GRE Claim and Reason Issue Essay

GRE Claim and Reason Issue Essay - image by Magoosh

We’re going to explore one type of question, claim and reason, from the GRE Issue bank, which is about how teachers should specifically design courses for the interests of their students since doing so makes them motivated learners.

If you have been diligently at work writing practice essays from our list of GRE writing prompts, you may have noticed an interesting species of Issue question, one in which there is a claim and reason. (To see the full prompt, head to the pool of issue topics and search for “when planning courses”.)

Let’s pretend for a moment that you only examine the claim—as would be the case in your typically Issue prompt. Your essay could take several different perspectives, as the examples below illustrate:


Students are more aware of what is relevant in their lives and what is important for them to learn.

Students may find certain subject material boring, and so their feedback in shaping the curriculum is important.


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Teachers know what is best for their students and should not blindly acquiesce to the collective will, especially if what the student wants runs contrary to what the teacher knows is best.

Even though students may initially express little interest in a subject, they often can be drawn into the subject and go on to cultivate both an appreciation and a deeper interest in that field.

For each position, agree or disagree, one of the excerpts totally disregards the reason. Can you guess which one? The key to the “Claim and Reason Essay” is to make sure not to forget the reason. See, the reason narrows the scope of the essay, and it is this important qualification that the GRE wants you to consider. By ignoring the reason and merely focusing on the claim, you’re not answering the question, which instructs you to pay attention to the reason.

In the excerpts above, the first instance for the “agree side” and the first instance for the “disagree side” would both be problematic theses, because they ignore the reason. You are basically putting a ceiling on your essay score, of maybe a ‘4’. Though I’m not sure how accurate that assessment is since I’ve never had a student tell me they did just that but otherwise wrote an excellent compelling essay. Perhaps, the graders will penalize you even more drastically for outright disregarding the instructions.

The thing is this type of Issue can be more challenging since the scope is more restricted. That shouldn’t translate to a shorter essay, however. In the example above, the one from the “disagree side”, you could develop one body paragraph that discusses what happens when a student remains bored with a subject.

Oftentimes, lack of interest doesn’t translate to a waste of time. Students may be unaware of what will be applicable in the future. A student yawning during Econ 101, but who still studies for the exams and does well, might find him- or herself using some econ knowledge later in life when he or she goes into investing. Letting students influence the Econ 101 curriculum could very well lead them to focus on something relatively trivial, say sports gambling, and miss out on a more fundamental lesson—a lesson the educator knows will be of greatest use to the students.

Of course after taking the pro-educator side, the essay above would be wise to include a paragraph considering those instances in which students may actually shed some useful insights that could help an educator provide an even a more comprehensive and edifying classroom experience. Because really, does an educator always know what is best for his or her students?

Just like that you have two body paragraphs, and I’m sure it would be easy to come up with another perspective on the issue in a final body paragraph. Keep your sentence structure varied, your vocabulary interesting, and your grammar mistake-free and you should get at least a ‘5’.

One final note is to avoid the following pitfall: responding to the “Claim and Reason” Issue as though it were the Argument Task. Just because you see two sentences does not mean you are no longer in issue territory. Anyhow, argument prompts tend to be much longer, usually a paragraph in length.

Now, here are 5 example Claim and Reason prompts that I’ve come up with:

1) “Claim: Universities should place a limit on how many classes a student can enroll in during a given academic term.

Reason: Students, especially those who are in their early years of university schooling, frequently overestimate the amount of coursework they can commit to.”

2) “Claim: There should be laws against farming crops and livestock in the central districts of large cities.

Reason: The pollution typically found in highly urban areas damages food crops and farm animals, causing them to produce contaminated or substandard food.”

3) “Claim: Art museums should charge little or no money for admission, and should be as open to the public as possible.

Reason: Artists create their work because they want to show it to an other people, and art museums are the best venue to give artists an audience.”

4) “Claim: A person in authority should always encourage those under him or her to share their thoughts and ideas.

Reason: A leader’s main goal should be to promote innovation and change.”

5) “Claim: Happiness comes through seeking out new and different experiences.

Reason: People have a natural desire to learn and explore.”

For your own edification—because I don’t always know best—every single “Claim and Reason” Issue that could come up test day is listed in the pool of issue topics on the ETS website. Just search for the phrase “Claim:” to find all of these. I encourage you to at least look at a few and come up with a mental outline of what your body paragraphs would look like. That way if you get a “Claim and Reason” Issue test day there will be no surprises.

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  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

32 Responses to GRE Claim and Reason Issue Essay

  1. Jamiul Islam November 9, 2021 at 7:02 pm #

    Dear Chris,

    In the awa topics like:

    Claim: We can usually learn much more from people whose views we share than from those whose views contradict our own.

    Reason: Disagreement can cause stress and inhibit learning.

    If I agree with both the claim and reason, then, can I show some additional reasons to bolster my argument? Or, is it recommended to stick to the mentioned reason only throughout the whole essay?? Greg mat in Reddit suggests that if I agree with both claim& reason, then, I can address the stated reason in one or two paras, and subsequently can develop my own additional reasons in other paras to support the claim.

    What do u think in this regard??

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 19, 2021 at 2:03 pm #

      Thank you for submitting your question! You should hear back from one of our GRE experts soon by email.

  2. Memoona Shah Rashdi February 10, 2018 at 9:46 pm #

    hi chris,
    first of all thanks for a wonderfull explaination.
    secondly i have a question regarding complete issue essay and argument task. If there is very less time remining to repare for my gre, what is the best way to cover all of the topics may be in one month. because i find it difficult to write on a topic i have’nt read or wrote on before. any tips?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 11, 2018 at 12:30 pm #

      Hi Memoona,

      I’m so glad that you’ve found our posts helpful 🙂 I can definitely give you some advice on how to prepare for the essays 🙂 First, it’s important that you understand the strategy necessary for success. I’d recommend doing a few essays without giving yourself a time constraint–if it takes you two hours, then that’s okay. Give yourself as much time as you need to brainstorm, plan the structure of your essay, write it out, and give it quick proofread. Once you’ve done this a few times and feel comfortable with the process, then start timing yourself so you can get used to a quicker version of this process when you’re under pressure. Do several timed essays in this way, so that on the day of the exam, you’re completely familiar with the approach of writing these essays, and it feels like just another practice essay you wrote at home.

      For the argument essay, it’s important to understand how to attack the argument. You don’t need to be familiar with the specific topics, but you do need to understand the structure of the argument and how to pick it apart.

      For the issue essay, it helps to have some examples and ideas ready. The topics on the issue essay fall into a few general themes, so you can start your research there and make sure that you have a few examples for each type of essay. Coming up with examples on the spot is definitely hard to do! What I like to do to combat this is have several topics on hand. By this, I mean that you should do a general brainstorm to come up with several topics you can easily write about—topics that you are an “expert” on, if you will.

      For example, say I love history. So, before test day I’d make a list of several important historical figures, events, documents, etc, and have these examples in my arsenal. Isaac Newton–inventive! Julia Child–a pioneering woman! The Emancipation Proclamation–groundbreaking! Now, of course I would think more about the influence these people/things had on the world, and of course consider how they fit into the context of questions I may be asked on the exam. But, just knowing that I can immediately recall several examples will ease my nerves, and this will likely also lead me to remember other facts that I can use as examples (I remember why Julia Child is important, and then I remember the era in which she rose to fame, and then I think about the 1960s and the events that happened in this decade, and then I think about women’s rights, and so on and so forth). These first examples will work almost like a memory catalyst, and pretty soon I’ll have a whole web of examples to use.

      Again, the absolute best thing that you can do is to write as many essays as possible! The more you write, the more confident you will become 🙂

  3. Lee September 19, 2017 at 7:04 am #

    Hi Chris! Thanks for the post 🙂
    I have a question about this claim and reason type questions.
    When answering this type of questions, is it okay to agree to the claim but disagree to the reason?

    For example, in a question that asks:

    Claim: Many problems of modern society cannot be solved by laws and the legal system.
    Reason: Laws cannot change what is in people’s hearts or minds.

    Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

    Can I respond by saying that I agree with the claim but think the reason is wrong?
    My response would be something like this: “The claim that many problems of modern society cannot be solved by laws and the legal system is certainly valid. Nevertheless, one should not conclude this limitation is caused by the fact that laws cannot make an impact on people’s mindsets.”

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 21, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

      Hi Lee,

      It’s not a good idea to separate the claim and the reason; whatever you decide to argue, you should be consistent across your essay. The reason is meant to narrow the scope of the essay and focus it on a specific topic. If you disagree with the reason, then you should also disagree with the claim (which is build upon that reason). It’s best to be clear and unequivocal about your position in Issue essay–choose your side and argue it as best you can 🙂

  4. Matt September 15, 2017 at 8:28 pm #

    Such an honest post Chris! A teacher doesn’t always know everything. I also struggle to take up this in my class and falter everytime. I wonder if ETS could really shed some light on ways to attempt the test. I’m definitely taking some lesson from this.

  5. Tamu August 30, 2016 at 1:32 am #

    Hello Chris !
    I still have doubt about argument task. Its ok we can write our personal experience but it will may consume line near about 6-8 to explain how it is related to topic asked , will this be OK?? And it can possible that they will give me low points because gravity may not be that high. What if the whole BODY part ( 2 or 3 paragraph) is filled with my own experience. Will it work? I’m looking to get least 4 in AWA.. Help as fast as possible

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 31, 2016 at 8:46 am #

      Hi Tamu,

      You mentioned argument task, but based on your message and the content of this blog post I think you are talking about the Issue Task 🙂 The Issue task asks you to take a side on an issue and write a convincing argument to support it. One aspect of a strong argument is that it is applicable in a wide variety of cases. I highly recommend that you don’t use the first person and that you don’t discuss personal experience as such–and personal experience definitely shouldn’t make up the majority of your essay! Instead, personal experience can inform a general logical argument that is applicable across many situations. An example: you may be arguing that students should take college classes outside of their major. You may have taken outside classes and found them useful, but instead of writing about your personal experience with this, you can generalize it to say that outside classes prepare students for a multidisciplinary workplace or prepares them to take other jobs if there aren’t any openings in their major. So instead of talking about yourself, you create a convincing logical argument. Does that make sense? I hope that helps 🙂

  6. swapna July 14, 2016 at 9:57 pm #

    i want to know exact steps for writing an argument and i would like to know what is meant by claim and premise

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 21, 2016 at 3:30 am #

      Hi Swapna 🙂

      First, let’s talk about arguments 🙂 An argument is made up of premises and a conclusion or claim. The premises are the pieces of evidence that support the conclusion, while the conclusion or claim refers to main idea or statement made of the argument. If you wanted to construct an argument, you would need to provide evidence (premises) that support your main point or claim 🙂

      With that in mind, in “claim and reason” prompts, the claim is the conclusion or thesis statement of a given argument, while the reason could be considered a premise or evidence that supports the claim. In your essay, you would need to discuss whether or not you agree with the claim and the premise provided. It’s good to keep in mind that you don’t need to agree or disagree with both parts. You could, for example, agree with the claim, or conclusion, but think that the premise does not provide good support for the claim. In that case, you would want to discuss what support would better substantiate the claim. Here’s a possible structure for this type of essay:

      Introduction: Introduce the claim, the premise, and your viewpoint (whether you agree or disagree)
      Body Paragraph 2: Discuss why you agree/disagree with the claim
      Body Paragraph 3: Discuss why you agree/disagree with the premise
      Body Paragraph 4: Concession point (acknowledge the other side of the argument)
      Conclusion: Briefly recap your viewpoint and main points

      I hope these perspectives help 🙂 Happy writing!

  7. Luci May 28, 2016 at 9:46 pm #

    Hi Chris!
    Just wondering, you say that if you agree completely, youre capped at a “4”. However, what if you are agreeing completely on an issue and you mention a potential disagreement and talk about how that is invalid or provide an example to counter that. Would you still be capped at 4?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 4, 2016 at 4:27 am #

      Hi Luci,

      It is possible that you could go above a 4 with what you describe, but the problem you run into is that there is simply a lot more room to show argumentation and logic if you disagree rather than agree. Your goal is to show depth of understanding and nuanced argumentation, which is why we recommend disagreeing rather than agreeing.

      To be clear, there is no officially codified “cap” but this is just the reality of the quality of essay based on thousands of students’ writings.

  8. Harshad July 9, 2015 at 8:35 am #

    Hi Chris !

    Thanks for the clarification regarding the Claim and Reason type of essays.

    I still have a doubt regarding the same topic. Considering example mentioned below;

    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.

    In this case the claim and reason are simply irrelevant.
    While addressing such essay prompts shall we consider it as –
    i.e It is primarily in cities that a nation’s cultural traditions are preserved & generated and hence governments must ensure that their major cities receive the financial support they need in order to thrive.


  9. Ahmad November 26, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    thanks that you explain this specific issue task as i did the exam on last Tuesday and got the same issue.

  10. Aalim August 18, 2014 at 11:28 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    It may be a really very silly question but I really need to know.

    “Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.”

    Does that mean I have to pick a side and only discuss on that side. Do I not need to acknowledge the other side?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 19, 2014 at 11:51 am #

      Hi Aalim,

      You’ll want to acknowledge that there is some merit to the reason, and you’ll want to explain why you think so. You’ll then want to reason your way to a position that considers the reason but doesn’t embrace it or reject it completely. Again, the key is a nuanced argument. And it is best to focus on the reason for the claim. If you focus only on the claim, you’ll end up potentially disregarding the reason altogether because you’ll come up with your own reasons. By focusing on the reason for the claim, you’ll always be addressing–at least implicitly–the claim.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  11. Chitra August 10, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

    Thanks Chris!!!

    Very helpful Indeed

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 19, 2014 at 11:47 am #

      You are welcome!

  12. Chitra August 7, 2014 at 5:48 am #

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks a lot for your reply.

    But I still have a query.

    Most of the times I am in a situation where I am unable to appreciate the reason(mentioned in the issue task ) on which a claim is based .

    In such a case, i will definitely talk about both the claim and reason , but am i allowed
    to put forth other reasons also for which the claim holds good ??



    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 8, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

      Hi Chitra,

      I don’t think that’s what the GRE wants you to do. In other words, focus on the reason supporting the claim instead of going off on finding other reasons to support or reject the claim. My hunch is the GRE would never have set the question up in this way had they wanted you to focus just on the claim. In that case, it would have just been your standard (one sentence) essay.

  13. Vijay August 3, 2014 at 1:57 am #

    Hi Chris,

    Is there a specific way to go about the introduction for “Claim – Reason” type question ?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 4, 2014 at 11:54 am #

      Hi Vijay,

      I don’t think there is a specific way; however, I wouldn’t play coy by totally ignoring the fact that there is both a claim and a reason. You don’t have to explicitly say “the claim says X” but the reason says “Y”. But make sure that your intro begins broad–with the claim–and appropriately narrows down the scope so it is clear you are addressing the reason too.

      Hope that helps!

  14. Chitra H May 3, 2014 at 7:03 am #

    Hi Chris,

    Just 1 small clarification.

    Can I agree with the claim and disagree with the reason
    is it necessary for me to agree
    with the reason if i am agreeing with the claim and disagree with the reason if i am disagreeing with the claim ?

    Thanks in advance!!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 5, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      Hi Clarita,

      Make sure to always agree with both or disagree with both. In other words, you are supposed to analyze the claim based on the reasoning. You don’t want to start writing an essay on the reason–irrespective of a claim. Nor do you want to focus on just agreeing or disagreeing with the claim without addressing the specific reason it is based on.

      Hope that helps clarify things 🙂

      • Aparajit June 5, 2016 at 10:09 pm #

        Thank You Chris.

  15. Debbie April 29, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your really helpful blog. 🙂 Just wanted to clarify something really quickly –

    Is it advisable to respond to the claim and reason separately, or should we address whether we disagree/agree with the claim given that it is based on the stated reason? You seem to suggest the latter, but I thought I should double check just to be extra sure.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 30, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

      Hi Debbie,

      Yes, you definitely want to focus on the latter. That is, don’t treat the claim and reason independently. Hope that helps 🙂

  16. rakusin December 13, 2013 at 3:34 am #

    I like the vocab Wednesday so much. Why there is no new vocab Wednesday this week?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 13, 2013 at 11:50 am #

      Hi Rakusin!

      I was actually sick this week :(. But a post is coming next week :).

  17. Ravian December 11, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Hey Chris !

    Thanks for the clarification on ‘claim-reason’ issue prompt. I however, have problem in
    understanding the part of prompt which says ‘extent to which you agree or disagree’. I mean you first take side in your above essay and give reasons for the chosen sides, but where is
    the ‘extent to which agree/disagree part’ in your essay?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 12, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

      Sure, good question!

      I guess the most important thing is that you should always agree or disagree to some extent with any GRE Issue prompts. Never agree completely–because you are basically putting a ceiling of a “4” or so on your score.

      In the example I talked about above (excerpted below), I mentioned that my reasoning/example doesn’t always apply. This is implying that I don’t agree 100% with the prompt. You shouldn’t state word for word that you “agree mostly (or somewhat) with this prompt”.

      “Of course after taking the pro-educator side, the essay above would be wise to include a paragraph considering those instances in which students may actually shed some useful insights that could help an educator provide an even a more comprehensive and edifying classroom experience. Because really, does an educator always know what is best for his or her students?”

      So by providing these “instances”, I am showing that I don’t 100% agree.

      Hope that helps!

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