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 By Kaunbi Jiemie

GRE Analytical Writing in General Test

GRE Writing Topics and Samples
GRE writing topics from official question pool and some of them are linked with sample answers of Internet contributors.
 Analyze Issue  Analyze Argument 


1 Overview of GRE
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) is an exam service offered by ETS (the Educational Testing Service), a US-based non-profit organization. It's for students to apply for postgraduate courses in graduate schools of US, UK, Canada, and some other countries.

GRE General Test and Subject Test
There are two GRE examinations:
  • The General Test
  • The Subject Tests
In most cases, the GRE we talk about is the General Test that includes three sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.

The General test doesn't involved with any specific undergraduate courses or majors. The GRE Subject tests are for particular subject areas, e.g., Math, and attempts to measure student level in specified area as undergraduate.

You have to check if the target school needs any subject tests for your application. In general, a subject test isn't necessary unless you changed major. For example, you take History as an undergraduate major, but apply for a computer course in graduate school.

As for the GRE general test, different schools have separate policies related to GRE scores. Many schools use GRE scores as one of the criteria to decide if any candidates are suitable for applied graduate courses. Most top graduate schools take the GRE score as a prerequisite, and it usually plays a crucial role in the final decision, although some schools say it is recommended or not required.

GRE Score
The maximum score for the new GRE General Test is 340: verbal and quantitative sections are respectively worth 170 points.

Besides, the writing mark (up to 6) is reported along with the score independently.

Usually test takers can receive official score in 10 - 15 days after the test day.

Test takers may ask this question: What is a good GRE score? Actually, it relies on what school you are applying for. Before a test or in preparation, you can check the median score of last year and set your goal score. If you get it, you usually get your final goal: admission offer.

Besides, you need notice especially:
  • Your scores on two sections should be balanced. If one is very high whereas another is very low, it isn't a good score.
  • The writing score needs to be 4.5 and above to qualify as 'good' no matter what your goal is.
2 GRE Test Structure
Since August 2011, ETS changed GRE General Test to a computer-based test at main test centers in the world. Paper-version of the GRE is available only at a few test centers. However, both the computer and paper-based tests have the same questions types.

GRE Test Sections
The GRE General Test has three test sections:
  • Analytical Writing
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
Usually, a typical computer-based test starts with the Analytical Writing section (1 hour).

Verbal Reasoning follows writing, it has two parts, and each consists of about 20 questions in 30 minutes.

Then, there are two parts of Quantitative Reasoning, and each has about 20 questions to be finished in 35 minutes.

Note that an unidentified unscored part may appear at any position in the test paper. It means you may have to deal with an extra job in the exam.

The computer-based GRE usually takes 3 hours 45 minutes.

Analytical Writing
The analytical writing section includes two writing tasks: Issue and Argument.

The Issue task gives one statement, asks to write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with it, and explain Reasoning for the position you take. You should focus on the topic and support with examples and Reasoning. This task should be finished in 30 minutes.

The Argument task presents a statement in a particular scenario, ask to analyze the logic of the given position, and suggest reasonable solution or improvement. This essay is given 30 minutes to write.

The Analytical Writing section is on a scale of 0-6 score. Each essay is scored by a real rater as well as software, which is called e-rater. If the human and computer give different score, the essay will be sent to a second human rater. In this case, the final score is the average of the two human scores. It may not be an integer, such as 5.5 or 4.5.

Verbal Reasoning
There are three question types in verbal reasoning section:
  • Sentence equivalence
  • Text completion
  • Reading comprehension
The GRE verbal reasoning section is commonly said to be a test of vocabulary. In our view, it's true. Your score depends on your vocabulary skills. However, the comprehension questions require good reading and reasoning skills. So practice is essential as well.

Quantitative Reasoning
The quantitative reasoning section consists of multiple-choice questions and numeric entry questions. Its main question types are:
  • Quantitative comparisons
  • Numeric Entry
  • Word Problem
  • Data Interpretation
Quantitative reasoning actually doesn't rely on strong math knowledge; test takers are just supposed to have high school or even 10th-grade math level. A basic calculator offered by the test center can be used to answer questions. Computer-based test provides an onscreen calculator too.

3 GRE Analytical Writing
General GRE test has two writing tasks collectively called the Analytical Writing Section:
  • Analyze an Issue
  • Analyze an Argument
Typically, writing is the first section in the test. You have one hour for writing, 30 minutes for each essay.

Because GRE is based on computer now, you have to type your response. Notice that there is no spell-check or grammar check. So it should be a different experience from your regular writing with a word processor like Office Word.

GRE test takers usually worry about essay topics. Sometimes unknown topics cause much more trouble than writing itself. Fortunately, all GRE essay topics, either issue topics or argument topics, come from a pool, which you can access on the official GRE website.

Analyze an issue
In the writing section, the first task is to discuss an issue. In general, the topic is open to positions of separate sides, so that you can align your arguments in support of any side. Your essay is in style like sort of debate. It means you should give specific reasons to support your points and prove with suitable examples.

You may submit essays as draft, minor spelling or syntax errors or defeats don't matter with getting a good mark. However, weak logical flow will impact score very negatively.

Analyze an argument
The second task is the analysis of an argument. It checks your ability to find flaws in logical arguments. If you have some knowledge of logic, you may get some advantages in the task. For example, logic will help to identify premises or assumptions of a conclusion and figure out possible flaws.

The score of the task isn't just on writing, but reflects your ability to understand the logic relationships among arguments and conclusions, and to address instructions in task. It seems complex; however, it is actually easier than the first task, only if with a little preparation and practice.

Preparation Tips
Practice writing is necessary, but not enough. You need someone to review essays. Feedback from someone with strong language and logical skills will improve your writing level dramatically, especially from a GRE tutor.

If you want to get a high score, your essays cannot be too short. You must practice to write a long essay in a short time, or say, both organize your idea and type your words quickly enough.

Because excellent logic flow and good transitions between paragraphs are essential assets for high mark essays, you should refine your essay's structure in practice.

Minor errors in spelling and syntax usually don't impact your score, but if raters think your vocabulary or grammar isn't robust because of too many errors, you cannot get a high score. So don't forget to enrich your vocabulary and grammar in GRE preparing. These fundamental English skills help all sections of the GRE test.