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Timed and Untimed Essay Writing Strategies: Writing Review Study Guide (page 3)

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Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Step 2: Don't Panic

This is an important step. Make sure to relax. Take slow deep breaths. Try not to concentrate on the limited amount of time you have in which to write your essay. If you stay organized and keep it simple, you'll have plenty of time.

Fuel For Thought

You'll be so focused on writing your essay that once you start, you'll be finished in a flash.

Step 3: Understand the Topic

Before you can write your essay, you'll need to understand what you are being asked to write. You could work really hard on your essay in the amount of time that you have, but if you don't answer the question or address the topic, then it will all have been a waste. So, take a few minutes to read the assignment carefully, circling any key words or phrases that may help you decide what to include in your essay.

Step 4: Budget Your Time

Just like when you're writing an untimed essay, you need to budget your time when writing a timed essay, so be sure to set aside some time at the beginning to organize your thoughts and some time at the end to revise. However, don't take so long budgeting your time that it eats into your work time. You could even do this step before you sit down to write your essay. If you know in advance how much time you will have, you could make yourself a time budget before you arrive.

Take a minute to think about how much time you have in which to write your essay, and then quickly divide that time into three sections.

Organizing

Writing

Revising

If, for example, you have three hours, you may want to divide your time this way.

half hour = organizing

two hours = writing

half hour = revising

Again, just make sure that you leave time for yourself to revise at the end. It'll feel a lot better to have that time to review your essay, instead of having to write your conclusion in a rush just as someone is saying, "Time's up." If you want to, jot down your time budget somewhere as a reminder.

Pace Yourself

Before your essay, practice timing yourself. Get out a practice prompt, give yourself a certain amount of time, and then start. When you're done, think about how you budgeted your time and how you could be more efficient in the future.

Step 5: Short Prewrite and Organize

Don't spend a lot of time on this step, but spend enough to come up with a thesis statement and organize your thoughts. You may want to make a quick web of some sort or just write down your thesis statement and list your supporting ideas. Even though you don't have a lot of time to spare, taking some time to organize your ideas will strengthen your final product and may actually save you time in the long run.

Step 6: Write

Once you have a plan of action, start writing. Remember all the things we've talked about: an introduction with a good thesis statement, clear supporting ideas, strong paragraphs, each with a topic sentence, and a conclusion that reminds the reader of your thesis. Keep these things in mind as you write.

Because you don't have a lot of time, you're not going to be able to write as much as you would for an untimed essay. So, you'll need to be clear and concise. All the same essay writing rules still apply, with regard to needing a thesis statement and strong paragraphs, but you won't have time to go into a great deal of detail. The easiest thing to do is to keep your essay to a basic five-paragraph structure, as follows.

      Paragraph 1 = Introduction
      Paragraph 2 = Body with Support 1
      Paragraph 3 = Body with Support 2
      Paragraph 4 = Body with Support 3
      Paragraph 5 = Conclusion

If you try to write more, you'll end up with a lot of writing that's not as clear and strong as it would be if you limited the amount you wrote and focused on the quality of your ideas and support. Just remember, it's quality that's important, not quantity.

Caution!

Don't wander off track with your essay. There may be an interesting tangent you'd like to explore, but you have only a short amount of time, so keep your points focused.

Pace Yourself

Find a writing prompt and give yourself 30 minutes to write an introduction to your answer. Then, try a different prompt and see if you can write an introduction in 20 minutes.

Step 7: Revise

It's important to leave time at the end to read over your essay and fix any errors that you may have made. You won't have a lot of time, so just perform some abridged revising and editing techniques. As you read through your essay, ask yourself some questions.

  • Does my writing flow logically and smoothly from one idea to the next?
  • Do any words or phrases stand out as being overused or unneeded?
  • Have I included all the important parts of an essay?

And finally, a very important question.

  • Have I addressed the assigned topic and/or answered the question?

Then, read through your essay carefully one last time and fix any errors that you may have made in spelling, punctuation, word usage, or grammar.

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