Essay writing can be one of the most stressful aspects of being a student, and yet it all seems so easy. You get set a topic and a word count of a couple of thousand words, together with a deadline some weeks or months in the future – simple, right?
Yeah – it’s never that simple.
But never fear – while we can’t necessarily assist with the content of your assignments, we have a bunch of ways that you can make your essay writing faster. Try out some of these handy hints and watch your essays come together in record time.
Understand the question
Many students try to fit in as many facts as they can to demonstrate their knowledge of a given subject. However, most essay questions are looking for you to focus on a particular point. Excess word count will not impress your tutor – it will merely suggest that you haven’t understood what they want from you.
A matter of time
How much time you have to complete your essay depends on the deadline, and whatever else you have to do for other subjects. Work it out early, and apportion your time between research, outlining, writing, and revision.
Hit the books
Research can be done online or at the library, and you should dedicate 20% of your essay writing time to this process. Remember to keep your research pertinent: that is, keep it focussed on answering the question as it is posed. Concision is key. If the research doesn’t help you to answer the essay question, you can discard it.
Failing to plan is planning to fail
The next 20% of your time should be spent outlining your essay. This sounds like overkill, but a solid structure makes the rest of the essay so much easier to complete. Most essays have five paragraphs – an introduction at the start, a conclusion at the end, and three paragraphs in the middle to support them both. Set up those paragraphs. Answer the essay question in the introduction and write down a key sentence for each supporting paragraph that relates back to the original answer. You don’t need to be too precise here: that comes in the next stage.
Fill it up
Now that you know what you’re writing (more or less), the time has come to write it. 40% of your time should be spent here. While the whole essay is arguably important, you really want to concentrate on making your introduction and your conclusion stand out from the pack. These are the areas that will stick with your tutor or an examiner when they come to read them.
Nobody’s first draft is ever perfect. Spend 20% of your time re-reading, revising, and editing your text before you submit your essay. Flabby writing and deliberate padding is immediately noticeable as such, and should be avoided. Tighten your prose, polish your argument, and present the best version of you that you can in your essay.
So far we’ve been able to equate fast essay writing with good time management. While we firmly believe this to be the case, we understand that you might be looking for something more tangible. With that in mind, let’s wrap up this article with a few tools and applications that might appeal to the more hands-on student.
Online touch typing resources like Ratatype and KeyHero help to improve the speed at which you type. This is achieved through repetition and practice until your fingers fly to the correct keys for any given word thanks to their own natural muscle memory. While it’s not a technique that will help you to write your essays faster from day one, with a little time, practice, and patience, touch typing becomes a useful and portable skill for any student.
Voice to text software
Most phones and other mobile devices come with voice-to-text software built in, though there are also many third-party equivalents available in both the GooglePlay and Apple stores. The principle is simple: just say what you want to write for your assignment, and the app will transfer that to digital text that can be copied into your essay. Good news, right? Well… kind of. Certainly, these programs will help you to complete that first draft and do it quickly, but it’s not perfect.
First, if you’re just talking, then your text will ramble on as much as you do. This means that you’re already setting yourself up for twice as much revision as otherwise (at the very least). Also, you still need to draw up an essay outline and, indeed, sticking to it is more important than ever. If you can pull this off, however, then voice-to-text software like Dragon can really speed things up for you in the early stages.
ScanMarker is an Optical Character Recognition (or OCR) scanner, that can really help you speed up the process of essay writing. What’s an OCR scanner? Well, it’s a hand-held device that you run over a line of printed text, and it will convert that printed writing into digital text.
So far, so good. However, it’s what you can do with that text that makes ScanMarker such a useful tool. You can import it into your essay in large chunks, allowing you to get accurate quotes and citations that are so important to any successful essay. It also allows you to make the most of physical books from the library, cutting and pasting salient points directly from the page and into your assignment. You can do this while putting together your outline, ensuring that you have the best information to support your argument at each step of the way.
Better yet, your ScanMarker can translate from other languages. This means that Ancient History students can copy primary sources in the original Latin, or Modern Languages students can translate back and forth between native languages in their essays.
Another great function of the ScanMarker is that you can print your essay out, scan it, and have the device read it back to you. This makes it so much easier to spot poor writing, clumsy phrases, and other examples of bad essay writing, meaning that they can be easier to correct. It’s an end-to-end productivity tool that helps you make the most of your essay writing.
For more information about the ScanMarker and the ScanMarker Air, check out our website.