GRE Issue Essay: Strategies + 8 Real Student Essays with Scores

The content in this post applies in 2024 to the new, shorter GRE!

When you sit down at the computer on test day, the very first thing you’ll encounter is the GRE AWA Issue essay. For a lot of test-takers, this will feel daunting. But not you! In this article, Magoosh’s experts will guide you through the most important steps in attacking the analyze an issue task. In addition, we’ll take a look at student examples of the GRE “Analyze an Issue” task so that you can understand what gets a high score—and what doesn’t—on the official exam.

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Table of Contents

An Overview of the GRE Issue Essay

So, what do you need to do for the GRE AWA Issue essay? Well, your goal is to read the prompt, then agree or disagree with the premise—and explain the extent to which you agree or disagree. Think you can’t prepare in advance? You’d be wrong! There are two main things you can do to get ready for the AWA portion of the GRE.

Review the Topic Pool

First, because the prompts are drawn from GRE’s published pool of Issue Essay topics, a bit of research will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of subject matter and presentation. Don’t try memorize all of them! There’s far too many. But! Do spend time browsing the topics and thinking about how to approach them.

Plan of Attack

Second, come up with a plan to navigate the GRE “analyze an issue” task. Not sure where to start? We can help! Here’s an example of a tried and true process for high-scoring essays that you can use to address any Issue task:

  1. Read the directions carefully
  2. Brainstorm and outline pros and cons
  3. Choose a side
  4. Choose reasons and examples to support those reasons
  5. Select a concession point
  6. Write!
  7. Be sure to leave around two minutes for proofreading and editing

magoosh-lesson-video-iconWant a closer look? Magoosh’s experts walk you through the process in more detail in our GRE Issue essay YouTube video!


Top 5 GRE Analyze an Issue Task Strategies

Now that you have the basics down, let’s take a look at some more detailed strategies you can use to maximize your score on the GRE AWA Issue essay.

1. Be Organized

Even an impassioned, cogent response falls apart if it is not bundled into a proper essay format: An introduction, a few body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

2. Focus Your Paragraphs

The Introduction
The Intro paragraph has a very limited purpose: The Intro should only introduce the topic and present a clearly defined thesis statement. The thesis will indicate your position on the issue. Your stance should be just ONE of the many points of view about the topic, not more than one. Often it is easiest for the writer—and the reader—if the last sentence in the Intro is the thesis.

The Body Paragraphs
The 2-3 body paragraphs make up the bulk of analyzing the issue and should focus on using examples (ideally one per body paragraph) to develop and support your thesis. Make sure you use appropriate transitions and that your sentences link together cohesively so that by the end of each body paragraph you have persuasively—and clearly—shown how your examples supports your thesis.

The Conclusion
The conclusion should be very short. In fact, it should only be a few sentences that recap your thesis and supporting points.

3. Keep It Engaging

Repetitive sentence structure makes for repetitive reading. Vary up the way you write—don’t be afraid to use a colon (or a dash), drop in a semi-colon, and vary up the syntax. A constant stream of noun followed by verb followed by adjective implies that you are a hesitant writer. You don’t want the overall impression your essay leaves on the graders to be a resounding meh.

4. Be Specific

Hypotheticals are fine, if you can use them to convincingly back up your point. However, that’s the tough part; “some people,” “mankind,” or “you” are dull and vague. Let’s say you are addressing this prompt: “Knowledge can sometimes be used for destructive ends.” Stating that “Oppenheimer’s knowledge of nuclear fusion allowed him to create the most destructive weapon the world had ever known” is far more impactful than, “scientists can sometimes use technology to hurt us.”

5. Stay On Topic

Perhaps the most important point (lest you wonder why you received a ‘1’ on your essay) is to keep your essay on topic. Imagine you had to respond to the mock prompt on knowledge I used above. If you begin talking about how technology is destructive because smartphones cause us to become insular… you have totally forgotten to answer the question, “Knowledge can sometimes be used for destructive ends.” Address the most compelling examples, yes—but the most compelling examples that relate directly to your topic!


Student GRE Issue Essay Analysis: Prompts, Essays, and Grading Samples

Now, it’s time to take a look at how sample essays meet (or fail to meet) the above criteria—and how this affected their scores. All of the following essays were written in response to the GRE Issue prompts, so check them out if you haven’t already, and then come back to analyze some examples!

Note: We’ve formatted the essays so that you can see the prompt and instructions first, then try writing your own response (this is great practice!). Once you’ve done that, click on the “essay and analysis” arrows to view examples of graded student essays and see how yours compare.

GRE Issue Essay Prompt 1: University Requirements


Universities should require students to take courses only within those fields they are interested in studying.


Write a response in which you discuss your views on the policy and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.


5.5 Essay and Analysis

Student Essay

Some people believe that universities should put stringent policies in place that require students to take courses only within a chosen field of study, thus harshly limiting the breadth of knowledge that they are able to study. Concentrating on only one field is important in terms of developing expert knowledge and specialization, but it is also crucial that the student hone a well rounded knowledge of the nature of the world so that their field of specialization is accented with courses from outside disciplines as well. It is for this reason that I believe that students should focus their study on a specific field yet also be allowed and encouraged to accent and expand their specialized knowledge by sampling courses from other areas of specialty as well.

Our current globalizing world contains diversity of knowledge, culture and creed that is increasing at a rapid pace and in order to succeed in a world such as this, it is necessary to hone a diverse skill set of knowledge and expertise. Therefore, university policies should encourage students to accent their study of a specific discipline with outside courses that will enhance the breadth of their knowledge about the nature of the world. A student studying medicine, for example, clearly needs to focus the majority of their time on understanding the inner workings of the human body on a scientific level. However, it is also crucial for them to have a more general knowledge of the way in which humans function on an individual or cultural scale (i.e. psychology and anthropology), because effective doctors are not simply capable of diagnosing diseases, but can also interact effectively, with individual and cultural sensitivies, with their patients in order to provide the most well-rounded care. A mathematician who knows only about math and knows nothing about the ancient civilizations whose cultures discovered geography will be ill-suited to make math interesting to his future students or to understand the real world implications of the equations he slaves over daily. A one-dimensional course of study will only serve to foster bias and an uncritical approach to life in such students. Thus, because we live in a world that is multi-faceted, it is important for every specialist to learn a bit about specialities outside of their main discipline in order to augment their understanding of the world at large.

When universities provide a structure of encouragement for their students to augment their specified studies by selecting some courses from outside their discipline, there are some possible consequences, such as the potential for students to change their mind about what they want to focus on. Some may say this is an inefficient use of time and that it will confuse students. However, I would argue that it will foster a wider breadth of knowledge that is ultimately beneficial for any student; a student that started studying biology but then switched to psychology, for example, will always appreciate and pay heed to the importance of our life sciences and will not neglect to consider how the functions of the body may affect someone’s mental health. The existence of knowledge in a wider range of disciplines will only provide the student with more information with which to take charge in a world that is highly complex and rapidly changing all the time, and so allowing them to experiment a little and change their mind once or twice is to their benefit rather than to their detriment.

In conclusion, I disagree that universities should require students to take courses only within their specific, chosen field of study. When students are able to focus their study on one specific topic but then augment it by sampling courses from other disciplines, their knowledge becomes more wide ranging and interdisciplinary, thus providing a better foundation for them to succeed in a rapidly globalizing world. While they may change their minds as to their preferred topic of study one or two times, they will ultimately succeed by having a wide breadth of knowledge that will teach them to approach the world without a subject specific bias. Overall, it is best that universities allow their students to take courses outside of their chosen course of study in order to diversify their pallate of knowledge.

Issue Essay Analysis

Score: 5.5

This GRE Issue essay starts off with a strong intro that clearly articulates the author’s position.
The essay is also very long, and the body paragraphs well developed. In terms of ideas this is a strong—though if slightly limited—essay. It makes a compelling case for interdisciplinary learning. A physician studying anthropology will be more culturally sensitive; a psychologist who studied biology will have a great appreciation for the biological underpinnings of the psyche. The writer justifies this well-roundedness in terms of relevancy: a one-dimensional person will struggle in our complex, globalized world.
As well thought out and supported as these points, they are far too similar, and this essay would have benefited from picking another example that argues in favor of allowing students to take courses outside of their majors. Another flaw is the essay doesn’t directly addresses the directions: “should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy.” Is a world of well-rounded, complex individuals the consequence of allowing students to choose subjects outside of their majors?

Stylistically this essay is not perfect, and I have some minor grumblings.

I like the first use of “accent” but after the third time the use of the word is not nearly as fresh. In this case, other words could do: supplement, etc. Some of the sentences are heavy-handed and overloaded with clauses (“When universities provide a structure of encouragement for their students to augment their specified studies by selecting some courses from outside their discipline, there are some possible consequences, such as the potential for students to change their mind about what they want to focus on”). Other examples of where too many nouns compromise the effectiveness of writing is the first sentence of the body paragraph (can “creed” “increase at a rapid pace”).
All in all, this essay is a strong essay but the narrow scope and the overly oblique focus on the directions prevents it from getting a ‘6.’

5.0 Essay and Analysis

Student Essay

The ongoing debate about whether a university should require students to take courses only within their fields of study or take extra classes to fulfill graduation requirements is an interesting one. There any many valid arguments to each side and it is not a simple black or white choice when deciding who is right. However, by requiring students to only take courses within their major, it allows for students focus on taking classes that are only applicable to their future careers and allows them to save money in a time where saving money is equally important to a college degree.

In many situations, students will finish high school and go on to college with an idea of what they want to do with their life. For students who are in majors such as engineering or the a science field such as chemistry or biology, it is important to for them to stay on top of all of their course work because of the higher number of courses that they must take in order to fulfill the university requirements for a degree. Many of these students knew before they entered college that this would be the case and gladly accepted that challenge, however by requiring students to take extra general education classes to fulfill their diploma requirements seems counter intuitive to a level of education where students are beginning to focus and narrow in on their future career goals. By forcing say a engineering student to take music theory or British literature just simply to fulfill a general education requirement and having that class conflict with a engineering major course seems to prevent these students from coming to college and fully obtaining their goal as quickly as possible.

The other aspect to consider is the financial aspect. In many of these situations, the students are under pressure to finish their degree as soon as possible because of many state budget cuts to education which limit the number of classes offered with in their major. Not only does this mean extra classes that students must take and thus more money they have to spend because tuition is usually based on a per unit fee, forcing these extra classes upon can have a longer impact if they are forced to stay longer in college than they originally assumed they would. College already charges an extremely large amount to attend and that already does not take into account the other expenses that students have to pay (such as room and board, food, and books), but adding on extra semester, quarters, or even years because a student had to take general education classes instead of strictly major classes is an unfair system to put a student through.

As with any situation though, there are always exceptions to the rule. For one not every student enters college with the same career focus and direction as their peers. Many students will come into college unsure of the direction they want to take and many students who think they know what direction they want to go, end up changing their minds (sometimes multiple times). By requiring students to take classes from a broad range of spectrums, Universities can help students narrow down what career path they may want to follow. Many times students may have a preconceived notion of what a subject may be about and not want to try it, yet by requiring it, they may be able to find themselves in a new class with something they may choose to pursue in the future, something they perhaps never would have considered. There is also something to be said about being able to take higher education classes simply for the benefit of wanting to learn about something that interests you. College allows you to do that and by making it a requirement, it allows students a bigger chance to do that.

Overall though, universities that force students to take upwards of 10-12 general education classes just to fulfill a requirement for their diploma seems unfair. When a student comes into college with a specific end game in site, the universities should not hinder their goals by overloading them with extra requirements and instead focus on helping hem obtain their goals as quickly as possible. The time and financial benefits that could be reaped by not requiring students to take these classes could have a direct impact on the success of all students as well as the future communities they intend to help.

Issue Essay Analysis

Score: 5.0
This essay covers most of the bases: it offers analysis on both sides of the issue, it throws in a few sentences that address the specific instructions, and it, for the most part, clearly articulates a position. The essay does not wow with thorough analysis, great sentence variety (or indeed any stylistic flourishes). In other words, it gets the job done without making too many missteps.

While I award this essay a ‘5’, there are moments when that score seems shaky. This is not mainly due to the ideas (though the generalizations don’t help: “As with any situation though, there are always exceptions to the rule”); at times the sentences become overloaded and tend to digress.

Word choice could have also been a little more dynamic. “Large”, “bigger”, etc. could be spiced up a little more: “astronomical”, “excessive”, etc.

In addition to making the sentence more readable, and varying up the syntax a little, the essay could have been improved with a little more analysis. I would have like to say more than taking more courses is expensive. Sure, that is a totally valid point, but to spend an entire paragraph on it the overly long first paragraph about students who are not engineers as well.

Additionally, the last body paragraph is confusing: “There is also something to be said about being able to take higher education classes simply for the benefit of wanting to learn about something that interests you. College allows you to do that and by making it a requirement,it allows students a bigger chance to do that.” Is the author implying that colleges shouldn’t require students to take only course in their field (which would go against the main point of the essay)? And by saying that colleges make “it a requirement” that college require students to take courses outside their field?

Had this paragraph been a little clearer and had the writer expanded the scope of the financial issue, this essay—along with a little more dynamic writing and sentence variety—could get at least a definitive ‘5’, if not a ‘5.5’.

Check out this post for another example of a 5.0 GRE student essay!

4.5 Essay and Analysis

Student Essay

Liberal arts colleges and professional schools often debate whether they are required to develop well-rounded individuals. The primary purpose of universities is to establish the ground work for future field experts and specialists, meaning the developing into other fields would detract from the development of specialization. A basic understanding of how to delve into other fields is all that’s necessary.

A college degree in a field suggests that a graduate has the basic understanding of a specialized field, and they may continue to develop into a true expert. At every level of the collegiate process, students have further expansion into their speciality. For instance, science majors start with basic fundamentals that are required for latter learning. They soon go off into their own fields, isolated from the humanities and, often, other science majors. Because students usually have only four years to achieve a set requirement of tested standards in a particular field, universities must push students into their fields quickly. There simply isn’t enough time to truly explore all the possible fields of study at the university level. Exploratory learning shouldn’t be required as it doesn’t serve any purpose when the student won’t continue to explore in those extracurricular fields.

If a student were to only hole themselves away into the fields of physics, they may never truly understand how their physical knowledge relates to society and the social world. Universities tend to have to weigh this “roundedness” against the need to produce future field experts. The outcome is introductory classes that relate to your field, but intertwine with other fields of study, and push students to explore on their own time. These initial exploratory classes would be necessary for any field of study anyway, as creativity and individual pursuit is essential for any expert to further their field’s knowledge.

These exploratory classes are necessary for students to apply their growing expertise, but leaving their fields of study should be done on their own because they can only expand into the elementary levels of other fields within their time restraints at the university level. In this way, students aren’t led by the hand through fields they aren’t interested in, but they would still have the capability to explore their fields if they truly were intrigued. Allowing students to create their own directions, intertwining their interests, creates dynamic individuals who are happier with their degrees and more productive to the world through their specialization.

Universities are meant to develop future experts and specialists in particular fields of study. They should lay the groundwork for students to be able to explore of fields, but not in a way that detracts from their field’s work. At a moment when their time is so precious, students can’t afford to be left behind in their fields as they are forced by curriculum to explore unwanted alternatives.

Issue Essay Analysis

Score: 4.5

There are some things about the essay that I like: it brings up interesting ideas relating to the prompt. Do specialists with “roundedness”contribute more to their fields than those specialists who focus only on their fields? The sentence variety makes things flow along nicely, until the middle of the essay, where the author becomes vague. Indeed, at times I’m not sure which side of the prompt the author is arguing.

For example, at the end of the second paragraph he states: “Exploratory learning shouldn’t be required as it doesn’t serve any purpose when the student won’t continue to explore in those extracurricular fields.”

The very next sentence—the first sentence of the third paragraph—says the exact opposite: “If a student were to only hole themselves away into the fields of physics, they may never truly understand how their physical knowledge relates to society and the social world.” Suddenly,the paragraph is arguing against what the previous paragraph stated.

The second to last paragraph is weighed down in abstractions, without a useful specific example to clear things up. Consider the topic sentence: “These exploratory classes are necessary for students to apply their growing expertise, but leaving their fields of study should be done on their own because they can only expand into the elementary levels of other fields within their time restraints at the university level.” There is a lot going on here, and I really had to reread the sentence several times to get what the author was saying. The ETS graders won’t take this much time. And given that the essay has already pulled an about-face in the previous paragraphs, makes this sentence even more obfuscatory.

The conclusion is much clearer than the rest of the essays, and allows me to understand what the essay was trying to say alone.Compare the clarity of this sentence to the one I mentioned in the previous paragraph: “They should lay the ground work for students to be able to explore of fields, but not in a way that detracts from their field’s work.”

So how to grade an essay like this? Strong analytical skills, sophisticated writing, and solid organization….yet, a contradictory—and at times muddled (the clause in the intro, “….meaning the developing into other fields) leads to a confusing essay.

Clarity and meaning are huge. And an essay that leaves the grader scratching his or her head is not a good thing. This doesn’t sabotage the essay completely, but merits a 4.5.

4.0 Essay and Analysis

Student Essay

The author states that students should only take classes within their realm of study. Although, students may gain more of a grasp on what they are studying, this requirement fails to take in what students can learn outside of their required classes. To say that students can only take classes within their concentration is occluding them to knowledge that they may learn in other fields of study.

For example, universities typically require students to pick their major, as well as a minor. Some programs may also require students to select a few elective classes as well, so students can establish themselves as more rounded individuals.

Also, taking classes outside of a student’s field of study may help boost the student’s overall GPA. For example, if a student has an in major GPA of 2.5 and an out of major GPA of 3.2, then the overall GPA will increase. However, it could be vice versa as well. If someone isn’t doing that great in their elective classes, it could bring their overall GPA down.

If this policy is implemented, the consequences may be severe. One consequence could be that a student may not be able to graduate on time because they may not have enough credits. Or they may not meet the GPA requirements to graduate because they failed a few classes within their major.

If the university decides that students can only take courses within his or her chosen field of study, then the university may not produce well rounded individuals.

Issue Essay Analysis

Score: 4.0

This essay is an example of a 4.0—just barely—that is undeveloped and thus on the short side. It is not an example of a longer, totally one-sided ‘4’ that ignores the directions (notice how the final body paragraph addresses the “consequences” mentioned in the instructions).

What the author has written is an intelligent response to the prompt. She doesn’t simply agree with the prompt, but takes the opposing side, providing support (“To say that students can only take classes within their concentration is occluding them to knowledge that they may learning other fields of study.”). In passing, I should mention that “occlude” is used incorrectly. This is not a major problem, but remember that, if you use GRE words, make sure you know how to use them correctly.

What could have easily made this essay much stronger is more. More words, more examples. In coming up with examples, the writer should avoid the wishy-washiness apparent in the third paragraph (“It could be vice versa as well.”). While such missteps might point at a 3.5, the essay is never unclear (the grammar and word usage—besides “occlude”—are accurate).

3.0 Essay and Analysis

Student Essay

I do not agree with the stated policy to allow students to only take course within their chosen fields of study. Instead I feel that students should should have the opportunity to take course outside of their major for the following reasons.

First, I feel that taken course outside ones major gives students variety, and exposure to experiences or interactions they may not have considered previously. Take for example Lisa, an engineering student who spends countless hours studying. Realizing that she needed a change of place an outlet of some sorts decides to take a modern dance course just for fun. What ultimatly was that Lisa learned to relax which interned helped her study more effectively and perform better in her engineering course.

Then take Monique, a political science major who doesn’t know how to swim. decided to take a swimming course and not only learned to over come her fear, but gained confidence in other other aspects of o her live.

Thirdly, lets consider Jason, a physics major who only took courses in his major. He became such an expert in his field us study, but became increasing socially award because of his inability to converse or relate to his peers.

In the even both Lisa and Monique were not able to take course outside of their major, I fear that they would have succumb to the pressure that sometimes too often over takes students adjusting to university lift. By deviating from their mandatory set of course they found a renew focus and inner strength that they may have never know before. Jason however, didn’t fair as well due to his strict focus in University

University is about diversity and gaining new experience for growth and development. Not being allowed to explore this diversity limits the over experience and potential stunts the education growth and perspective of students

Issue Essay Analysis

Score: 3.0

Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes mar the effectiveness of this essay. Specifically, commas are misused (or not used at all), incorrect words are used (“interned”, “award” vs. “awkward”). I think many of these mistakes can be remedied if the student spends some time editing.The point in editing isn’t to catch the nitpicky errors but the glaring ones (of which this essay has many).

Next, the essay has very predictable development: take one-side of the prompt, and then come up with three hypothetical examples to support the point. There is zero analysis. This essay could have been improved and gotten within striking range of a ‘4’, or at least a ‘3.5’, had it simply addressed the instructions: “consider the possible consequences of implementing….” Of course, addressing the grammatical and spelling errors would have helped the essay.

As it stands the grammatical errors are so distracting that they make reading the essay difficult. Sure, clarity isn’t sacrificed, as the essay is mostly clear. But the simple structure, the lack of addressing the instruction, and the glaring sentence mechanics issues, lands this essay a ‘3’.


Prompt 2: Lasting Legacy


Those who see their ideas through, regardless of doubts or criticism others may express, are the ones who tend to leave a lasting legacy.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.


4.0 Essay and Analysis

Student Essay

A famous author once remarked that “Winners never quit and quitters never win”. People who see their ideas through, however unpragmatic it may be considered by others are the ones who have truly made a difference.

History is replete with examples of people who were perceived as crazy, illogical and even insane by laymen, yet when their ideas were sedulously worked upon, by the creator , day after day, combined with long hours of toil, the result was nothing, short of marvelous.

Lets’s take the example of the Indian freedom struggle fought by Gandhiji on the basis of Satyagraha. It was very difficult for the Britishers to assume that India would be freed one day under the leadership of a loin cloth covered ordinary looking man without the use of weapons or bloodshed. The reason that Indian freedom could be achieved was the unflagging determination of Gandhiji and the uncommon methodology used of winning freedom by peace and not bloodshed.

Looking not far, I can recall the example of Galileo who was reviled and persecuted by the Church authorities for challenging the existing norms that pervaded the society that time. Galileo’s fierce determination , not to give up on his ideas even during harsh criticism paved the way for modern space research.

Another convincing example is of the Wright Brothers. Who would have ever imagined that it is indeed possible to fly like a bird and traverse different parts of the globe. I am sure that the Wright brothers were reviled when they first came up with this idea of developing an aeroplane. But, again today their invention has become a legacy.

Though there are several examples of people winning through odds because of their determination and unflagging spirit and creating noteworthy inventions, there could be times when this may be the cause of much trouble. Consider the doggedness of Hitler.though he was criticised for his heinous atrocitities on the Jews, he still did not stop the atrocities. These are few examples when people with strong determination can create an ill legacy instead of a legacy.

Issue Essay Analysis

Score: 4.0

The writing in this essay has a lot of punch and makes reading it easy. However, there is little to no analysis. Like many essays on this prompt, the essay takes an extreme position, and beyond a vague, jumbled mention of Hitler, does not address the instructions: “…you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true.”

As an SAT essay goes—basically you can take a relatively strong position—this is a good essay. Even then, some of the examples lack persuasiveness: “I am sure the Wright brothers were reviled.” Maybe they weren’t (they actually were, somewhat), but to say “you think” vs. “many notable scientists mocked the Wright Brothers notion of human flight” makes the essay far more tentative than it should be.

Also, the examples are very sparse, especially Galileo. Some more development would have perhaps bumped this essay to a ‘4.5’. But without any analysis, and by failing to take into account the other side, this essay gets only a ‘4.’

Finally, the language is sometimes fluffy and orotund (“I can recall the example of Galileo”, “nothing short of marvelous.”). By saying that “another convincing example” makes your readers wary, and likely to challenge the convincing-ness of the example. (As noted earlier, the example isn’t convincing).

3.0 Essay and Analysis

Student Essay

Although, doubts and criticism expressed regarding a particular by others seem valid at the particular time of inception of time, if the person follows through his idea or well cherished dream, then he may become success in his endeavor and leave a lasting legacy. So, people who see their ideas through, regardless of doubts or criticism others may express, are the ones who tend to leave a lasting legacy.

New ideas takes time to be accepted by general public, and during the time from the inception till the acceptance, the person who invented or discovered that idea, may be criticized or oppressed. Galileo was put into house arrest for his entire life for his heliocentric model of the solar system, because it came in direct conflict with the church’s geocentric model which regarded Galileo’s theory as heresy. Later, Galileo’s model was readily accepted. So, it’s really important that the people should see their ideas through criticism and doubts of others and shouldn’t be daunted, since other people are not connected to the idea or dream or feel the strength of idea in the same way as the person who invented that idea.

If a person doesn’t

Issue Essay Analysis

Score: 3.0

This essay struggles from a lack of clarity. The first two sentences are overloaded with words, and so it is difficult for a reader to figure out what the writer is trying to say. Since the essay graders do not have time to figure out what you are trying to say, you will be penalized. Luckily, the thesis is clear—though it is an almost exact rewording of the prompt.

The Galileo example—while expressed in language that is clearer than that found in the intro—isn’t that developed. We learn that he was arrested and confined for heresy. The essay automatically assumes that this is the same as criticism. I would say the church’s actions against Galileo are a little stronger than mere criticism.

What saves this essay from a sub-3.0 is the final sentence, which discriminates between the person with the idea and those who only have an inkling of that idea. However, this idea is not explored in more depth (and doesn’t really connect to the Galileo example). Indeed the essay ends there.

I sense that the writer spent time agonizing over the wording of the first few sentences (which led to the tortuous syntax and obscured meaning). My advice: the writer should work on the examples before working on the intro. Finally, the examples should connect a little more clearly with the prompt. In this case, if the prompt is focusing on criticism, the writer shouldn’t shift the focus to persecution, as he did with Galileo and the church.


Prompt 3: Risky Action


People should undertake risky action only after they have carefully considered its consequences.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.

4.0 Essay and Analysis

Student Essay

People should undertake risky action only after they have carefully considered its consequences.

People should not let their fears prevent them from taking important risks in life. Taking risks is what allows us humans to achieve success, joy and ultimate fulfillment. However, prior to taking any risky action, it is essential that people should carefully consider the consequences.

For example, there are some risky actions that are life-threatening such as skydiving. Of course, before you can begin to skydive, you must learn the basics of this sport. Additionally, by also studying what can go wrong during a skydive, and learning how to react to that scenario, that person will have the knowledge and ability to stay calm and hopefully make better decisions that will allow them to get out of a bad situation rather than falling into a panic.

This also pertains to decisions about money and business. Everyday people are making decisions that are ‘make or break’. For those who really understand the consequences of their actions, they are able to make a wiser decision that may have less of an impact on them if the business or investment deal goes awry. However, but not educating oneself, the consequences of one’s action are likely to be more severe.

Sometimes, knowing the consequences of an action causes fear that will stops us from taking any risky actions. As a result we miss out on potential successes and most of all “joy”. Therefore, by understanding the consequences, one can eliminate feat, learn how to react in a smarter fashion and lead a much more enriching life than if they had never taken those risks at all.

Issue Essay Analysis

Score: 4.0

This is a decent skeleton of an essay. But that’s the problem—it is only a skeleton and the ideas need a lot more fleshing out if this essay is to get at least a ‘5’. For instance, in the skydiving example, the writer barely scratches the surface. What are some things that a skydiver could possibly learn to help them make this risky endeavor less risky? How much less risky would they make sky diving? Is there a point where something is so risky that even if we take measures to prevent disaster from happening that something bad could still happen (skydiving in bad weather, or bungee jumping in a country that offers low prices—and also low quality equipment). In calculating risk, shouldn’t we also weigh the payoff. For the skydiving example, is the thrill worth the danger, even if one has taken the necessary precautions and learned proper technique.

None of this deeper analysis is introduced in the essay, including the paragraph on financial risk. Notice that, while the passage is free of grammatical issues and scores well for logical flow, that it keeps things at a very general (“however, by not educating oneself, the consequences of one’s action are likely to be more severe”), much as a skydiver, upon preparing to jump from the plane, surveys the ground below him but can only make out the vague contours of the land.


A Final Word

Now that you’ve reviewed student samples from across the spectrum of GRE Issue task grades, you’ll have a better sense of what you need to do to get those high scores! More than anything, practice will help you get the score you want on test day. So take a look at the Issue pool and a few more essay examples, pull up a blank document, and get practicing! Best of luck on test day as you master the GRE Issue essay.


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