Writing the GRE Issue Essay

The Graduate Record Examinations test has plenty of tasks for applicants to solve. For some people, the analytical writing section along with its issue and argument tasks is the most troublesome of them all.

While they indeed aren’t easy tasks, if you know how to approach them, you shouldn’t have too much problem.

Today, we’d like to help with one of these tasks, which is the GRE Issue Essay.

What is the GRE Issue Essay?

The GRE Issue Essay provides you with a quotation on an issue and then asks you to evaluate it. Following specific instructions, your task is to choose a side and then develop an argument to support your position.

GRE Issue vs Argument Essay

The GRE Issue Essay is very frequently confused with the GRE Argument Essay. While they have similar features, they vastly differ from each other.

Let’s now understand the differences between these two essay types.

  • In an Issue Essay, you are provided with a statement, for which you will need to choose a side and then support it with arguments.

In an Argument Essay, you are provided with a case along with its supporting evidence. Your task is to evaluate the validity of the argument and to provide counterarguments for it.

  • An Issue Essay tests your ability to present an argument based on your own views, as well as checks your ability to convince the reader. Your perception of the issue is what plays a role in an Issue Essay.

An Argument Essay tests your ability to critically analyze the provided argument. Your ability to critique the argument with providing proof is also tested.

  • In an Issue Essay, you support your chosen claim with relevant real-world examples.

In an Argument Essay, you need to back up your objections to the author’s argument with solid proof.

  • In the conclusion to an Issue Essay, you usually demonstrate your emotional maturity by 1-2 statements agreeing with the opposing viewpoints.

In the case of an Argument Essay, you view the author’s argument with a note of doubt, claiming that the otherwise sound argument requires additional evidence and plausible explanations to be valid.

  • In an Issue Essay, you could use anything to support your claim.

In an Argument Essay, your task is to only prove that the evidence supporting the author’s argument is inadequate. Usually, you do not need to prove the author’s argument wrong.

  • In an Issue Essay, you can choose a side to present your argument the best.

In an Argument Essay, you do not have sides to choose from. Again, your task is to critically analyze the argument and pinpoint its weaknesses.

GRE Issue Essay format

The GRE Issue Essay is formatted like the classic five-paragraph short essay. If your stance requires it, you may go for more or fewer paragraphs. If your assignment requires a specific number of paragraphs, stick to them.

A GRE Issue Essay consists of three sections – an introduction, body, and conclusion. Let’s examine them one by one.


The introduction to a GRE Issue Essay usually consists of one paragraph.

You should start the introduction with a sentence restating the issue you were assigned. Even though your grader will have access to your assignment, restating it will show that you have understood it.

Follow this by your thesis statement, a sentence that states your position on the issue. Then, introduce the specific reasons for your stance, but don’t explain their link with your position just yet.

Make sure to consider the specific requirements of your assignment. For example, if you are required to address the most compelling reasons that could challenge your stance on the issue, you will need to first present them to the reader in the introduction.


The body of a GRE Issue Essay usually consists of 3 body paragraphs, possibly more or fewer, depending on your assignment and your approach.

In the body, you introduce the examples that support your position, show that they are relevant to the topic, and explain how they support your stance. Most of the body paragraphs should be centered around the third step, i.e. showing how the example supports your statement.

Paragraph 1

Use your strongest and most specific reason first. After introducing it, support it with logical analysis or real-world examples. You can present examples from science, politics, history, current events, or even your personal experience.

Make sure to clearly explain how and why your examples support your reason and your thesis statement.

Paragraph 2

Use a transition word or phrase to smoothly transition from the first body paragraph to the second. Then, repeat the format of the first body paragraph.

Paragraph 3

Again, begin the paragraph with a transition phrase and then repeat the format of other body paragraphs.

In the last body paragraph, you may raise a compelling counterargument to your position and then explain why it is incorrect. Thus, you will demonstrate a well-thought-out approach and will strengthen your own argument’s position.


The conclusion to your GRE Issue Essay should briefly overview both the issue and your supporting points. Rather than just copying what you’ve already written in the introduction and the body, make your conclusion new and unique.

You may drop the conclusion if you are running out of time. It doesn’t add new information to your argument, and if you’ve written a well-developed Issue Essay, you most likely will not be penalized.

Tips on writing a solid GRE Issue Essay


Brainstorming during the exam will allow you to organize your thoughts before getting started.

In particular, decide:

  • Which side of the argument you will support.
  • Think where you want to direct your essay. Come up with reasons that support each side of the argument.
  • Determine which ideas you’d like to use.
  • Identify supporting examples that would reinforce your argument.

Brainstorming may seem frantic to you at first. Moreover, it takes precious minutes from you, so you’d want to draw the outline of your essay as quickly as possible. Due to this, it is a very good idea to do brainstorming sessions at home prior to the exam.

Be relevant and specific

Regardless of the nature of your examples, make sure that they are relevant and specific to your issue. An irrelevant or vague example won’t support your argument as strongly and may even weaken your stance.

Do outside reading

You won’t have the opportunity to Google examples during the GRE test. Thereby, you should supplement your GRE materials with extensive outside reading, which will provide you with real-world examples to support your argument with.

Refute counterarguments

Do not neglect counterarguments to your position. Try to introduce an opposing viewpoint and then refute it in 1-2 sentences. As we’ve mentioned above, this will reinforce your position and will show an in-depth approach.