How to Prepare for the Writing Part in GRE

It’s important to remember that in the GRE part of Analytical Writing there are two types of essays: “Analyze the problem” and “Analyze the argument”.Each of these tasks is given 30 minutes. You need to understand what task is in front of you in order to complete it correctly.

The first essay is an opinion about a particular problem, followed by specific instructions on how to respond to it. Your job is to evaluate the problem, consider its complexity, and provide arguments with reasons and examples that support your point.

The second essay requires you to evaluate the argument in accordance with specific instructions. Your task is to take into account the logical validity of the argument, and not to agree or disagree with the position stated in it. That is, in this task you only need to analyze the adequacy of the argument, without giving your own comments.

So, how do you prepare?

  1. Know the enemy theme in person

At first glance, it seems that there are an infinite number of topics and it will never be possible to prepare for everyone. Just don’t panic! All topics can be grouped:

— Technologies

— Education

— Art

— Cities

— Philosophy

– Government and power

— Intellectual activity

To properly prepare, you need to practice writing essays. If you don’t have enough time, at least three essays will help the cause. Ideally, it is better to try to write at least one essay on each of the above topics. The pool of topics is on the official website of ETS.

Here are a few:

— As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate. (Express a personal opinion)

— The best way to teach is to praise positive actions and ignore negative ones. ((Express a personal opinion)

— In surveys Mason City residents rank water sports (swimming, boating and fishing) among their favorite recreational activities. The Mason River flowing through the city is rarely used for these pursuits, however, and the city park department devotes little of its budget to maintaining riverside recreational facilities. For years there have been complaints from residents about the quality of the river’s water and the river’s smell. In response, the state has recently announced plans to clean up Mason River. Use of the river for water sports is therefore sure to increase. The city government should for that reason devote more money in this year’s budget to riverside recreational facilities. (Analyze argument)

— Self-criticism is usually more valuable and accurate than criticism that comes from others

—  Claim: Art museums should charge little or no money for admission, and should be as open to the public as possible.

Reason: Artists create their work because they want to show it to an other people, and art museums are the best venue to give artists an audience.” (Analyze argument)

  1. Understand the instructions

Any essay is accompanied by specific instructions that follow the hint and are not written in italics. Be sure to read the instructions, not just run through their eyes. In your essay, if you do not clearly answer the question that is being asked, your score will be reduced.

For example, here are two different instructions for an essay where you need to express your opinion.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.

As you can see, both instructions begin in the same way, so hurrying them can be easily confused.

However, there are still differences: in the first instruction, you are asked to express your point of view and express possible objections to it.

Whereas in the second instruction:

provide facts and arguments that will prove the veracity or untruthfulness of the statement.

Understanding the difference in instructions is very important, but there is nothing to be afraid of. You don’t have to write completely different texts. Often the difference will be only in a few sentences.

  1. Allocate time
    You will have 30 minutes for the task. It is most reasonable to distribute the time as follows:

– 3 minutes to read the topic and instructions.

– 20 minutes to write the main part.

– 2 minutes to fix errors and make minor corrections

– 3 minutes if left to write an introduction.

This is not a mistake, it is better to leave the introduction at the end. This is not the most important part of the essay. Moreover, if at the beginning you have already outlined the main thesis, if there is a lack of time, you can do without a formal introduction.

Of course, it is ideal when there are absolutely all parts of the essay, but if you have to sacrifice some part, then it can be one sentence of introduction.

Now consider tips on how to prepare for each of the essays.

Essay where you need to express your point of view

1. Think about all the pros and cons

To do this, make a list of statements that either support or refute the thesis. Then choose the side where the statements are more logical and understandable. Remember that you only have a few minutes to compose these notes, so you do not need to fully describe the sentences. Write down only the keywords.

2. Stick to one point of view

Decide whether you will agree with this thesis or refute it. The main thing is not to confuse yourself and not to confuse the examiner. It doesn’t matter what you actually think about it or even if you don’t have any opinion on it! What matters is that you choose the side that is easiest to support. Don’t forget to add examples and arguments to prove your chosen point of view.

3.Link all examples and arguments to the thesis

Arguments substantiate the veracity of the statement, and examples show special cases in which the statement is true.

Explain why each example is important, relate it to the thesis, and give a specific example of each argument that is also related to the thesis.

4. Think about retreating

In the assignment, you are asked to choose one side, but at the same time look at both sides of the argument. How do I do this? You need to find a thought that contradicts your main idea. You should not completely focus on this thought, you should show that such a thought has a place to be. Provide one or a couple of cases where the argument is correct. This is the best way to discuss both sides while sticking to your main argument.

To find a digression, go back to your list of pros and cons and focus on one of the theses from the “against” group.

In the end, despite the compromise, it is important that in the end the essay returns the reader to the originally expressed opinion.

Essay in which you need to analyze the argument

  1. Single out unreasonable assumptions

Your task: to find out what assumptions the author makes, and to show why they are unfounded. Focus on this task, starting with a simple definition of the assumptions in this passage.

By correctly determining the assumptions, you increase your chances of a high score.

Usually, more than two or even three illogical assumptions can be found in an argument. However, it is not necessary to find everything, one or two statements are enough. It is necessary to point out the most illogical arguments

  1. Identify logical fallacies

After you identify groundless arguments, be sure to find out what the illogic is. Then describe the logical errors that the author makes. You do not need to describe all the inaccuracies, you can limit yourself to two or three main points.

  1. Disagree with the argument

Your task: to agree or disagree with the argument presented. Still, you need to write a whole essay. Your thesis should indicate why the argument is weak due to logical errors.

The whole point of the essay is to find flaws in the argument. Therefore, the thesis should never completely repeat or agree with the argument presented. Firstly, such a scenario is extremely unlikely, and secondly, such an essay will not reflect critical thinking and analysis on your part – this is exactly what the examiner needs.

4. Choose your examples carefully

At this point, you may have a huge list of six, seven, or even eight inferences. You’re going to have to get rid of most of them. You can get a high score for an essay using only three or four examples from the text of the task.

Choose the ones that most refute the author’s point of view. After that, referencing these examples, build the main paragraphs.

When writing the main text, remember that in your essay there should always be points to prove the main idea.

Remember that in this task you need to build the essay correctly, focus on the form, not on the content. That is why it is not necessary to include positive arguments in the essay.

Unlike the Analyze a Problem task, the Analyze an Argument task requires you to show only the disadvantages, not the pros and cons.

At first, Analytical Writing seems too complicated, but by practicing and taking into account our advice, you can prepare even for such a difficult task. On the ETS website you will find even more tips and samples of essays. It will take time and a lot of practice to handle these written assignments.

You’ll do great! 

In the comments, share what you think is the most difficult in preparing for the written part. And don’t forget to ask questions!

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