It’s strange how you can answer the same question in 20 words or 20,000. The GRE essays are proof of this. The writing portions ask you to demonstrate subject knowledge and analytical ability.
For students anxious about test-taking or writing specifically, the essay length can be one of the most frustrating and unclear aspects. How long should GRE essays be? How much material is sufficient to offer a fully developed argument?
Understandably, there’s a degree of ambiguity in terms of the length the exam scorers will expect. Here, we explain tips for writing GRE essays so that you can submit material with sufficient depth and length to achieve a solid score.
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How to Write a GRE Essay with the Best Length
Data suggests that the highest-scoring GRE essays tend to be around 600 words.
However, when you’re in the middle of taking an exam, you won’t have time to count how many words you’ve written.
Even though the ETS is reticent about how it grades GRE essays, you can still prepare effectively. The GRE essay requires candidates to offer a concise but complete solution to a problem. There is no minimum or maximum word or page count.
So how long should GRE essays be to fulfill the criteria?
The answer is to make a few vital points relevant to the question, backed up with evidence. Below, we’ll cover how long an argument should be, what it should include, and writing tips for creating a well-supported argument.
You can also see our post on GRE vs LSAT for comparison and conversion guide.
1. Practice for Length and Time
The GRE has two essay components, each timed for 30 minutes: an “issue analysis” and an “argument analysis” essay.
The best way to plan for these without knowing the prompts is to practice before test day. Time yourself for 30 minutes writing in response to the various topic pools. The ETS has published sample prompts from previous topic pools that you can use to practice the issue essay and the argument essay.
After you reach the 30-minute mark, re-read your writing. Consider if each point is relevant and how much you were able to write in that time.
2. Choose Your Best Angles
Before test day, you’ll also want to develop solid exam-writing habits. The first is brainstorming.
Note down the points you intend to make. Which arguments best address the question? Prioritize the most important sections.
The 5 minutes you spend planning a good essay are valuable to your score. The 15 minutes you spend grinding out 200 words of filler are not.
That said, you don’t want to prioritize expertise over relevance. Address the question in front of you, not the question that would allow you to show off your knowledge.
Try for three to five supporting ideas to create a fully fleshed-out argument.
3. Structure for Coherent Organization
The point you consider most relevant to the question should be the point you lead with, and each paragraph should build on the previous one. You’ll want to plan for this with a solid organizational structure.
Before you start writing, structure your arguments so that one leads logically to the next.
Your essay should be more than the sum of its parts, and organization is an essential element of a clear and convincing essay. Disjointed arguments make it difficult for the reader to understand what you’re trying to tell them.
4. Write Fully Developed Paragraphs
A supporting body paragraph should contain one, fully developed idea. Before you start writing, try to visualize how much you have to say about each point you’re making. Each paragraph should include:
- Your argument (expressed in the topic sentence)
- Supporting evidence
- Analysis of the evidence
- Explanation tying the argument & evidence back to the essay problem
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how long an argumentative paragraph should be, and sometimes you need multiple sentences to explain an idea. Still, 3-5 sentences is a good benchmark.
You can also check out our post on How Many Times Can You Take The GRE here.
5. Use Relevant Examples & Evidence
For every point, brainstormevidence to support your case. The more you have prepared for each argument, the better. The phrasing of the question may make some evidence more relevant than others.
Briefly summarize the evidence and explain how it addresses the question. Data is nothing without context, so only use it if you can explain why it’s relevant!
6. Finish Strong with the Conclusion
Nobody likes a half-baked ending — make sure you write a conclusion! Your conclusion should summarize and connect the main points of your essay and address the fundamental question of the essay.
It’s also an opportunity to show why your writing is not only relevant to the task at hand but a potential contribution to a larger debate. Don’t introduce new ideas, but do suggest possible directions that your essay could lead.
Conclusion—How Long Should GRE Essays Be?
Hopefully, this has answered your concerns about how long should GRE essays be. There isn’t a definitive answer, but the tips here should allow you to write a thoughtful, well-supported essay, and that is what the ETS scorers want to see.