GRE Writing: 3 Tips for a Concise Essay

GRE Writing Tip: Be Concise

In academic writing, it’s essential to be concise. For those of you looking for GRE essay tips, the GRE awards your ability to be concise, forceful and grammatical. Let’s look at a common fault in writing: being too wordy.
Here’s the trick: don’t use several words when one word will do. Many people make the mistake of writing “at the present time” or “at this point in time” instead of simply “now”, or “take into consideration” instead of simply “consider,” in an attempt to make their prose seem longer, more scholarly, or more formal. It doesn’t work. Their prose is bloated or pretentious — or just silly.

  • It may well be that a certain number of people would be inclined to vote for Senator  Johnson, on the basis of his most unique feature, his ability to connect with young voters. 


  • Some might vote for Senator Johnson for his unique ability to connect with young voters. 

Needless negatives are another common issue — stating your point positively is more concise (as well as more forceful).

  • It cannot be overstated that Brian is neither uneducated nor unskilled and will not fail to meet every deadline on time. 


  • Brian is educated and skilled, and will meet every deadline.

Another  common source of verbosity is using a weak verb and a noun, instead of the simple, strong verb. Common examples:

  • is the cause of…  (causes)
  • is cognizant of… (knows)
  • makes a case for… (shows)

Want some homework? Try making these sentences more concise in the comments:

  1. The school will not hire Mr. Negri in view of the fact that he quit his last job.
  2. In spite of the fact that he only has a little bit of experience with HTML right now, he will probably do well in the future because he has a great deal of motivation to succeed in his profession.
  3. The reason the company should hire Boris is that he speaks Russian fluently.

GRE Writing Tip: Avoid Redundancy

While practicing for your GRE Essay, it’s important to proofread your work — just like you would on test day. One great GRE essay tip is to avoid redundancy. Redundancy means that there is needless repetition, often resulting in your failure to realize the scope of a word that has already been used. For example, “a beginner lacking experience.” The word “beginner” implies lack of experience. Anything that is redundant can be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence.

  • refer back (refer)
  • small-sized (small)
  • grouped together (grouped)
  • few in number (few)
  • in my own personal opinion (in my opinion)
  • serious crisis (crisis)
  • end result (result)

Redundancy is often the result of carelessness, but it is easy to eliminate redundant elements in the proofreading stage: just delete them.

  • It is undeniable that Pennick’s work performance on the job gives proof of her ability. 


  • Pennick’s performance gives proof of her ability. 

Note that you can improve this sentence even more by reducing “gives proof of” to just “proves.”
Redundancy applies to paragraphs as well as sentences. Don’t repeat what you’ve already stated clearly in another sentence.
Craving more practice? Try fixing these sentences by eliminating redundant elements. 

  1. Szmania knows how to follow directions and he knows to do what he is told.
  2. Laura’s technical skill and ability are an extra added bonus to the company.
  3. The job’s main requirement continues to remain the ability to manage a big budget that is large in size.

GRE Writing Tip: Avoid Excessive Qualification

Another tip for being concise on the GRE Essay is to avoid excessive qualification. Since the object of your essay is to convince your reader, you should adopt a reasonable tone. There may be no clear-cut “answer” to an analysis essay topic, and therefore you should not overstate your case if it isn’t warranted. In an issue essay, occasional use of modifiers as fairlyrathersomewhatrelatively and of such expressions as seems to be, or a little, can be appropriate but their overuse will weaken your argument. Excessive qualification makes you sound hesitant:

  • WORDY: Dan seems to be a rather unreliable worker. 
  • CONCISE: Dan is an unreliable worker.

Just as bad is the overuse of the word “very” (and similar words). Some writers use this intensifying adverb before almost every adjective in an attempt to be more forceful. If you need to add emphasis, it’s better to find a stronger adjective.

  • WEAK: Virginia is a very good pianist. 
  • STRONG: Virginia is a virtuoso pianist. 

And don’t try to modify words that are already absolute:

  • more unique (unique)
  • the very worst (the worst)
  • completely full (full)

Use these sentences as a chance to practice the elimination of needless qualification:

  1. Jones seems to be sort of a slow worker.
  2. It is possible that I may go to Madrid.
  3. The successful applicant should perhaps have a certain amount of charisma.

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