GRE Essay Organization - Body Paragraphs

In the body paragraphs of your issue and argument GRE essays, you will make the main claims of your intended message. These paragraphs should also be well organized and should build toward or support your main arguments. A standard short essay will have three body paragraphs that each provides evidence for your claims.

To make sure that each of your body paragraphs is insightful and relevant, you'll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Claim: What is the main point of this paragraph? What purpose does it serve in relation to the main points that you are trying to raise in the issue essay, or the main aspects of the provided argument that you are trying to analyze?
  • Evidence: How does the sentences in the paragraph illustrate the main point of the paragraph? What are the examples that prove this point?
  • Justification: How does the provided evidence help to support your stance on the GRE issue topic, or how does your analysis of the provided argument help to refute or support the effectiveness of the provided statement? This should be specific.

Here is an example outline for a GRE Issue Essay:

  • Introduction: gets reader’s attention, sets up main claims
  • Paragraph #1
    • Claim 1: I thought of myself as a pretty responsible kid
    • Evidence: I was alone at home that weekend. Instead of having a party I just had a few friends over to work on cars.
    • Justification: My definition of "responsible" was based on extreme examples (a huge party was wrong but having a few friends over to drink wasn't).
  • Paragraph #2
    • Claim 2: Why I wasn't responsible
    • Evidence: I knew underage drinking was wrong but we did it anyway.
    • Justification: My irresponsibility in letting my friend drink and drive even thought I knew it was wrong led him to the accident that injured him.
  • Paragraph #3
    • Claim 3: The accident and the events that followed taught me that I hadn't actually understood what "responsibility" meant.
    • Evidence: My friend was hurt in an accident that was his fault after he left my house.
    • Justification: If I had not allowed my friends to drink during the day the accident would not have happened.
  • Conclusion: Summarization of main points and reiteration of the essay’s message

In this outline the essay is using the body paragraphs to build toward the overall message. Each paragraph is placed in order and each has a very specific argument that is important to the essay as a whole. There should not be any body paragraphs that do not have an argument, evidence, and justification. Think of each paragraph as its own little essay that should have within in it all the elements of a larger essay.