Tackling the GRE Section-by-Section: Part III — Analytical Writing

We have been reviewing some strategies to help you break down the GRE. This final post focuses on the Analytical Writing section. As its name suggests, the section measures your critical thinking and analytical writing skills. Writing may be an intimidating prospect, so we have pulled together these tips to help you better understand how to approach the Analytical Writing section of the GRE so you can achieve your highest score.

What is the Analytical Writing Section?

The Analytical Writing section measures your ability to think critically about a given issue and express your ideas in writing. The best way to get a high score on this section is to:

  • Support your ideas with reasons and examples
  • Demonstrate your mastery of written English
  • Examine claims and evidence
  • Articulate complex ideas

Analytical Writing includes two tasks — Analyze an Issue and Argument:

  • The Analyze an Issue task assesses your ability to think critically about a topic of general interest.
  • The Argument task assesses your ability to respond to a specific, given argument.

The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6.5. A solid flow and error-free work can boost the score for this section. For example, tests that score a 6 include well-crafted answers and clear explanations with evidential support.

How To Prepare for the Analytical Writing Section

The best way to prepare for the Analytical Writing section is to review samples from past GRE tests. It’s best to seek out samples of good responses and practice breaking those responses down into different parts so that you can do the same when it comes time to take the test. The more familiar you are with crafting an argument with strong support, the more likely you are to succeed on this portion of the test. You can also visit the ETS website for a list of topics that may be used in the Analyze an Issue task. It’s a good idea to be familiar with possible topics so that you can prepare to write about and argue them.

Practicing for the Analytical Writing Section

As you will have only 30 minutes to answer each question, time management is critical during this section. In order to prepare, it’s important to practice in a timed environment. Find a quiet space, set a stopwatch for 30 minutes, and answer a practice question. You will then be able to figure out how much time you need for thinking about your argument, planning your essay (writing an outline), and writing. Figuring out your own writing routine will make the entire section easier. And while there is no specific format recommended on how to structure your essays, it’s important that you follow an approach that suits you and that you clearly state all of your arguments.

You should also budget time to go back and read your essays, allowing time for editing. Spending five to seven minutes reviewing and tightening up your responses can improve syntax, style, and the overall response.

Tips for Improving Your Writing

If you are not confident in your writing style, you can visit the GRE site for resources on writing for the test. If you are still in college, you can get tips from your university’s writing center or English professors; they are generally familiar with how the GRE works.

No matter your writing experience, you will benefit from investing in any number of GRE prep materials, which include practice tests and scoring simulations. These tests will offer you immediate feedback and can provide you with a clear roadmap of how to improve your approach to the Analytical Writing section, as well as increase your confidence and your scores.

Following the tips above can help you craft an effective approach to the Analytical Writing section. If writing is not your strong point, a clear strategy and strong preparation can help you achieve a higher score.