There's nothing like an approaching deadline to give you the motivation (and fear) you need to get writing – don't stress though, we're here to help you out!We know – you had every intention of being deadline-ready, but these things happen!
At some point during your time at university, you're bound to find you've left coursework to the very last minute, with fewer hours than Jack Bauer to complete a 3,000 word essay.
But don't sweat, cause 3,000 words in a day is totally doable! Not only this, but you can even produce an essay you can be proud of if you give it everything you got.
Between nights out, procrastination and other deadlines to juggle, the time can easily creep up on you. However, the worst thing you can do in this situation is panic, so keep calm, mop up the cold sweats and read on to find out how to nail that essay in unbelievable time!
Just to clarify – we're certainly not encouraging anyone to leave it all to the last minute, but if you do happen to find yourself in a pickle, you're going to need some help – and we're the guys for the job.
Are you a procrastination master? Check out these 13 hacks that will do wonders for your productivity levels, or these apps to help streamline your life!
Credit: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos – Flickr
Fail to plan and you plan to fail – or so our lecturers keep telling us. Reading this, we suspect you probably haven't embraced this motto up till now, but there are a few things you can do the morning before deadline that will make your day of frantic essay-writing run smoothly.
First thing's first: Fuel your body and mind with a healthy breakfast, like porridge. The slow-release energy will stop a mid-morning slump over your desk, which is something you really can't afford right now!
Not in the mood for porridge? Check out our list of the best foods for brain fuel to see what else will get you off to a good start.
Pick your work station
Choose a quiet area where you know you won't be disturbed. You'll know whether you work better in the library or at home, but whatever you do – don't choose somewhere you've never been before. You need to be confident that you'll be comfortable and able to focus for as long as possible.
Be organised and come equipped with two pens (no nipping to the shop because you ran out of ink), bottled water, any notes you have, and some snacks to use as mini-rewards. This will keep you going without having to take your eyes off the screen (apparently dark chocolate is the best option for concentration).
Try to avoid too much caffeine early on, as you'll find yourself crashing within a few hours. This includes energy drinks, by the way!
Shut out the world
Procrastination is every student's forte, so turn off your phone (or at least switch notifications off) and refrain from checking Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or any other social media channels you're addicted to. We mean it!
A good tip is to get a friend to change your Facebook password for you for 24 hours and make them promise not to tell you it, even if you beg (choose a friend that enjoys watching you squirm). Otherwise, you can also temporarily deactivate your account.
Set yourself goals
Time management is of utmost importance when you have 24 hours before deadline. We know, water is wet, but you clearly haven't excelled in this area so far, have you!
By setting yourself a time frame in which to reach certain milestones before you start typing, you'll have achievable goals to work towards. This is a great method of working, as it makes the prospect of conjuring up 3,000 words from thin air much less daunting if you consider the time in small blocks.
Let's say it's 9am and your essay is due in first thing tomorrow morning. Here's a feasible timeline that you can follow:
- 9:00 – 9:30 – Have your essay question chosen and argument ready
- 9:30 – 9:45 – Break/ snack
- 10:00 – 12:00 – Write a full outline/plan of your essay
- 12:00 – 13:00 – Write your introduction
- 13:00 – 14:00 – Take a break and grab some lunch (you deserve it)
- 14:00 – 16:00 – Get back to your desk and do all your research on quotes etc. that will back up your argument
- 16:00 – 20:30 – Write all of your content (with a dinner break somewhere in the middle)
- 20:30 – 22:30 – Edit and improve – extremely important step, so take time with this
- 22:30 – 23:00 – Print and prepare ready for the morning
- 23:00 – (morning) – If you've not finished by this point, don't worry – completing in time is still possible. Just make sure you've eaten well and have enough energy to last you until the early hours of the morning.
Also remember to schedule in a few breaks – you need to spend the whole 24 hours productively, and you can't be on form for a full day without short breaks to rest your eyes (and your brain!).
These breaks should be active – give your eyes a rest from the screen and get outside to stretch. We recommend a ten minute break at least every 1.5 hours.
Choosing a question and approach
Time: 9am – 12pm
If you've been given a choice of essay questions, you should choose the one you feel most strongly about, or have the most knowledge about (i.e the topics you actually went to the lectures for!).
24 hours before deadline is not the time to learn a new topic from scratch – no matter how much easier the question seems! Also, beware of questions that seem easy at first glance, as often you'll find that the shorter questions or the ones using the most straight-forward language can be the hardest ones to tackle.
Next, decide your approach. How are you going to tackle the question? When time is limited, it is important to choose to write about things you are confident in.
Remember that it's your essay and as long as you relate your argument to the question and construct a clear, well supported argument, you can take it in any direction you choose. Use this to your advantage!
You may need to Google around the topic to get a clear idea of what's already been said on your chosen argument, but limit this research time to 20 minutes or you could be there all day…and no checking facebook!
Now, type out 3-5 key points that you'll aim to tackle in your argument, and underneath these use bullet points to list all the information and opinions, supporting arguments or quotes you have for each point. Start with the most obvious argument, as this will provide something to link your other points back to – the key to a good essay.
Once you've done this, you'll now find you have a detailed outline of the body of your essay, and it'll be a matter of filling in between the lines of each bullet point. This method is perfect for writing against the clock, as it ensures you stay focused on your question and argument without going off in any tangents.
Nailing that introduction
Credit: Steve Czajka – Flickr
Time: 12pm – 1pm
Sometimes the introduction can be the most difficult part to write, but that's because it's also the most important part!
Don't worry too much about making it sound amazing at this point – just get stuck into introducing your argument in response to your chosen question and telling the reader how you will support it. You can go back and make yourself sound smarter later on when you're at the editing stage.
Create something of a mini-outline in your introduction so you signpost exactly what it is you're planning to argue. Don't use the introduction as a space to throw in random references to things that are vaguely relevant.
When in doubt, leave it out!
Doing your research
Credit: Photo Monkey
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Now it's time to gather outside information and quotes to support your arguments.
It's important to limit the time you spend on this, as it is easy to get distracted when Google presents you with copious amounts of irrelevant information. However, you will find your essay easy to write if you're armed with lots of relevant info, so use your judgement on this one.
Choose search keywords wisely and copy and paste key ideas and quotes into a separate ‘Research' document. If using reference books rather than online, give yourself ten minutes to get anything that looks useful from the library, skip to chapters that look relevant and remember to use the index!
Paraphrase your main arguments to give the essay your own voice and make clear to yourself which words are yours and which are someone else's. Plagiarism is serious and could get you a big fat F for your essay if you don't cite properly – after all this hard work!
Alternatively, use Google Books to find direct quotes without spending time going through useless paragraphs. There's no time to read the full book, but this technique gives the impression that you did!
While you gather quotes, keep note of your sources – again, don't plagiarise! Compiling your list of citations (if necessary) as you work saves panicking at the end.
Extra referencing tips!
Take quotes by other authors included in the book you're reading. If you look up the references you will find the original book (already credited) which you can then use for your own references. This way it looks like you have read more books than you have, too. Sneaky!
Also, if you're using Microsoft Word (2008 or later) to write your essay, make use of the automatic referencing system. Simply enter the details of sources as you go along, and it will automatically create a perfect bibliography or works cited page at the end. This tool is AMAZING and could save you a lot of extra work typing out your references and bibliography.
Bashing those words out
Credit: Rainer Stropek – Flickr
Time: 4pm – 8.30pm
Get typing! Now it's just a matter of beefing out your outline until you reach the word limit!
Get all your content down and don't worry too much about writing style. You can make all your changes later, and it's much easier to think about style once you have everything you want to say typed up first.
More ideas could occur to you as you go along, so jot these ideas down on a notepad – they could come in handy if you need to make up the word count later!
Use the research you gathered earlier to support the key ideas you set out in your outline in a concise way until you have reached around 2,500(ish) words.
If you're struggling to reach the word limit, don't panic. Pick out a single point in your argument that you feel hasn't been fully built upon and head back to your research. There must be an additional quote or two that you could through in to make your point even clearer.
Imagine your essay is a bit like a kebab stick: The meat is your essential points and you build on them and build around each piece of meat with vegetables (quotes or remarks) to make the full kebab… time for a dinner break?
Editing to perfection
Time: 8.30pm – 10.30pm
Ensure that all the points you wanted to explore are on paper (or screen) and explained fully. Are all your facts correct? Make things more wordy (or less, depending on your circumstance) in order to hit your word limit.
You should also check that your essay flows nicely. Are your paragraphs linked? Does it all make sense? Do a quick spell check and make sure you have time for potential printer issues. We've all been there!
A lot of students overlook the importance of spelling and grammar. It differs from uni to uni, subject to subject and tutor to tutor, but generally your writing style, spelling and grammar can account for up to 10-20% of your grade. Make sure you edit properly!
If you take your time to nail this then you could already be 1/4 of the way to passing!
Time to get started…
While completing essays 24 hours before the deadline is far from recommended and unlikely to get you the best grades you've ever gotten (try our top tips for getting a first if that's your goal), this guide should at least prevent tears in the library (been there) and the need for any extensions. Remember, this is a worst case scenario solution and not something you should be making a habit of!
Now, why are you still reading? We all know you've got work to do! Good luck!
Exams coming up? Check out our guide on how to revise in one day too. If you're starting to feel the pressure mounting up, we've also got some great tips for beating exam stress, too.
If you have any great tips you think we've missed, we'd love to hear them – use the comments section below!
How long does it take to research an essay?
If you’re writing an opinion piece on something you already have some knowledge about, you may not have to do any research at all. It may just be a matter of organizing your existing thoughts into a coherent essay. If you need to find out about a topic before you begin to write, you can easily get information on certain topics, whilst others will be more obscure and therefore more difficult to research. Clearly, the easier it is to find information, the faster you can write.
How good are your reading comprehension skills?
Some of us can just skim a piece and pick up all the salient points. Others will have to read with more attention, and even re-read a piece several times to extract the information we need. Having good reading and comprehension skills makes writing much faster since you’re able to “get” the facts faster and organize them better. Now you know why you had to do so many reading comprehension tests at school.
How well did you plan?
Throwing yourself headlong at a 1,000-word essay and writing till you reach the word count may seem like the easy option, but it isn’t. Planning your essay so that it begins with an introduction, highlights the most important points you want to make and then wraps everything up into a conclusion actually saves you time. Sometimes, essay instructions will tell you how to structure the piece, so read them carefully and extract any information you can use to guide your essay’s structure.
How fast do you type?
Have you ever gotten lost halfway through a sentence? You know what you wanted to say, but halfway through, the thought slips away from you. The faster you can type, the more easily you can capture thoughts before your mind moves onto the next thing and you forget what you were trying to say. Typing skills are essential in the modern world. Consider using typing games to improve your speed.
How long does it take me to write a 1,000-word essay?
Faster isn’t always better. The more in-depth your report is meant to be, the longer you should spend on it. I can usually research and write a fairly technical magazine article of 1,000 words in three hours, but do remember that I’m a professional writer. I’m fast because I write all day, every day.
The longest I’ve ever spent on a 1,000-word article was 12 hours. It was absolutely brutal! The information I needed to gather was very technical, hard to find, and even more difficult to understand, and you can’t write something until you really understand the subject matter. I also had to contact experts for their opinions, but I couldn’t even ask about their opinions until I could target them with the right questions. As a result, I actually had to write most of the article before slotting in the expert comment.
The quickest I’ve ever written a 1,000-word article is one hour. In this case, I already knew the subject matter well and didn’t have to back up every fact in the essay with references.
Reviewing your work also matters
If you’re writing for grades and want a good one, you need a really good essay. Don’t start writing it the day before you have to hand it in. Try and get your first draft down at least a day or two before you have to submit your work. Then return to it and do your editing. Read your essay aloud to yourself, since this will help you pick up any careless errors you wouldn’t otherwise spot. Check to see if your information flows logically from one point to the next and make sure that you’ve presented your information clearly.
Remember, teachers get tired. They have to read the same kind of essay over and over again when they grade. If they struggle to understand what you’re saying, you might not get as good a grade as you would if you stuck to using short sentences and relatively simple language.
Your reviewing process shouldn’t take all that long. If you don’t have to make a lot of changes, you should be able to do your final edit in under half an hour.
Take your time. Whatever you do, don’t rush. You might want your essay to be written quickly, but if it’s an important essay, taking your time will give you a better finished product. Budget your time conservatively. It’s better to find that you’ve still got time left over than to run out of time and end up dashing things off with a looming deadline.
Below are some basic guidelines if you need a rough estimate on how long it will take to write an essay. It’s important to remember that there are a plethora of mitigating factors that can increase or decrease the time it takes to write. The below numbers are using an estimate that it takes about 3 hours 20 minutes to write a 1000 word essay:
How long does it take to write a 100 word essay?
It takes about 20 minutes to write a 100 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 200 word essay?
It takes about 40 minutes to write a 200 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 250 word essay?
It takes about 50 minutes to write a 250 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 300 word essay?
It takes about 1 hour to write a 300 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 400 word essay?
It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to write a 400 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 500 word essay?
It takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to write a 500 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 600 word essay?
It takes about 2 hours to write a 600 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 700 word essay?
It takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes to write a 700 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 800 word essay?
It takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes to write a 800 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 900 word essay?
It takes about 3 hours to write a 900 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 1,000 word essay?
It takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes to write a 1,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 1,250 word essay?
It takes about 4 hours and 10 minutes to write a 1,250 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 1,500 word essay?
It takes about 5 hours to write a 1,500 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 1,750 word essay?
It takes about 5 hours and 50 minutes to write a 1,750 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 2,000 word essay?
It takes about 6 hours and 40 minutes to write a 2,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 2,500 word essay?
It takes about 8 hours and 20 minutes to write a 2,500 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 3,000 word essay?
It takes about 10 hours to write a 3,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 3,500 word essay?
It takes about 11 hours and 40 minutes to write a 3,500 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 4,000 word essay?
It takes about 13 hours and 20 minutes to write a 4,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 4,500 word essay?
It takes about 15 hours to write a 4,500 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 5,000 word essay?
It takes about 16 hours and 40 minutes to write a 5,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 6,000 word essay?
It takes about 20 hours to write a 6,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 7,000 word essay?
It takes about 23 hours and 20 minutes to write a 7,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 7,500 word essay?
It takes about 25 hours to write a 7,500 word essay.
How long does it take to write an 8,000 word essay?
It takes about 26 hours and 40 minutes to write an 8,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 9,000 word essay?
It takes about 30 hours to write a 9,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 10,000 word essay?
It takes about 33 hours and 20 minutes to write a 10,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 12,500 word essay?
It takes about 41 hours and 40 minutes to write a 12,500 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 15,000 word essay?
It takes about 50 hours to write a 15,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 20,000 word essay?
It takes about 66 hours and 40 minutes to write a 20,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 25,000 word essay?
It takes about 83 hours and 20 minutes to write a 25,000 word essay.
How long does it take to write a 50,000 word essay?
It takes about 166 hours and 40 minutes to write a 50,000 word essay.
(Image courtesy of Miguel)