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Essay Time Management

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English

It’s time to write that essay, and you know what that means… panic time. Your title looks spiffy, but not a lot else. How has it come to this? The answer is poor time management. Time management is more than a buzzword, and there are clear, effective ways to improve it. Whether it's a take-home essay or a timed essay, there are real advantages to good time management and very real disadvantages to poor time management.

Effective Time Management in Essay Writing

You are on the clock, 40 minutes. When you are writing a timed essay, essay time management is everything. You need to outline, write, and proofread your essay in the allotted time. Proper time management ensures that you complete all these steps without running out of time.

Outline your Timed Essay

Spend 10-20% of your time outlining. If you have 40 minutes to write an essay, spend 5-10 minutes preparing your outline. Outlining is crucial because it actually speeds up your writing. Instead of relying on what comes to mind, you will have a roadmap to follow. An outline is particularly crucial to the logic of your essay. Because you are ultimately trying to support your thesis (or demonstrate your reading comprehension skills), you want your points to be laid out very clearly.

Use your outline to help you organize your ideas. You want your ideas to flow into one another before arriving at a natural conclusion. Here is a basic example:

Introduction

  • Essay hook

  • Thesis statement

Body Paragraphs

  • Topic Sentence for each

  • Evidence for each

Conclusion

  • Reworded or paraphrased thesis statement

  • Non-generalized importance of your findings

  • Concluding statement

Writing an exceptional conclusion: A common trap while writing a conclusion is to think that you’re already done. Instead of adding something to the essay, you regurgitate your thesis statement. The point of a conclusion isn’t to make sure that your body paragraphs don’t fall out the bottom of your essay; it is to cover your bases.

You also don’t want to be too bold. You are often taught to “go big” in the conclusion, to say something about humanity or the future. Generalizing is almost never a good thing, much less in a well-sourced essay, because, well… you got any proof for that?

To cover your bases, simply address anything you didn’t cover, and assuage any concerns. State how further discussion of related topics might shed light on your topic but won’t change your conclusion.

Timed Essay Checklist

What do you need to accomplish?

  1. Understand the prompt. If you do anything slowly at all, it's this, because if you fail to answer the prompt, you have a huge problem on your hands.

  2. Take the position with the most evidence. If you have a lot of evidence for a certain position, go with that one. It will help your time management if you have plenty of evidence to support your thesis.

  3. Gather your strongest points into an outline. Avoid subtle points. Take your strongest points with the strongest evidence and outline how you will deploy them.

  4. Stick to your outline. Try not to add ideas not present in your outline. It's too late to be changing any of that, and you'll waste a lot of time. This is part of why you want to be sure your outline is great at the outset!

  5. Write your essay clearly. It's important to write your essay with the final product in mind. Unlike with a take-home essay you write on the computer, you will not have a chance to fine-tune your timed essay. Fix confusing phrases in your head before you write them.

  6. Proofread your essay. You can’t take 24 hours away from a timed essay before you make your final edit, so when reviewing your work, try your best to tackle it from a new perspective. Even closing your eyes and taking a deep breath before your final edit can help! If you have multiple timed essays to complete during a certain window, you can also create space by completing a second essay, then returning to make the final edit on your first essay (and so on).

When brainstorming steps 1-3 for a synthesis essay ask yourself: "Am I taking a clear position? Do I have enough supporting evidence to convince somebody of my argument?"

When brainstorming steps 1-3 for a rhetorical analysis essay ask yourself: "Am I looking at how the author is presenting their points? Am I identifying specific uses of rhetoric?"

Examples of Benchmarks for your Timed Essay

Here is one way to budget your time for a timed essay:

  • Spend the first 20% of your time planning your outline and thesis statement.
  • Spend 70% of your time writing the essay: the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
  • Spend the last 10% of the time proofreading and finding errors or improvements.

To keep track of time, use a non-smart watch if the testing room doesn't have a wall clock (although most do). Move on to the next task after time is up for each benchmark. This way, you will be able to stay on track and complete every step before the time is up!

Time Management for an Essay in English Class

When working on a take-home essay, you have good time management if you:

  1. Start early. If you have three weeks to write your essay, start writing in the second week at the latest. If you need to do any research, get that out of the way in the first week. Also try to outline your essay in the first week. The more time you have to consider your essay’s thesis statement, structure, and evidence, the stronger your essay will be.

  2. Balance your work with your other responsibilities. Don’t juggle so many balls you drop one, though! Schoolwork is one of those balls you can’t afford to drop. To succeed at time management, prioritize what is most important. What are your most important tasks for the day? What are your most important tasks for the week?essay time management, prioritize, StudySmarterKeep your eye on the ball, flaticon.

  3. Ban your phone. Not period of course, but you are doing well if you don’t touch your phone when you are working on your essay. There is nothing more distracting than a phone, so you are putting yourself in a good position when you monitor its use. If you need to track your time, using a non-smart watch is helpful.

  4. Leave the last few days to proofread your work. Remember, you want to clear your blind spots after writing. Only time will do that.

  5. Reward yourself for writing, but not too generously. When you finish a page or two, celebrate. If you just finished writing your name on the paper, keep going.

  6. Hit your benchmarks. Consider the length of your essay, and give yourself benchmarks to hit. When you sit down to write, know how far you need to get in order to stay on track. If you need to do research, set research benchmarks as well. If you never fall behind, you're doing it right!

How Not to Manage your Take-Home Essay Time

When working on a take-home essay, you have poor time management if:

  1. Over half your allotted time has elapsed, and you haven’t gotten started on your essay. As a student, you have a lot of responsibilities in life. You have extra-curricular activities, friends, a family, and you have to take care of yourself, too. Your teachers know that, which is why they gave you all that time to write your essay! That time is there to use. If over half your allotted time has come and gone, and you haven’t completed anything besides your title and header, you’re procrastinating.

  2. When you work on your essay, you write very little. If you have five pages to complete in three weeks, one paragraph a week isn’t going to cut it. You’re not managing your time well if, on a night you planned to write your essay, you barely touch it before doing something else.

  3. You dread the amount of work you have the few days before your essay is due. You probably know the feeling. Essays are so dang long, and worst of all they don’t write themselves. The idea of sitting down and writing your essay is daunting. It may feel better to put it off. Dread is the start of procrastination, though, and procrastination is the start of crunch, and crunch is bad.

Disadvantages of Time Management

The “duh” drawback of writing your essay during crunch time is that you might not finish it in time. However, struggling to eke out your essay has some sneaky problems.

Drawbacks of Poor Time Management: Rushed Essays are Fluffy

If you raise that font to 12.5, expand the margins by 4%, and write sentences like: “However and hitherto, albeit it is not always the truth, what must be understood without reproach in this instance, is that the empirical data suggests a bias.”

...it’s not going to work. Teachers know when you’re writing fluff and when you’re writing content, and they will mark you down if you don’t stick to the prompt and what matters.

Essay time management, Teacher, StudySmarterOnto your tricks, flaticon.

Drawbacks of Poor Time Management: Rush Time Essays are Unpolished

If you don’t review your work, yo will make mistakes.

Yes, like that one. Your word processor detects some mistakes, but it often won’t catch missing words, for instance. The only way to know if you didn’t forget a word, or accidentally wrote “do” instead of “don’t,” is to edit your work. And editing your work right after completing it is a bad idea because you haven’t accounted for your blindspots.

A blindspot is an error in your essay you can’t see, due to your proximity in time to the error.

You are less likely to catch an error you just made because the conditions are similar at the time of the error and at the time you edit the error. If you phrased something poorly, missed a word, or forgot a crucial piece of evidence, you probably aren’t going to see the problem right away. It will take some time for your conditions to change, and for your blindspot to clear. If you have multiple tasks to do or multiple essays to write, it can help to take a break by completing a different task. Then, you can return to your original task with a fresh set of eyes and catch errors from earlier.

If possible, wait at least 24 hours before making your final edit! In a timed essay, try to come back to your essay later after completing something else.

Drawbacks of Poor Time Management: Rushed Essays Won't Cut It in College

Many of us have had friends who were straight-A students in high school, but who struggled in college. The problem with their transition wasn’t a lack of talent. The problem was that they relied too much on their talent in high school, and never developed good habits. Whether you are studying, doing your homework, or writing an essay, you should start to manage your time wisely beginning right now.

Advantages and Benefits of Good Essay Time Management

Once you begin to budget your time well, you will see all the disadvantages of poor time management fade away. Your essays will be content-rich and polished. Most importantly, you will be developing good habits for the future. Even if college isn’t on the cards, any professional values good time management. While you may be managing your time for an essay in this instance, what you are really doing is managing your time period.

Essay Time Management - Key takeaways

  • Follow a checklist for your timed essay that includes:
    • Understanding the prompt.
    • Taking a position.
    • Creating an outline.
    • Writing the essay clearly.
    • Proofreading the essay.
  • Make and hit your benchmarks! This can include:
    • 20% of your time outlining and preparing your thesis statement.
    • 70% of your time writing the essay.
    • 10% of your time proofreading and improving problem areas.
  • When writing a take-home essay:
    • Start early.
    • Balance your work with other responsibilities.
    • Ban your phone.
    • Leave the last few days to proofread.
    • Reward yourself for writing but not too generously.
    • Hit your benchmarks!

Essay Time Management

Don't wait until crunch time. You can manage your essay by spending the first 20% of your time planning, 70% of your time writing, and 10% of your time proofreading and improving.

Set benchmarks and don't fall behind. Use a clock or non-smart wristwatch to monitor your timing.

Your essay will be rich with content and polished. You will be building a critical skill for the future.

Your essay will be fluffy and unpolished. You will not be building a critical skill for the future.

You can manage your timed essay by spending 20% of your time planning your outline, 70% of your time writing, and 10% of your time proofreading and improving.

Final Essay Time Management Quiz

Question

How long should spend outlining your essay for a timed test?

Show answer

Answer

10-20%

Show question

Question

Which of these should you include in the outline for your introduction?

Show answer

Answer

Thesis statement

Show question

Question

What should the outline of your body paragraphs contain?

Show answer

Answer

Topic sentences and evidence.

Show question

Question

Should you outline your conclusion?

Show answer

Answer

Yes. Include a reworded thesis statement, the non-generalized importance of your findings, and a concluding statement. 

Show question

Question

What is the purpose of an outline on a timed essay?

Show answer

Answer

It speeds up your writing process.

Show question

Question

An outline helps with the _____ of your essay.

Show answer

Answer

Logic

Show question

Question

What should do you do first, when you are faced with a timed essay?

Show answer

Answer

Understand the prompt

Show question

Question

Should you stick to your outline when writing your essay, or should you feel free to explore as you want?

Show answer

Answer

Stick to your outline. Try not to add ideas not present in your outline. It's too late to be changing any of that, and you'll waste a lot of time. This is part of why you want to be sure your outline is great at the outset!


Show question

Question

When writing your essay clearly, what should you do in your head before committing a sentence to the paper?

Show answer

Answer

Fix confusing phrases in your head before you write them, to prevent the need to fix them later.

Show question

Question

How long should you plan on proofreading your timed essay?

Show answer

Answer

About 10% of the time.

Show question

Question

About how long should you be writing your timed essay?

Show answer

Answer

60-80%

Show question

Question

When brainstorming a synthesis essay, what are some things you should consider?

Show answer

Answer

 "Am I taking a clear position? Do I have enough supporting evidence to convince somebody of my argument?"

Show question

Question

When brainstorming a rhetoric essay, what are some things you should consider?

Show answer

Answer

"Am I looking at how the author is presenting their points? Am I identifying specific uses of rhetoric?" 

Show question

Question

When writing a take-home essay for class, you should _____.

Show answer

Answer

Start early

Show question

Question

Rushed essays are what? 

Show answer

Answer

Fluffy and unpolished, and they won't cut it in higher education.

Show question

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