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The GRE® General Test

One test for graduate, business and law school

Select a step to learn more about your GRE® General Test journey.


Overview of the Analytical Writing Measure

The Analytical Writing measure of the GRE General Test tests your critical thinking and analytical writing skills by assessing your ability to:

  • articulate and support complex ideas
  • construct and evaluate arguments
  • sustain a focused and coherent discussion

It doesn’t assess specific content knowledge.

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

  • The "Analyze an Issue" task presents an opinion on an issue and instructions on how to respond. You’re required to evaluate the issue, consider its complexities and develop an argument with reasons and examples to support your views.
  • The "Analyze an Argument" task requires you to evaluate an argument according to specific instructions. You’ll need to consider the logical soundness of the argument rather than agree or disagree with the position it presents.

The two 30-minute tasks are complementary. The Issue task requires you to construct your own argument, while the Argument task requires you to evaluate someone else's argument.

You’ll use a basic word processor developed by ETS to type your essay responses. The word processor contains the following functionalities: insert text, delete text, cut-and-paste and undo the previous action. Tools such as a spellchecker and grammar checker are not available.


Preparing for the Analytical Writing measure

Everyone — even the most practiced and confident of writers — should spend time preparing for the Analytical Writing measure to understand the skills measured and how the tasks are scored. It may also be useful to review the scoring guides, sample topics, scored sample essay responses and rater 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 don’t require specific content knowledge. 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 General Test, review the strategies, sample topics, sample essay responses with rater commentary, and scoring guide for each task. This will give you a deeper understanding of how raters 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 each task, allow sufficient time to consider the issue or argument and the specific instructions, plan a response, and compose your essay. Although the GRE raters who score your essays understand the time constraints and 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. An occasional spelling or grammatical error won’t affect your score, but serious and persistent errors detract from the overall effectiveness of your writing and lower your score accordingly.