GRE Issue Essay Tips (5 Expert Writing Strategies)

William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: February 28, 2022

Most students struggle with the GRE essay. That’s why we made this guide that you can implement on your exam day.

We’ve spent countless hours researching how to make an issue essay more convincing, engaging, and simply — better.

Here are five writing strategies that will help you do so.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • GRE essays rate your ability to defend your position. 
  • Read the task carefully and create an outline before you start writing.
  • Defend one side of an argument and support your position with examples.
  • Vary your sentences to make your writing more engaging and demonstrate your linguistic knowledge.

How to Prepare for the GRE Essay?

woman working and studying

To get a good score on the GRE issue essay, you need to prepare for it properly. Here’s what you can do to increase the chances of writing a perfect GRE issue essay:

  • Take practice essays to understand what to expect in advance — You’ll find many sample essays online and in most GRE prep books. Make sure you check out at least one sample GRE issue essay before the exam day.
  • Learn how the essays are scored — They’re scored on a 0 - 6 scale, in half-point increments. Learn more about the requirements for each score so that you know how to score higher.

5 Strategies for the Issue Essay:

Below, you’ll find five strategies that will help you write a good issue essay on your test day.

1. Ensure You Understand the Task

woman looking at a book

From our experience, most students gloss over the instructions and jump to writing. That’s a wrong approach. Your essay score might take a hit if you don’t understand what you need to do.

Every issue task has several subtasks. So, tackling just one won’t get you the perfect score.

To ensure you don’t forget to solve any subtasks, write them down in bullet points before you start writing.

Add a checkmark next to the bullet points as you address them in the essay. That way, you’ll know whether you’ve answered all the questions.

2. Choose One Side

A persuasive essay argues only one side of a topic. And that’s precisely what the GRE-makers will ask you to do.

If you’ve gone through sample essay tasks, you know that you’ll either have to agree or disagree with a given statement.

It doesn’t matter if you believe in the side you’re arguing. What matters is you can support it with strong examples and proper logical reasoning.

Make your argument essay more persuasive by asking yourself these two questions:

  • Which arguments could someone use to refute my position?
  • How can I defend my position from these arguments? [1]

Use your answers as guides while writing your issue essay.

Coming up with counterarguments may be tricky, but taking practice tests at home can help you hone this skill.

3. Start With an Outline

pen and empty notebook

An outline will help you write faster and stay on topic. So, make sure you create one before you write a single letter. Divide the outline into three parts, based on the GRE essay structure.

Here’s what to tackle in each part:

  • The introduction — State your thesis in the first sentence of your introduction.
  • The body paragraph — Divide the body into three sections like this:
    1. The first paragraph — Back up your most persuasive reason with concrete examples.
    2. The second paragraph — Add a second reason and supporting examples.
    3. The third paragraph — State a counterargument to your thesis and explain why it’s incorrect.
  • The conclusion — Summarize your introduction and remind the reader of your main points. State your ultimate verdict on the topic in the final sentence.

Once you have your outline, it’s time to get to writing.

4. Add Relevant Examples from the Real World

Backing up your claims with examples can add more clarity to your essay and help readers — the evaluators — better understand what you meant.

Choose examples that are based on:

  • Current or past events
  • Your personal experience
  • Relevant facts and statistics

5. Vary Your Sentences

opened book and a person writing on it

Many students forget that sentence variety also influences their final score.

Here’s how you can vary your sentences and leave an impression of a good writer:

  • Length variety — Combine long and short sentences to add rhythm to your writing.
  • First-word variety — Start some sentences with the subject and others with objects or transitional expressions.
  • Sentence structure variety — Avoid using the same structure for all your sentences, such as following the subject with a verb.

Don’t forget that you’re expected to write the essay in standard written English.


Can I Skip Analytical Writing on the GRE?

Yes, you can skip GRE analytical writing.

Will You Use These Strategies on the GRE?

Implementing these strategies on your exam day can bump up your GRE score even if you’re not a stellar writer.

Remember that the GRE essay doesn’t rate your creativity or artistic flair. It only rates your ability to defend your argument. And the strategies above are designed to help you do so.

If you need more help preparing for the GRE, check out our review of the 8 best GRE prep courses.


  1. https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/analytical_writing/issue/prepare_task

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