Writing a 500-word essay in 40 minutes

Many learners, educators, and parents are finding themselves at home during this COVID-19 pandemic. Some are new to online education, and some know exactly what they’re doing. No matter your situation, we’ve put together and will continue to put together, easy-to-use activities to help ensure that the quality of your learning isn’t compromised during this time. Let’s get started!



At high school, you’re expected to be able to write a 500-word essay in 40 minutes.

Don’t worry, it’s possible and many of you might have done this before! In most jurisdictions, secondary-level students are expected to be able to write a good, critical essay of approximately 500 words in 40 minutes. At college or university, instructors may design exams with essay questions with the assumption that one response will take a student approximately 40 minutes. 



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Let’s get started with the challenge!

So how do you prepare? Practice, practice, practice, and learn to use the time you have wisely! Here’s how to break down your 40 minutes:



1. DECIDE ON A TOPIC (1 minute)

If you are going to practice at home, choose a topic for yourself. It doesn’t have to be something that your teacher gives you, it can be anything. For instance, you might want to write about the Covid-19 pandemic (or conversely, that might be the last thing you want to write about now). If you’re feeling a little uninspired here’s a list of over 500 from the New York Times Learning Network that you can choose from.



2. DO A QUICK OUTLINE (5 minutes)

Once you know your topic, a 500-word essay will usually have 2 or 3 main points.


Do a quick outline with those 2 or 3 main points that will support your particular perspective on the topic.


If you have quotations or other elements that can illustrate and/or support those 2 or 3 points, then list them underneath each point.



3. START WRITING YOUR INTRODUCTION (less than 10 minutes)

Now that you’ve got a topic and your perspective on the topic, 2 or 3 points with some evidence or illustrations of each, you’re ready to begin writing.


The first few sentences in your introductory paragraph should introduce your topic and clearly state your perspective on it, with a brief “roadmap” of those 2 to 3 points that the rest of your 40-minute essay will raise.



4. FILL OUT THE BODY PARAGRAPHS (20 to 30 minutes)

Now take no more than 10 minutes per body paragraph and fill out the details from your outline.


Your topic sentence should clearly say how the point or idea is related to helping to illustrate your overall perspective on the topic at hand.


Then you can have a few sentences with your examples that help to show how your point does what you say it does, followed by a concluding sentence that both sums up the main idea of that paragraph and helps to logically transition into the next paragraph.




In your conclusion you want to sum up the main point you are making about the topic and clearly state why it matters.


What is the answer to an imagined “so what” question someone might ask of your essay. Why should someone care? 




There you have it! You or anyone who is at home and wanting to practice essay-writing for high school can easily sit down for 40 minutes and write some practice essays…pick a topic, any topic!


And, of course, EssayJack has a free built-in 5 paragraph essay template that you can use (as many times as you like) to walk you through these steps one by one. So sign up for our FREE trial today and make sure you’re on top of your writing skills. 


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