GRE Analytical Writing Tips

The Graduate Record Exam has a specific purpose: to evaluate your level of preparedness for graduate school. The GRE analytical writing section isn’t meant to evaluate you as a reader or writer of fiction. Instead, it’s meant to evaluate your logic, analysis, and ability to express thoughts through writing. In other words, it’s going to evaluate the kinds of skills you’ll need at the graduate level. To that end, we’ll offer some of the most important tips to remember when you tackle this section of the GRE.

Tip #1: Remember that there are flaws in the writing.

The goal of the GRE analytical writing section is to make sure that you get a sense of how an argument might be properly structured—and how it may be poorly structured. If you can identify flaws in the writing, then that’s no reason to question yourself. In fact, you should be looking for those flaws.

Remember here that you don’t have to agree with the conclusions or the prompt. The test is designed to evaluate your ability to dissect logic—especially flawed logic—to construct your own argument.

Tip #2: Stick to the facts.

There’s a temptation to make writing more impressive by adding ornamentation. That’s not the kind of writing you’re expected to use here. In the GRE Analytical Writing section, you’re expected to stick to the facts. That means that when you practice this section, you should do the following:

  • Stick to a basic structure. Consider planning out a paragraph for each point, beginning with a clear and focused topic sentence. This is a simple, tried-and-true structure that enhances clarity and keeps your thoughts well-organized for the reader.
  • Use active language. Passive language (i.e., “the ball was thrown by the boy”) tends to be more confusing than active language (i.e., “the boy threw the ball”). Don’t overcomplicate your writing. Keep it simple and direct for maximum clarity.

Tip #3: Choose a thesis you know you can support.

The GRE analytical writing section isn’t primarily on how well you structure an individual phrase or how you word one of your points. It’s about the points you select in the first place. That’s why you should read through the prompt thoroughly and choose a thesis that you know you can support with evidence.

Remember: the GRE’s goal is to evaluate how well you can defend your points. The exam is evaluating your ability to write at the graduate level. That’s the kind of writing you’ll be expected to do during a dissertation. You have to be able to present your points in a defensible way.

You can accomplish that task with the strength of your logical points. If you find yourself cherry-picking phrases to stretch into your thesis, you may have chosen the wrong idea. Make sure you have a thorough grounding in the facts before you set out to create your argument.

Tip #4: Work with a GRE tutor.

Do you need assistance in preparing for the GRE analytical writing section? Go above and beyond by working with a GRE tutor who can help you build the necessary skills to perform well on the exam.

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