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GRE Analytical Writing

The analytical writing portion of the New GRE consists of two tasks:

  • Writing an essay presenting your point of view on an issue of general intellectual concern.
  • Writing an essay analyzing the line of reasoning in an argument.

You are allotted 30 minutes to complete the issue task, and 30 minutes to complete the argument analysis task. You must finish one task before you begin the other.

The Issue Task

In this task, you are asked to respond to a particular issue, clearly presenting your viewpoint on that issue and supporting your position with reasons and examples. This task is intended to test your ability to write logically, persuasively, and effectively.

You will be presented with a one or two-sentence quotation commenting on an issue of general concern. Your essay may support, refute, or qualify the views expressed in the quotation. Whatever you write, however, must be relevant to the issue under discussion, and you must support your viewpoint with reasons and examples derived from your studies and/or experience. What is more, you must carefully analyze the issue, following the specific instructions given. Your task is not to be creative but to be analytical.

You will be judged on the basis of your skills in the following areas:

  • Analysis of the question's implications
  • Organization and articulation of your ideas
  • Use of relevant examples and arguments to support your case
  • Handling of the mechanics of standard written English

Sample Issue Task

Directions: You will be given a brief passage that states or implies an issue of general interest. Your response will be graded according to how well you:

  1. respond to the specific task instructions.
  2. consider the complexities of the issue.
  3. organize, develop, and express your ideas.
  4. support your position with relevant reasoning and examples.
  5. use the elements of standard written English.

Essay Prompt:

A true university education encompasses far more than the narrow, specialized study of a single discipline. Only through exploring the broad spectrum of liberal arts courses can students become truly learned.

The Argument Task

In this task, you are asked to critique the line of reasoning of an argument given in a brief passage, clearly pointing out that argument's strengths and weaknesses and supporting your position with reasons and examples. This task is intended to test both your ability to evaluate the soundness of a position and your ability to get your point across to an academic audience.

As you critique the argument, think about the author's underlying assumptions. Ask yourself whether any of them are questionable. Also, evaluate any evidence that the author brings up. Ask yourself whether it actually supports the author's conclusions. In your analysis, you may suggest additional kinds of evidence to reinforce the author's argument. You may also suggest methods to refute the argument or additional data that might be useful to you as you assess the soundness of the argument. You may not, however, present your personal views on the topic. Your job is to analyze the elements of an argument, not to support or contradict that argument.

Your essay will be used to evaluate your skills in the following areas:

  • Identification and assessment of the argument's main elements
  • Organization and articulation of your thoughts
  • Use of relevant examples and arguments to support your case
  • Handling of the mechanics of standard written English

Sample Argument Task

Directions: You will be given a brief passage that presents an argument. Instructions will be given on how to respond to the argument. Your response will be graded according to how well you:

  1. respond to the specific task instructions.
  2. identify and analyze important features of the passage.
  3. organize, develop, and express your analysis.
  4. support your position with relevant reasoning and examples
  5. use the elements of standard written English.

The following is a memorandum from the business manager of a listener-supported public radio station.

"For the past year, as part of an effort to broaden our supporter base, our Folk on the Air program has allocated less time to traditional American folk music and more time to Latino music and world music. In recent months, many long-term supporters of our station have written to complain about what they describe as the un-American bias of the program. In addition, the local newspaper has published a recent editorial critical of our shift in programming. Therefore, in order to forestall any further adverse publicity for the station and to avoid the loss of additional listener-supporters, we should discontinue our current emphasis on Latino and world music and restore the time devoted to traditional American folk music to its former level."

Respond by writing an essay in which you discuss the specific evidence you would need to judge the validity of the argument and explain how this evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.

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