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How to Ace the GRE Writing Section

The purpose of the GRE’s Analytical Writing section is to test your critical thinking & analytical writing skills. These skills include your ability to properly articulate and support a complex idea, and build strong arguments while composing a well-structured and coherently written essay. One thing to note is that this does not assess your specific knowledge on a given topic.

The best way to ensure you perform favorably on the written portion of the GRE is to first be acquainted with the structure of this section and the grader’s expectations for your writing. 

This section is divided into 2 “Tasks,” each lasting 30 minutes each. In Part I, you will complete the “Analyze an Issue Task,” where you will be presented with an opinion on an issue and asked to evaluate the issue. You are required to assess the issue, then proceed to construct an argument using evidence to support your position. In evaluating your response, graders are looking to see if you have successfully composed a well thought out and organized essay, stating a clear argument which is bolstered my specific evidence.

Part II of this section is the “Analyze an Argument Task,” in this section you are asked to evaluate the soundness of an argument rather than picking a side and agreeing or disagreeing with it. Is the argument a stretch or is there adequate evidence to support the writer’s claims?

Each of these tasks are evaluating your writing skills though from different positions, the first task requires that you construct your own argument while the second requires you to evaluate someone else’s argument by assessing their claim and the evidence they present.

Now that you have a clear understanding of the assignment, let’s discuss the best way to prepare for the writing section. There are many resources available to help you get acquainted with the type of material you will encounter in the GRE Writing section. You should be familiar with what skills are measured from your writing and how these essays are scored. Reviewing a list of sample topics, you will realize that essay topics range across discipline from the humanities to the sciences, but require no prior knowledge of the subject matter. There are even scored sample responses you can review for an idea of what a “good” essay looks like. There is also a published pool of potential topics for the both sections of the Analytical Writing Section, both the Issue and Argument Tasks.

Ultimately, what is the purpose of the GRE Writing section? Beyond graders of the exam, how will your performance on this section influence your admission to graduate school? Ideally, your writing will provide a glimpse into your complex thinking and persuasive writing abilities. Both attributes that university faculty consider imperative to being successful in graduate school.

To Wrap-Up: GRE Writing Section Strategies Cheat Sheet


Budget your time:

  • Be mindful of the time you take for each task. You will need time to plan, organize and write your essay, leaving a few minutes at the end to go back and proof your work.