Analytical Writing, one of the three sections on the GRE, tests the candidates on their critical thinking and their ability to articulate their thoughts and ideas in a structured format. The candidates are assessed on their proficiency to construct and evaluate arguments for which prior subject knowledge about the topic is not essential.
The Analytical Writing section on the GRE has two writing tasks: Issue Task and the Argument Task. A candidate gets 30 minutes to complete each task. Candidates preparing for GRE have a plethora of course materials, tests, essay topics and sample answers available at their disposal. The GRE Program has published an entire pool of Analytical Writing tasks from which the test tasks are selected.
In the Issue Task, the candidate is required to respond and analyze a general statement, themes of which could be related to politics, education, or culture. The candidate is expected to evaluate the issue, consider all the complex undertones that come with it, and develop an argument with reasons and examples. An example of the Issue Task could be:
‘Scientists and other researchers should focus their research on areas that are likely to benefit the greatest number of people.’
In contrast to the Issue Task, the Argument Task asks a candidate to dissect the logic according to a specific set of instructions. The candidate has to consider the logical soundness of the argument rather than agree or disagree with the position it presents. An example of the Issue Task could be:
Milk and dairy products are rich in vitamin D and calcium – substances essential for building and maintaining bones. Many people, therefore, say that a diet rich in dairy products can help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that is linked to both environmental and genetic factors and that causes the bones to weaken significantly with age. But a long-term study of a large number of people found that those who consistently consumed dairy products throughout the years of the study have a higher rate of bone fractures than any other participants in the study. Since bone fractures are symptomatic of osteoporosis, this study result shows that a diet rich in dairy products may actually increase, rather than decrease, the risk of osteoporosis.
Both the writing tasks in the Analytical Writing section of GRE relate to a broad range of subjects — from the fine arts and humanities to the social and physical sciences — but no task requires knowledge of specific content. These tasks elicit the type of complex thinking and persuasive writing that a university faculty considers important for success in graduate school. Read more about this here.
Both these essays are scored on a scale of 0-6, first by a human reader and then a computer evaluator called “the e-rater”. If the score given by the human reader doesn’t closely agree with the score given by the e-rater, then the essay is evaluated by a second human reader. In such a situation the average of both the human scores is declared as the final score.
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