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8 Tips to Write an Essay in a Time Crunch

Student Life

November 06, 2023

It’s late at night. You realize your essay, which can impact your grade, is due first thing in the morning. Does this sound familiar?

Every student has left their essay drafts or assignments on the back burner. Learning how to write efficiently under pressure is a crucial component of academic success. Here’s how to finish your essay in a time crunch.

Budget your time

Identify how much time you have before your essay is due. Then, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses of writing. Are you struggling to write a thesis or body paragraphs? Since academic writing is an individualized process, consider how long you plan to finish each portion of your draft.

Avoiding distractions and working in a quiet environment will boost your focus. Dedicate the remaining time to purely finishing your essay prompt, rather than searching the Internet and contacting friends.

Review the Rubric and Instructions

Before you write, check your teacher’s instructions. Which format should you use to cite evidence? Is there a page limit?

Looking through the instructions (and possibly the class syllabus) will help you understand the grading process and avoid mistakes. Nobody wants to lose points for silly reasons.

Your rubric reflects the teacher’s expectations when grading essays. When students are pressured to finish an essay on time, they tend to skip over it. Instead, consider how the rubric elements can tie into your writing process. Mark all the boxes!

Make a Draft Outline

Depending on its topic, an essay may require specific sources or a broad variety of evidence. Based on your class discussions and notes, begin writing your claims. Pair them with evidence before writing the thesis, which will save time in the revising process. Make sure that your outline is concise and directly answers the prompt.

Once you complete the “skeleton” of the essay, you will become increasingly familiar with its content. It’s recommended to work on your body paragraphs or thesis after this step. You can always adjust your outline as necessary!

Consider Context and Evidence

A brief background or context regarding the prompt helps your reader understand your essay’s contents. If you believe that contextualizing evidence would support your essay, then consider including it in the introduction. This way, you can demonstrate your knowledge while connecting it to your thesis. This provides another layer of complexity and organization in the draft.

Some students prefer to list their evidence sources in the draft outline. If you prefer to list evidence apart from the outline, this is alright! However, make sure that you connect evidence with your claims and thesis, or else you could miss rubric points.

Write Your Body Paragraphs

Finalize your claims and form them into paragraphs. The first claim that you plan to expand on varies based on your instructions and thesis. Referring to your evidence and rubric helps you finish structuring the essay and begin writing.

If you are struggling to use terminology or connect evidence to your thesis, continue writing and leave these spaces blank. Once you are finished, review the evidence and fill in the missing excerpts. This will limit the writer’s block you experience, while allowing you to finish your paragraphs within the budgeted time.

Site Sources

When choosing your evidence, make sure that you have credible sources. Cite them in a format your teacher requires. It is understandable that you may struggle to find evidence in a time crunch. Looking through your class resources/agenda slides is good preparation.

Save the citations for the end of the essay, if your teacher requires them. However, be sure to remember where your evidence comes from before writing the conclusion and bibliography. Organization is key.

Revise and Check for Errors

After you finish the rough draft of your essay, look for grammatical errors, awkward sentences, accidental plagiarism, and typos. Resources, such as spell check, that can aid you in this process. After you have finished this technical revision, make sure that your essay follows your outline and satisfies all portions of the rubric.

Are your claims, evidence, and thesis connected? Is your perspective and draft well-rounded? These essential questions can guide you while revising.

Acknowledge the Time Crunch Limitations

Depending on how limited your writing time is, you could miss some parts of your essay draft or skip the revision process. Essays that are rushed will not be perfect. Try talking to your teacher for additional writing time and accommodations.

If not, then reflect on how you can prepare better in the future. If there are any parts of the writing process you struggled with, try writing practice essay drafts. It can make future essays easier to tackle.

While writing essays under time constraints is challenging, it also serves as an opportunity to reflect on your skills. With proper dedication and time management, you can strengthen your ability to write an essay and meet the teacher's instructions. Writing is a process that can always be improved on. Good luck!

Kelly Halliburton
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Kelly Halliburton is a member of the Creative Writing Conservatory at Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, California. She enjoys writing poetry and volunteering. Through exploring themes of student life and personal growth, she aspires to project meaningful ideas in the community.