The secret to good essay writing: understanding DRI writing

Davis: Hey everybody, this is GRE Bites. My name is Davis, and I’m an educator with over ten years of experience.

Orion: And I’m Orion, the founder of StellarGRE.

Davis: We’re here to bring you your weekly bite-sized episode on GRE prep and grad school admissions. Check out our top-rated GRE self-study program at And don’t forget, you can use the code “BITES” for 10% off any membership.

Alright. So, we know that the test is changing, but there’s still one essay: the issues essay. We understand that writing, given prompts, is a reality that every student has to face in academic pursuits and other times in life. In our program, and in your GRE platform, you have something called DRI writing to address the essay. I want to focus on that today. What is DRI or DRI writing?

Orion: Yeah, I call it “DRI writing” because academic writing tends to be very arid and dry. It’s fairly boring. However, that “boringness” can actually enhance clarity, credibility, and comprehensibility. That’s the word I was looking for.

Davis: Okay, so as you said, this strategy is useful both for the issue essay of the GRE and for academic writing in general, which you, as a future grad student, will do a great deal of.

Orion: On the issue essay of the GRE, students are expected to state their position, what they believe, and then provide arguments in support of that position. They then substantiate those arguments with evidence. Arguments are abstract; evidence is concrete.

And the best way to substantiate a given argument, both on the GRE and in the real world, is to cite a study. The best evidence is that there is an experiment that was well-controlled. These were the outcomes, and this is how we interpret them. This is concrete and specific.

With respect to the GRE, it’s better to provide evidence that is closer to the hard sciences. We want to have citations of academic studies, as opposed to evidence in the liberal arts tradition, which provides more reasons for believing something to be the case.

Davis: Okay. So let’s say that we are writing about a study. The way that we go about this is to follow the acronym DRI. This stands for “describe, report, and interpret.” Describe, report, and interpret: rinse, wash, repeat. “Describe” involves a few sentences that talk about the actual structure or design of the study or experiment.

Orion: So, this could look something like: “In 2022, at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers Kobayashi, Murakami, and Ichiguru conducted a randomized controlled trial with 500 undergraduate students. They randomized the students into two cohorts: one of which received an experimental condition of a mindfulness program and the other which received a condition of general leisure. The experimenters made sure that the two cohorts were balanced in terms of sex, age, and baseline academic status.”

Davis: So, what you just provided is an example, a description of the evidence that you’re going to cite in your paper, whether it’s the essay on the GRE or otherwise. Now, a key difference here is that on the GRE, this could be a totally made-up study; it doesn’t have to be factually based.

Orion: That is true. Yeah.

Davis: So, is the study you just talked about a factual study?

Orion: No, it was just something I pulled off the top of my head to demonstrate what describing might look like. The key here is that describing should answer the question: “What are the facts about the study?” In this case, I guess it was a randomized, controlled trial with 500 students in a matched pairs design, about this mindfulness intervention.

Davis: Okay.

Orion: So that’s just the “what”. The “results” section is where you provide just the facts or outcome data without any kind of judgment or interpretation. In this case, the results might sound something like, “After a two-week period, the researchers discovered that the students who were assigned to the mindfulness condition were 47% more likely to study in the following month than those who were assigned to the leisure condition. They also had semester grades that were 47% higher than those in the control condition.”

Davis: That makes a lot of sense. So, for “describe”, you’re just laying out the framework of what the study did, and for “results”, you’re just giving the statistically relevant facts of what happened.

Orion: That’s right. It’s just the outcome measures. However, that’s not enough; we have to make sense of that data. The “I” in DRI stands for interpretation. In this case, we want to make sense of what those statistics might mean from a human perspective or for a broader understanding.

So, what this suggests is that mindfulness may stimulate student study behavior because it led to an increase in studying in the subsequent month. Furthermore, it may be linked to better academic outcomes compared to merely engaging in personal leisure time, given the higher semester-end grades. This interpretation brings the data down to a relatable, human level and provides a comprehensive summary of the study.

Now, with respect to the issue essay of the GRE, if students focus on writing just two sentences for each of these three components—two sentences for “describe,” two sentences for “report,” and two sentences for “interpret”—in conjunction with a beginning topic transition sentence, a student will be able to produce substantial body paragraphs one after the other under the time limit. It’s a structured format that students can rely on to generate many words in a limited amount of time.

Davis: And so, that’s really important because we’ve talked about this strategy in the context of the GRE where, you know, you have 30 minutes to generate at least 800 words for a top-level score. You can fabricate the studies, but as long as you’re following this two-sentence describe, two-sentence report, and two-sentence interpret structure, you can produce a well-organized essay that demonstrates you understand how to respond to the issue prompt and create a convincing paper.

Obviously, in an academic setting, you wouldn’t want to fabricate any of this; there’s no time limit. But within the time constraint, as Orion was saying, this can be very powerful. So, we’re just scratching the surface of what’s called the DRI writing strategy provided by StellarGRE: describe, report, interpret, especially when citing evidence for the writing section.

Thanks, everybody, for tuning in. We’ll be back next week with another bite-sized episode of GRE Bites. If you have a topic you’d like discussed on a future episode, let us know at And if you’re ready to take your prep to the next level, check out our top-rated GRE self-study program at You can use the code “BITES” for 10% off all memberships there. Talk to you soon.

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