An Essay Unlike Any Other: GRE Writing Overview

A GRE Writing overview is a test topic that deserves some extra attention. Most students in college will have written the closest thing to this essay before in high school, when they wrote the essay for the ACT or the SAT. At the time, those students probably thought about how different this essay was from anything they had written in school. Unfortunately, the GRE writing section is as different from the ACT/SAT essays as the ACT/SAT essays are from English class. If you’re looking to improve your score on the GRE writing section, you’ll need to know what you’re up against. Here’s an overview of the GRE writing section that should get you started.


How the GRE Writing is Different: Style


The first thing that a GRE student will notice about the GRE writing section is how drastically the digital format changes the test. Unlike most other timed tests you’ll take in your life, the GRE is entirely digital. You’ll plan, organize, and write your essay entirely in text editor software. Until you try this, it’s hard to explain how different it is from writing an essay on paper. You can still organize your thoughts graphically on the paper, but then you’ll need to transfer all of that to the text editor. You can write faster, since typing is faster than writing by hand for most people, but that also means you don’t think as much while you’re writing.

For most GRE writing section test-takers, this means you’ll still need to organize your thoughts on paper, but translate them to the text editor as soon as possible. It’s much easier to move and rearrange and edit things in a text editor than on paper (delete, paste, and cut are your friends!), so you can take advantage of that. Getting your thoughts into digital form earlier means a more malleable essay. That means you’ll have more time to write and less time required for organization.

Of course, any GRE writing overview would be incomplete if it didn’t mention the fact that there are two essays back to back. There’s not much to say about that, unfortunately, since you’ll just do one and then the other. Just remember, it’s a lot of writing all at once, so don’t be afraid to take a short break and reset your focus before the second essay.


How the GRE Writing is Different: Substance


The GRE writing section differs from most other essays you’ll write in your life. It’s a strange combination of writing fast and writing smart. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time to write a really thorough essay, and the topic often isn’t juicy enough to warrant that, anyway. On the other hand, there’s just enough time that you’ll need to actually make a compelling point in your essay. Here’s a GRE writing overview of the tasks and how to tackle them.

Analyze an Issue

In this task, you’ll read a short paragraph about a topic that the GRE has deemed to be of “broad interest”. This topic can range from if chefs should strive to use local ingredients to how we should organize society. After reading the paragraph, you’ll need to develop an argument that takes into account all the complexities of the issue at hand. This lightning-speed “form an opinion” format is like most essays you’ve written in school, except for the very bare-bones text you’re basing that opinion off of. These can be shockingly short, and are often only a single sentence. That means the real exercise is in the planning, as you dream up your own opinion based on very little substance. A tip: you don’t have to believe what you’re arguing for in order to argue effectively, so pick a strong stance and stick to it–it will be easier to say more that way.

Analyze an Argument

This is task that most students have more trouble with. Especially coming off of the previous essay, it’s easy to interpret this essay as “criticize an argument”. But that’s not actually what the task is. It’s to “consider the logical soundness” of an argument, not to decide if you agree or disagree. If you miss this crucial point, you’re sure to get a low grade, because you haven’t answered the prompt. But students who don’t pay attention will do just that! So remember what the assignment is, and answer the question as written. Don’t write the essay you’re used to writing, but the unfamiliar one demanded by the prompt.


GRE Writing Overview with a Pro


If you’re uneasy about the GRE writing section or the GRE in general, you’re not alone. It’s easy to practice writing essays on your own with the prompts that ETS releases to the public, but it’s hard to get feedback. That’s where our test prep experts come in. Our GRE tutors are professional proofreaders and essay readers, so we can evaluate your progress and set you on the right track. Get in touch with use today to get started with your GRE writing section prep!