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Published Issue Essay Prompts for the GRE Video

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  • 0:01 The Issue Essay
  • 1:15 Prompt One
  • 2:42 Prompt Two
  • 3:50 Prompt Three
  • 4:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

In this lesson, you'll get a preview and a discussion of some GRE Issue Essay prompts. Looking over these prompts in advance can help you write a high-scoring essay when the time comes.

The Issue Essay

One of the two tasks on the GRE Analytical Writing measure is the Analyze an Issue task. You'll have to read a prompt and take a position on an issue in response to the prompt. To score high on this essay, you'll have to:

  • Respond to the prompt, instead of just discussing the topic in general
  • Take a position on the issue and support it with convincing arguments and evidence
  • Be basically competent with spelling and grammar

All of that is nice to know in the abstract, but it doesn't actually help you conceptualize what you're doing on the task. So, in this lesson, you'll get a look at some published issue essay prompts. The GRE publishes the entire pool of potential issue tasks for students to study and practice with, so it's very easy to get a preview of exactly what's coming.

Before you ask, there are way too many issue prompts to pre-write an essay for each prompt and remember it for the test. Don't even try it! You'll drive yourself crazy! But looking at a few randomly chosen tasks gives you a good sampling of potential topics and a nice preview of what you'll see on the test. Once you've seen a couple of these tasks, you've seen them all, and it's easy to apply what you practiced on the actual test.

Prompt 1

To start you off, here's your first sample GRE topic, taken directly from the GRE website:

'Scandals are useful because they focus our attention on problems in ways that no speaker or reformer ever could.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with this claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.'

Okay, let's break this down. First, you read a claim about scandals. Your task is to take a position in response to the claim. Notice that you don't need a lot of specialized information about anything - this is a general-interest topic, and anyone can have an opinion on it. You could pick one of several different positions:

  • Maybe you agree completely with the claim.
  • Maybe you agree in some ways but disagree in other ways.
  • Maybe you disagree completely with the claim.

In any case, the task specifically asks you to address counterpoints, so you might quickly make up a list of points and counterpoints, something like this. You could also have other reasons to agree or disagree - these are just some ideas. But, in any case, a solid essay will present your position clearly, support it with reasons, and address potential counterarguments. Remember that your main job here is to respond to the task; if you don't address the counterarguments, you haven't responded to the task, and you won't get a high score.

Prompt 2

Ready to see another?

'Governments should not fund any scientific research whose consequences are unclear.

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.'

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