Introduction to the Analytical Writing Measure

The Analytical Writing measure tests your critical thinking and analytical writing skills. It assesses your ability to articulate and support complex ideas, construct and evaluate arguments, and sustain a focused and coherent discussion. It does not assess specific content knowledge.

The Analytical Writing measure consists of two separately timed analytical writing tasks:

The Issue task presents an opinion on an issue of general interest followed by specific instructions on how to respond to that issue. You are required to evaluate the issue, consider its complexities and develop an argument with reasons and examples to support your views.

The Argument task requires you to evaluate a given argument according to specific instructions. You will need to consider the logical soundness of the argument rather than agree or disagree with the position it presents.

The two tasks are complementary in that one requires you to construct your own argument by taking a position and providing evidence supporting your views on an issue, and the other requires you to evaluate someone else's argument by assessing its claims and evaluating the evidence it provides.

Individuals taking the computer-delivered test will use a basic word processor developed by ETS. The basic word processor contains the following functionalities: insert text, delete text, cut-and-paste and undo the previous action. Tools such as a spell checker and grammar checker are not available in the ETS software, largely to maintain fairness with those examinees who must handwrite their essays at paper-delivered administrations.

Preparing for the Analytical Writing Measure

Everyone — even the most practiced and confident of writers — should spend some time preparing for the Analytical Writing measure before arriving at the test center. It is important to understand the skills measured and how the tasks are scored. It is also useful to review the scoring guides, sample topics, scored sample essay responses and reader commentary for each task.

The tasks in the Analytical Writing measure relate to a broad range of subjects — from the fine arts and humanities to the social and physical sciences — but no task requires knowledge of specific content. In fact, each task has been tested by actual GRE® test takers to ensure that it possesses several important characteristics, including the following:

  • GRE test takers, regardless of their field of study or special interests, understood the task and could easily respond to it.
  • The task elicited the kinds of complex thinking and persuasive writing that university faculty consider important for success in graduate school.
  • The responses were varied in content and in the way the writers developed their ideas.

Published Topic Pools for the Analytical Writing Measure

To help you prepare for the Analytical Writing measure, the GRE Program has published the entire pool of tasks from which your test tasks will be selected. You might find it helpful to review the Issue and Argument pools:

Test-taking Strategies for the Analytical Writing Measure

  • Before taking the GRE® revised General Test, review the strategies, sample topics, essay responses and reader commentary for each task contained in this section. Also review the scoring guides for each task. This will give you a deeper understanding of how readers evaluate essays and the elements they're looking for in an essay.
  • It is important to budget your time. Within the 30-minute time limit for the Issue task, you will need to allow sufficient time to consider the issue and the specific instructions, plan a response and compose your essay. Within the 30-minute time limit for the Argument task, you will need to allow sufficient time to consider the argument and the specific instructions, plan a response and compose your essay. Although the GRE readers who score your essays understand the time constraints under which you write and will consider your response a first draft, you still want it to be the best possible example of your writing that you can produce under the testing conditions. 
  • Save a few minutes at the end of each timed task to check for obvious errors. Although an occasional spelling or grammatical error will not affect your score, severe and persistent errors will detract from the overall effectiveness of your writing and lower your score accordingly.

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