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.
Many students tend to overuse direct quotations in their essays. Direct quotations should be used only when paraphrasing would change the effectiveness or meaning of the author's words or when the author is a noted authority and the idea could not be better expressed or said more succinctly. Although quotations are common in essays in the humanities, they are used less extensively in the social sciences, and rarely in scientiﬁc writing.
NOTE: Remember that you must reference the use of someone else's ideas or ﬁndings as well as direct quotations.
1. Introduce the Quotation with Your Own Words and Integrate it Grammatically into the Sentence
In this study, children were taught effective ways to deal with confrontations through role playing. "They demonstrated a signiﬁcant increase in generating relevant solutions to interpersonal problems at both post-testing and follow-up testing."
In this study, children were taught effective ways to deal with confrontations through role playing: "They demonstrated a signiﬁcant increase in generating relevant solutions to interpersonal problems at both post-testing and follow-up testing."
In this study, children who were taught effective ways to deal with confrontations through role playing "demonstrated a signiﬁcant increase in generating relevant solutions to interpersonal problems at both post-testing and follow-up testing."
2. Reproduce the Exact Wording, Punctuation, Capitalization and Spelling of the Original, Including Errors
Supplementary information should be enclosed:
- In square brackets if within the quotation
- In parentheses if after the quotation
Insert the word [sic] in square brackets after an error in the original.
He wrote, "I enjoy writting [sic], but ﬁnd it difficult."
If you want to underline or italicize for emphasis, write my emphasis or emphasis added in parentheses immediately following the closing quotation mark and before the end punctuation.
Hamlet says, "To be or not to be" (my emphasis).
Enclose in square brackets comments of your own added to clarify information in the original.
He felt that "it [the essay] should be analytical rather than descriptive."
3. Use the Proper Punctuation to Introduce Quotations
Use commas after an explanatory tag such as he said, she explained, they wrote, etc.
In his epilogue, Roberts stated, "I can't allow this abomination to continue."
"I can't," Roberts stated, "allow this abomination to continue."
Use a colon when the words introducing the quotation form a complete sentence, when you are introducing a verse quotation, or when a longer quotation is set off from the text.
She concluded with this statement: "I can't allow this abomination to continue."
Use no punctuation when the quoted words form part of the sentence.
She stated that she could not "allow this abomination to continue."
She told the readers that "this abomination" could not continue.
4. Use the Proper Punctuation to End Quotations
- Commas and periods are placed inside the ﬁnal quotation mark
- Semi-colons and colons are placed outside the ﬁnal quotation mark
- Question marks and exclamation points are placed inside only if the quotation is a question or an exclamation
She wrote, "What can I do to stop them?"
- Question marks and exclamation points are placed inside if both the quotation and the statement containing the quotation are questions or exclamations
Did she write, "What can I do to stop them?"
- Question marks and exclamation points are placed outside only if the statement is a question or exclamation
Did she write, "I can't allow this abomination to continue"?
- Do not use a period or comma as well as a question mark or exclamation point
"What can I do to stop them?", she wrote.
"What can I do to stop them?" she wrote.
She wrote, "What can I do to stop them?"
She wrote, "What can I do to stop them?"
5. Separate longer quotations from the text.
- Include within the text and use quotation marks around four lines or fewer of prose or three lines or fewer of poetry (use a slash (/) with a space on each side to signify the end of each line of poetry)
- Set off from the body of your text and omit quotation marks around ﬁve lines or more of prose or four lines or more of poetry. Indent one inch and use double spacing. These quotations are most often introduced by a colon
Smith explains the use of essay-writing terminology:
An assignment which asks you to do some library research to write on a topic may be called an essay, a paper, a research essay, a research paper, a term assignment, or a term paper. The terminology is not necessarily consistent: a term paper may tend to be a longer paper written in advanced courses, but not necessarily. You may be assigned a speciﬁc topic or asked to choose your own from subjects relevant to the course. (225)
NOTE: If the ﬁrst line of the quotation is the ﬁrst line of a paragraph, indent an additional quarter inch only if you are quoting several of the original paragraphs.
6. Use Single Quotation Marks for a Quotation within a Quotation
Bogel states, "Campaign slogans, for example, are often built on this presumed correlation of form with meaning, as in the hopeful phrase 'Win with Willkie,' which sought to connect victory with the candidate by means of alliterative bonding" (168).
7. To Omit Something from the Original
- To omit a line or more of a poem, use one full line of periods
- To omit material within a sentence, use three periods (ellipsis marks)
- To omit material at the end of a sentence, use four periods (to include the sentence period)
But of course these two "arguments" – that ﬁgurative language is necessary to deﬁne democracy, and that democracy permits such luxuries as ﬁgurative language – are really two faces of a single argument, an argument deﬁning democracy, in part, as that form of government which recognizes the necessity of certain luxuries.
(Source: Bogel, Fredric V. "Understanding Prose." Teaching Prose. Ed. Frederic V. Bogel and Katherine K. Gottschalk. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1988. 172.)
Use ellipsis when your words complete the sentence.
Bogel also claims that "these two 'arguments' . . . are really two faces of a single argument" (172) in spite of evidence to the contrary.
Use ellipsis when the quotation completes the sentence.
With endnotes or footnotes, use four periods.
Bogel also claims that "these two 'arguments' . . . are really two faces of a single argument . . . ."3
With parenthetical reference, place ﬁnal period after reference.
Bogel also claims that "these two 'arguments' . . . are really two faces of a single argument . . ." (172).
For more details on using quotations, refer to the following: Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2003.