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How to Write a Good GRE Issue Essay


The GRE analytical writing measure is a component of the GRE designed to test your writing, reasoning and analytical skills. Thirty minutes of this test is reserved for writing a response to a particular issue during which you address your thoughts on the issue, state whether you agree with any recommendations provided in the writing prompt or analyze a policy. Test graders aren't testing you to see whether you come up with the right answer; you'll be graded on how well you develop and defend your ideas.

Sketch a brief outline of your essay detailing the main points you want to address.

Craft a thesis for your essay that gives a clear argument and directly answers the question posed in the test. For example, state clearly that you agree or disagree with the solution proposed and then give your most significant reason why. Take a strong stand on a topic rather than arguing both sides of it.

Outline your arguments or analysis in each paragraph of the essay, addressing a specific sub-point of your argument. Give each paragraph a mini-thesis. Ensure that all content in your essay relates to and supports the thesis. Give specific, concrete examples whenever possible; you don't need to cite facts and figures, but you can cite real-world historical examples.

Close your essay with a conclusion that emphasizes your primary thesis and outlines any future actions. For example, if you're discussing the death penalty, you could close your essay by making policy recommendations based upon your central argument.

Check your essay for grammar and spelling, if you have any remaining time. Replace any passive voice or passive sentence construction with strong, declarative sentences that make your positions clear.

Tip
  • Practice writing issue essays in a quiet room -- timed for 30 minutes -- several times before you take the test. Being prepared for test-taking conditions and time constraints can help you write a better essay.
About the Author

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.

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