The GRE Issue Essay provides a brief quotation on an issue of general interest and asks you to evaluate the issue according to specific instructions. You must then support one side of the issue and develop an argument to support your side.
Yes, you will be making an argument in this essay, but don't confuse it with the GRE Argument Essay, in which you'll poke holes in another author's argument. Here, the focus is on supporting the issue. Think of it like this: In the GRE Issue Essay, you'll develop your own argument with respect to one side of an issue.
Or, as GRE testmaker Educational Testing Service (ETS) puts it, you'll be "required to evaluate the issue, consider its complexities, and develop an argument with reasons and examples to support your views.”
However you choose to look at it, one thing is certain: the better organized your essay, the clearer it will be to the grader, and the higher it will score.
How to structure the GRE Issue Essay
The GRE Issue Essay is similar in structure to the classic five-paragraph short essay. You may opt for four to six paragraphs, but the template we walk you through plans for the classic five.
Here's how to put it to use.
Although the grader will have access to the specific assignment you received, your essay should stand on its own, making clear the assignment you were given and your response to it.
Start with a sentence that clearly restates the issue you were assigned, followed by a sentence with your position on that assignment—your thesis. Next, introduce the specific reasons or examples you plan to provide in each of the next three paragraphs: one sentence for each of the forthcoming paragraphs.
It is key that you consider exactly what's being asked of you in the assignment, and make sure the language you use in your intro paragraph demonstrates that you understand the specific instructions for that assignment. For instance, if the task tells you to “address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position,” you will need to show at least two strong reasons or examples that the opposing side could use—and then explain why those reasons or examples are incorrect.
Structure your first paragraph in this way, and you’re well on your way to effectively indicating that you understand the assignment, are organized, have considered the complexities of the issue, and can effectively use standard written English—all components of a strong essay that's destined for a great score.
Each of your body paragraphs should do three things:
- introduce one of your examples
- explain how that example relates to the topic
- show how the example fully supports your thesis
You should spend the majority of each body paragraph on the third step: showing how it fully supports your thesis.
When considering how to write a Masters essay, it can be tricky to understand and achieve the subtle differences between Masters and undergraduate level work. In short, a Masters level essay will generally require a deeper level of independent thought, which can be shown by adopting the following tried-and-testing tips.
As the name of the degree suggests, you should ideally demonstrate a mastery of your subject by confidently contextualising your arguments and making reference to trends, themes, theoretical paradigms and traditions within the discipline.
Delineate the scope of your paper
Position the issues you intend to discuss within the broader field of your subject area. This will demonstrate not only your understanding of the breadth of the academic landscape, but also your ability to focus on a particular part of it. It is not enough to analyse certain idea;, you must recognise their place in the whole.
Independence of thought
All parts of the essay must show more than a regurgitation of ideas and a proficiency in collating material. Discussion, analysis, evaluation and argument must all demonstrate your ability to interpret, understand and critique from a unique perspective. Challenge assumptions and explain the reasoning behind your contentions.
Abstract reasoning and comfort with interpreting unfamiliar concepts is a necessary requirement of work at this level. Do not be tempted to critique the academic literature through vague and impressionistic approaches; demonstrate instead a genuine conceptual engagement.
When considering how to write a Masters essay, you need to ensure that your arguments and conclusions are plausible; try throughout to make them properly convincing. Weigh evidence, analyse arguments and develop your own position. If on reading you have successfully convinced yourself, you will more likely convince the reader.
At undergraduate level, evidence of genuine originality almost certainly ensures top marks. At Masters level, originality is more routinely expected. A key aspect to this – the most challenging element of academic work – is confidence in your intellectual acuity. Lay the foundations through mastery of the more prosaic elements, then develop the confidence to speak with a new voice.
One of the biggest step-changes between undergraduate and Masters studies is the premium placed on research. Go beyond the reading lists provided by lecturers and directors of studies to demonstrate your initiative in finding your own sources. Live in libraries, use internet resources, become familiar with useful journals and, perhaps above all else, follow the footnotes!
Operate within the academic conventions
At this level of academia you should be fluent in your understanding of appropriate referencing, attribution of borrowed ideas and the proper approach to research. Much of this area can be solved through simple diligence, so don’t let minor errors erode the credibility of your essay.
The academic register
Spelling, punctuation and grammar are such basic considerations as to be taken for granted. Instead, the major linguistic concerns at this level are those of tone and style. An academic register is based in precision, formality, thorough understanding of subject-specific vocabulary, and an avoidance of familiarity and inappropriate use of the first person.
Perhaps seemingly trivial, presentation should not be disregarded. Demonstrate scholarly professionalism through due care and attention to all aspects of your work.