Cutting down on timed essays

As+time+drags+on+during+a+timed+essay%2C+ones+legibility+can+take+a+turn+for+the+worst.+The+best+thing+to+do+in+this+type+of+situation+is+to+rest+your+hand+for+five+minutes+and+waste+possibly+valuable+time.+Photo+credit%3A+Creative+Commons

As time drags on during a timed essay, one’s legibility can take a turn for the worst. The best thing to do in this type of situation is to rest your hand for five minutes and waste possibly valuable time. Photo credit: Creative Commons

Matthew Espinosa, Staff Writer

Essays with a time limit are what some might say is a way to gauge a student’s ability to think under stress, however, it only demonstrates how quickly a student can cram something semi-decent onto the paper.

More specifically, timed essays are what institutions like the AP College Board use to discern students’ potential by providing a prompt and asking for around four paragraphs of thought on the subject.

Except it’s more like 12 paragraphs of excruciatingly detailed thought during a three-hour AP English Exam, and the student can only write with a pencil and paper—an element which can be especially foreboding for those who write rather slowly.

What these types of tests do is dump unnecessary stress on students, who pump out bastardized writing as a result as if it’s an assignment that’s due the next morning.

Unless one’s career—for example, journalism—involves writing under a time limit, then it would make more sense to time students.

However, even journalism allows for more time to write, because although an article must be written in a timely fashion, it doesn’t quite need to be produced in less than 40 minutes.

One solution that might resolve this issue is to cut down on the number of timed essays so that this kind of test is infrequent.

In addition, accord the usual two hours of an AP English exam’s essay segment to only one prompt so students have more time to think.

And allow students to use a computer to type out a paper to diminish the possibility of anyone taking more time than necessary to write something that is legible.

Essay writing is already a stressful task that even those who enjoy the activity of writing itself lament at the thought of devoting hours of work into a neat, sensible paper.

It’s something that requires consideration and, to an extent, emotion.

Not to mention, anyone who has dabbled more seriously in writing is aware of the fact that editing is king and that the first draft might even look the same as the final.

Which is to say that is exactly what a timed essay is: a student’s first draft—and for a majority, not a clean one.

By all means, if someone is able to write something good on the first attempt then that’s good for them yet even when someone’s first attempt isn’t that doesn’t mean the student is a bad writer.

It just means that the student needs more time to refine the writing and make it into the best it can be.

Timed essays like those in AP English overlook the true potential in someone’s writing skills and go straight for the fastest writer out of the bunch.