Every student has to write a timed essay at least once in their academic career. Timed essays, essay exams or in-class essays bring all your essay writing skills to play as they require you to put together an effective piece of writing in a limited amount of time. Although the task may seem daunting at first, it becomes easier if you follow a few simple steps outlined below.
Any piece of academic writing requires practice to master and timed essays are no exception. The key to mastering the art of writing a killer timed essay is to ace the following three main components of timed-essay writing:
- Outlining: All good essays come from good outlines. An outline helps you organize your thoughts in a systematic order. It provides you with an effective roadmap for your essay and helps you keep on track and focused. Prior to a test, practice giving outlines to three or four essay type questions that you think might appear on the test.
- Study Subjects: If you have a grasp on the subject matter at hand, you will be more likely to write an effective timed-essay. So, study for the essay as you would for any other exam. Take notes, read the material provided and attend lectures to sharpen your knowledge on the subject.
- Time Management: Most essay exams are a combination of short and long essay questions. Therefore, time management in these exams is all about distributing your time to each question based on the type of writer you consider yourself to be; single-draft writers work well under pressure, they should attempt short essay questions first and then move on to longer ones. Multi-draft writers work better in an environment with no time limits and revise each paragraph after writing it, they should attempt longer questions first and then move on to the shorter ones.
The Power of UPOWER
The UPOWER acronym stands for the different steps to write an effective timed essay.
- Understand the prompt: Underline key words and phrases of the prompt. You can rewrite the prompt to make more sense of the basic premise of the question. If a single prompt has multiple parts, try to ponder on them individually and then decide whether it would be more effective to tackle them separately or with one holistic answer.
- Pick a side: Most prompts necessitate the development of a main thesis or claim. Analyze the prompt to see if it provides you with a claim to defend or refute, if not, then establish one. If the answer doesn’t come to you right away, jot down a list of possible claims and choose the one you are most comfortable with.
- Outline: Make lists, idea maps or choose another way to make an outline for your essay. The outline should include your main thesis point and multiple supporting references.
- Write a thesis/introduction: Your introduction should basically include the main thesis point that you want to argue. However, if you have time, you may include a brief overview of the supporting evidence you will be presenting and a creative ‘hook’ to keep readers interested.
- E>vidence and Ending: Support your thesis statement with strong and relevant supporting evidence. Use a clear topic sentence or sub claim in each paragraph so as to remain on track. Use your time efficiently by only including viable sub claims. After completing the main body of the essay, add a conclusion. Remember, you may give a short conclusion but never leave your essay without one.
- Revise: After completing your essay, give it a test read. Check if your essay is fluid and consistent and if the body of your essay stays true to the thesis statement. Tweak away any misspellings or grammatical mistakes and that’s about it!
Remember to always keep an eye on the clock. Aim to finish your exam well before time, but if you are short on time, jot down your remaining main ideas as graders may follow your line of thinking and like it enough to reward it.