Timed and Untimed Essay Writing Strategies: Writing Review Study Guide

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this concept can be found at Timed and Untimed Essay Writing Strategies: Writing Review Practice Exercises.

Some essays may be assigned far enough in advance that you will have plenty of time to write a fabulous essay. Other essays may be due in only a matter of hours, and you'll wonder how you could possibly write it in such a short period of time. Well, this chapter will take you step by step through the pace of writing each kind of essay. Whether you have three months or just three hours, all you need is a plan of action.

Untimed Essays

If asked whether we'd rather have to write a timed essay or an untimed essay, most of us would probably say we'd choose an untimed essay, so that we could, essentially, have as much time as we needed to write it. With so much time, however, you may often find it difficult to avoid procrastinating. Calling an essay untimed is a bit misleading. Even untimed essays have to be completed at some point; you have some set amount of time to complete your essay. You have a large enough chunk of time that you're not worried about being able to finish it, but how do you budget your time so that you don't end up rushed at the end?

Step 1: Make a Plan

What you need is a long-term plan. The more time you have to spend working on your essay, the better your essay will be. You have more time to think through your ideas, more time to write, and more time to fix any mistakes you may have made along the way. Having more time won't help you, though, if, for instance, you don't budget enough time to revise. This is where the long-term plan comes in.

First, you'll need to establish how much time you have to complete your essay. It could be a week or a month. Whoever assigns you the essay will tell you when it is due. For example, let's pretend you have a month. Once you know that you have a month before your essay is due, you can make yourself a schedule so that your time will be budgeted to include all the necessary steps in creating a great essay.

Pace Yourself

Create a short-term schedule for yourself. What is your plan for the next 24 hours?

Creating a Schedule

Let's continue with our pretend time frame of one month. Given one month, you could break down your time this way.

Creating a Schedule

If you choose to make this schedule with one month to write your essay, great! Stick to it! But this is just an example. Let's say you know that you usually take longer to complete the revising and editing stage—give yourself a little bit more time for that. The important thing is to make a schedule and to stick with it. We all have tendencies toward procrastination, but having a schedule really helps you visualize what you need to be doing, and when. If you know that procrastination is a real problem for you and are worried that you may leave all your prewriting to the last day of Week 1, then make yourself an even more detailed schedule. Allot yourself specific amounts of time for free-writing, webbing, and outlining. That way, you'll have smaller, more manageable goals along the way to keep you on track.

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