How to Approach the GRE’s ‘Analyze an Issue’ Essay

By Ron Woldoff, Joseph Kraynak

In the Analyze an Issue essay question on the GRE, you are given an issue statement that asks you to introduce and then support your position on that issue. The format is like this:

“Today’s cheap, mass-produced goods lack the precision and quality of yesterday’s hand-built, carefully crafted products.”

Directions: Write an essay in response to the preceding statement in which you discuss the extent that you agree or disagree with the statement. Explain your reasoning in a clear, well-organized essay that supports your position. Consider both sides of the issue when developing your response.

Where do you begin? What do they want? Only 29 minutes left! Getting started is the hardest part and staying focused is the most important. By having a game plan and structure in place, you’re equipped to do both. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Read the prompt and understand what it’s instructing you to do.

  2. Identify relevant information you already know about the issue.

  3. Take a position that’s in line with the supporting data you have.

  4. Write a four- to five-paragraph essay using the following outline as your guide:

    • First paragraph—Introduction stating your position

    • Second paragraph—Your best supporting detail

    • Third and possibly fourth paragraphs—One or two more supporting details

    • Final paragraph—Conclusion reiterating your position statement from your introduction

Your essay doesn’t have to be flawless. The evaluators know that you’re writing a rough draft under time constraints, so they’re ready to forgive the occasional typo and misplaced modifier. Still, they will notice large or repeated errors, so leave yourself a minute at the end of the allotted time to review and edit your essay.