Last Updated: March 14, 2021

GRE Analytical Writing-Issue Essay vs Argument Essay

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) Section of the GRE contains two writing tasks namely the Issue Essay and the Argument Essay. Both of them are allotted 30 minutes each and are scored on a scale of 6. The major errors that students commit in this section are due to the confusion that exists between the two Essays.

The primary difference between the two essays is in the approach both of these essays have. GRE Issue Essay requires the candidate to state their opinions about the given prompt whereas the Argument Essay requires them to validate the authenticity of the given argument without letting opinions interfere with the task.

When the essays seem to be opposites of each other, it is to be understood that the essays complement each other than oppose one another. When the Issue essay requires the candidate to provide their own argument, the Argument essay requires them to evaluate the text provided. The task then tries to not focus on the content provided by the candidate but the skill they have in presenting their viewpoint and in providing evidences for the same. The evidence they provide must be substantiated through proper logical reasoning than be based on whims and hearsays. Presenting this in excellent language can earn them extra points even if the content is lacking in places.

How is the GRE Issue Essay different from the Argument Essay?

Issue EssayArgument Essay
Deals with the candidate’s ability to present an argument with their own viewsDeals with the candidate’s ability to critically analyse the author’s argument
Candidate has to convince the reader of their perspectiveCandidates have to effectively prove what the author lacks
Candidate should provide proof from their own experiencesCandidate should provide proofs from the text provided
It is based on the statement provided which often has two or more perspectives given It is based on the text written by another author
Candidate should choose a side and stick to itCandidate should examine the side chosen by the author and check its soundness

Similarities in the GRE Issue Essay and Argument Essay

The two tasks provided in the AWA section of GRE cannot entirely be stated to be opposites since the characteristics of the essays remain similar despite the difference in their approach. The pointers that help to prepare for both the essays start with their similarities which can be focused upon before preparing separately for each task.

Directions for Answering Issue Essay and Argument Essay

Issue EssayArgument Essay
Keep a standard format of introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion Keep a standard format of introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion
Use different paragraphs for different points Use different paragraphs for different points
Introduce issue at hand brieflyIntroduce the topic dealt by the author
State the perspective that has been chosenPresent the author’s point of view
Provide reasoning for choosing this particular perspective State the flaws in the argument made by the author
Give real-world examples that support the chosen claimProvide examples and reasons clarifying the presence of the flaws
Agree with the opposing view in a statement or two to show emotional maturityCritically analysing the text should include merits of the text
Reassert why the chosen perspective is betterState how the valid points lack merit due to lack of logical reasoning provided

What is Expected for the Issue and Argument Essay?

Issue Essay
Argument Essay


In the GRE, AWA Section is crucial as it shows off communication skills and writing abilities. Looking out for these common mistakes and preventing them through a better understanding and practice will help one score high in this section.

THE average AWA score is 3.6. a score of 4.0 is safe for most programs and < 3.0 may not be acceptable in some cases. Read the issue and argument tasks carefully. Go through ETS website they have several examples ETS - AWA Preparation . AWA score is important for majors like Humanities & Arts / Social Sciences. The tasks have been explained in detail in the link provided. For better ideas regarding individual tasks, there are separate pages provided for Issue Topic Samples and Argument Topic Samples.


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