When writing the GRE, it’s important to know what to expect and how to prepare. Of the 6 sections measuring your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills, only the latter is tested with long-answer question formats. This requires the ability to articulate longer and more complex ideas in essay-style responses. Based over one hour, the AW (Analytical Writing) questions and responses are longer in nature than your average multiple-choice question and vary widely in topic. These are descriptions of the two thirty minute questions of the AW section and our tips on how to handle them.
During the “Analyze an Issue” section, expect to be given 30 minutes to write about one selected topic. Issue topics are selected from a pool of questions that are listed directly on the ets.org website (1) – use that to your advantage.
For example, “To understand the most important characteristics of a society, one must study its major cities.”
A standard response should discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with this statement, while supporting your argument and considering situations in which the statement may, or may not hold true. A good idea is to start by organizing an argument with multiple small examples which will support one larger one. To prepare a highly effective argument, practice the questions on the ets.org website and read some of the example responses.
The “Analyze an Argument” section on the GRE involves understanding and assessing the logical soundness presented in a passage involving claims. Discussing what is offered as evidence, what is explicitly stated and what logically follows from those claims are often important parts of the logical assessment.
For example, “Arctic deer live on islands in Canada’s arctic regions. They search for food by moving over ice from island to island during the course of the year. Their habitat is limited to areas warm enough to sustain the plants on which they feed and cold enough, at least some of the year, for the ice to cover the sea separating the islands, allowing the deer to travel over it. Unfortunately, according to reports from local hunters, the deer populations are declining. Since these reports coincide with recent global warming trends that have caused the sea ice to melt, we can conclude that the purported decline in deer populations is the result of the deer’s being unable to follow their age-old migration patterns across the frozen sea.”
This question provides evidence and support for an argument. The best responses should logically outline what’s been presented by the author, what will be argued (and why), then logically argue the weakest points. Read example sample responses to another argument here (2).
Regardless of which section you’re writing, it is of the utmost importance to have a clear structure. Following that, a top response against an argument will be persuasively written and offer the reader a compelling, logical argument on well-founded examples. Planning ahead by practicing your skills on the ets.org website is a good idea. If you have a few written examples and want feedback on your responses, bring them to a Quantum Test Prep free verbal refresher and we can give you tips. Visit www.quantumtestprep.com to view verbal refresher dates.