The GRE Issue Essay provides a brief quotation on an issue of general interest and asks you to evaluate the issue according to specific instructions. You must then support one side of the issue and develop an argument to support your side.
Yes, you will be making an argument in this essay, but don't confuse it with the GRE Argument Essay, in which you'll poke holes in another author's argument. Here, the focus is on supporting the issue. Think of it like this: In the GRE Issue Essay, you'll develop your own argument with respect to one side of an issue.
Or, as GRE testmaker Educational Testing Service (ETS) puts it, you'll be "required to evaluate the issue, consider its complexities, and develop an argument with reasons and examples to support your views.”
However you choose to look at it, one thing is certain: the better organized your essay, the clearer it will be to the grader, and the higher it will score.
How to structure the GRE Issue Essay
The GRE Issue Essay is similar in structure to the classic five-paragraph short essay. You may opt for four to six paragraphs, but the template we walk you through plans for the classic five.
Here's how to put it to use.
Although the grader will have access to the specific assignment you received, your essay should stand on its own, making clear the assignment you were given and your response to it.
Start with a sentence that clearly restates the issue you were assigned, followed by a sentence with your position on that assignment—your thesis. Next, introduce the specific reasons or examples you plan to provide in each of the next three paragraphs: one sentence for each of the forthcoming paragraphs.
It is key that you consider exactly what's being asked of you in the assignment, and make sure the language you use in your intro paragraph demonstrates that you understand the specific instructions for that assignment. For instance, if the task tells you to “address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position,” you will need to show at least two strong reasons or examples that the opposing side could use—and then explain why those reasons or examples are incorrect.
Structure your first paragraph in this way, and you’re well on your way to effectively indicating that you understand the assignment, are organized, have considered the complexities of the issue, and can effectively use standard written English—all components of a strong essay that's destined for a great score.
Each of your body paragraphs should do three things:
- introduce one of your examples
- explain how that example relates to the topic
- show how the example fully supports your thesis
You should spend the majority of each body paragraph on the third step: showing how it fully supports your thesis.
First, take a look at these ETS topic pools:
This is a list of ALL of the topics from the exam, so you WILL see one of these topics on your test. The prompts you will see on test day are drawn from these pools!
Write practice essays in response to some of these prompts. Even though the prompts you will see on test day are in those lists, don't try to memorize all the prompts. It's more important to practice the process of brainstorming, writing, and editing an essay in response to a brand-new prompt.
You can read the scored sample essays on the ETS website here:
Chris Lele has also written some sample essays to which you can compare your own essays:
We also have a bunch of resources on our blog, including an entire section dedicated to the GRE essays. Spend time reading the articles in the Writing section of the blog as well as actually writing essays on your own.
For even more example essays, I'd recommend checking out Vibrant Publishing guides to GRE Analytical Writing.
Finally, although Magoosh does not provide an essay-review service — we simply don't have the people-power to do so — you can learn about several ways to get your essays graded here:
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