25 GRE Writing Tips You Absolutely Need to Know
The GRE Writing Section or the Analytical Writing Assessment as it is also called is perhaps the hardest section to study for while doing GRE preparation. It’s not because it’s the most difficult. Rather, as with writing in general, there isn’t any magic formula for getting a great score on the GRE writing section. This has led to the common perception that only writers can score well in the GRE Writing Section.
GRE Writing Section Question Pattern:
The GRE exam paper consists of two separately timed analytical writing tasks.
- A 30- minute “Analyze an Issue” task
- A 30- minute ” Analyze an Argument” task
In the first one, you have to evaluate a certain issue, consider its complexities, and develop an argument with reasons and examples to support your views. For the Argument task, you are expected to evaluate an already given argument according to specific instructions. You need to evaluate how logical the argument is through the given evidence.
In “Analyze an Issue”, there will be an opinion on any general issue followed by instructions on how to respond to it. You have to analyze the issue, take a position as to whether you agree or disagree with the claim, and explain your logic behind it.
“Analyze an Argument” will have a short passage in which a particular course of action or interpretation will be present. You have to evaluate the argument logically by evaluating the evidence provided.
Important Points to keep in mind for scoring well in AWA in GRE paper:
- Plan first. Spend five minutes and outline what your position will be, and how you will say it. You don’t want to get caught changing your mind halfway through.
There’s no “right” answer, only well-argued and poorly argued.
3. You don’t have to get too fancy. The GRE Writing Section tries to measure basic writing ability. You don’t have to write with the flair of Mark Twain to get a great score, but rather just display a general control of writing ability.
4. Write 3-5 paragraphs. Use all 30 minutes to write what you can, but don’t ramble!
5. Make an argument and stick with it! The essay prompts are often really open-ended and vague, and it’s easy to waste time waffling on the essays, but that’s not your job! Be 80% in favor of one opinion, especially on the Argument task. Be disciplined about sticking with your plan.
6. Use topic sentences to organize your paragraphs.
7. Provide specific evidence.
8. Think about assumptions. On the “Argument” essay, there will likely be a number of assumptions made, which can weaken the Argument. These may be generalizations, problems with statistics, false causes, and assumptions. Your task: find and attack!
9. Use varied sentence structure. Start your sentences with prepositional phrases and transitions to vary your sentence structure and improve essay flow. One way to check if your sentence structure is varied is to check if your sentences are all of the same length: if they are, then it’s likely that your structure is too similar as well.
10. Use transition words and phrases. Words and phrases like “However”, “On the one hand”, “Secondly”, “For instance”, “Nevertheless”, “While”, “Even though”, and “Indeed” are your friends. Use them!
11. An easy “Issue” section structure = (1) Introduction, (2) Body, (3) Qualification (a paragraph that starts with “However” explaining how you could possibly be wrong), and (4) Conclusion
12. An easy “Argument” section structure = (1) Introduction, (2) Body, and (3) Qualification and Conclusion (what other information is needed to persuade you one way or the other?)
13. Keep the big picture argument in mind. While it’s important to provide specific examples, it’s perhaps just as important tot keep your big-picture argument in mind as you write your essay.
14. Proofread. While minor errors and misspellings are okay, it’s always smart to spend minutes or to checking for silly typos.
15. Don’t repeat yourself in the conclusion. There’s a fine line between summarizing and being repetitive, but in your conclusion, make a conscious effort to expand and deepen your argument, rather than just repeat yourself.
16. Good grammar is a must.
17. Use the active voice. Why say “Hamlet was written by Shakespeare,” when you can say, “Shakespeare wrote Hamlet”? An active voice generally sounds better.
18. Avoid slang and cliches. Nothing says “I am not a creative writer” than using cliches and slang.
19. Keep on track. You only have 30 minutes for each essay; make sure you keep on pace.
20. Go for breadth. It’s easy to spend your time analyzing the nuances of one particular point or piece of evidence. However, it’s a better strategy to cover multiple angles than focusing too much on one particular angle.
21. Keep the introduction short. Ge to the meat of your argument and don’t rehash that prompt in your intro.
22. Study sample essays.The best way to understand what is expected of you on the essay section is to look at essays that are already graded. Can you understand why some got high scores and others did not?
23. Get expert help. If writing is your strongest subject, then ask other writers to help you out.
24. Read sample prompts so that you know what types of Issues and Arguments to expect.
25. Practice! You won’t become a better writer if you don’t write!