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GRE Essay Topics

The GRE essay topics on the Issue task seem to come such a variety of different fields that there seems to be little discernible. There are, however, several “buckets”, or categories, that the GRE Issue essay tends to fall into.

Below I’ve come up with these categories and also cut and pasted the actual issue question from the ETS website. Remember, the Issue essay you will see test day will be drawn from this question bank.


Education (with a great degree of emphasis on college)

“Educational institutions have a responsibility to dissuade students from pursuing fields of study in which they are unlikely to succeed.”

“A nation should require all of its students to study the same national curriculum until they enter college.”

“Governments should offer a free university education to any student who has been admitted to a university but who cannot afford the tuition.”

“Universities should require every student to take a variety of courses outside the student’s field of study.”

I should also note that this seems to be ETS’s favorite category. Can’t say the topic is irrelevant.


Technology and society

“As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate.”

“The increasingly rapid pace of life today causes more problems than it solves.”


Cities (I know this is a pretty random bucket – but it’s what ETS decrees)

“Claim: Governments must ensure that their major cities receive the financial support they need in order to thrive.
Reason: It is primarily in cities that a nation’s cultural traditions are preserved and generated.”



“Some people believe that government funding of the arts is necessary to ensure that the arts can flourish and be available to all people. Others believe that government funding of the arts threatens the integrity of the arts.”
“In order for any work of art—for example, a film, a novel, a poem, or a song—to have merit, it must be understandable to most people.”


Government and Power

“The well-being of a society is enhanced when many of its people question authority.”

“Claim: In any field—business, politics, education, government—those in power should step down after five years.
Reason: The surest path to success for any enterprise is revitalization through new leadership.”


Intellectual Endeavors

“In any field of inquiry, the beginner is more likely than the expert to make important contributions.”

“The best ideas arise from a passionate interest in commonplace things.”


Philosophical (for a lack of a better name – though I guess “Deep Thoughts by ETS” would work)

“As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more complex and mysterious.”

“The greatness of individuals can be decided only by those who live after them, not by their contemporaries.”


So now what?

There are a few more “buckets”, but the above covers about 95% of the spectrum. The takeaway from all this is that you should find the category you are weakest at and work at becoming more comfortable and knowledgable with the topic. For instance, many dread the art category, painfully aware that they cannot tell the difference between a Monet and a Manet (besides the ‘o’ and the ‘a’, of course).

The good news is coming up with arguments and counterexamples for these GRE essay topics won’t entail getting a degree in art history. You only have to be able to be comfortable with a few examples, and make sure you can effectively relate them to your analysis. After all, the GRE Issue is not a test of knowledge as much as it is a test of how you can use knowledge–however limited–to back your position.


About the Author

Chris Lele has been helping students excel on the GRE, GMAT, and SAT for the last 10 years. He is the Lead Content Developer and Tutor for Magoosh. His favorite food is wasabi-flavored almonds. Follow him on Google+!

32 Responses to GRE Essay Topics

  1. Pronay J Panikkan December 16, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    Is there someway I can get essays to ALL the topics mentioned in the ETS pool of topics. It seems there are more than 200 of them ! I don’t intend to mug them all up. But I think it would be a great help just to know at least some of the ‘for’ and ‘against’ points related to the topics. I have been searching for a while now. There are sample essay responses to some of the topics, but I have found only a few so far.

  2. srijana December 6, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    thanks so much. i reallyneeded this.

  3. Tanushree September 23, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    Thank you so much Chris. I have GRE on 1st oct. and I am left with AWA only. These categories will now help me to organize my practice…. :)

  4. Sarvesh August 30, 2014 at 2:12 am #

    Hey Chris,
    First things first , Thank you for creating and maintaining this website !! its just awesome !! I have my GRE exam on Sept 3rd !! I was totally freaking out with this AWA section. everything was falling apart before i found this pool of issue topics on your website. Its helping me a lot to get over this section!! I just have a question for you . After looking up on your issue essay topics, I checked the ETS website for the pool of issue essay topics and i found out that there was over 100 topics given in that website !! With just 20 topics given in your website ,should i be worried ? please help me out here . Thanks in advance .

    • Mohammad September 28, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

      did you get your issue essay from any of those mentioned in question bank?

  5. bharath July 2, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    Hi Chris

    Thank you for your work. I had a week left for my exam. I started preparing for AWA today. I am just going through issue topics and found your blog. I want to make sure most probably issue topic will come from the topics you mentioned above , so that it would be very helpful for me from going through pile of essays.

    Thanks in advance

  6. Romy July 2, 2014 at 1:29 am #

    Thank you for all the material that has been made available for the students who are attempting the GRE like me
    Is there any site of yours with the complete pool of frequent essays and their solutions????

  7. Mohammad June 25, 2014 at 7:56 am #

    Thanks for the information Chris

    The Essays you have shortlisted, are you sure that in the exam it will be one of them for Revised GRE?

    Any guidance for Argument Essays will be appreciated?

  8. Faisal April 14, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    Mr Chris,

    I am so glad to find this material on the website. it is really useful.
    thank you,

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 15, 2014 at 11:16 am #

      You are welcome!

  9. Avais February 24, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    thank,s for these useful topics. can u provide the same for Argument essay?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele February 25, 2014 at 11:18 am #

      Hi Avais,

      The argument topics aren’t quite as categorizable. However, in a future post I’ll try to do just that–showing the overarching themes in the argument essay bank.

  10. shweta February 13, 2014 at 2:33 am #

    Hi Chris,

    The information is really useful & helpful!!!! :)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele February 13, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      Great! I’m glad it helped :)

  11. khushbu September 20, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    This is really helpful ..thanks ;)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 23, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

      You are welcome!

  12. Sudeshna August 9, 2013 at 5:33 am #

    Thank you so much…. This was really helpful.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 12, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      You are welcome!

  13. Joy July 30, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    This was exactly what I was looking for! Thanks Chris. :)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 31, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      I’m glad you found it :)!

  14. Divya July 15, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    Thank you SO MUCH for this post, Chris! It saves us so much time! Personally, I am freaking out over this section, cuz I’m applying for a Creative Writing degree. I wish you guys would consider starting the service of grading practice essays and giving feedback. You could charge separately for that. I know I’d be willing to pay.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

      Hi Divya,

      I’m glad you found it helpful! Unfortunately, we don’t have any plans for an essay grading service. You could try posting it on or the

      Meanwhile, there are a bunch of AWA related posts on the Magoosh blog to help you out. Interestingly, I’m not sure how much a Creative Writing program would stress the GRE Writing. It’s such a different form of writing that they would more likely look at your portfolio of stories/poems.

      Good luck!

      • Divya July 17, 2013 at 7:57 am #

        Thanks Chris. I know my writing samples are much more important than my GRE score, but am still trying to get a really good score, so I’m nervous!! :) I have been through all your AW blog posts as well as your tutorial videos as I’ve signed up for your premium service and am finding everything on this site SO helpful. I think what really comes through most and sets you guys apart is that you seem to really love what you do.

        Thank you from a highly satisfied customer! :)

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele July 17, 2013 at 11:57 am #

          Thanks Divya for the positive words! We here at Magoosh definitely love what we do :). I’m happy that you’ve found the tutorials/blog helpful!

          • Divya August 5, 2013 at 7:32 am #

            Hi Chris,

            I had a question. In the Issue task, is it okay to give examples from our own country or is it safer to stick to examples from the US? For eg, in the essay about having the same national school curriculums, is it okay to talk about how curriculums are designed in my country, India, and its diversity, or is it more advisable to talk about the US? Also, can I use politicians from my country who might not be known the world over as examples or is it better to stick to leaders that are known internationally?

            Thanks a lot.

            • Chris Lele
              Chris Lele August 5, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

              Hi Divya,

              That is a great question! As long as you can write compellingly about an example, it doesn’t matter which country it comes from. Sure, you probably have more work if you choose the Indian example. Meaning, that writers are unfamiliar with the person/history and will need a little more elaboration (which, you might forget to do–since the example is so well-known in India).

              Nonetheless, I would stick to writing what you know about (India).
              However, if the prompt is specifically about national curriculum, you might want to focus on the US. The GRE can afford to be ethnocentric about this one point, since the GRE is for admissions in the U.S. and thus it behooves any taking the GRE to be well-versed in the education situation in the U.S. This is just my hypothesis, but I think it is better to be safe and stick to the U.S. on issue prompts relating to education.

              Hope that helps!

              • Divya August 8, 2013 at 12:17 am #

                Thank you for the detailed reply, Chris. That helps a lot! :)

                • Chris Lele
                  Chris Lele August 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

                  You’re welcome :)!

                  • Sambit Pattnaik August 29, 2014 at 6:24 am #

                    Hi Chris,

                    I too had the same question, its now totally limpid to me. To top that up, I would like to profusely thank you for the work you are doing at Moogosh, I have my exam on 5th of Sept and I can’t explain what my situation would have been, if it had not been for Magoosh. The help you guys have extended is inexplicable, exhorting and bolstering my confidence every moment. I have never seen someone who would reply to every comment on their blog, its something incredible!!!

                    A zillion thanks again for the superb work and love you guys. I wish you all the success in future. Magoosh would go a really long way, as if it hasn’t yet ;)

                    • Chris Lele
                      Chris Lele August 29, 2014 at 10:11 am #

                      Thanks Sambit so much for those awesome words! We strive to make sure students are happy and do well on their GRE.

                      Best of luck on the 5th :)

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