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How Can I Write a Better GRE or GMAT Essay?

Need to beef up your essay-writing skills for the essay portion of the GMAT or GRE? Check out our expert advice to make your arguments stand out!

Vivian KerrVivian Kerr
Test Prep Tutor & Writer
The GRE has two essays: the Issue essay and the Argument essay. The GMAT only has one: the Analytical Writing Assessment. You are allotted just 30 minutes to write each essay for each test, which may have you in a panic. No worries! Here are some tips to beef up your essay-writing skills.

  • Don’t waffle: And don’t try to take a “middle of the road” approach. Even if you don’t 100% believe in the side you’ve chosen to defend, defend it to your full capacity. In 30 minutes, you won’t be able to address the full complexity of the issue.
  • Realize that no example is “too” specific: As long as you can argue logically so it supports your thesis, no example is “too” specific. Most essays are way too general. If you’re using an example from personal experience, a little detail can go a long way. Replace abstracts with absolutes.
  • Use the opposing side: A great way to strengthen your own argument is to acknowledge that there is in fact complexity to the issue. However, if you bring up and describe the opposing side, be sure to criticize it effectively and reiterate that your side is the only one that’s valid. This is a great tool to use in your conclusion, although many students include it in an additional body paragraph.
  • Don’t lie—ever: Made-up statistics and facts won’t impress the graders, but strong organization, logical arguments, and specific supportive examples will. Don’t be tempted to make up data because you’re not an “expert” in the subject matter.
  • Be clear, not pedantic: Focus more on conveying your argument succinctly and forcefully than on sounding scholarly. Don’t include long-winded sentences that go nowhere in the hopes of sounding more intelligent. The Argument essay needs to be formal, but more importantly, forceful.
  • Remember, you already know your thesis: No matter what the prompt, your thesis is essentially, “The argument is flawed.” All you have to do is come up with solid logic backed by specific examples that show why.
  • Criticize the wording of the argument: An easy way to find fault in the structure of the argument is to pick apart its diction. Just how many is “many”? Exactly what does the author mean by “benefits”? Look for vague wording and qualifying language to attack. It will be there! 

Get ready to ace the other parts of your graduate admission test with our Top 5 Grad School Test-Taking Strategies. 

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