What Is “Analytical Writing” on the GRE?

As you might suspect, analytical writing on the GRE requires test takers to apply their analytical skills to both analyze an issue and develop an argument for that issue and to analyze the writing of another to evaluate that writer’s claims and the soundness of the argument presented.

Writing Tasks

This portion of the test is intended to measure your critical thinking skills and your skills in analytical writing, not to assess any specific content knowledge. The issues presented in this section are general enough that you should be familiar with them and be able to form an opinion about the issue provided. The analytical assessment portion of the GRE includes two writing tasks. Both are analytical in their own unique ways.

Section 1: Analyze an Issue

One of the two sections of the Analytical Writing portion of the GRE is the “Analyze an Issue” section. In this part of the test, you will be presented with an issue of general interest about which there are a variety of viewpoints. You will have 30 minutes to read and respond to the issue based on the directions provided. In general, you will be asked to read and evaluate the issue given, consider its complexities and the various levels of interpretation and possible viewpoints, and then develop an argument for your position with regard to the issue. In constructing your argument, it is expected that you will take a clear position and include logical reasons and relevant examples to support your claim, presenting your argument in a sound and cohesive way.

Section 2: Analyze an Argument

The other section in the Analytical Writing portion of the GRE is the “Analyze an Argument” section. In this part of the test, you will be presented with an argument written by someone about a particular topic. This task gives you 30 minutes to analyze the argument of another, which means evaluating the soundness of the argument presented, not taking a position as to whether or not you agree with the writer’s position, and evaluating both the claim and the evidence he or she provides to support that claim.

Things to Review Before the Test

The best way to prepare for the analytical writing on the GRE is to review released materials and argument topics available through the ETS site to familiarize yourself with the types of issues that might be presented. You should also review some released essay responses and the rater commentary that accompanies them to see how the writing portion is assessed. Reviewing the scoring guide for each task will help you to be aware of the elements assessors are looking for in the responses to each of the writing tasks so you can be sure to address or include them in your responses.

Writing: Before and During the Test

Doing a few timed “practice writes” using the released topics and questions will give you some experience responding to an issue in a set amount of time. Make sure when you are practicing, and on the day of the test itself, that you budget your time carefully. With only 30 minutes to respond and write, practice balancing the time to give yourself sufficient time to brainstorm and plan your response, compose your draft, and proofread your response before final submission.

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