to structure your essay. 
  • Carefully go through the GRE AWA sample answers to understand how to put forward your viewpoints.
  • Emphasize the areas with which you struggle the most. With extra effort in going through GRE AWA sample essays, you will gain the much-needed expertise to tackle GRE AWA topics .

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With Yocket’s GRE Prep platform you can get hold of a whole lot of things - FREE mock & diagnostic tests , FREE resources , more than 40 personalised difficulty-level subject practice tests with instant performance report and detailed solutions, and much much more! 

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  • Instant solutions and performance analysis based on your diagnostic tests
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So, that was all about GRE AWA sample essays and the ways to use them in polishing your GRE essay writing skills. For better performance and score in this section, it is advisable to start your preparation in advance. For any guidance and assistance, do get in touch with our counselors at Yocket . 

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Frequently Asked Questions About GRE AWA Sample Essays

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Gre prep online guides and tips, gre issue essay: 4 steps to a perfect score.

gre essay sample questions

Of all the different kinds of questions on the GRE, the GRE Issue essay question can seem like the most daunting to answer completely correctly. Instead of choosing from a selection of already-made answers or filling in a numerical solution, you must write hundreds of words in an attempt to fulfill rubric criteria, knowing that there is no one right answer to the question.

To help make this Herculean task more manageable, we’ll go over the Issue essay GRE rubric in depth and offer our top GRE Issue essay tips to help you score highly every time.

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Do You Need a 6 GRE Writing Score?

In general, your GRE Writing score is the least important of your GRE scores. No grad school will require you to get a 6.0 on the essay. A 4.5 is a good GRE writing score for most schools and programs, regardless of the discipline. Even programs that have cutoff scores for writing-heavy programs, like UNC’s Media & Journalism graduate degrees , don’t require anything above a 4.5.

If you’re looking to emphasize your writing skills (for example, if you’re an international student whose first language is not English and you want to show that you can write well in English), a higher score (5.0+) can help. However, even in those instances, a perfect 6.0 score isn’t going to be necessary.

Some doctoral programs, like Harvard’s Education Ph.D. , might have higher average scores, but that’s a function of the students applying being strong writers (which you have to be to make it to the doctoral level), rather than the program itself requiring certain scores. For Ph.D. programs, you’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate your analytical thinking skills in other ways that are weighted more heavily than your GRE Analytical Writing score.

Learn more about what you’ll need to get into grad school with our article on grad school requirements !

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What Goes Into a 6-Scoring GRE Issue Essay?

The best way to determine what is needed for a perfect Issue essay score is to take a look at the official rubric and go over how the human essay grader is rating your essay.

To show the differences between a passable Issue essay and a perfect Issue essay, I’ve created a side-by-side comparison of the criteria for a 4-scoring and 6-scoring Issue essay on the GRE.

In addressing the specific task directions, a 4 response presents a competent analysis of the issue and conveys meaning with acceptable clarity. In addressing the specific task directions, a 6 response presents a cogent, well-articulated analysis of the issue and conveys meaning skillfully. The 6 essay provides a logical and precise analysis of the issue. Rather than being merely clear in its meaning (as the 4 essay is), a 6 essay is insightful and richer in its explanations.
Presents a clear position on the issue in accordance with the assigned task. Articulates a clear and insightful position on the issue in accordance with the assigned task. Both essays include a clear thesis, but the thesis of a 6 essay demonstrates a deep understanding of the issue and discusses its complexities and/or implications.
Develops the position with relevant reasons and/or examples. Develops the position fully with compelling reasons and/or persuasive examples. A 4 essay provides relevant support for its position, while a 6 essay provides comprehensive support that is not only relevant, but also persuades the reader to the position of the essay.
Is adequately focused and organized. Sustains a well-focused, well-organized analysis, connecting ideas logically. A 6 essay is not only organized, but the organization enhances the logic and precision of the essay, while a 4 essay is only organized adequately enough not to detract from the essay.
Demonstrates sufficient control of language to express ideas with acceptable clarity. Generally demonstrates control of the conventions of standard written English, but may have some errors. Conveys ideas fluently and precisely, using effective vocabulary and sentence variety. Demonstrates superior facility with the conventions of standard written English (i.e., grammar, usage and mechanics), but may have minor errors. A 4 essay is clear enough, while a 6 essay is written extremely well. If you want a 6, you’ll need to vary your sentence structure and use advanced vocabulary accurately and appropriately.

To summarize the information above, a perfect 6 Issue essay:

  • Must make sense logically
  • Must be precise in its discussion of the issue and the author’s stance on the issue
  • Must include support for the author’s position that persuades the reader to the author’s point of view
  • Must be organized and flow smoothly from idea to idea
  • Must be well-written

In order to achieve a perfect score on the Issue essay, you must excel in every one of these areas.

body_excelatessay

Official GRE Issue Essay Example, Analyzed

Now we’ll take a look at a sample GRE Issue essay that’s already been assigned a score of 6 and find all the ways in which it fulfills the rubric. Doing this analysis will help show how the rubric is applied by taking the abstract criteria and showing concrete examples.

For the purposes of this analysis, we’ll be using excerpts from this officially-scored essay . Here’s the prompt the essay is addressing:

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 sample essay we’ll be discussing argues against this statement, taking the position that rather than fearing technology will make human thinking obsolete, we should embrace the possibilities and human potential unlocked by technology.

I’ll next go over how each of the rubric criteria applies to this particular sample essay. The first item in the rubric is a holistic description of a perfect-scoring GRE Issue essay:

Rubric description : In addressing the specific task directions, a 6 response presents a cogent, well-articulated analysis of the issue and conveys meaning skillfully

This item is meant to be an umbrella under which the next four criteria can fall; if an essay meets each of the four non-general criteria listed in the rubric, then it will exemplify this holistic description. The above description is also useful as a catchall reminder of what a perfect-scoring essay should look like, since essay graders aren’t necessarily going through the rubric item-by-item for each essay.

body_essaygraderportrait

The first of the non-general rubric items has to do with how well an author makes her point of view clear throughout the essay.

Rubric description : A 6 essay articulates a clear and insightful position on the issue in accordance with the assigned task

The sample essay successfully meets this requirement in a couple of different ways. In the essay, the author’s position on the issue (a counterargument to the prompt) is articulated in a series of logical steps over the course of the entire essay as well as in a final thesis statement.

Starting with the acknowledgement that “technology has revolutionized the world” in the first paragraph, the author goes on to make the argument that “reliance on technology does not necessarily preclude the creativity that marks the human species” (paragraph three), demonstrating a firm grasp of the issue through a nuanced, rather than absolute, position.

With each succeeding paragraph, the author continues to develop her position on the issue with clarity and insight. The author expands the initial argument to claim that “technology frees the human imagination” (paragraph four) and “By increasing our reliance on technology, impossible goals can now be achieved” (paragraph five).

The author’s final statement on the issue condenses the author’s point of view into a single sentence: “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.” This last sentence is not only the logical conclusion to the author’s clearly stated position, but is in itself a clear statement of the author’s position.

body_technologyforthefuture

The next rubric item is concerned with how well an author develops and supports her points.

Rubric description : A 6 essay develops the position fully with compelling reasons and/or persuasive examples

As I noted in the discussion of the first rubric description, the author’s basic position in this essay is that we should not fear technology because it is new and unknown, but instead embrace it because of the possibilities it offers for our future. In addition to developing her position through an insightful position articulated through the essay, however, the author also does an excellent job of supporting her points with examples and reasoning. Here’s an excerpt from the essay that illustrates this development and support:

“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.”

In the above excerpt, the author develops her point with three actions:

#1: She presents examples to support her point that efficiency is enabled by technology (car, computer, and phone).

#2: She explains what the existence of these examples implies (efficiency doesn’t mean lack of thinking).

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#3: She follows up with further reasoning about new issues created by technology (technology means humans can tackle new problems, including new issues created by technology). This reasoning is then backed up by more examples (cars and increasing energy demand), starting the cycle over again.

The examples and reasoning the author employs in her essay are compelling not just because they are logically consistent with the author’s argument, but because they are explained in a way that makes this link clear. If the author has said “In fact, technology frees humanity to not only tackle new problems, but may itself create new issues that did not exist without technology. An example of this is the automobile and increasing energy demands because of it,” the examples would have still been present, but not explained in a compelling or persuasive way.

body_automobile

The third non-general rubric item drills down even deeper into the logic of the author’s writing and analysis.

Rubric description : A 6 essay sustains a well-focused, well-organized analysis, connecting ideas logically

While with the previous rubric item I discussed the necessity of having a logical connection between the author’s position and the support for that position, this item refers to the author’s skill in connecting different ideas throughout the essay.

In addition to having a logical progression of the analysis (which is captured under the first rubric item to some extent as well), a perfect-scoring Issue essay must also have logical transitions between ideas . A good example of this occurs in this essay in the transition between the end of paragraph two and the beginning of paragraph three:

“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 first sentence of paragraph three (“However…species”) connects the ideas of paragraphs two and three. The author forges a link between the two ideas by restating the last-discussed idea from paragraph two (technology does take away some problems) in a way that sets up the idea to be discussed in the next paragraph (reliance on technology doesn’t mean humans won’t think for themselves). Specifically, the author does this by using a transition word (“However”) to link a reference to previously discussed ideas (“this reliance on technology”) with a reference to what’s coming next (“technology does not necessarily preclude creativity”).

The tightness of the logical connection between the two paragraphs and ideas also means that the essay stays organized and focused on the task at hand (presenting the author’s position on and analysis of the issue).

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The last rubric item assesses the writer’s overall skill in use of language and standard, error-free English.

Rubric description : A 6 essay conveys ideas fluently and precisely, using effective vocabulary and sentence variety. Demonstrates superior facility with the conventions of standard written English (i.e., grammar, usage and mechanics), but may have minor errors.

This final set of criteria has less to do with the topic being discussed and more on the writer’s ability to indicate precise meaning through appropriate use of language. The final sentence of the essay provides a good example of this:

“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.”

This sentence uses effective language (Luddite, avenues of human imagination) that precisely conveys meaning. For instance, “Luddite” is a term that is generally used to mean resistance to technology, but more specifically has its origins in a group of people who were worried about what advances in technology meant for human workers, so it is particularly appropriate for this essay about the effects of technology on human abilities.

Another reason I chose to use this excerpt is because while the author uses effective language, there are still some minor errors (as the rubric description allows for). In this sentence, “but rather” is used incorrectly because it refers back to the subject “There,” which makes no sense with the “but rather” phrase. One correct way to say this would be, “ We should not retreat into a Luddite attitude toward new things, but rather embrace a hopeful posture to the possibilities that technology provides for new avenues of human imagination.”

In a way, this rubric area is the “icing on a cake” domain—you can have a reasonably clear and insightful essay without a high level of skill in this domain, but if you don’t use language skillfully your cake of an essay is not going to taste as good and won’t score a perfect score. And if you try to load your essay with advanced vocabulary words without care for whether or not they make sense in context, you’ll end up with lumpy frosting that makes the cake worse than it would’ve been without the icing.

Don't let your words be the uneven frosting on the delicious banana cake of your essay! Tim Pierce/Flickr

4 Steps to a Perfect GRE Issue Essay

As a summing-up of all the information in this article, I’ll go over the four essential GRE Issue essay tips to reliably achieve a high score.

#1: Include a Clear Thesis

To fulfill the basic requirements of any GRE Issue essay task, you need to make your position on the issue clear . The easiest way to do this is with an introduction paragraph , or at the very least an introductory sentence at the beginning of your first paragraph, that outlines the issue and where you stand on it.

There is no explicit requirement on the rubric that you include an introduction and conclusion in your essay, and in fact ETS encourages students to be as freeform as fits the topic and task at hand. However, if you don’t start your essay with some kind of introduction and wrap up your points at the end with some kind of conclusion, you run the risk of being unclear about your position. Not only can this be a problem for the reader, but without a clear thesis statement at the beginning of your essay to keep you focused, you may find yourself meandering off topic, resulting in a disorganized and inconsistent essay.

Thus, we strongly recommend beginning your essay with at least an introductory sentence and wrapping it up with a conclusion statement. You don’t have to have entire paragraphs devoted to each, but it is useful to bracket your essay between an introduction and conclusion to keep your thesis front and center.

Keep your position as clear as possible in your essay. bazzadarambler/Flickr

#2: Preplan Opinions and Examples

ETS has published all prompts it will ever use for GRE Analytical Writing, which in the case of the Issue essay comes out to 152 unique topic/task combinations. Now, obviously it’s not feasible to write a practice essay for every one of the 152 possible Issue essays and memorize it in preparation for the test. On the other hand, it is very possible to prepare some examples and evidence ahead of time , as long as these examples and pieces of evidence are flexible enough to be useful for multiple different prompts.

Start by reading through the complete list of Issue essay prompts and noting any common themes. Some examples of topics that seem to come up again and again in GRE Issue prompts are the roles of government and public officials, the role of technology in our lives, and the role of education and teachers.

Practice forming opinions about subsets of these topics and thinking of evidence that can be used to support those opinions. You very likely already have opinions about some of these things already, like the role of technology in education, or the importance of government support for research. To prepare for the Issue essay on the GRE, however, it’s not enough to just have opinions – you need to be able to back up your claims and point of view with evidence or reasoning.

For instance, let’s say my pre-planned opinion is that humans relying on technology to solve problems has resulted in humans being able to think for themselves even better than before. In order for this position to be worth anything in a GRE essay, though, it needs to be backed up by reasoning or evidence.

For this particular case, then, I might preplan the evidence that the expansion in size and complexity of the human brain’s cerebral cortex occurred around the same time as humans began to use tools, which could suggest that as humans relied more on tools (technology), their brains actually had to become bigger and better at thinking than before. I could also choose to preplan reasoning to back up my point, like the fact that relying on technology to solve smaller problems pushes us to use our thinking to attack larger scale issues, whether philosophical or practical.

Even if prompts on the role of technology, or on other topics you’ve practice explaining support for, don’t show up when you take the test, you’ll be better equipped to tackle the GRE Issue essay because of your experience explaining how evidence supports your point . You’ll also likely be able to use at least one or two of the examples you’ve been writing about, even if you have to explain their support of your point of view in a different way than you’ve practiced.

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#3: Analyze Sample Essays

Scour the sample essays ETS has publicly released to understand at a deep level what is required for a 6-scoring GRE Issue essay. In addition to the essay briefly discussed in this article, perfect-scoring sample Issue essays can also be found in chapters 8 and 9 of The Official Guide to the GRE revised General Test (2nd Ed.) .

To get the most out of these exemplars of perfect essay scores, you should analyze these sample essays using the scoring rubric. Use the points we focused on above in the 4-vs.-6 rubric score comparison and the sample Issue essay breakdown as guidance to find specific ways the sample essays fulfill the rubric scoring guidelines. The essays in the Official GRE Guide also include reader commentary on the essays, which are good sources of further insight into the thought processes of essay raters.

The goal of performing these analyses of sample high-scoring GRE essays is for you to understand what makes the essays high-scoring and then be able to replicate this high level of essay writing in your own Issue essay on the GRE. This doesn’t mean that you should copy the exact words or phrases from the essays (that’s plagiarism, which is both wrong and against the GRE’s code of conduct), but it does mean you should observe the ways other students have successfully met the rubric requirements.

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#4: Leave Time to Revise Your Work

Sadly, the word processor you’ll use on the GRE has no autocorrect, no spellcheck, and no grammar check. Since you’re trying to type as much as possible in a timed situation, it’s very likely you’ll make some errors.

It’s fine to make a few small mistakes on your essay as long as the typos or other mistakes don’t make your essay difficult to understand. If there are systematic typos or grammatical errors, however, that will have a negative effect on your score , because it will obscure your logic and make it more difficult for the graders (human and computer) to understand your thinking.

Example 1: No editing, systematic errors

Choosing a college major based on the avilablility of jobs in the field is a foolish endaevor at best. There’s no guarantee that Just because there are a lot of positions open in the field when you choose your undergraduate major, it doesn’t necessarily follow: this will continue ot be the case after you graduate from college, or even when you’re looking for a job.

Example 2: Edited, minor errors remaining

Choosing a college based on the availability of jobs in the field is a foolish endaevor at best. Just because there are a lot of positions open in the field when you choose your undergraduate major, it doesn’t necessarily follow that this will continue ot be the case after you graduate from college, or even when you’re looking for a job.

OER Africa/Flickr

What’s Next?

After reading this article, you’ve gained some clarity on what kind of GRE Writing score you need to succeed, but how well do you need to do on the other sections of the test? Learn what makes a good (or a bad) GRE score with this article .

Looking to get more clarity into the whole essay-scoring process? We have a guide to how the GRE essay is scored that explains it from start to finish, including how computerized grading plays into your essay score.

Want even more in-depth analyses of high-scoring GRE essays? Then be sure to check out our article analyzing perfect- and high-scoring Issue and Argument essays .

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

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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 Issue Essay: Strategies + 8 Real Student Essays with Scores

The content in this post applies in 2024 to the new, shorter GRE!

When you sit down at the computer on test day, the very first thing you’ll encounter is the GRE AWA Issue essay. For a lot of test-takers, this will feel daunting. But not you! In this article, Magoosh’s experts will guide you through the most important steps in attacking the analyze an issue task. 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.

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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

So, what do you need to do for the GRE AWA Issue essay? Well, your goal is to read 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 AWA portion of the GRE.

Review the Topic Pool

First, because the prompts are drawn from GRE’s published pool of Issue Essay topics , a bit of research will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of subject matter and presentation. Don’t try memorize all of them! There’s far too many. But! Do spend time browsing the topics and thinking about how to approach them.

Plan of Attack

Second, come up with a plan to navigate the GRE “analyze an issue” task. Not sure where to start? We can help! Here’s an example of a tried and true process for high-scoring essays that you can use to address any Issue task:

  • Read the directions carefully
  • Brainstorm and outline pros and cons
  • Choose a side
  • Select a concession point
  • Be sure to leave around two minutes for proofreading and editing

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Top 5 GRE Analyze an Issue Task Strategies

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 AWA Issue essay.

1. Be Organized

Even an impassioned, cogent response falls apart if it is not bundled into a proper essay format: An introduction, a few body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

2. Focus Your Paragraphs

The Introduction The Intro paragraph has a very limited purpose: The Intro should only introduce the topic and present a clearly defined thesis statement. The thesis will indicate your position on the issue. Your stance should be just 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 The 2-3 body paragraphs make up the bulk of analyzing the issue and should focus on using examples (ideally one per body paragraph) to develop and support your thesis. Make sure you use appropriate transitions and that your sentences link together cohesively so that by the end of each body paragraph you have persuasively—and clearly—shown how your examples supports your thesis.

The Conclusion The conclusion should be very short. In fact, it should only be a few sentences that recap your thesis and supporting points.

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. A constant stream of noun followed by verb followed by adjective implies that you are a hesitant writer. You don’t want the overall impression your essay leaves on the graders to be 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 and vague. Let’s say you are addressing this prompt: “Knowledge can sometimes be used for destructive ends.” Stating that “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 technology to hurt us.”

5. Stay On Topic

Perhaps the most important point (lest you wonder why you received a ‘1’ on your essay) is to keep your essay on topic. Imagine you had to respond to 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!  

Now, it’s time to take a look at how sample essays meet (or fail to meet) the above 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.

Student Essay

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 sensitivities, 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.

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 and a few more essay examples, pull up a blank document, and get practicing!

Also, you can now sign up for Magoosh Premium Plan today to access our AI Expert Tutor that will grade your essay and give pointers on how to improve your score.

Chris Lele

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 .

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49 responses to “GRE Issue Essay: Strategies + 8 Real Student Essays with Scores”

Supatat Hovanotayan Avatar

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

Magoosh Expert

Hi Supatat,

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.

Akshata Lolayekar Avatar

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

Hi Akshata,

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. 🙂

Bayenah Al-shami Avatar

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.

Joe Bouzide Avatar

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?

Thanks, Joe

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 🙂

Mursal Rabb Avatar

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.

http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/analytical_writing/issue/sample_responses

Avinash Avatar

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.

Meredith Avatar

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.

Hi Meredith,

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! 🙂

Lid Avatar

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! 🙂

Alyssa Avatar

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 🙂

Davut Avatar

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. 🙂

Laura Avatar

Oppenheimer used nuclear fission, not fusion. 🙂 The GRE grader do not care if your facts are correct, though.

Alex Avatar

Dear Chris,

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.

Chris Lele

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!

Cornelia Avatar

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!

Holing Avatar

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. 🙂

Karishma Avatar

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?

Margarette Jung

Hi, Karishma

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! 🙂

Best, Margarette

Thanks Margarette!!

Hashim Avatar

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”

Kevin Rocci

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. 🙂

Happy Studying!

Lara Avatar

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! 🙂

Marcel Avatar

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.

Asma Maladwala Avatar

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 :).

Veronica Avatar

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

Verónica Avatar

Thanks for your quick response!

J Avatar

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.

emma Avatar

whats e-rater technology, mentioned by J, Chris??

Muhammad Usama Khan Avatar

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 :).

Bhavin Parikh

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.

typeR Avatar

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 :).

IMAGES

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  1. GRE Essay Prompts

    The GRE Analytical Writing section requires you to write two essays—one will be an analysis of an issue and the other will be an analysis of an argument. You will have 30 minutes for each essay. Try your hand at these GRE essay prompts, and read our explanations for what makes a great GRE essay. We pulled these sample questions from our book ...

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    Before taking the GRE General Test, review the strategies, sample topics, sample essay responses with rater commentary, and scoring guide for the task. This will give you a deeper understanding of how raters evaluate essays and the elements they're looking for in an essay. It is important to budget your time.

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    PrepScholar GRE is entirely online, and it customizes your prep program to your strengths and weaknesses. We also feature 2,000 practice questions, official practice tests, 150 hours of interactive lessons, and 1-on-1 scoring and feedback on your AWA essays. Check out our 5-day free trial now:

  4. PDF Sample Responses and Reader Commentaries for Analytical Writing Prompts

    There are responses and scoring comments for essays with scores of 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. Note: Sample responses are reproduced exactly as written, including misspellings, wrong choice of words, typographical and grammatical errors, etc., if any. The following sample issue response received a score of 6: Passion is clearly necessary for a truly ...

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  9. PDF GRE Practice Test 1 Writing Responses 18 point

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  11. GRE Issue Essay: Practice Sample Prompts

    GRE Issue Essay Sample Prompt #1. 1. The emergence of the online "blogosphere" and social media has significantly weakened the quality of political discourse in the United States. Reason: When anyone can publish political opinions easily, standards for covering news and political topics will inevitably decline.

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    GRE Analytical Writing Essay Scoring Process. Your GRE essays will be scored by half-point increments, from 0 to 6 (highest). Two graders will score both this argument essay and your issue essay. A third grader will also score your essays if your two initial graders' scores differ by more than one point. The graders base scores on their ...

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  16. GRE General Test Analytical Writing Analyze an Argument Task

    To get a clearer idea of how GRE raters apply the Argument scoring criteria to actual essays, you should review scored sample Argument essay responses and rater commentary. The sample responses, particularly those at 5 and 6 score levels, will show you a variety of successful strategies for organizing and developing an insightful evaluation.

  17. GRE Analytical Writing Practice: Questions, Essay Topics and Sample Papers

    A GRE AWA practice test the candidate's writing skills through an essay as a response to a prompt. It is designed to help candidate's prepare for the real test by providing candidate's with an accurate representation of the format, questions, and timing of the GRE AWA section. Mock tests are a valuable tool for GRE AWA preparation as they:

  18. GRE Writing Prompts

    A 4.0 is currently a 56th percentile score in GRE Analytical Writing. Note that the mean GRE writing score is currently just under 3.6. So, a 4.0 is slightly better than average. And, generally speaking, schools consider 4.0 a "good" score, though of course each program will have its own standards.

  19. Prepare for the GRE General Test

    Prepare to Take the GRE General Test with Confidence. Official GRE prep is the best prep. We offer a variety of free and low-cost tools to help you prepare for the GRE General Test so you can feel more confident on test day. To learn about the test and our test preparation tools directly from a GRE expert, sign up for a free virtual event.

  20. GRE AWA Sample Essays: Analytical Writing Examples

    There are several GRE argument essay samples on the GRE website. Some of them is mentioned below: The following is part of a memorandum from the president of Humana University. "Last year the number of students who enrolled in online degree programs offered by nearby Omni University increased by 50 percent.

  21. GRE Issue Essay: 4 Steps to a Perfect Score • PrepScholar GRE

    Scour the sample essays ETS has publicly released to understand at a deep level what is required for a 6-scoring GRE Issue essay. In addition to the essay briefly discussed in this article, perfect-scoring sample Issue essays can also be found in chapters 8 and 9 of The Official Guide to the GRE revised General Test (2nd Ed.) .

  22. GRE Issue Essay: Strategies + 8 Real Student Essays with Scores

    Score: 5.5. 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.

  23. PDF Sample GRE ® Issue Task with Strategies, Sample Essay Responses and

    Here is a sample Issue task that you might encounter on the GRE Analytical Writing measure: 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 ...