How do I write a good essay under timed conditions?

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Firstly, practice practice practice! The more essays you practice writing to the time constraints of your exam, the more of an idea you'll have as to how much you should be aiming to write on exam day. You'll also panic less when you see the clock ticking away as you will know you are perfectly capable of writing a good essay.

Planning is essential. Panicking and writing down everything you know in a jumble will not guarentee good marks, but a well structured and flowing essay, even if it's a bit shorter, will.

Take 10 mins at the beginning of the exam time to read the question and plan your answer. Read the question carefully and read it TWICE. Think about what arguments you think best answer the question. I tend to pick my 3 strongest points and these make up the body of my 3 paragraphs. Also consider how you might introduce the essay, starting with a broad insight into the question. Finally you will consider how you will round up your essay and conclude. What do you think is the strongest argument? What are your final views you want to impress upon the reader?

PLAN

Introduction

Para 1

Para 2

Para 3

Conclusion

Spend the beginning of the revision period considering the types of essay questions you might be asked, and make detailed plans following the structure above, for each. You can use questions from past papers as a starting point.

With your remaining time, practice writing. A plan takes 10 mins to write. An introduction should take no longer than 5. The most important part of your essay is the body and so try and leave yourself 10 mins for each well argued and elaborated paragraph. Your conclusion should be the quickest to write, as you will be in the flow of writing, so 5 mins should be plenty to tie your essay up to a neat finish. With any remaining time, re read your essay to make sure there are no silly mistakes.

As you produce essay plans and practice writing to time, you will find timed conditions a lot less daunting. You will find plans can be very similar for similar themed essays and that your 3 strongest points might be applicable to several different questions. 

In the final week before your exam, attempt a couple of unseen questions which you haven't created a plan for. This will test your ability to think on your feet and will give you the best idea for what your exam will be like.

Remember, don't panic, take a deep breath, read the question twice and follow the plan structure.

Charlotte B. A Level Drama tutor, GCSE Drama tutor, A Level English L...

About the author

is an online GCSE English Literature tutor with MyTutor studying at Bath University

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