In-class essays can be stressful, especially if they’re timed. Although they are short and sweet, they can also be a great way for you to show your knowledge of the topic at hand. Here are four time management tips for in-class essays.
1. Look for keywords
Before diving into the writing, read the essay question carefully, looking for keywords that will guide the structure and content of your piece. Pay special attention to the verbs in the question, such as “compare and contrast,” “discuss,” “evaluate,” “summarize,” or “justify.” Looking for directives – and knowing what they mean – should help you formulate a gameplan and feel more confident about the essay you’ll write. Try annotating the question itself; underline and circle important words in the essay prompt itself to make sure you don’t miss anything important. This is especially useful when the question is long and/or includes more than one part, and it may help to quickly jumpstart your essay.
2. Jot down notes
After reading the question, take time to quickly jot notes down of whatever comes to your mind related to the prompt. Write down quotes, thoughts for and against a topic, and concrete examples. Think of this as a free-write: a way to gather ideas without the pressure of organization or accuracy. Keep your mind open and use associative logic – don’t worry too much about whether or not you’ll end up including all of these ideas; the point is to gather as large of a pool of ideas as you can that you’ll be able to draw from later.
3. Make an outline
This is arguably one of the most important time management tips for in-class essays. Once you’ve finished note-taking, start organizing your thoughts into an outline. You may feel tempted to immediately start writing the essay, but outlines are a great time management strategy: they help you structure your writing and give you a solid direction to follow so you’re able to write more efficiently in the long run. Depending on the essay question itself, you’ll probably want to write two to four body paragraphs. When making your outline, decide on your thesis and a few points to back it up, which will be the topic sentences of your body paragraphs. Also, while you’re outlining, don’t forget to think about a logical order for your body paragraphs – think about how your points build on each other in the most effective way.
4. Budget your time
Keep track of your time as you’re planning and writing your essay. First, ensure you know how long you’ll be given and how you’ll keep a time check: the wall clock, your watch, or, if you’re using a computer, the time in the corner of the screen. Some teachers and test proctors will keep time on the board or will give a five or 10 minute warning before the end of the allotted writing period. Once you know the total time given, plan approximate amounts of time for note-taking, outlining, writing, and proofreading/editing. You’ll want to spend the bulk of your time writing, and don’t forget to budget around five minutes for proofreading and editing.
In addition to the above tips, pay close attention in class for similar assignments that can mentally prepare you for in-class writing. Try writing to a timer at home if you’re prone to nervousness in class. Ask your teacher for guidelines or any advice. Then, once you’re in the situation itself, you should know how to succeed.