GRE Argument Essay: Top 6 Strategies & Sample Essay

On test day, you'll be confronted with the GRE analytical section (AWA). You will then be able to complete the GRE Issue Essay. Be aware that you only have 30 minutes to complete each task. However, these writing exercises will allow you to focus on completely different strategies.

You want to be confident that you can complete the essays without a racing pulse or heavy breathing.

GRE Argument essays are about picking a side and arguing for it. The argument you make in the GRE Argument essay should be that the essay has flaws. Next, you will identify and fix any logic flaws.

Top 6 GRE Argument Essay Strategies

Argument essays have their name because they require you to analyze an argument and also provide your argument. The ability to understand the arguments and the assumptions that they present will determine how effective you can make your argument. Here are our top suggestions for making a persuasive argument.

1. You disagree with the argument

You might make the error of thinking that there is "no right answer" if you have already written essays for the SAT and ACT. The GRE Argument task has only one correct answer to every prompt . What is the short version? The argument of the author is flawed.

You will argue how the argument was terrible. You are filled with logic fallacies. The argument must not be agreed with. You can use it to challenge your logic and rhetorical skills.

It is crucial to disagree with an argument. The human grader, as well the e–rater, will assess your ability to respond.

2. Recognize Logical Fallacies

Every GRE Argument task prompt will have unstated assumptions. Your task is to describe how your argument fails to reach its goal by using the body paragraphs.

Logical mistakes can be considered holes in an argument. These holes can occur in Argument essay prompts for many reasons, depending on the topic.

3. You must balance the number of fallacies with which you work

GRE argument paragraphs are like blocks of Swiss cheese. The holes in the logic fallacies make it look like Swiss cheese. It's easy for one to get lost and list every logical contradiction in the paragraph. This can make it difficult to criticize any one logical contradiction or questionable assumption.

You could also pick one of these glaring assumptions, and write a long paragraph explaining why it is wrong and how to strengthen your argument.

Finding the right balance is crucial in order to highlight specific flaws while still allowing for a thoughtful, but not too long-lasting, dismantling and analysis of each hole in the block.

Three is the magic number. Identify three logical errors in the paragraph. The ones you feel most detracting from the argument's legitimacy should be highlighted.

4. Brainstorm/Outline your Essay

We've all been in a similar situation. However, it's not a good idea to rush through the paragraph and write whatever you want. It is worth taking a moment to understand the argument. Sometimes, it is easy to overlook one of the most important assumptions in an argument.

After you've compiled a list of logical errors, try to imagine how you could develop a sustained attack. Consider how your argument might have been strengthened if it didn't assume X, Y, or Z.

To make your points, you will need to provide specific evidence and analysis. But don't let this fool you into thinking that these fallacies must be addressed in order. Make the most important points first. You should also make sure you include detailed analysis and concrete examples. An essay that combines both will not be as effective.

Finally, remember to consider what you write before publishing. This is a key part of your AWA score.

5. Make Your Intro Short + Sweet

The introduction should be concise and short. This is often forgotten and many people instead attempt to write a captivating and eye-catching opening sentence. Avoid being seduced by this temptation. Do not fall for such a temptation!

What does this look like? Below is a sample introduction to an essay.

6. A rigid organizational structure is recommended

GRE AWA is all about organization. The good news? The GRE Argument task follows a similar template to the Issue. You should start by briefly introducing the paragraph and explaining why it is weak. These issues can be brought up in the opening paragraphs.

Start each paragraph by writing a topic sentence describing the particular flaw you are trying to address. Your reasoning should be in the second sentence. The third sentence may expand on the previous sentence with examples. Your fourth sentence could read something like this: "Had …", The argument was not assumed X…then …."

A Sample Essay on GRE Arguments

Now that you have an idea of the best ways to write a GRE Argument Task essay, let's look at how it looks in practice. Here's the prompt for our essay:

SuperCorp recently relocated its headquarters in Corporateville. Corporateville, with its recent rise in property owners, is clearly a better place than Middlesburg where SuperCorp has its current headquarters. Middleburg is predominately an urban area. SuperCorp also found that employees prefer to live outside of the city. Corporateville has lower taxes that Middlesburg which makes it both safer and cheaper to live in. Supercorp made the right decision.

You should respond to the argument by examining the assumptions. Make sure to explain the arguments that are dependent upon the assumptions. Also, consider the implications if any assumptions are not true.

Example Student Response

The argument states that Supercorp chose Corporateville as its headquarters because it was the most prudent decision. This conclusion is flawed because it relies on several poorly supported assumptions. We don't have enough evidence to support the conclusion of the author.

The argument begins with the assertion that Corporateville's recent boom in homeownership shows that Corporateville has a superior population to Middleburg. The evidence does not prove that one community is better than the others. Other factors are not taken into consideration. Middlesburg might have a higher crime rate than Corporateville. If this is true, then the claim that Corporateville is superior to Middlesburg could be challenged. The claim of superiority could be strengthened if the author provided a more detailed list of factors that Corporateville has over Middlesburg. We cannot evaluate the claim that Supercorp made a better decision without comparing more factors.

The argument's weakness is also the reference to the survey as evidence that Supercorp made the right decision. The author assumes that all employees at Supercorp are represented by the survey results, but has no information about how many. The evidence is stronger if the results of the survey are representative of the majority employees in the company. But, if only a small percentage of employees were surveyed, this would be detrimental to the author's claims. We don't have enough information to verify that the conclusion is supported by the survey.

Another false claim about Coporateville being safer to work is that the taxes are lower than Middlesburg. This author assumes that lower taxes would lead to increased safety at work. Unfortunately, the information is insufficient to make a conclusive conclusion about lower taxes leading to safer work conditions.

If Coporateville is found to have very poor workplace safety scores, then it's possible that the author misunderstands correlation for causation.

The argument that Supercorp made a good decision when moving is not convincing unless these assumptions are addressed.

Analyse the Sample Student Response

This is an example essay. It is well-structured and has appropriate transitions. The prompt prompted the author to address unstated assumptions. The analysis is well-written and contains plausible scenarios of how additional evidence could be used to strengthen or weaken evidence. The writing is well-balanced with both simple and complex sentence structures, and uses the appropriate vocabulary. Although there are some sentence-level mistakes, they do not affect clarity.

Let's break this down:

  1. The introduction is concise and hits all the right marks. The introduction reiterates the argument's conclusion, while clearly proving that insufficient evidence was the reason for the conclusion.
  2. The first paragraph of the body is an example where you put your best foot forward. The topic sentence clearly indicates that the writer will analyse the problem of linking homeownership with an overall claim to superiority. These sentences are flawed reasoning. The analysis then expands with hypothetical details which would either strengthen or weaken your argument. The paragraph concludes by describing what evidence is required to be considered convincing.
  3. The second paragraph starts with a transition that clearly indicates that the survey is the second flaw. Following the structure of paragraph one, the author introduces the topic and explains why it is flawed. He then offers some hypotheticals to strengthen the evidence. The paragraph ends with a sentence that describes what is required to make the evidence adequate.
  4. While the third paragraph of the body isn't exactly consistent with those in the first two, it does not significantly alter the strength and quality of the analysis. These essays are graded holistically. The graders do not focus on each sentence. The sentence in the final body paragraph is still clear. This allows for no confusion about the flaw to be analyzed. The analysis is limited, but it does contain some information. This hypothetical example, which the writer uses to weaken the argument, quickly becomes redundant. It also reiterates the flaw of the author and abruptly ends paragraph. There might be a lack of details in the argument, which could indicate that the writer was short on time.
  5. The conclusion is extremely short, which is perfectly fine. It informs the reader that this essay is done. Perhaps a few additional sentences could improve the essay. Sure. It is unlikely that a concise, direct conclusion will make any difference to the essay's score.

GRE Argument Task Strategy Recap

Although it may sound complex, it becomes easier as you practice. Here's a visual to help you make sure that you are doing all you can to score high on the GRE Argument essay.

Next steps for a high-scoring GRE argument essay

Experts have shared top tips on how to pass the GRE argument task. You have completed the GRE Argument task. We've reviewed a sample student essay. Next, what?

Start by writing an essay response to the prompt. Before you start, make sure to check out our writing tips on the GRE. Then, put yourself in the position of writing an essay that relies upon completely different logical fallsacies than what the student before you. For all the practice you need, visit the ETS site's pool of Argument topics.

To ensure you have all the points in your Argument essay, make sure to refer to the previous tips and analyses as you write. Wishing you success!


  • camdynelliott

    Camdyn Elliott is a 35-year-old educational blogger and school teacher. She has been writing about education for nearly a decade, and her work has been featured on sites like The Huffington Post and The New York Times. Camdyn is the founder of the education blog Education Week, and she is also the author of the book "How to Teach Like a Pro: A Guide to Effective Teaching Methods for College and Career Students."

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