Here are some important facts about the Analytical Writing (AW) section of the Revised General GRE that test-takers should know. AW is always the first section in the exam and consists of the same two essay tasks
- the issue essay task
- the argument essay task
Both essays have to be typed out in a simple word-processor that has cut, copy and paste functions. So, you need to have a typing speed of at least 40 words per minute. If you haven’t, start learning/ practicing now.
As indicated in our earlier blog on AW (“Why 6 and 8 are Important Numbers for the New GRE Analytical Writing Section“) some things make this section, just a little bit demanding – read it and find out. The overview below will tell you what this section is like as a whole.
The Issue Essay Task
This is always the first task in the Analytical Writing section. You have only 30 minutes instead of 45 to write one essay in response to a question on the given statement, which might be:
- a view
- a recommendation
- a policy etc.
The statements cover a wide variety of topics including:
- ‘values’ e.g. ‘true success can only be measured in terms of one’s personal goals’ (view)
- ‘government’ e.g. ‘those holding positions of public responsibility must maintain the highest moral standards’ (recommendation)
- education e.g. ‘all students should be required to study some courses outside their major fields of study’ (policy)*.
There are 6 types of issue question asked, most of which require test-takers to explain whether they agree or disagree with the given statement and to explain why they do so with the help of examples and reasons. (see previous blog “Why 6 and 8 are Important Numbers for the New GRE Analytical Writing Section“) Depending on the specific question asked test-takers may also have to focus on other things:
- ways in which the given statement might or might not hold true and how these considerations influence the test-taker’s view
- circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would not be advantageous
- persuasive reasons and examples that could be used to challenge the test-taker’s view* etc.
The Argument Essay Task
Here the test-taker has 30 minutes to produce an essay on the logical soundness of an argument. The argument is a brief paragraph that puts forth a recommendation, gives advice, or makes a suggestion – and gives evidence in support of what it says. The evidence is always logically flawed.
It is your job as the test-taker’s to point out what assumptions the argument makes or what evidence could be used to weaken or support the argument. Here, again the new twist is that the essay has to be written in response to a specific question which could be one of 8 types e.g.:
- What assumptions does the argument make and what would the implications be if the assumptions were proved incorrect?
- What questions would need to be asked in order to evaluate the given argument?
- What evidence would be required to assess the logical soundness of the argument and how such evidence might strengthen or weaken the argument?*
*Note: while these topics and questions are similar to the ones that will appear in the Analytical Writing section, they are not actual GRE topics. The pool of official Issue and Argument questions and topics can be viewed on the GRE website:
Topics and questions that in the exams will all be taken from this pool but, be warned however, that sometimes they are slightly modified, so they may not appear in the exam exactly the same as they are in the pool. Take the differences into account.
The essays are scored on a scale of 0-6 (with half-point increments) on the basis of several criteria such as the test-taker’s ability to:
- express and support complex ideas
- make and assess arguments
- write essays that are clear and well-focused and present the same point of view throughout
Specific knowledge of the topic however is not evaluated. The score for the Analytical Writing section as a whole is the average of the scores for the Issue and Argument essays.