GRE Analytical Writing Study Guide
GRE Analytical Writing Review
So you’ve decided to enter graduate school! Firstly: congratulations on taking this opportunity to further your education and professional goals! At Mometrix Test Preparation, we believe in doing as much as we can to foster academic success in those who need it. As such, we have put together this overview and following comprehensive guide to the GRE Analytical Writing section.
The GRE splits into three parts: Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. It is believed that these three subjects are the most relevant to graduate school curriculum and the types of skills and academic work you’ll have to perform there. On this page, you will find a detailed overview of the GRE Analytical Writing section as well as a bit of advice from us to you on how you can approach this exam.
Writing is and has always been a valued skill among higher-level careers. You’ve likely had to fulfill a large amount of writing assignments while you were pursuing your undergraduate degree, whether you were an English major or not. Employers care about the critical thinking abilities of their employees, especially in this day and age. They want to see that you can see a situation or consume information and interpret it in an intelligent and profound way. All professionals are expected to know how to express themselves properly, how to think critically to help lead their staff and business toward success. This means they—and you—will have to know how to think analytically about given situations and information. The GRE Analytical Writing section’s purpose is to gauge your ability to think analytically and express these thoughts in clear, coherent writing.
We recommend doing your best to study for this exam whether you’re a talented writer already or have a little more trouble phrasing your thoughts. Doing so will ensure you give your best possible work on the exam and, as a result, earn the best possible score. At Mometrix Test Preparation, we care about your success and make helping you succeed our main priority. This is why we’ve composed an ample amount of tools to help you get ready for the GRE Analytical Writing section.
On this page, we’ll be covering the GRE Analytical Writing section—what it is, what it covers, what you will be expected to do and know, and more. Should you need extra help, we have other options available to you besides this GRE Analytical Writing study guide. We also have GRE Analytical Writing flashcards and a GRE Analytical Writing practice test to help you brush up on your skills and learn which areas need the most attention from you while you study. We hope that, with this study guide, you’ll be able to build a study plan that will help you ace this important exam.
What Can I Expect to Find on the GRE Analytical Writing Section?
As it stands, the Analytical Writing section of the GRE requires no specific knowledge from you. All it tests is your capabilities with composing your thoughts in logical writing, considering other perspectives, and communicating your ideas in a concise and clear manner. All of the questions on this portion of the test require essay answers. Additionally, the grading scale for this portion of the exam ranges from zero to six, with zero being the weakest and six the strongest.
The Analytical Writing Section is composed of two halves, or “tasks”: “Analyze an Argument” and “Analyze an Issue.” You will be given a half hour to complete each section of the exam portion—clocking in at a total of one hour to complete the entire section. Both of these tasks possess different objectives and will be presented in different ways. Despite their different presentations, both elements of this section of the exam are intertwined with one another. Throughout both, you’ll be expected to take a stance on a particular piece of information and write a short essay. While you won’t be provided with enough time to plan out anything farther than a rough draft, you will be given just enough time to formulate a coherent and well thought out response. Remember to incorporate time management into your studying and do your best to form the most careful, solid writing response that you can within that time frame.
It is worth noting that the topics provided within the Analytical Writing section of the exam will potentially cover a broad assortment of topics. However, you won’t need extensive knowledge in any certain subject in order to do well. This section of the test has been heavily assessed to guarantee it is as simple to understand as possible, but not so simple as to not inspire any kind of serious, critical thought for test takers. You will still have to put careful thought into your answers, but the test is written so this task will not be impossible for you to complete.
While these two tasks may sound daunting, you have nothing to fear. Throughout this GRE Analytical Writing study guide, we will provide you with all of the information you need so you’ll know how to prepare and how to approach this exam section when the time comes. Because these two tasks are so intensive, we will go over them separately.
“Analyze an Argument”
To “Analyze an Argument” means that you will be provided with a written discussion and expected to read and evaluate the points within it. You will then have to put together an essay answer by studying the argument’s points and proof and deciding how valid they are. You will not be asked to offer your own stance on the material or defend how factual they are. Rather, you will be reading to determine how logical the text presented to you is, as well as explaining what elements make it logical or illogical. Presenting your own stance on the material provided to you will be expected on the other portion of the Analytical Writing section—“Analyze an Issue.” It is important that you don’t get the two confused. The level of thought required on the “Analyze an Argument” section is expected frequently within a graduate school environment, which is why it appears on the GRE.
Because this section of the exam relies so heavily on careful reading of the materials presented, it is more important than ever that you take as much time as you can afford to be sure you’ve accurately read the material, so your answer will be as fitting as possible. As you read, consider the subtleties of the presented text, how the text makes its arguments and what those arguments are, any unjustified assumptions offered by the text, and any points or evidence provided by the text outright. Also pay attention to the way that the argument is organized, and how its arguments link to one another. You will need to not only display competent writing skills, but the ability to evaluate a piece of writing through critical thought. The latter carries more weight with regards to your score. When you begin formulating your responses, be sure to keep all of these elements in mind.
To help you know how to study for this portion of the exam, we will go over the types of questions you can expect to see. This includes:
- Explaining how to approach the reasoning behind an argument by careful questioning;
- Assessing how an argument can be backed up and whether the necessary evidence would help or harm said argument;
- Evaluating the different viewpoints someone may use to oppose the given argument as well as how these counterpoints could be used; and
- Explaining what information within the argument is assumed, what these assumptions mean and how they affect the argument if it is false, and the argument’s relationship with its assumptions.
It is likely you may run into some statistical math during this portion of the exam. You should not be alarmed by the inclusion of numbers in the exam, as you will not have to solve for anything. Instead, they are meant to back up the argument, and should be taken into account as such. Consider them while you formulate your response—what these numbers mean and how they contribute to the argument at hand. Depending on how important they are to the argument itself, you may want to address them in your essay response.
“Analyze an Issue”
To “Analyze an Issue” involves receiving an essay prompt based upon a popular or current discussion topic and creating an essay answer based on one’s own stance toward the issue. You will have to not only make reasonable arguments, but back them up with logical evidence pulled from examples and other forms of support. The topic presented to you will be broad enough to allow you to evaluate your answer from a vast range of perspectives, rather than being forced to argue one opposing stance that you may potentially struggle to justify in an adequate enough manner.
We actually recommend you consider the topic at hand from several different points of view before beginning your answer, then deciding which one will not only be the easiest to formulate an answer for, but will yield a strong, well thought out response. Remember: you will still have to write a strong, convincing argument for your stance, as per the task’s directions. Do everything you can to flesh out your argument as much as possible, including taking notes and developing them into a quick outline in order to better organize what you want to say—whatever helps you to create the strongest possible answer.
As you formulate your responses to the topics presented to you, you must remember there is no such thing as a right or wrong response. Rather, the point of the test is to display how well you are able to reason, and how adequate you are with explaining your reasoning through careful and logical writing.
There is the possibility you may have to answer prompts of any of the following varieties:
- Evaluating the topic presented to you and explaining not only why and how much your opinion differs from or lines up with the topic, but where your line of thought comes from;
- Examining the given topic, explaining your stance towards it and the cases in which the statement you’ve read would be inaccurate or accurate;
- Assessing two stances that disagree with one another and explaining which perspective you agree with more;
- Considering advice presented to you by the prompt and formulating a stance not only on this advice, but under which scenarios you would rethink (or not rethink) following this advice based upon your stance;
- Judging a hypothetical political policy, explaining how you feel about the policy, and the results that could potentially unfold if this policy were to be put into action in real life; and
- Explaining your stance on a subject based on how much your views conflict and match up with the given topic, as well as detailing how your stance could reasonably be contested by someone with an opposing point of view.
While this GRE Analytical Writing study guide isn’t 100 percent comprehensive, we hope it has enlightened you toward the best way to approach studying for the exam. We know that, by taking the GRE, you are striving to improve upon your academic and professional potential. This is why we want to give you every tool possible to succeed. For further help as you study, feel free to turn to our GRE Analytical Writing practice test and/or GRE Analytical Writing flashcards. These extra tools will help to give you a more hands-on example of what to expect. Good luck, and study hard!
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Provided by: Mometrix Test Preparation
Last updated: 12/29/2017
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