Comparing the GRE and GMAT Analytical Writing (Essay) Sections

The essay portions of the GMAT and GRE are quite similar in their procedural and technical aspects:

  • The testing interface and word-processing features are essentially the same.
  • Essay prompts are selected randomly from a large pool. (You can’t choose from a list of prompts.)
  • The writing section come first — before all other exam sections.
  • The time limit for any given writing task is the same: 30 minutes.
  • The evaluation criteria and scaled scoring systems are the same for both exams.

As for the writing tasks themselves, the GMAT and GRE both include a 30-minute Analysis-of-an-Argument component, in which your task is to critique a paragraph-length argument. But the GRE also includes a 30-minute Analysis-of-an-Issue component, in which your essential task is to argue for a position on a stated issue. So essay writing accounts for 60 minutes of GRE testing time, as compared to 30 minutes of GMAT time.

The GRE Issue task is more open-ended and places greater emphasis on rhetorical skills than the GRE Argument and GMAT Argument tasks. Some test takers are quite comfortable with issue analysis, while others are not. The best way for you to determine your own comfort level is to write two or three essays based on actual GRE Issue topics. If issue analysis comes easily to you, then that’s one reason to opt for the GRE over the GMAT. But if you struggle with this type of essay writing, consider taking the GMAT instead.