Strategies for Timed Essays
Timed essays are one of the most stressful assessment activities a student will ever encounter! Here are some tips to use in managing the timed essay and a list of further resources.
Also, while it may seem like a waste of time, in this situation as in most, practice will help improve your skill and reduce anxiety, so find ways to practice before your next test.
To lessen test anxiety, try some of these tips:
- Take some time (15 minutes) to free-write before going into the exam
- If possible (often it is not), study in the room where the exam will be given (Aldrich, 2005, p. 84). If you cannot get into the same room where the test will be given, study in one similar (an auditorium or classroom). This greatly helps retention
Test prompts (i.e., the test questions) will often contain one or more keywords. These indicate what type of essay is expected:
- Analyze: Break the subject into its component parts and discuss each part
- Compare: Show how they are the same and how they differ
- Contrast: Show how they differ
- Criticize: Examine the pros and cons and give your judgment
- Defend: Give details that prove it or show its value
- Define: Just give the meaning
- Describe: Give the details and examples that show what it is
- Discuss and review: Examine from all angles
- Distinguish: Tell how this is different from others similar to it
- Evaluate: Give your opinion as to the advantages and disadvantages
- Explain and show: Show, in logical sequence, how or why something happened (or both)
- Illustrate: Give examples
- Justify: Give the facts and then prove it’s true
- Name, list, tell, and enumerate: Give just the information that is specifically asked for
- Prove: Show that it is true and that its opposite is false
- Summarize and outline: Give the main points
- Trace: Show how something developed step by step (usually chronologically) (Test Taking Tips, n.d., pp 4 -5)
Yes, the first step in writing the timed essay is to resist the urge to start writing frantically. Take a few moments to plan your approach, and the results will be much better. In preparing to write a timed essay, follow these general guidelines:
- Plan your time. If there are several essays to write, divide up your time accordingly. If some are worth more points than others, allot time so that you spend more time on the more valuable essays.
- For each essay, stop and read the question carefully. Be sure you understand it and write an essay that addresses the question or topic.
- Take time to create a simple outline or mind-map. Use scratch paper or the back of the blue book. Assuming you have a half hour per essay, spend 2 to 10 minutes outlining your essay and creating the thesis (http://granite.guhsd.net/GHHS/Academics/testing_strategies_timedessays.htm).
- Don't worry about the planning time. Fewer well-organized words will be welcomed by your reader!
- Incorporate revision and proof-reading time into your plan.
- Leave room for editing and revision so you can go back to clarify and correct and have ample room to keep the essay legible
- Make wide margins
- Write every-other line
- Leave the back of pages blank
- Use common essay structures such as
- Introduction (introduce your thesis; give any necessary definitions)
- Conclusion (remind reader of your thesis and summarize how you supported it)
- Be concise and get to the point with a few sentences. Especially avoid rambling in your introduction!
If there is time, let's practice writing (or at least starting!) a timed essay.
Aldrich, C. (2005). Learning by doing: The essential guide to simulations, computer games, and pedagogy in e-learning and other educational experiences. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Test taking tips. (n.d.) Retrieved January 30, 2006, from http://taos.unm.edu/pdf/casaTestTakingTips.pdf
Page Author: Barbara