GRE Analytical Writing Section

student studying for the Analytical Writing section of the GRE

Graduate studies involve reading and writing a lot of academic text, so being able to analyze this dense reading material to pick out specific details and decipher the meaning is essential to your success as a grad student. In this article, you'll find information and practice tips to help you prepare for the Analytical Writing GRE, which evaluates your ability to:

  • Think critically
  • Convey complex ideas
  • Apply analytical writing proficiency
  • Offer a coherent and focused analysis
  • Determine alternate explanations of various phenomena
  • Use standard written English correctly
  • Construct and evaluate arguments
  • Support a thesis with evidence


Analytical Writing Task Types

GRE Analytical Writing questions consist of two tasks: Analyzing an Issue and Analyzing an Argument. Each prompt presents a different side of the persuasion process with one asking you to deliver an argument of your own while the other involves taking an in-depth look at someone else's. Students have a total of 30 minutes to complete each part of the Analytical Writing GRE.

Length / Word Count

First-time test takers often wonder, "How long should GRE analytical writing be?" Generally speaking, lengthier, non-repetitive essays that thoroughly cover each Analytical Writing GRE topic get the highest scores. As such, you should aim for roughly 500 to 600 words on each part of the test.

Computer Assistance

Those planning to take the Analytical Writing portion of the GRE on a computer can only use basic word processing features to complete the GRE Analytical Writing section. Students are unable to use additional tools that check spelling, tone, and grammar, so it's important to take your time and re-read your responses before submitting them.


Getting Ready for the GRE Analytical Writing Section

While you've probably written a lot of essays over the course of your academic career, you'll need to sharpen your skills to get ready for the Analytical Writing section of the GRE. Studying the requirements for each part of the test, working with some Analytical Writing GRE practice prompts, and understanding the scoring system are all excellent ways to prepare.

Topics & Prompts

Since this section presents issues and arguments covering a wide range of subjects, reading up on topics like politics, the arts, and the humanities can give you an advantage when preparing for the GRE Analytical Writing test. You can also access the GRE program's published topic pool to review possible GRE Analytical Writing prompts that you may see on the exam.

How to Practice

Once you look through some of the possible topics for the Analytical Writing section of the GRE, you can practice writing, self-editing, and re-reading a thorough response to the prompt within 30 minutes. If you need more GRE Analytical Writing tips and test-taking strategies, try our GRE test prep course.


How Is the GRE Analytical Writing Test Scored?

Scoring the Tasks

Both the Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument tasks go through a standardized system that determines your Analytical Writing GRE score on a scale of 0 to 6. A 6 is the highest score a student can get on this portion of the GRE, while a 0 is the lowest. Take a look below to learn about the criteria you must meet to achieve each score.

To submit an Outstanding essay and receive a score of 6, your response must:

  • Have a strong, clearly stated analysis that fits the guidelines of the task
  • Offer thoughtful reasoning and relevant examples
  • Stay focused on the issues and be well-organized
  • Seamlessly transition between ideas while using a strong vocabulary and versatile sentence structure
  • Lack significant mistakes

A Strong essay with a score of 5:

  • Is well-developed and clearly states the argument
  • Offers good reasoning and examples
  • Focuses on the issues
  • Has good vocabulary, fluid transitions between ideas, and proper sentence structure
  • Lacks many significant mistakes

Students will receive a score of 4 for Adequate essays that:

  • Express the argument in a clear, understandable way
  • Use mostly relevant examples, though some may be off topic
  • Show somewhat logical relationships and transitions between ideas
  • Have few significant mistakes

A Limited score of 3 means that your essay:

  • Presents an unclear or confusing argument
  • Lacks focus
  • Has many irrelevant examples
  • Contains illogical relationships between ideas
  • Has several Standard written English mistakes that make it hard to follow

An essay with a score of 2 also falls under Limited, but the lower point value means that it:

  • Fails to adhere to the prompt guidelines
  • Fails to express a clear argument
  • Fails to maintain focus
  • Contains illogical relationships between ideas
  • Has mistakes that confuse the meaning of the essay

Essays with a Limited score of 1:

  • Misunderstand the prompt
  • Lack relevant evidence
  • Have a disorganized structure
  • Have many Standard English mistakes

An essay that completely ignores the prompt or simply restates the given topic will receive a score of 0. If you leave this section of the Analytical Writing GRE blank, you'll get an "NS" or No Score.

Write for the Score You Want

Keeping this scoring system in mind is a smart way to ensure that you submit clear, focused, well-developed, writing that will earn high marks on the GRE Analytical Writing exam.

Practice Tests & Study Resources

Online GRE Test Prep

Overview of GRE Sections

What to Bring to the GRE