So you’ve left your 3,000 word essay until the last minute? Not ideal, but don’t stress. You can make it happen by following our steps!
We know. You had every intention of getting your essay done before the deadline, but sometimes life can get in the way.
We wouldn’t recommend writing an essay in such a short period of time, but the good news is that 3,000 words in a day are totally doable. Get your head down and you could meet the deadline, and even produce an essay you are proud of.
Take a deep breath. Remain calm. Here’s how to write an essay fast!
How to write an essay quickly
“Fail to prepare? Prepare to fail”. We’ve all had it said to us, whether it be from a lecturer or a well-meaning parent.
If you’re reading this guide, we suspect you haven’t entirely embraced that mantra – but there are a few things you can do the morning before deadline day that will make your day of frantic essay-writing run smoothly.
Eat a good breakfast
Fuel your body and mind with a healthy breakfast, like porridge. Its slow-release energy means you won’t have a mid-morning slump over your laptop – something you really can’t afford right now!
Not into porridge? Don’t worry, it’s far from the only brain food that’ll help you write an essay. Check out our list of the best foods for brain fuel to see what else will get you off to the best start (and keep that flying start going!).
Although you might be tempted to mainline coffee into your veins, try to avoid too much caffeine early on. Caffeine is basically the opposite of slow-release energy, and you’ll find yourself crashing after a few hours.
Pick your workstation and equipment
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 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, a bottle of water, any notes you have and some snacks to use as mini-rewards. These will keep you going without having to take your eyes off the screen (apparently dark chocolate is the best option for concentration!).
Get rid of social media and other distractions
Procrastination is a student’s worst enemy (besides a hangover). Turn off your phone (or place it face down on silent) and resist the urge to check social media.
Don’t trust yourself? Temporarily deactivate your accounts or get a friend to change your passwords for 24 hours.
Plan a schedule and set yourself time management goals
Time management is pretty important when you have 24 hours before a deadline.
Assign yourself chunks of time to reach certain milestones, as this breaks down the big daunting task and provides extra motivation every time you tick off one of the relatively easy mini-tasks.
Let’s say it’s 9am and your essay is due in first thing tomorrow morning. If you’re wondering how to write essays faster, here’s a feasible 14-hour timeline that you can follow (remember this is just a brief summary of each stage – we go into more detail below!):
- 9am – 9.30am: Choose your essay question and decide on your overall argument
- 9.30am – 11am: Write a plan and outline of your essay (breaking it into mini-essays)
- 11am – 11.45am: Flesh out your introduction
- 11.45am – 1pm: Research quotes and references to back up your arguments
- 1pm – 1.45pm: Lunch break
- 1.45pm – 6pm: Write the body of the essay
- 6pm – 6.45pm: Dinner break
- 6.45pm – 10.30pm: Edit, improve and meet the word count
- 10.30pm – 11pm: Print (if needed) and get everything ready for the morning.
Remember to schedule in a few short 10-minute breaks (one every 45–60 minutes so should do the trick). Giving your brain a rest is key to keeping your overall productivity levels up, and stretching or doing some brief exercises will also help.
Choosing a question and planning your essay
Choosing an essay question and how to answer it
Time: 9am – 9.30am
If you’ve been given a choice of essay questions, you should choose the one you have the most knowledge about, or have some strong opinions on.
After all, this isn’t the time to learn a new topic from scratch – no matter how much easier the question seems, 24 hours isn’t long enough to learn anything in enough detail!
What’s more, questions that seem easy at first glance are often the hardest of all.
The very fact that they’re short and worded in a very straightforward way means you’re probably expected to construct a much more original and complex essay to respond to it.
Deciding how to answer the question
Next, decide your approach – how are you going to tackle the question? It’s your essay and, as long as you keep relating your arguments to the question, you can take it in any direction you choose.
It can be helpful to come up with a quick answer in your head, as this gives you a general idea of what to write about and means you won’t need to keep rereading the question.
This will help you understand the question better and avoid you having to keep referring back to it later on (when you should be concentrating on writing the body of your essay).
If you’re having difficulty deciding what to write about, try brainstorming around the topic. Write down all the ideas that come to mind and you’ll see a theme start to emerge.
Planning your essay
Time: 9.30am – 11am
Once you’ve decided on your approach to answering the question, you should be able to form a pretty solid plan for the body of the essay.
Write out three to five key points that you want to make in your overall argument, and underneath each one, use bullet points to list all the information, supporting arguments (and, better still, any rebuttals you have to popular counter-arguments) or quotes you already have for each point.
Start with the most obvious or all-encompassing argument, as this will allow you to progressively go into more detail on each of the smaller arguments – one of the keys to a good essay.
Once you’ve done this, actually writing the essay should just be a case of bulking out each point and filling in the gaps.
This method is perfect for writing against the clock, as you won’t find yourself stuck thinking what to write about next, or going off in tangents that you hadn’t accounted for when allotting your time.
And yes, we realise we haven’t got around to finding quotes and references yet – but stick with us, there’s a good reason for this!
How to write an essay introduction quickly
Time: 11am – 11.45am
It might seem a little counter-intuitive to start writing an essay before you’ve sourced all your quotes and references, but there’s a method to our madness.
Writing all 3,000 words in one go is a pretty depressing thought, so anything you can do to break up the workload is a positive step.
As your intro is unlikely to need many (if any) quotes, it makes sense to get the ball rolling and feel a sense of achievement as soon as you’ve planned your essay and know where it’s going.
This way, when you sit down after lunch to tackle the main body of the essay, you’ll have already knocked a couple of hundred words off the word count.
Don’t worry too much about making it sound amazing at this point – just get stuck into introducing your argument and telling the reader how you’ll support it. You can go back and make yourself sound smarter later on when you’re at the editing stage.
Create a mini-outline in your introduction so you signpost exactly what it is you’re planning to argue.
And don’t use the introduction as a space to throw in random references to things that are vaguely relevant, especially if you’re just doing it to hit the minimum number of references required. When in doubt, leave it out!
How to find sources for your essay
Time: 11.45am – 1pm
Now it’s time to gather the all-important 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. But you’ll find your essay easier to write if you’re armed with lots of relevant info, so don’t scrimp on it either.
Choose the keywords you’re searching for wisely, and copy and paste any key ideas and quotes you find into a separate ‘Research’ document.
If you’re using reference books rather than online resources, give yourself an extra 10 minutes to get anything that looks useful from the library. And, although it sounds obvious, remember to use the index!
Where to look for quotes online
Google Scholar is a great place to find direct quotes without spending time going through endless paragraphs.
Of course, your best bet will be any references that you’ve picked up in your lecture notes. Even if you haven’t noted down the names, take a look through the lecture slides (if your lecturer is kind enough to put them online) and see if they contain any gems.
Go straight to the source and check to see whether the lecturer has published a list of any advised reading on your module’s online platform.
While you gather quotes, keep a note of your sources and format them for your bibliography.
Not only will this help you swerve any accusations of plagiarism, but compiling your list of citations as you work saves having to do them all at the end (the last thing you want after smashing out 3,000 words).
Extra referencing tips
Say you’re reading a text by Author A, which includes references to quotes by Authors B, C and D. Rather than referencing the text by Author A, use the quotes from Authors B, C and D and use the bibliography from Author A to find the references to use for B, C and D.
Aside from being how you’re supposed to reference anyway, it has the added benefit of adding three sources to your bibliography instead of just the one.
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.
Alternatively, check out our list of apps for students to see how you could do the job just by scanning the barcode of whatever book you’re using!
Writing your essay
Time: 1.45pm – 6pm
You’ve had your brain-fuelling lunch, and now it’s time to get typing. 3,000 words sounds like a lot, and in many ways it is – but with your watertight essay plan under your belt, it should just be a case of expanding on all the points you’ve already listed.
If you struggle a bit with wording your ideas in an eloquent way, focus first on getting all your content down.
After all, you can refine the wording at the editing stage, and it’s much easier to think about style once you’ve typed up everything you want to say first.
While your essay plan should see you through, there’s nothing to say that more ideas won’t occur to you as you go along.
Unless they absolutely have to be included, jot them down on a notepad – they could come in handy if you need to make up the word count later!
How to reach the word count
Use the research you gathered earlier to support the key ideas you set out in your outline, but don’t ramble for the sake of it. Try to be concise and have faith that the strength of your arguments will take you to around 2,500(ish) words.
Imagine your essay is a bit like a kebab stick: the meat is your essential points and you surround each chunk with vegetables (quotes and remarks) to make the full kebab… God, we can’t wait for dinner at 6pm.
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 will almost certainly be an additional quote or two that you could throw in to make your point even clearer.
Of course, if you’re using a lot of quotes from other sources, make sure you paraphrase your main arguments to give the essay your own voice and make it clear which words are yours and which are someone else’s. Plagiarism is serious and all your hard work could be completely discounted if you don’t cite properly!
Your conclusion shouldn’t take too long at all. You’re basically just summarising the arguments you’ve spent the last few hours detailing, and explaining how they all tie together to support your overall response to the question you chose.
Editing your essay to perfection
Time: 6.45pm – 10.30pm
We’ve allowed 3 hours and 45 minutes for editing your essay, which might sound a bit excessive – and, for some of you, it definitely will be.
But, as we touched on earlier, not everyone can get their ideas written down and do it eloquently all in one go. If this is you, then take this time to refine what you’ve produced and make sure it gets full marks for written communication.
However, if you’re blessed with the ability to write immaculately and at speed, you may not need this long to edit your essay. If so, allow yourself a little more time after dinner to finish writing your essay.
However long you’re taking, you should still 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 (if your uni still requires you to provide a paper copy). 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!
Finally, ensure that all the points you wanted to explore are on paper (or screen) and explained fully. Are all your facts correct? Make things wordier (or more concise, depending on your circumstance) in order to hit your word limit.
Time to get started!
While starting essays a day before the deadline is far from recommended and unlikely to get you the best grades, 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. Go get ’em!