Sample Essays For Gre Pdf

ETS has published the complete pool of 328 GRE essay topics which will ever appear on the Analytical Writing section of the test. While these collections of prompts provide unparalleled Analytical Writing practice, some test takers may find the sheer number of possible essay topics to be a bit overwhelming.

In this article, we’ve assembled over 60 official GRE essay topics for both the Issue and Argument tasks and used them to illustrate the 14 different kinds of GRE writing prompts you could see on test day. With this expert analysis, you’ll know how to tackle any GRE essay prompt that comes your way.

feature image credit: Female Typing/used under CC BY 2.0/Resized and cropped from original.

 

GRE Essay Topics Pool: How It Works

ETS has publicly listed all the essay topics that will ever appear on the GRE for both the Analyze an Issue and the Analyze an Argument Analytical Writing tasks.

There are 152 different possible GRE essay topics in the GRE Issue pool and 176 different GRE essay topics in the GRE Argument pool, which means it’s unlikely you’ll run out of official prompts to practice with. And while there’s only a 1/328 chance that one of the GRE writing prompts you practice with ends up being on the test, that’s still better odds than if you practiced with non-official prompts, especially if you end up using a lot of practice prompts.

Each set of GRE essay topics can further be broken down by the specific task you’re asked to complete in your answer. We’ll start by looking at the six different possible GRE Issue essay topics.

 

GRE Issue Pool

Each Analyze an Issue essay topic “consists of an issue statement or statements followed by specific task instructions that tell you how to respond to the issue” (source: ETS). The specific words used for the topics might be a little different on the test, but in general what you see in the GRE issue pool is what you’ll get.

ETS also warns test takers that there might be some mix-and-matching of different issues with different task instructions among the prompts, so don’t skip over the prompt if you recognize the issue; it’s possible that you’ll have written about the issue before in response to a different task.

The specifics of the task you’re asked to do differ depending on the prompt, but the core of all the Issue tasks is this one question: Do you agree or disagree with this (statement, view, claim, conclusion, recommendation, policy) and/or its basis?

There are 152 different pairings of issues and tasks in the GRE issue pool. Among these GRE essay topics, however, there are actually only six tasks you’ll be asked to perform, and not all tasks are equally common.

Below, we’ve analyzed these six GRE essay prompts. In addition to presenting each task as it will appear on the GRE, we’ve also determined the likelihood of the task showing up on the test and provided a sampling of the issues that you might see paired with the task.

 

 

Issue Task 1: Agree/Disagree With a Statement

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.

What they’re really asking: Explain your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with a given statement.

Number of topics in the GRE issue pool on this task: 54/152 (35.5%)

 

Examples of the statements to be analyzed

    • To understand the most important characteristics of a society, one must study its major cities.
    • In any field of inquiry, the beginner is more likely than the expert to make important contributions.
    • There is little justification for society to make extraordinary efforts – especially at a great cost in money and jobs – to save endangered animal or plant species.
    • Unfortunately, in contemporary society, creating an appealing image has become more important than the reality or truth behind that image.
    • Government officials should rely on their own judgment rather than unquestioningly carry out the will of the people whom they serve.
    • The best test of an argument is the argument’s ability to convince someone with an opposing viewpoint.
    • If a goal is worthy, then any means taken to attain it are justifiable.
    • The primary goal of technological advancement should be to increase people’s efficiency so that they have more leisure time.
    • We can learn much more from people whose views we share than from people whose views contradict our own.
    • Any leader who is quickly and easily influenced by shifts in popular opinion will accomplish little.
    • True success can be measured primarily in terms of the goals one sets for oneself.

 

 

Issue Task 2: Agree/Disagree With a Recommendation

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.

What they’re really asking: Explain your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with a recommendationfor a course of action.

Number of topics in the GRE issue pool on this task: 24/152 (15.8%)

 

Examples of the recommendations to be analyzed

    • Governments should focus on solving the immediate problems of today rather than on trying to solve the anticipated problems of the future.
    • College students should be encouraged to pursue subjects that interest them rather than the courses that seem most likely to lead to jobs.
    • Scientists and other researchers should focus their research on areas that are likely to benefit the greatest number of people.
    • Nations should suspend government funding for the arts when significant numbers of their citizens are hungry or unemployed.
    • Educators should base their assessment of students’ learning not on students’ grasp of facts but on the ability to explain the ideas, trends, and concepts that those facts illustrate.

 

 

Issue Task 3: Agree/Disagree With a Claim

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.

What they’re really asking: Explain your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with a claim.

Number of topics in the GRE issue pool on this task: 25/152 (16.4%)

 

Examples of the claims to be analyzed

    • Universities should require every student to take a variety of courses outside the student’s field of study.
    • It is no longer possible for a society to regard any living man or woman as a hero.
    • Critical judgment of work in any given field has little value unless it comes from someone who is an expert in that field.
    • In most professions and academic fields, imagination is more important than knowledge.
    • Nations should pass laws to preserve any remaining wilderness areas in their natural state.

 

 

Issue Task 4: Which view aligns with your own?

Write a response in which you discuss which view more closely aligns with your own position and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should address both of the views presented.

What they’re really asking: Explain which two views you most agreewith and back it up with reasoning.

Number of topics in the GRE issue pool on this task: 18/152 (11.8%)

 

Examples of the views to be analyzed

    • Some people believe it is often necessary, even desirable, for political leaders to withhold information from the public. Others believe that the public has a right to be fully informed.
    • Some people claim that you can tell whether a nation is great by looking at the achievements of its rulers, artists, or scientists. Others argue that the surest indicator of a great nation is, in fact, the general welfare of all its people.
    • Some people believe that corporations have a responsibility to promote the well-being of the societies and environments in which they operate. Others believe that the only responsibility of corporations, provided they operate within the law, is to make as much money as possible.
    • Some people believe that corporations have a responsibility to promote the well-being of the societies and environments in which they operate. Others believe that the only responsibility of corporations, provided they operate within the law, is to make as much money as possible.

 

 

Issue Task 5: Agree/Disagree With a Claim and Its Basis

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

What they’re really asking: Analyze an issue by explaining your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with not just the claim, but the reason on which the claim is based.

Number of topics in the GRE issue pool on this task: 19/152 (12.5%)

 

Examples of the claims to be analyzed

    • Claim: When planning courses, educators should take into account the interests and suggestions of their students.Reason: Students are more motivated to learn when they are interested in what they are studying. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.
    • Claim: Any piece of information referred to as a fact should be mistrusted, since it may well be proven false in the future.Reason: Much of the information that people assume is factual actually turns out to be inaccurate.
    • Claim: Imagination is a more valuable asset than experience.Reason: People who lack experience are free to imagine what is possible without the constraints of established habits and attitudes.
    • Claim: Knowing about the past cannot help people to make important decisions today.Reason: We are not able to make connections between current events and past events until we have some distance from both.

 

 

Issue Task 6: Explain Your Views on a Policy

Write a response in which you discuss your views on the policy and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.

What they’re really asking: Explain your stance on a policy.

Number of topics in the GRE issue pool on this task: 12/152 (7.9%)

 

Example of a policy to be analyzed

    • In any field – business, politics, education, government – those in power should be required to step down after five years. Write a response in which you discuss your views on the policy and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.

 

 

GRE Argument Pool

For the Argument task on the GRE, you’ll be asked to read a short passage containing an argument and then analyze that argument according to instructions.

As with the Issue task, there might be some very slight variations in wording between the way the tasks are written on the test as compared to the way they are online, but for the most part what you see online is what will be on the GRE. Similarly, there may be some arguments that are repeated across prompts in the GRE Argument pool, but they’ll each be followed by a different task, so it’s important to read the entire essay prompt (including the task) before beginning your analysis.

There are some commonalities across all of the essay prompts on the GRE Argument pool page, even beyond the fact that every task asks you to look at some kind of argument and analyze it. Of the 176 possible Argument topics, there are just eight different tasks you’ll be asked to perform, and of those eight tasks, numbers 3, 4, 6, 8 below are all basically different ways of asking you to “evaluate this stance and explain why you’ve determined whether or not it has a reasonable basis.”

Below, we’ve presented each of the eight GRE writing prompts as they will appear on the exam, figured out how likely the task is to show up, and given some examples of arguments you might be asked to analyze.

 

 

Argument Task 1: Evaluate an Argument and Evidence

Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.

What they’re really asking: Discuss how different, specific evidence could weaken or strengthen the argument.

Number of topics in the GRE argument pool on this task: 52/176 (29.5%)

 

Examples of the arguments to be analyzed

    • The following appeared in a letter from a firm providing investment advice to a client. “Homes in the northeastern United States, where winters are typically cold, have traditionally used oil as their major fuel for heating. Last year that region experienced twenty days with below-average temperatures, and local weather forecasters throughout the region predict that this weather pattern will continue for several more years. Furthermore, many new homes have been built in this region during the past year. Because of these developments, we predict an increased demand for heating oil and recommend investment in Consolidated Industries, one of whose major business operations is the retail sale of home heating oil.”
    • The following appeared in a memorandum from the manager of WWAC radio station. “To reverse a decline in listener numbers, our owners have decided that WWAC must change from its current rock-music format. The decline has occurred despite population growth in our listening area, but that growth has resulted mainly from people moving here after their retirement. We must make listeners of these new residents. We could switch to a music format tailored to their tastes, but a continuing decline in local sales of recorded music suggests limited interest in music. Instead we should change to a news and talk format, a form of radio that is increasingly popular in our area.”
    • Three years ago, because of flooding at the Western Palean Wildlife Preserve, 100 lions and 100 western gazelles were moved to the East Palean Preserve, an area that is home to most of the same species that are found in the western preserve, though in larger numbers, and to the eastern gazelle, a close relative of the western gazelle. The only difference in climate is that the eastern preserve typically has slightly less rainfall. Unfortunately, after three years in the eastern preserve, the imported western gazelle population has been virtually eliminated. Since the slight reduction in rainfall cannot be the cause of the virtual elimination of western gazelle, their disappearance must have been caused by the larger number of predators in the eastern preserve.
    • The following appeared in a recommendation from the president of Amburg’s Chamber of Commerce. “Last October the city of Belleville installed high-intensity lighting in its central business district, and vandalism there declined within a month. The city of Amburg has recently begun police patrols on bicycles in its business district, but the rate of vandalism there remains constant. We should install high-intensity lighting throughout Amburg, then, because doing so is a more effective way to combat crime. By reducing crime in this way, we can revitalize the declining neighborhoods in our city.”
    • The following appeared in a memo from the vice president of Butler Manufacturing. “During the past year, workers at Butler Manufacturing reported 30 percent more on-the-job accidents than workers at nearby Panoply Industries, where the work shifts are one hour shorter than ours. A recent government study reports that fatigue and sleep deprivation among workers are significant contributing factors in many on-the-job accidents. If we shorten each of our work shifts by one hour, we can improve Butler Manufacturing’s safety record by ensuring that our employees are adequately rested.”
    • The following appeared in a letter to the editor of Parson City’s local newspaper. “In our region of Trillura, the majority of money spent on the schools that most students attend – the city-run public schools – comes from taxes that each city government collects. The region’s cities differ, however, in the budgetary priority they give to public education. For example, both as a proportion of its overall tax revenues and in absolute terms, Parson City has recently spent almost twice as much per year as Blue City has for its public schools – even though both cities have about the same number of residents. Clearly, Parson City residents place a higher value on providing a good education in public schools than Blue City residents do.”
    • Milk and dairy products are rich in vitamin D and calcium – substances essential for building and maintaining bones. Many people therefore say that a diet rich in dairy products can help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that is linked to both environmental and genetic factors and that causes the bones to weaken significantly with age. But a long-term study of a large number of people found that those who consistently consumed dairy products throughout the years of the study have a higher rate of bone fractures than any other participants in the study. Since bone fractures are symptomatic of osteoporosis, this study result shows that a diet rich in dairy products may actually increase, rather than decrease, the risk of osteoporosis.
    • The following appeared in a memo at XYZ company. “When XYZ lays off employees, it pays Delany Personnel Firm to offer those employees assistance in creating resumes and developing interviewing skills, if they so desire. Laid-off employees have benefited greatly from Delany’s services: last year those who used Delany found jobs much more quickly than did those who did not. Recently, it has been proposed that we use the less expensive Walsh Personnel Firm in place of Delany. This would be a mistake because eight years ago, when XYZ was using Walsh, only half of the workers we laid off at that time found jobs within a year. Moreover, Delany is clearly superior, as evidenced by its bigger staff and larger number of branch offices. After all, last year Delany’s clients took an average of six months to find jobs, whereas Walsh’s clients took nine.”
    • An ancient, traditional remedy for insomnia – the scent of lavender flowers – has now been proved effective. In a recent study, 30 volunteers with chronic insomnia slept each night for three weeks on lavender-scented pillows in a controlled room where their sleep was monitored electronically. During the first week, volunteers continued to take their usual sleeping medication. They slept soundly but wakened feeling tired. At the beginning of the second week, the volunteers discontinued their sleeping medication. During that week, they slept less soundly than the previous week and felt even more tired. During the third week, the volunteers slept longer and more soundly than in the previous two weeks. Therefore, the study proves that lavender cures insomnia within a short period of time.

 

 

Argument Task 2: Examine Assumptions and Implications

Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions, and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.

What they’re really asking: Discuss assumptions made in the argument and how the argument would be strengthened or weakened if the assumptions are wrong.

Number of topics in the GRE argument pool on this task: 50/176 (28.4%)

 

Examples of the arguments to be analyzed

    • Nature’s Way, a chain of stores selling health food and other health-related products, is opening its next franchise in the town of Plainsville. The store should prove to be very successful: Nature’s Way franchises tend to be most profitable in areas where residents lead healthy lives, and clearly Plainsville is such an area. Plainsville merchants report that sales of running shoes and exercise clothing are at all-time highs. The local health club has more members than ever, and the weight training and aerobics classes are always full. Finally, Plainsville’s schoolchildren represent a new generation of potential customers: these schoolchildren are required to participate in a fitness-for-life program, which emphasizes the benefits of regular exercise at an early age.
    • The following was written as a part of an application for a small-business loan by a group of developers in the city of Monroe. “Jazz music is extremely popular in the city of Monroe: over 100,000 people attended Monroe’s annual jazz festival last summer, and the highest-rated radio program in Monroe is ‘Jazz Nightly,’ which airs every weeknight. Also, a number of well-known jazz musicians own homes in Monroe. Nevertheless, the nearest jazz club is over an hour away. Given the popularity of jazz in Monroe and a recent nationwide study indicating that the typical jazz fan spends close to $1,000 per year on jazz entertainment, a jazz music club in Monroe would be tremendously profitable.”
    • The following appeared in a letter to the editor of a journal on environmental issues. “Over the past year, the Crust Copper Company (CCC) has purchased over 10,000 square miles of land in the tropical nation of West Fredonia. Mining copper on this land will inevitably result in pollution and, since West Fredonia is the home of several endangered animal species, in environmental disaster. But such disasters can be prevented if consumers simply refuse to purchase products that are made with CCC’s copper unless the company abandons its mining plans.”
    • Humans arrived in the Kaliko Islands about 7,000 years ago, and within 3,000 years most of the large mammal species that had lived in the forests of the Kaliko Islands had become extinct. Yet humans cannot have been a factor in the species’ extinctions, because there is no evidence that the humans had any significant contact with the mammals. Further, archaeologists have discovered numerous sites where the bones of fish had been discarded, but they found no such areas containing the bones of large mammals, so the humans cannot have hunted the mammals. Therefore, some climate change or other environmental factor must have caused the species’ extinctions.
    • The following appeared in a memo from the vice president of marketing at Dura-Sock, Inc. “A recent study of our customers suggests that our company is wasting the money it spends on its patented Endure manufacturing process, which ensures that our socks are strong enough to last for two years. We have always advertised our use of the Endure process, but the new study shows that despite our socks’ durability, our average customer actually purchases new Dura-Socks every three months. Furthermore, our customers surveyed in our largest market, northeastern United States cities, say that they most value Dura-Socks’ stylish appearance and availability in many colors. These findings suggest that we can increase our profits by discontinuing use of the Endure manufacturing process.”
    • When Stanley Park first opened, it was the largest, most heavily used public park in town. It is still the largest park, but it is no longer heavily used. Video cameras mounted in the park’s parking lots last month revealed the park’s drop in popularity: the recordings showed an average of only 50 cars per day. In contrast, tiny Carlton Park in the heart of the business district is visited by more than 150 people on a typical weekday. An obvious difference is that Carlton Park, unlike Stanley Park, provides ample seating. Thus, if Stanley Park is ever to be as popular with our citizens as Carlton Park, the town will obviously need to provide more benches, thereby converting some of the unused open areas into spaces suitable for socializing.
    • While the Department of Education in the state of Attra recommends that high school students be assigned homework every day, the data from a recent statewide survey of high school math and science teachers give us reason to question the usefulness of daily homework. In the district of Sanlee, 86 percent of the teachers reported assigning homework three to five times a week, whereas in the district of Marlee, less than 25 percent of the teachers reported assigning homework three to five times a week. Yet the students in Marlee earn better grades overall and are less likely to be required to repeat a year of school than are the students in Sanlee. Therefore, all teachers in our high schools should assign homework no more than twice a week.
    • The following appeared in a memo to the board of directors of Bargain Brand Cereals. “One year ago we introduced our first product, Bargain Brand breakfast cereal. Our very low prices quickly drew many customers away from the top-selling cereal companies. Although the companies producing the top brands have since tried to compete with us by lowering their prices and although several plan to introduce their own budget brands, not once have we needed to raise our prices to continue making a profit. Given our success in selling cereal, we recommend that Bargain Brand now expand its business and begin marketing other low-priced food products as quickly as possible.”
    • The following is a recommendation from the personnel director to the president of Acme Publishing Company. “Many other companies have recently stated that having their employees take the Easy Read Speed-Reading Course has greatly improved productivity. One graduate of the course was able to read a 500-page report in only two hours; another graduate rose from an assistant manager to vice president of the company in under a year. Obviously, the faster you can read, the more information you can absorb in a single workday. Moreover, Easy Read would cost Acme only $500 per employee — a small price to pay when you consider the benefits. Included in this fee is a three-week seminar in Spruce City and a lifelong subscription to the Easy Read newsletter. Clearly, Acme would benefit greatly by requiring all of our employees to take the Easy Read course.”

 

 

Argument Task 3: Evaluate a Recommendation and Its Basis

Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.

What they’re really asking: Discuss the different, specific questions that would need to be answered to determine how reasonable the recommendation is.

Number of topics in the GRE argument pool on this task: 24/176 (13.6%)

 

Examples of the recommendations to be analyzed

    • The following appeared in a memo from a vice president of Alta Manufacturing. “During the past year, Alta Manufacturing had thirty percent more on-the-job accidents than nearby Panoply Industries, where the work shifts are one hour shorter than ours. Experts believe that a significant contributing factor in many accidents is fatigue caused by sleep deprivation among workers. Therefore, to reduce the number of on-the-job accidents at Alta, we recommend shortening each of our three work shifts by one hour. If we do this, our employees will get adequate amounts of sleep.” Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
    • Since those issues of Newsbeat magazine that featured political news on their front cover were the poorest-selling issues over the past three years, the publisher of Newsbeat has recommended that the magazine curtail its emphasis on politics to focus more exclusively on economics and personal finance. She points to a recent survey of readers of general interest magazines that indicates greater reader interest in economic issues than in political ones. Newsbeat‘s editor, however, opposes the proposed shift in editorial policy, pointing out that very few magazines offer extensive political coverage anymore. Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
    • The following appeared in an article in the Grandview Beacon. “For many years the city of Grandview has provided annual funding for the Grandview Symphony. Last year, however, private contributions to the symphony increased by 200 percent and attendance at the symphony’s concerts-in-the-park series doubled. The symphony has also announced an increase in ticket prices for next year. Given such developments, some city commissioners argue that the symphony can now be fully self-supporting, and they recommend that funding for the symphony be eliminated from next year’s budget.” Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
    • Twenty years ago, Dr. Field, a noted anthropologist, visited the island of Tertia. Using an observation-centered approach to studying Tertian culture, he concluded from his observations that children in Tertia were reared by an entire village rather than by their own biological parents. Recently another anthropologist, Dr. Karp, visited the group of islands that includes Tertia and used the interview-centered method to study child-rearing practices. In the interviews that Dr. Karp conducted with children living in this group of islands, the children spent much more time talking about their biological parents than about other adults in the village. Dr. Karp decided that Dr. Field’s conclusion about Tertian village culture must be invalid. Some anthropologists recommend that to obtain accurate information on Tertian child-rearing practices, future research on the subject should be conducted via the interview-centered method.

 

 

Argument Task 4: Evaluate Advice and Questions

Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the advice and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the advice.

What they’re really asking: Discuss the different, specific questions needed to determine if the advice and the argument it’s based on are reasonable.

This task is pretty much the same as task 3; the main difference is in the way the prompt is worded (as advice vs. a recommendation being given).

Number of topics in the GRE argument pool on this task: 2/176 (1.1%)

 

Examples of the advice to be analyzed

    • The following appeared in a newsletter offering advice to investors. “Over 80 percent of the respondents to a recent survey indicated a desire to reduce their intake of foods containing fats and cholesterol, and today low-fat products abound in many food stores. Since many of the food products currently marketed by Old Dairy Industries are high in fat and cholesterol, the company’s sales are likely to diminish greatly and company profits will no doubt decrease. We therefore advise Old Dairy stockholders to sell their shares, and other investors not to purchase stock in this company.”

 

 

Argument Task 5: Evaluate a Recommendation’s Likely Results

Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.

What they’re really asking: Discuss specific questions and information that would be needed to show the recommendation would have the expected outcome.

Number of topics in the GRE argument pool on this task: 21/176 (11.9%)

 

Examples of the recommendations to be analyzed

    • The following appeared in a letter from the owner of the Sunnyside Towers apartment building to its manager. “One month ago, all the showerheads on the first five floors of Sunnyside Towers were modified to restrict the water flow to approximately one-third of its original flow. Although actual readings of water usage before and after the adjustment are not yet available, the change will obviously result in a considerable savings for Sunnyside Corporation, since the corporation must pay for water each month. Except for a few complaints about low water pressure, no problems with showers have been reported since the adjustment. Clearly, restricting water flow throughout all the twenty floors of Sunnyside Towers will increase our profits further.”
    • The following memorandum is from the business manager of Happy Pancake House restaurants. “Butter has now been replaced by margarine in Happy Pancake House restaurants throughout the southwestern United States. Only about 2 percent of customers have complained, indicating that 98 people out of 100 are happy with the change. Furthermore, many servers have reported that a number of customers who ask for butter do not complain when they are given margarine instead. Clearly, either these customers cannot distinguish butter from margarine or they use the term ‘butter’ to refer to either butter or margarine. Thus, to avoid the expense of purchasing butter and to increase profitability, the Happy Pancake House should extend this cost-saving change to its restaurants in the southeast and northeast as well.”
    • The following memo appeared in the newsletter of the West Meria Public Health Council. “An innovative treatment has come to our attention that promises to significantly reduce absenteeism in our schools and workplaces. A study reports that in nearby East Meria, where consumption of the plant beneficia is very high, people visit the doctor only once or twice per year for the treatment of colds. Clearly, eating a substantial amount of beneficia can prevent colds. Since colds are the reason most frequently given for absences from school and work, we recommend the daily use of nutritional supplements derived from beneficia. We predict this will dramatically reduce absenteeism in our schools and workplaces.”
    • The following appeared in an e-mail sent by the marketing director of the Classical Shakespeare Theatre of Bardville. “Over the past ten years, there has been a 20 percent decline in the size of the average audience at Classical Shakespeare Theatre productions. In spite of increased advertising, we are attracting fewer and fewer people to our shows, causing our profits to decrease significantly. We must take action to attract new audience members. The best way to do so is by instituting a ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ program this summer. Two years ago the nearby Avon Repertory Company started a ‘Free Plays in the Park’ program, and its profits have increased 10 percent since then. If we start a ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ program, we can predict that our profits will increase, too.”

 

 

Argument Task 6: Evaluate a Prediction and Its Basis

Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the prediction and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the prediction.

What they’re really asking: Discuss the specific questions that need to be answered to determine how reasonable the prediction and its basis are.

Number of topics in the GRE argument pool on this task: 14/176 (8.0%)

 

Examples of the predictions to be analyzed

    • The following appeared in a memorandum from the manager of KNOW radio station. “Several factors indicate that KNOW radio can no longer succeed as a rock-and-roll music station. Consider, for example, that the number of people in our listening area over fifty years of age has increased dramatically, while our total number of listeners has declined. Also, music stores in our area report decreased sales of rock-and-roll music. Finally, continuous news stations in neighboring cities have been very successful. We predict that switching KNOW radio from rock-and-roll music to 24-hour news will allow the station to attract older listeners and make KNOW radio more profitable than ever.”
    • The council of Maple County, concerned about the county’s becoming overdeveloped, is debating a proposed measure that would prevent the development of existing farmland in the county. But the council is also concerned that such a restriction, by limiting the supply of new housing, could lead to significant increases in the price of housing in the county. Proponents of the measure note that Chestnut County established a similar measure ten years ago, and its housing prices have increased only modestly since. However, opponents of the measure note that Pine County adopted restrictions on the development of new residential housing fifteen years ago, and its housing prices have since more than doubled. The council currently predicts that the proposed measure, if passed, will result in a significant increase in housing prices in Maple County.

 

 

Argument Task 7: Discuss Alternative Explanations

Write a response in which you discuss one or more alternative explanations that could rival the proposed explanation and explain how your explanation(s) can plausibly account for the facts presented in the argument.

What they’re really asking: Discuss alternative explanations that would reasonably explain the evidence discussed in the argument.

Number of topics in the GRE argument pool on this task: 11/176 (6.3%)

 

Examples of the explanation and argument to be analyzed

    • The following appeared in a memo from the director of a large group of hospitals. “In a controlled laboratory study of liquid hand soaps, a concentrated solution of extra strength UltraClean hand soap produced a 40 percent greater reduction in harmful bacteria than did the liquid hand soaps currently used in our hospitals. During our recent test of regular-strength UltraClean with doctors, nurses, and visitors at our hospital in Worktown, the hospital reported significantly fewer cases of patient infection (a 20 percent reduction) than did any of the other hospitals in our group. The explanation for the 20 percent reduction in patient infections is the use of UltraClean soap.”
    • There is now evidence that the relaxed pace of life in small towns promotes better health and greater longevity than does the hectic pace of life in big cities. Businesses in the small town of Leeville report fewer days of sick leave taken by individual workers than do businesses in the nearby large city of Masonton. Furthermore, Leeville has only one physician for its one thousand residents, but in Masonton the proportion of physicians to residents is five times as high. Finally, the average age of Leeville residents is significantly higher than that of Masonton residents. These findings suggest that the relaxed pace of life in Leeville allows residents to live longer, healthier lives.

 

 

Argument Task 8: Evaluate a Conclusion and Its Basis

Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be addressed in order to decide whether the conclusion and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to the questions would help to evaluate the conclusion.

What they’re really asking: Discuss the specific questions that need to be answered to determine if the conclusion and its basis are reasonable.

Number of topics in the GRE argument pool on this task: 2/176 (1.1%)

 

Examples of conclusions to be analyzed

    • A recent sales study indicates that consumption of seafood dishes in Bay City restaurants has increased by 30 percent during the past five years. Yet there are no currently operating city restaurants whose specialty is seafood. Moreover, the majority of families in Bay City are two-income families, and a nationwide study has shown that such families eat significantly fewer home-cooked meals than they did a decade ago but at the same time express more concern about healthful eating. Therefore, the new Captain Seafood restaurant that specializes in seafood should be quite popular and profitable.

 

 

GRE Essay Prompts: 3 Terrific Tips

No matter which of the GRE essay topics you encounter on test day, the following tips will help you prepare.

 

#1: Keep Strict Timing

When you’re working on practice GRE writing prompts, make sure you stick to a strict 30-minute time limit for each Analytical Writing prompt.

If you need to build up to writing within this time limit, you can start out by giving yourself extra time and then working your way down to 30 minutes. However, try not to only practice with extra time, or you’ll be unprepared for the real GRE Analytical Writing essays.

 

 

#2: Type Your Essays

To get the best practice for the computer-based GRE, you should write all your practice essays on a computer.

If possible, use the simple word processor in the PowerPrep Test Preview Tool or practice tests to do every practice essay. You’ll need to get used to the lack of spellcheck and familiar shortcuts or features of your own word processor that you might not realize how often you use, like select all, copy, cut, paste, or undo; it’s surprising to find how much not being able to use CTL+A to select all or CTL+V to paste can affect your writing and editing speed.

Even if you’re not writing about the GRE essay prompts given in PowerPrep, you can still use the text box and timer in the test preview tool or one of the practice tests to write practice essays on other prompts. Just be sure to save your essay into a separate document on your computer so you can go back and read and score it afterwards.

 

 

#3: Grade Your Essays

Once you’ve written your practice Issue and Argument essays, score them by using the essay rubrics and by comparing your writing to the sample essays ETS provides at each score point.

The rubrics for the Issue essay and the Argument essay are similar when it comes to the importance of clarity of writing and adherence to standard English grammar, spelling, and punctuation; they only really differ when it comes to assessing the specifics of the issue or argument analyses. You can try using the rubric yourself on your own essays and determine where on the rubric your essay fits; alternatively, you can see if you can find a GRE buddy who is willing to grade you and give you feedback based on the rubric, since it’s sometimes easier to be objective about someone else’s work.

While the rubrics are useful as guidelines for what to include in your essays, however, it can be difficult to envision what a perfect scoring essay might look like from the laundry list of qualities alone. That’s why the best way to learn what makes a difference between different essay scores is studying examples of high-scoring essays, analyzing what they do well, and finding the differences between them and lower-scoring essays on the same topic. We do this analysis for you in our articles on how to get a perfect 6 on the GRE Issue essay and Argument essay.

The object of grading your essays is not to feel bad that you didn’t live up to the ideals of a perfect essay score but instead to zero in on your weak spots so you can improve. Whether it’s disorganized writing, running out of time (and so not finishing your essay), insufficient analysis, or some other issue entirely, identify the main issues with your essay, then focus your practice on improving those areas.

 

 

What’s Next?

Looking for more great advice to increase your GRE AWA score? Read our article on GRE essay tips and strategies.

Want to find out more about what’s on the essay rubrics? We have a complete guide to how the GRE essays are scored here.

Learn more about what’s on the GRE and what a good GRE score is.

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Author: Laura Staffaroni

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel and fulfill their college and grad school dreams. View all posts by Laura Staffaroni

The best way to figure out how to get a high Analytical Writing score is to look at a GRE essay sample, but doing so without any guidance can be overwhelming. How do you show insight? Do typos affect your score? What’s a good way to keep your essay organized?

We’ll answer all these questions for you (and more!) in this article by analyzing four real GRE essay examples and highlighting the key features you’ll want to include in your own essays.

 

How to Use This Guide

Before we get to the GRE sample essays and their analyses, I’ll highlight two best ways to use this guide to improve your essay and get a great scoring essay yourself.

First, use the perfect-scoring sample GRE essays in this guide as models of possible ways to accomplish the essay tasks. By this, I don’t mean you should plagiarize entire sentences, paragraphs, or essays – that’s both wrong and against GRE code of conduct (it will disqualify your entire test if discovered). Plus, there are so many prompts (152 Issue prompts and 176 Argument ones) that it’s unlikely you’d be able to use any of these exact essays anyway.

What you can and should do is incorporate the features highlighted in the analyses below in your own essays. For instance, if you’ve been struggling with how to logically connect ideas within paragraphs in your own essays, take a look of some of the examples of logical connection I point out in this article and see how they fit within the context of the full essay. You can then practice replicating successful connections between ideas in your own practice essays.

The other main way to use this guide is in conjunction with the essay grading rubrics to help ferret out your writing weaknesses and work on them. Start with the rubrics for the Issue and Argument tasks and identify which criteria are most difficult for you to meet. Even if you can’t articulate precisely what your weakest spot is (e.g. failing to logically connect your ideas within paragraphs), you can at least narrow down the general rubric area you most struggle with (e.g. organization in general).

Once you’ve identified the general area you have the most trouble with, read the GRE essay examples and our analyses in this article to find concrete instances (rather than the abstract descriptions) of the rubric criteria. For more information about the different rubrics for the different essay tasks, read our articles on how to write perfect-scoring GRE Issue and Argument essays.

 

 

Because this article is on the longer side, we’ve created a table of contents to enable you to jump to a specific essay example or task type:

 

Table of Contents: GRE Essay Examples 

Issue Essay 1: Technology and Human Ingenuity

Issue Essay 2: Cooperation Vs. Competition

Argument Essay 1: Mason City Riverside Recreation

Argument Essay 2: Super Screen Movie Advertising

 

Issue Essay 1: Technology and Human Ingenuity

The first of the GRE sample essays we’ll be looking at is written in response to the following “Analyze an Issue” prompt:

As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate.

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.

The essay written on this Issue prompt takes the position that rather than hindering our abilities to think for themselves, technology will spur humanity on to achieve ever-greater things. The full text of this GRE essay sample can be found on the ETS website.

In this analysis, I’ll go over the different ways in which this essay meets the GRE essay rubric criteria for a perfect scoring Issue essay. The first of these rubric criteria I’ll be discussing is the way the author takes a clear and insightful stance on the issue in the essay.

The author’s position that instead of fearing new technology, we should embrace its possibilities is methodically articulated over the course of the entire essay, culminating in the essay’s conclusion with a full thesis statement (“There is no need to retreat to a Luddite attitude to new things, but rather embrace a hopeful posture to the possibilities that technology provides for new avenues of human imagination.”). Below is an outline of how the author expresses her thesis throughout the essay:

  • Paragraph 1: The author acknowledges “technology has revolutionized the world.”
  • Paragraph 2: The author explains the reasoning behind the statement in the prompt (“The assumption is that an increased reliance on technology negates the need for people to think creatively to solve previous quandaries”).
  • Paragraph 3: The author counters the reasoning she discussed in paragraph 2, writing that “reliance on technology does not necessarily preclude the creativity that marks the human species.”
  • Paragraph 4: The author advances her counterclaim one step further, stating that “technology frees the human imagination.”
  • Paragraph 5: The author further develops the idea from Paragraph 4, stating “By increasing our reliance on technology, impossible goals can now be achieved.”
  • Paragraph 6: This final paragraph concludes the essay with a fully articulated thesis that also sums up what went before: “There is no need to retreat to a Luddite attitude to new things, but rather embrace a hopeful posture to the possibilities that technology provides for new avenues of human imagination.”

The author’s straightforward explanations of her thinking and logic enhance the clarity of her position, while the nuanced content of the position itself demonstrates insight into the issue.

 

 

The next area a perfect-scoring Issue essay must demonstrate mastery of is the development of its position through compelling and persuasive examples and reasoning. The author of this essay accomplishes this task by providing examples to support each idea she discusses and, furthermore, explaining not only the content of the examples but also why the examples support her position.

Here’s an example from paragraph 5:

By increasing our reliance on technology, impossible goals can now be achieved. Consider how the late 20th century witnessed the complete elimination of smallpox. This disease had ravaged the human race since prehistorical days, and yet with the technology of vaccines, free thinking humans dared to imagine a world free of smallpox. Using technology, battle plans were drawn out, and smallpox was systematically targeted and eradicated.

In this example, the author begins by laying out the main idea to be discussed (impossible things can be achieved by relying more on technology). She then supports this idea with the example of the impossible problem of smallpox and the steps taken that led to its eradication.

The great thing about the way the author explains her reasoning and examples is the concision and precision with which she gets her information across. Rather than going off into a discussion about the damage caused by smallpox, or staying too vague by mentioning how “diseases” had been solved by the use of vaccines, the author chooses a specific example (smallpox) and mentions only the details relevant to proving her point. This kind of precise writing takes practice, but being able to effectively sum up an example and why it supports your position in just a couple of sentences is essential if you want to get a high score on the GRE Issue essay.

 

 

Focus, organization, and logical connections are the third criterion that a perfect-scoring essay needs to fulfill. In the case of this GRE essay sample, the author achieves this organization and focus by linking ideas both within paragraphs (as seen in the previous example) as well as between paragraphs. Let’s look at the way the author transitions between the end of paragraph four and the beginning of paragraph five:

The unlikely marriage of economics and medicine has healed tense, hyperinflation environments from South America to Eastern Europe.

This last example provides the most hope in how technology actually provides hope to the future of humanity. By increasing our reliance on technology, impossible goals can now be achieved.

The author connects the two paragraphs by continuing paragraph four’s discussion of ways human imagination has been pushed by technology (technology combining economics and medicine has solved a problem) with paragraph five’s exploration of how this example has led to achieving things previously considered impossible. The smoothness of the transition between the two paragraphs is effected both by presenting the content of the next paragraph as a logical progression from what was just discussed as well as by using language (“this last example”) that connects the two on a more superficial level.

By keeping paragraphs tightly linked on both the surface level of sentence structures as well as on the deeper level of content being discussed, the author of this essay also keeps her writing focused and cohesive.

 

 

The last quality a perfect-scoring essay must demonstrate is precision of language and flow in writing. The author of this GRE Analytical Writing sample fulfills this requirement by using language to precisely and economically convey meaning throughout her essay. Here’s one example of precise and effective use of language in the essay:

This disease had ravaged the human race since prehistorical days, and yet with the technology of vaccines, free thinking humans dared to imagine a world free of smallpox.

In this excerpt, the author uses the evocative word “ravaged” to show the dire extent of the problem solved by technology, reinforcing that the issue was previously considered impossible to cope with. She also uses the phrase “humans dared to imagine” in this sentence, which ties the example being discussed back to the previous paragraph’s discussion of human imagination.

While there are a couple of minor errors in this excerpt (“prehistorical” should be “prehistoric,” “free thinking” should be “free-thinking”), they do not significantly change the meaning of the author’s words and so do not detract from the overall effectiveness of the author’s language.

 

 

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Issue Essay 2: Cooperation Vs. Competition

The second of the GRE Issue essay samples I’ll be analyzing is written in response to the following prompt about the values of cooperation vs. competition:

“The best way for a society to prepare its young people for leadership in government, industry, or other fields is by instilling in them a sense of cooperation, not competition.”

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons or examples that could be used to challenge your position.

The sample Issue essay written in response to this topic takes the stance that cooperation, not competition, is a preferable value to instill in young people in preparation for government. You can read the full essay on page 108 of this PDF. Read on for a discussion of the different ways in which this essay meets the requirements for a perfect score.

As with the previous GRE essay sample, we’ll start by looking at how this essay meets the perfect-scoring essay criteria of stating a clear and insightful position (as required by the essay task). The author fulfills the first part of the criteria with his clear statement of his thesis in the last line of the very first paragraph:

I would have to agree that the best way to prepare young people for leadership roles is to instill in them a sense of cooperation.

He reiterates this clear position with the last two sentences of his conclusion:

Getting to be President of the United States or the managing director of a corporation might require you to win some battles, but once you are there you will need diplomacy and people-skills. Those can be difficult to learn, but if you do not have them, you are likely to be a short-lived leader.

To achieve a perfect Issue essay score, however, it’s not just enough to be clear in your position; your position must also demonstrate insight into the issue. The author of this essay accomplishes this second part by choosing a two-pronged approach to answering the essay question. Rather than merely explaining how cooperativeness leads to positive outcomes in government, industry, and other fields, the author also explains how competitiveness leads to negative outcomes.

Thus, the author makes his position clear by stating it in the opening and closing paragraphs of the essay and shows insight by taking the more complex position that not only is cooperation good, but competition is bad.

 

The next of the rubric criteria we’ll discuss has to do with how well the author develops his position with examples and reasoning. A great example of this development can be found in the second paragraph of this essay, which discusses the drawbacks of competition.

The author begins his discussion of competitiveness by arguing that it’s a quality that doesn’t need to be “instilled” because it’s already present. Beginning with general reasoning about human behaviors at school and the office to introduce his point, the author then neatly segues into specific examples of competitiveness gone amok (Hitler in Germany and the recent economic meltdown in America).

With each example presented in the essay, the author pushes his position along a little further. He moves from discussing the most extreme historical cases (genocide) to more recent events (economic recession), concluding by focusing in on one person’s life and career (Tiger Woods). This final example allows the author to reach his final destination in his discussion of competitiveness: yes, competition can serve people well up to a certain point, but the price is that it is also “detrimental and ultimately quite destructive.”

 

 

The third way this essay meets the requirements of a perfect-scoring essay is through the logical connection of ideas within and between paragraphs. The transition between the end of paragraph two and the beginning of paragraph three provides a stellar example of this skillful connecting of ideas:

It [competitiveness] served him well in some respects, but it also proved to be detrimental and ultimately quite destructive.

Leaders who value cooperation, on the other ahnd, have historically been less prone to these overreaching, destructive tendencies.

On the face of it, the author only connects the two paragraphs by using a transition phrase (“on the other hand”) that sets up the next paragraph as contrasting with what came before. While this kind of transition would be good enough for a lower-scoring essay, though, the author does not just leave the connection between the two paragraphs at that. Instead, he also connects the two paragraphs by keeping the focus on the same issue from the end of one paragraph to the beginning of the next.

The content-level transition between paragraphs occurs when the author transitions from discussing the “detrimental and ultimately quite destructive” competitiveness of Tiger Woods directly into claiming that cooperation-valuing leaders are “less prone to these overreaching, destructive tendencies.” This twofold linkage of content (deeper level) and transition phrase (more surface level) makes it clear to the reader that the discussion of leaders valuing cooperation follows logically the discussion of negative outcomes for competition-valuing leaders.

 

 

The final 6-level quality demonstrated by this GRE Writing sample is its use of skillful and precise language to convey specific meaning. Overall, the language in this essay is formal and academic, despite the profligate use of first person point of view by the author (which can make writing seem less formal). The following sentence exemplifies the author’s command of language:

The recent economic meltdown was caused in no large part by the leaders of American banks and financial institutions who were obsessed with competing for the almighty dollar.

Despite the minor error in this sentence (it should read “in no small part,” rather than “in no large part,”), the author’s meaning is absolutely clear: competition led to the meltdown. Strong vocabulary choices like “economic meltdown,” “obsessed,” “almighty dollar” are what make this an effective statement of the author’s position. Compare the above excerpt to a more milquetoast version of the same statement:

The recent economic downturn was mostly caused by financial leaders who wanted to earn lots of money.

This second sentence has the same basic meaning as the real excerpt from the essay. Because it doesn’t use particularly precise or compelling language, however, this watered-down version ends up minimizing the magnitude of problems caused by competitiveness (which undercuts the author’s point). This vaguer version of the essay excerpt also lacks the word “competing,” which makes it useless as an instance of competition among leaders leading to negative consequences.

The original excerpt from the essay, and indeed the entire GRE essay example, is so strong precisely because it manages to pack in specific relevant language that adds to, rather than detracts from, the author’s meaning.

Return to Table of Contents

 

 

 

Argument Essay 1: Mason City Riverside Recreation

The next essay I’ll be analyzing is written in response to the following “Analyze an Argument” prompt:

In surveys Mason City residents rank water sports (swimming, boating and fishing) among their favorite recreational activities. The Mason River flowing through the city is rarely used for these pursuits, however, and the city park department devotes little of its budget to maintaining riverside recreational facilities. For years there have been complaints from residents about the quality of the river’s water and the river’s smell. In response, the state has recently announced plans to clean up Mason River. Use of the river for water sports is therefore sure to increase. The city government should for that reason devote more money in this year’s budget to riverside recreational facilities.

Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on the assumptions and what the implications are if the assumptions prove unwarranted.

The GRE Argument essay sample I’ll be analyzing critiques the numerous assumptions made and ultimately concludes that the argument for spending more money on Mason City’s riverside recreational facilities rests on faulty assumptions.

The full text of this essay can be found on the ETS website. Be sure to read through the essay first before coming back to read my analysis of it. We’ll start by looking at the ways in which this GRE essay sample identifies and examines the argument given in the prompt in an insightful way:

There are three key assumptions made by the argument that are identified in the essay:

#1: The survey results are valid and representative

#2: The reason Mason River isn’t used is because of odor and pollution

#3: Cleaning the pollution in the river will get rid of the odor and then lead to more usage by residents

The Argument essay example we’re looking at examines each of the assumptions by considering the implications if the assumptions made by the article turn out not to be true. Here’s part of the essay’s investigation of the second assumption listed above:

Though there have been complaints, we do not know if there have been numerous complaints from a wide range of people, or perhaps from one or two individuals who made numerous complaints.

The author identifies the assumption that complaints indicate many people want to use the river and examines it by reasoning through possible scenarios other than the one presented in the prompt. The insight comes from the fact that the specific possibilities discussed by the author are highly plausible alternative explanations for the facts that would change the validity of the prompt’s assumption. It’s very possible that the complaints were not made by every single resident, or even a majority of residents, as the prompt seems to assume, but were in fact only made by a few people.

As a result of her analysis, the author ultimately concludes that there is insufficient information to support the assumption that Mason River isn’t used due to its odor and pollution.

 

 

The next way the author of this sample GRE essay fulfills the requirements of a perfect-scoring Argument essay is by providing comprehensive support for each of her main points. Throughout the essay, the author is able to explain exactly why each assumption made is problematic by using examples that precisely illustrate her argument.

Consider how this is approached in the second paragraph of the essay. The author starts the paragraph by presenting the assumption made in the essay argument that the survey results can be relied upon. She then proceeds to decimate that assumption with multiple examples of ways in which the survey could be flawed and not be an accurate representation of the residents’ opinions, as can be seen in the following excerpt:

For example, the survey could have asked residents if they prefer using the river for water sports or would like to see a hydroelectric dam built, which may have swayed residents toward river sports. The sample may not have been representative of city residents, asking only those residents who live upon the river. The survey may have been 10 pages long, with 2 questions dedicated to river sports. We just do not know.

The thoroughness of the author’s support for her point is magnified by the specificity of the scenarios she proposes. Stating “the survey might not have been representative of the city residents” would have been far less compelling a point than stating “[t]he sample may not have been representative of city residents, asking only those residents who live upon the river.”

 

 

Another important ideal a perfect-scoring Argument essay must live up to is being organized logically, with clear transitions between ideas. The author of this GRE essay sample is able to meet the first part of this requirement with a simple five-paragraph organizational structure: an introduction, one paragraph for each assumption discussed, and a conclusion.

Accomplishing the logical connection and development of ideas throughout the essay requires a little bit more finesse, but the author still manages it. Here’s an example from the beginning of the third paragraph of a skillful transition:

Additionally, the author implies that residents do not use the river for swimming, boating, and fishing, despite their professed interest, because the water is polluted and smelly.

In the above example, the author uses the transition word “additionally” to connect the ideas that will follow with what went before. The example also references the previous paragraph’s discussion of the unreliability of the survey of residents (“their professed interest”) and links it to the current discussion of pollution and smell being the cause of low participation in riverside recreational activities. The combination of these two methods of connecting the two paragraphs results in a smooth logical flow from one idea to the next.

 

 

Lastly, a perfect-scoring Argument essay must be precise and effective in its discussion of ideas, with few if any errors. The author of this essay successfully meets this standard by using purposeful language to efficiently and clearly get her point across, as can be seen in this example from paragraph three:

While a polluted, smelly river would likely cut down on river sports, a concrete connection between the resident’s lack of river use and the river’s current state is not effectively made.

The author contrasts the prompt’s assumption (“a polluted, smelly river would likely cut down on river sports”) with the “concrete connection” that is not present. The essay as a whole is not completely devoid of errors (for example, the author writes “afffected” instead of “affected”), but the errors are few and do not have a negative impact on the clarity of the writing.

 

 

Return to Table of Contents

 

Argument Essay 2: Super Screen Movie Advertising

The last of the GRE essay examples I’ll be analyzing at is written in response to this “Analyze an Argument” prompt:

The following is taken from a memo from the advertising director of the Super Screen Movie Production Company.

“According to a recent report from our marketing department, during the past year, fewer people attended Super Screen-produced movies than in any other year. And yet the percentage of positive reviews by movie reviewers about specific Super Screen movies actually increased during the past year. Clearly, the contents of these reviews are not reaching enough of our prospective viewers. Thus, the problem lies not with the quality of our movies but with the public’s lack of awareness that movies of good quality are available. Super Screen should therefore allocate a greater share of its budget next year to reaching the public through advertising.”

Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.

The essay written in response to this “Analyze an Argument” prompt raises and evaluates questions about how many viewers and reviews of Super Screen productions there actually were, if there is a strong relationship between how movie reviewers and general audiences react to movies, and whether or not the percentage of positive reviews about a movie reflects how much of an impact reviews have on audiences.

The full text of this GRE essay sample can be found on p. 112 of this PDF. Read through the essay first, then check below for an analysis of its positive (and negative) qualities.

The first aspect of the essay we’ll analyze is how it succeeds in identifying and examining the parts of the argument that are relevant to the task. In the essay’s introduction, the author mentions that there are questions that need to be asked (“Before this plan is implemented, however, Super Screen needs to address some questions about its possible flaws”), but he really hammers it home in the conclusion by specifying which questions need to be answered:

In conclusion, there are many questions Super Screen needs to answer before using this advertising director’s plan. They need to look carefully at actual numbers, both of viewership and of positive reviews. The also need to identify the relationship that their target audience has with movie reviewers and determine how their target audience feels about their movies. Fianlly they need to take a nuanced look at the movie reviews that they use in their advertising.

With this conclusion, the author hits the three main points that need to be considered before agreeing to the advertising director’s plan: viewer and review numbers, audience reactions to reviews, and whether or not reviews are a useful metric by which to measure movie success.

An instance of the author identifying a particular argument can be found in the third paragraph of this GRE essay sample. The paragraph starts by clearly stating the question that needs to be answered (what the number of positive reviews was and how it compared to past reviews). After this initial identification of the question, the author also explains how answering this question would have an impact on the usefulness of the recommendation: if the increase in positive reviews was from 1% to 2%, allocating more money to advertising to emphasize this fact is likely to have less impact than if the money were instead budgeted towards improving film quality.

 

 

Another quality all perfect-scoring Argument essays must contain is strong and thorough support for each point discussed. The author of the GRE essay sample we’re analyzing fulfills this requirement, supporting every question she raises about the argument in the prompt by showing how its answer would affect the recommendation.

A good example of this all coming together happens in paragraph five of the essay:

Finally the studio must ask whether the percentage of positive reviews is really a relevant way to measure the potential impact of movie reviews. There are dozens of movie reviewers but when deciding whether to not to go to a movie, the general public will usually pick from among the 10 most popular movie reviews. These are the reviews that will impress the public if they are included in advertising. If the most popular movie reviewers disliked Super Screen movies that a larger number of small time film bloggers reviewed positively, Super Screen needs to think of a new advertising strategy.

In this paragraph, the author opens by identifying the element of argument to be discussed (are positive reviews a useful way to measure the impact of movie reviews in general?). She then develops this point through reasoning about why the answer to this question might contradict the assumption made in the argument (people mostly use popular reviews to decide on what movies to see, rather than the ratio of popular to negative reviews).

The author ends this paragraph by conclusively showing that the answer to the question raised in this paragraph is crucial for determining whether or not Super Screen should follow the advertising director’s plan: if the percent of positive reviews isn’t a good way to measure movie impact and the real issue is that relatively few popular movie reviewers liked Super Screen movies, then the recommendation of the advertising department is unreasonable.

 

The third requirement for a perfect-scoring Argument essay is that it must develop and connect ideas in a clear and logical fashion. The organization of this GRE argument essay sample helps accomplish this by routing the author’s thoughts into an introduction, four body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each body paragraph of the essay is centered around one or two related questions. A good example of this can be found in paragraph four, which contains two related questions about the relationship between audiences and movie reviewers:

Finally, Super Screen needs to ask what the relationship is between its viewers and the movie reviewers cited in the memo. Using a survey distributed to its target audience, Super Screen could determine if movie reviews have an effect on their audience’s decision to go see a movie, whether movie reviewers tended to have the same taste as the target audience and exactly whether or not movie reviews are reaching the audience. Super Screen also needs to consider how its movie choices have affected the separate movie reviewer and audience populations. If the studio has switched from making mega- blockbuster action movies to more nuanced dramas, the general public may be less willing to go see their movies even though movie critics prefer the dramas to the action movies.

The above paragraph starts out by discussing if Super Screen’s target audiences are affected by reviews and whether their audiences and movie reviewers have the same taste, then segues into discussing if the studio’s film-making choices have affected audiences and movie reviews. The transition between the two different questions being discussed is effected by the simple use of the word “also” in the third sentence of the paragraph:

Super Screen also needs to consider how its movie choices have affected the separate movie reviewer and audience populations. [bolded for emphasis]

The last sentence of the paragraph again links back to the discussion of audience taste vs. reviewer taste, reinforcing the close and logical connection between the two questions discussed in the paragraph.

 

 

Finally, a perfect-scoring Argument essay must employ varied and precise language, with few errors. Earlier, we discussed paragraph four as a particularly strong example of the author’s effective development of ideas. The last sentence of this paragraph contributes to this efficacy through the use of specific language:

“If the studio has switched from making mega-blockbuster action movies to more nuanced dramas, the general public may be less willing to go see their movies even though movie critics prefer the dramas to the action movies.”

The use of the descriptor “mega-blockbuster” to describe the action movies preferred by the masses effectively conjures up something that is the diametric opposite of a “nuanced drama.” In addition, the author’s contrasting of the “mega-blockbuster action movies” with “more nuanced dramas” parallels the second half of the sentence’s contrasting of the preferences of the general public vs. those of the (possibly) more refined movie reviewer.

There are a few minor spelling errors (e.g. in “attendence” instead of “attendance”), and the last two body paragraphs both start with “finally” (which is a little repetitive), but in general, this is a skillfully written essay. It’s not perfectly polished like an essay you’d turn in for school, but that’s absolutely OK. In the grand scheme of the GRE essay scoring rubric, writing flourishes matter much less than clarity of thought and precision of language.

 

 

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6 Tips for a Perfect-Scoring GRE Essay

To wrap up this article, I’ll go over some of the key points you should take from the four GRE sample essays I analyzed in this article.

 

#1: Include an Introduction and a Conclusion

One thing that all these perfect-scoring GRE sample essays had in common was an introduction and a conclusion. It doesn’t have to be a full paragraph, but you need to at the very least introduce your ideas at the beginning of your essay and wrap up your conclusions at the end of it.

 

#2: State Your Position Clearly

In my notes to myself on one of the GRE Issue essay examples I analyzed above, I observed that the author “states her thesis early and often” because of the way her position was made clear throughout the essay. While obviously you don’t want to just repeat the same sentence over and over again, it is imperative that you include at least one clear statement of your position in your essay, preferably in your introduction paragraph.

The importance of clearly stating your position varies between the two GRE essay tasks somewhat. For the Argument essay, you might be able to get away with a vague summary of the points you’ll cover and still get a 4.0 or above on the essay; by contrast, it’s nearly impossible to get above a 3.0 on the Issue essay if you do not clearly state your position on the issue, as that is integral to the essay task itself.

Whatever the prompt or essay type, if you want to get a perfect score on your essay, you’ll need to include a clear statement of your position on the issue or what points you’ll be analyzing in regards to the argument in the prompt.

 

#3: Be Specific in Your Support

All of the perfect-scoring GRE essay examples analyzed in this article contained specific and relevant support for the claims made by the authors. In the Issue essay examples, the authors drew upon well-defined examples and concise examples that directly supported the author’s position on the issue. In the Argument essay samples, the authors focused in on several specific parts of the arguments and debated their validity using specific hypothetical scenarios and questions.

The takeaway of this for your own writing is that the specific is always more persuasive than the general when it comes to supporting a point. And if you can’t find specific support for your position or for the flaw you’ve found in an argument, then that’s a good sign that you need to consider changing your position or finding another part of the argument to critique.

 

 

#4: Explain Your Support Clearly

As I discussed in my analyses of the four GRE Writing samples, whether or not your writing is polished and perfectly worded and spelled is not nearly as important as your successful communication of your ideas and how they are supported. In the GRE essay, all is precision, and analyses of issues that use clearly-explained compelling examples or analyses of arguments that cut to the very heart of why an argument is flawed with supporting explanations will ultimately score higher than beautifully crafted but logically imprecise essays.

 

#5: Use Transitions

All of the authors of the GRE essay examples analyzed in this article are able to maintain focus and organization in their essays by employing multi-level transitions that link ideas between and within paragraphs on both content and linguistic levels. In your own writing, be conscious of when you are changing from discussing one idea to another and make sure the transition is smooth. Even just adding transition words like “additionally” or “in contrast” to the beginning of new ideas can help your writing flow better.

 

#6: Stay Organized

While all of the GRE essay examples used in this article were written in response to different prompts, they all adhered to basically the standard five-paragraph, introduction-body paragraphs-conclusion format.

There’s no reason to take extra time away from your analysis of the questions to figure out a unique organizational structure for each essay when the five paragraph essay will get it done just as well (if not better). This is not because other forms are not possible; as the ETS website says, “You are free to organize and develop your response in any way you think will enable you to effectively communicate your ideas about the issue.”

But the utility of the five paragraph form is that it’s a tried-and-true way to keep your essay organized. Using it will save you the time of having to figure out a new organizational strategy for every essay you write. And the more consistently you stick to a simple (but clear) organizational structure, the faster you’ll get at it, until organizing your thoughts logically comes as second-nature (especially important in a timed essay environment when every second counts).

 

 

What’s Next?

Now you know what it takes to get a perfect essay score. But do you actually need to get a perfect 6.0 on GRE Writing? Find out with our discussion of what a good GRE Writing score is.

Curious about how the criteria mentioned in this article translate into numerical scores? Read our article on how the GRE essay is scored to learn more!

Need to boost your essay score quickly? We have 15 great tips and strategies that help you improve your Analytical Writing score.

Ready to dive into practice essays with some practice topics? Use our guide to the 328 official GRE essay topics to get started.

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Author: Laura Staffaroni

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel and fulfill their college and grad school dreams. View all posts by Laura Staffaroni

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