In brief, writing essay aims to elaborate on an idea or a statement of the task. So firstly, you should make certain that you get the main idea right. You may read the task several times and highlight keywords from essay exam questions. Take a little time to specify, whether that question treats one prompt or several of them. If they are multiple, have a look, if they are united in one idea, or contain opposite points of view. Then you can determine, whether you are asked to answer each question one by one, or elaborate only on the common idea. One more tip to how to distinguish the principal question – try rewriting and paraphrasing the task, using your own words. It is the simplest way to understand the question at once.
Get your thoughts planned
It is very crucial to keep your mind clear when you are pressed for time. Since you definitely will not be able to do long brainstorming and overthink, you’d better have a concise scheme of the main ideas you would like to discuss in your essay. You are free to any forms you prefer and find the most useful to you personally. You can draw idea maps in a quick hand, list up bullet points, write bubbles with keywords, etc. The outline helps you to keep the development of your essay strict and smooth and prevents you from stepping away from the main idea. It is always helpful to focus on and keep thoughts in the right direction. Moreover, outlining can save you, when you get stuck in the train of writing an essay. Before the test, you may dedicate a little time to predict several topics the professor may give you on the test, and try to plan your response to them. Even if you do not guess the exact topics, you will find the most useful technique for you and practice outlining a lot.
Remember about time
An exam essay is always limited in time and rarely consists of one prompt only. It mostly proposes several questions to elaborate – both short- and long-answer ones. So, there are two different approaches, who to cope with it, based on two main types of essay writers – single-draft and multi-draft ones.
Let’s start with single-draft writers. They are supposed to be a kind of risk-takers – they do work well-being under pressure and yes, usually write an essay all in one go only with minor changes. However, they also complete an essay at the very last minute. That’s why the single-draft writers find out the prompts, which are required short simple answers, and discuss them first, and only then proceed to a long final essay.
The situation with multi-draft writers is quite different. They start performing a task as soon as finish reading a question. Unlike single-draft writers, these do not cope with time pressure very well. They usually write several outlines and stop to revise them after completing every paragraph.
That is the reason why, this type of essay writers should do a long essay first, as it takes more time and effort to complete it and usually evaluates in bigger scores than short answer questions.
The essay structure: Introduction
An essay is a specific writing task with its composition. The Introduction section is a must, unless the prompt indicates the opposite. Even if you are limited in time while writing an in-class essay, you ought to write a very minimum introduction at least. You should start with brief concise statements, which present a topic and outline, what you are going to discuss in the following essay. Moreover, it is an Introduction, where you may pick the side to defend or/and include pieces of evidence you will be elaborating in the main text. Besides, there is no rule, that you have to write an introduction at the very beginning of the writing process. Some people find it more comfortable to finish this part after the main text is ready.
Choose a side
A vast amount of in-class essays requires the students to elaborate on the main idea. Before you start, you should decide which point you are going to discuss. Look at the task carefully to define, whether a task has a statement you have to agree or disagree with. If you face trouble determining, what exactly you would like to elaborate on, you can try some outlining techniques that might help you to concentrate better.
Main text and Conclusion sections
Since you have stated the claim in the Introduction section and chosen the side you are going to argue, you must confirm it with supporting evidence. The discussing statements may look unconvincing unless you illustrate them with strong arguments and proofs. However, mind your time, as it is an exam paper! You do not need to provide shreds of evidence to every statement you include in your essay, but only to a central idea. You may find the following structure helpful to develop your essay and keep it in the right way – you may start every paragraph with a short and clear topic sentence or a subclaim. This structure will help you to keep your essay concise and well-built. Then, you may support the topic sentence by displaying supportive evidence.
Finally, you should sum up all your ideas in the last section of the essay. Even though you are in a tough time, the conclusion part is still quite important. To make your essay more winning, try here bot to just paraphrase the ideas from the main text. This part allows you to indicate some limitations of your paper or mention contradicting statements.
Do not forget about revision
After completing the draft, look over your paper once more. Especially reread your introduction paragraph. Pay attention, whether it represents the idea of your paper concisely and effectively. Check the body paragraphs, so that their theses correspond with the prompt and initial statement. Of course, you should proofread your text as well. Be careful to correct possible grammar mistakes and check common spoken grammar mistakes, spelling errors, revise the structure and flow of the sentences. You may polish the paper as long as time allows, but always manage your time, so that have a few minutes to nail your essay.
Writing an exam essay in strict conditions only sounds a bit scary, but with a strict plan, it turns to be a quite manageable task. Remember the main points :
- understand the task first;
- decide, which side to support;
- outline your ideas;
- start writing an essay with an introduction and proceed to evidence and conclusion;
- leave yourself a few minutes to revise a text;