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GRE Essays

Updated March 04, 2010

The GRE contains 3 sections: The Quantitative Section, the Verbal Section, and the Analytical Writing Section

Analytical Writing

The Analytical Writing Section contains 2 essays which are meant to test your critical and analytical thinking skills, and your ability to communicate opinions and thoughts in English writing. This section always appears on the GRE as the first section.

GRE essays are written on computers using a special word processing program, like Microsoft Word or Notepad, but without fancy spellcheck or other functions. You need to rely on your own skills here.

What do you have to do?

The Analytical Writing Section contains 2 different tasks you have to complete:

Issue Task – You get 45 minutes, and 2 different topics presented from a large pool of topics. For the issue essay you’re simply expected to write an essay on one of the topics, either one you choose. You’re supposed to use your experience and knowledge in order to present your opinion on the issue. You won’t require any serious sophisticated knowledge though, as the issues mostly involve logic and common sense, so only your communications and thinking abilities are tested.

Argument Task -This task is quite different from the Issue one, so don’t mix them up. This time you get only 30 minutes, and no choice of argument, so this is considered the harder part of the 2 tasks. Unlike Issue writing, for the argument essay you will be provided with one argument topic that’s already discussed. You are expected to assess critically the given argument by finding faults in the existing logic and suggesting ways to improve on the logic behind the arguments. Make sure you criticize any potential faulty reasoning and underlying assumptions in your essay.

Sample topics

Here are a few examples takes from the official GRE website of topics that you might expect to encounter on the GRE:

Sample Issues:

  • “Originality does not mean thinking something that was never thought before; it means putting old ideas together in new ways.”
  • “As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more complex and more mysterious.”
  • “The best preparation for life or a career is not learning to be competitive, but learning to be cooperative.”

Sample Arguments:

  • For the past five years, consumers in California have been willing to pay twice as much for oysters from the northeastern Atlantic Coast as for Gulf Coast oysters. This trend began shortly after harmful bacteria were found in a few raw Gulf Coast oysters. But scientists have now devised a process for killing the bacteria. Once consumers are made aware of the increased safety of Gulf Coast oysters, they are likely to be willing to pay as much for Gulf Coast as for northeastern Atlantic Coast oysters, and greater profits for Gulf Coast oyster producers will follow.

Make sure you use these examples well! Time yourself and try to write essays on these given topics to see how you might do in the actual GRE. You can find more topics online, just do a quick search, and make sure you get lots of practice if you want to ace the GRE.

GRE Essay Scoring Procedure

Each Essay would be independently evaluated by two different evaluators (Graders). Each evaluator rates the essay on a half-point scale from 0 to 6. In case scoring given by two evaluators for Essay 1 differs by more than one point than the third evaluator will review the essay. The final score is usually equal to the simple average of the individual scorings. The average score is adjusted to nearest decimal place. Candidate is also given percentile score which will reflect your performance vis-à-vis other students.

Remember that some colleges and universities consider the score in this section optional for admission, so you should always check the criteria for your target universities. You want to get the best score possible, of course, but this section might not be the most important component of your admission package, so don’t panic.

Don’t Forget the rest of the GRE!

Make sure you check out the Quantitative and Verbal sections of the GRE as well, and try out as many sample test as possible, because practice makes perfect.