How can I write faster in exams?

19 Dec

Mr Whitfield, do you have any tips on how I could write faster in exams? I push myself to the point where my writing becomes almost illegible yet I still struggle to write any more than 3 pages in a 40 minute essay and that’s excluding the time thinking about what to write.

1. Go to Study Skills Self-Help Information and click on “Seven Strategies for Improving Test Performance”. It may be your problem is here. Look too at “Exam writing tips from one who’s been there!”

2. Go to Writing Essay Exams (Online Writing Lab of Purdue University) for some good advice.

3. Test Anxiety will help you control that panic by taking you to lots of sites with good advice on that.

4. And if that is not enough there is even more on Test Writing Tips.

5. Quantity is not everything; sometimes a very concise three to four page answer can be more successful than a wordy long answer.

6. Occasionally the problem of short answers may have to do with difficulties the student has with the act of writing, or with concentration, and these may be caused by factors that merit special consideration. If you feel this is your case, consult your Year Adviser and your School Counsellor.


  • Practise with real questions from past papers, ones your teacher gives you, or even ones you make up yourself.
  • Frequently practise analysing questions. Ask yourself: “What does this mean?” “What would be relevant in an answer?” “How would I approach it?” Even five minutes spent doing this is valuable. Question analysis should become almost automatic, so you very quickly know what you are doing in any situation.
  • Frequently go one step further: jot down the three or four MAIN POINTS you would wish to make. Write a practice introduction based on those main points. Again, this may take only five or ten minutes, but will make you a much more efficient exam writer.
  • Less frequently (but often), write TIMED whole answers in 40 minutes to an hour. Either share them with your study group, if you are in one, or submit them to your teacher for feedback. Even if you don’t show the resulting essay to anyone else, you may benefit from it by putting it away for a week and then taking it out and looking at it critically. How successful do you think you were?
  • Read other students’ successful essays. What did they do to score that good result? You can find some published NSW HSC ones in the Library or your bookstore, or from the NSW Board of Studies.
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    Posted by on December 19, 2006 in esl for students, HSC, questions asked, student help, study skills, writing



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