Writing Well - Developing Ideas

Writing comes naturally to almost no one. It is a process that you can practice and refine. It is common for individuals to be so daunted by the idea of writing a GRE essay that it might seem like it is too difficult before it has even started. The only way to improve writing is to keep at it. Write everyday if possible. Even keeping a journal can give you enough daily practice at putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) to make the prospect of writing the GRE essay much less intimidating.

When you are taking the GRE Exam, there are a few tips and tricks that will help you to develop your ideas. The brainstorming suggestions and tips that are presented here apply more readily to the GRE issue essay, but can be used for the argument essay, also. And, because the essays on the GRE exam are timed, you'll want to spend at most a few minutes in brainstorming. You should utilize the majority of allotted time in writing, and proofing, your essay.

  • Brainstorming: For the GRE issue topic that you've selected, or the argument that you are given, write down (or at least think about) several key facts that relate to the topic at hand. Do not worry about coming up with complete thoughts of sentences. The purpose of the exercise is to simply list as many possible ideas as you can think of. You can edit them later and you might be surprised at how much information you can come up with.
  • Free Writing: This is similar to brainstorming but in a more stream-of-consciousness fashion. While brainstorming usually takes the form of a list, free writing involves sitting down and writing (or typing) without stopping for a predetermined amount of time. Your sentences won’t be complete and you might have some blanks where you couldn’t think of particular words but the point of this exercise is to keep writing no matter what.
  • Spider Graphs: Using spider graphs is a free-form method of generating idea. It is simple, and easy to do. If you do employ the use of spider graphs, then spend at most a few minutes doing so. Generating a spider graph involves writing a key word in the center of a page and then writing down a list of other words that are related to that first word. For example, if your GRE issue essay topic asks you to discuss the effects of malnutrition, the center word on your page might be "malnutrition", and around which you could write, "social consequences", "ethical consequences", "monetary funds", and "historical perspective." And voila, you right away have a key topic for each of your body paragraphs. You can refine the spider graph further, by adding relevant key words to each of the secondary words that you wrote down. So, next to "ethical consequences", you might write, "wealthy verses poor discrepancies", and "decline of national productivity". You can then use such words to help structure the paragraph about ethical consequences of malnutrition.

Once you have generated a few ideas, you are ready to write your essay. It is always easier to start off with too many ideas and to edit down that list to something more manageable, so don't worry if your mind is abuzz.