Issue Analysis on the GRE Verbal Essay Test — Practice Question

By Ron Woldoff, Joseph Kraynak

When you take the GRE Verbal test, one of the essay questions will test your ability to analyze an issue. You’ll be given a statement, and then you’ll need to explain why you agree or disagree with it.

The following practice question is similar to what you will find on the test.

Practice question

Time: 30 minutes

“Television and videos are going to leave a more lasting and valid perception of our society to future generations than is literature.”

Directions: Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with this statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement may or may not hold true and explain how those considerations shape your position.

Writing the essay

Essay writing (and scoring) is subjective to some degree. There’s no right or wrong answer, and every essay is slightly different. Evaluators, however, have a checklist of specific criteria for grading your essay. To check your own essay, consider the following questions:

  • Did you follow the instructions? The prompt tells you what to do. To score well, you need to follow those instructions and write about what the prompt asks for.

  • Have you taken a clear stand in your essay? Although arguing both sides of an issue or discussing strengths and weaknesses is fine, you must make your opinion or position clear. Don’t expect the evaluators to infer your position. Be sure to declare your opinion in your introduction and be consistent throughout your essay.

  • Did you back up your stance with specific examples? Anyone can state a position, but you must support your position with specific examples. You don’t have to be right, but you do need to provide solid support for your claim. Also make sure your examples aren’t easily refutable.

  • How quickly did you get to the point in each paragraph? The evaluator will always look for your point in the first two lines of each paragraph, so don’t try to be clever and write a paragraph with a surprise ending or twist. State clearly and unequivocally in the first line of each paragraph the point of that paragraph. Then spend the rest of the paragraph supporting that point.

  • Have you stayed on topic? After stating your position in the introductory paragraph, make sure each succeeding paragraph supports that position instead of wandering off topic. Each paragraph should have a sentence (preferably at the end) that ties the paragraph directly to your position statement.

  • Did you avoid fluff? Though longer essays typically earn higher scores, the higher scores are due to the fact that the essay provides sufficient support, not because it rambles on and on. Your essay won’t be judged on word count; it will be judged on how sufficiently you explore the topic.

  • Does your essay maintain a professional tone? The essay section isn’t for creative writing. It’s more like business writing, so avoid off-color language, slang, and inappropriate humor.