General GRE test has two writing tasks collectively called the Analytical Writing Section. The two tasks are:
- Analyze an Issue
- Analyze an Argument
- The tasks are supposed to let test takers show abilities of critical thinking and analytical writing. Normally, writing is the first section in the test. You have one hour for writing, 30 minutes for each essay.
Because the test is based on computer, you have to type your response. Notice that no spell-check or grammar check is offered. So it should be a different experience from your normal writing with a word processor like Office Word.
The essays are marked by one real people and a computer program, called e-rater. The scores is from 1-6, but it's possible you get final score with half point, like 5.5, or 4.5.
GRE test takers usually worry about the essay topics: am I familiar with the writing topic? Yes, a 'unknown' topic causes much troubles beyond writing itself. Fortunately, all essay topics come from a topic pool, either issue topics or argument topics. You can see them on the official GRE website.
Analyze an issue
In writing section, your first task is discussion of an issue. In general the topic is open to positions of separate sides, so that you can align your arguments in support of any position. Your essay is in style like sort of debate. It means you should give specific reasons for your point of view, and prove with suitable examples.
Don't worry about minor spelling or syntax error. Your essay are taken as draft. So minor defeats will not prevent your getting a good mark. However, weak logical flow will impact score very negatively.
Analyze an argument
Your second task is analysis of an argument. This test checks your ability to find flaws in logical arguments. If you know logic terms or have some knowledge of logic, you may get some advantages in this test. It will help you quickly identify premises or assumptions of a conclusion, and get the flaws. For this essay, the mark reflects your ability to understand the logic relationships among arguments and conclusions, and address instructions in task. It seems complex, however it is actually easier than first task, only if with a little preparation and practice.
Practice writing is necessary, but not enough. You need someone review your essays. Feedback for a tutor, or anyone with strong language and logical skills will enhance your writing level dramatically, especially from a GRE tutor.
Your essays cannot be too short if you are hunting for high score. You have to write a long essay in short time in practice. It means you need organize your idea and type your words both quick enough.
Fluent logic flow and good transitions between paragraphs are important assets for high mark essays. Refine your essay's structure when in practice.
Minor errors in spelling and syntax usually don't impact your score, but if raters think your vocabulary or syntax isn't good because of too many errors, you cannot get high mark. So enrich your vocabulary or grammar if anyone is your weakness.