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Smart and Simple Strategies for Beating the Analytical Writing Section of the GRE

With every standardized test, there are simple strategies you can use to do your best. It’s not merely about answering the questions correctly. It’s also knowing how to budget your time, when to guess and when to pass on a question, and how to generally approach the exam.

Here are some tips and ideas, created by the test makers at Educational Testing Service, to help you prep for the two sections of the Analytical Writing portion of the forthcoming GRE revised General Test.

For off, remember, It‘s 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 test 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.

SMART TIPS FOR THE ISSUE TASK.

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. Your response may incorporate particular writing strategies learned in English composition or writing-intensive college courses. GRE test readers will not be looking for a particular developmental strategy or mode of writing; in fact, when GRE test readers are trained, they review hundreds of Issue responses that, although highly diverse in content and form, display similar levels of critical thinking and persuasive writing.

Readers will see some Issue responses at the 6 score level that begin by briefly summarizing the writer’s position on the issue and then explicitly announcing the main points to be argued. They will see others that lead into the writer’s position by making a prediction, asking a series of questions, describing a scenario or defining critical terms in the quotation. The readers know that a writer can earn a high score by giving multiple examples or by presenting a single, extended example. Look at the sample Issue responses, particularly at the 5 and 6 score levels, to see how other writers have successfully developed and organized their arguments.

You should use as many or as few paragraphs as you consider appropriate for your argument; e.g., you will probably need to create a new paragraph whenever your discussion shifts to a new cluster of ideas. What matters is not the number of examples, the number of paragraphs or the form your argument takes, but the cogency of your ideas about the issue and the clarity and skill with which you communicate those ideas to academic readers.

SMART TIPS FOR THE ARGUMENT TASK.

You are free to organize and develop your response in any way you think will effectively communicate your evaluation of the argument. Your response may, but need not, incorporate particular writing strategies learned in English composition or writing-intensive college courses. GRE test readers will not be looking for a particular developmental strategy or mode of writing. In fact, when GRE test readers are trained, they review hundreds of Argument responses that, although highly diverse in content and form, display similar levels of critical thinking and analytical writing.

For example, readers will see some essays at the 6 score level that begin by briefly summarizing the argument and then explicitly stating and developing the main points of the evaluation. The readers know that a writer can earn a high score by developing several points in an evaluation or by identifying a central feature in the argument and developing that evaluation extensively. You might want to look at the sample Argument responses, particularly at the 5 and 6 score levels, to see how other writers have successfully developed and organized their responses.

You should make choices about format and organization that you think support and enhance the overall effectiveness of your evaluation. This means using as many or as few paragraphs as you consider appropriate for your response, e.g., create a new paragraph when your discussion shifts to a new point of evaluation. You might want to organize your evaluation around the structure of the argument itself, discussing it line by line. Or you might want to first point out a central questionable assumption and then move on to discuss related weaknesses in the argument’s line of reasoning.

Similarly, you might want to use examples to help illustrate an important point in your evaluation or move your discussion forward. However, remember that it is your critical thinking and analytical writing that is being assessed, not your ability to come up with examples. What matters is not the form your response takes, but how insightfully you evaluate the argument and how articulately you communicate your evaluation to academic readers within the context of the task.