How Long Does it Take to Write an Essay?

Posted: January 31, 2017 - to Education
Content blog

You’ve just received a new writing assignment. Your task is to write an essay. If you are like many of your fellow students, you start to calculate how long this is going to take. Maybe you like to plan ahead. If you know how long it will take you to write an essay, you can divvy that time up so that among the number of days you have until your paper is due. Maybe you like to procrastinate, and simply want to know how long you can put things off.

Unfortunately, there is no exact formula. However, if you are trying to come up with a rough estimate, here are some questions  you should ask yourself:

  • How much do I know about the topic at  hand?
  • Is my instructor a strict grader?
  • How much research will I need to do?
  • Will I need a bibliography, outline, or title page?
  • How well do I need to do in order to earn the grade I want at the end of the term?
  • Are citations required, or am I just sharing my own thoughts and opinions?
  • Does writing come naturally to me, or do I struggle?
  • Am I going to be busy with work, family, or social obligations?
  • Do I have the resources that I need to write an essay?

If you are writing a simple essay that requires no research, it will still take you at least an hour to write 500 words. Most professional writers cannot write faster than that. If you add in research, citations, life disruptions, and a lack of understanding, this increases significantly. So, rather than spending time coming up with exact calculations, your best bet is to do everything that you can to save as much time as possible.

When Possible Pick a Familiar Topic

If you are able to choose a topic that you already understand, even if just a bit, you are on the right track. You can use this as jumping off point to get started quickly. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t  have to do any research or take any notes. What it can mean is that you are easily able to find good resources, and to present solid arguments of your own. Overall, this is something that can make the writing process go faster.

Write Down Your Citation Information And Keep it Organized

Your essay is finished! You’re primed to do your signature happy dance. Then,  you realize that you have to deal with your citations. The problem is that you’ve forgotten where some of them are, didn’t bother to gather the information you needed, or simply did not take citations into consideration.

Fortunately, you can avoid this. If a works cited page or bibliography is part of the requirements that  have been given to you, just be sure to write the information that you need as soon as you use a source. Even better, there are apps that you can use to automatically record and organize citation information.

Get Help if You Need it

Nothing can slow you down more than struggling with your writing assignment. The more time you spend spinning your wheels, the less time you have to progress and move forward. You have multiple options for help, be sure you know what each of them is.

You can join a study group and get help from your peers. You can buy essay from a reliable content provider. You can go to your school's student resource center or writing lab, and get assistance for a teacher's assistant or student worker. Remember that your instructor can also provide you with help. All you have to do is ask.

Break Your Essay Into Manageable Tasks

Believe it or not, if you try to tackle your essay as one monolith task, it will take forever. However, if you break things down, and do one piece at a time, you will make much better progress. This is because  you won’t sap your mental energy so quickly. You won’t hit ‘walls’ as quickly, you’ll make fewer mistakes, and you will process information much faster.

If you treat your essay like a mountain, you will be exhausted before you are halfway through. However, if you treat it like a series of hills, you will reach your goal before you know it. Here’s an example.

  1. Select Topic and Jot Down Some Ideas
  2. Go to Library And Find Books, Determine Which Online Resources to Use
  3. Conduct General Research
  4. Create a Very Basic Outline
  5. Conduct More In Depth Research
  6. Choose a Position (if Applicable) And Create a Hypothesis
  7. Fill in Information on Outline (Include Citations)
  8. Pick a Word Processing Tool
  9. Write Rough Draft Based on Outline
  10. Use Grammarly to Check Grammar
  11. Use Readable to Ensure Your Writing is Sophisticated Enough
  12. Use Hemingway to Ensure Your Writing Isn’t Tedious
  13. Use a Text to Voice Tool to Read Your Paper Out Loud
  14. Polish Your Writing to Complete Your Final Draft
  15. Tackle Your Other Deliverables
  16. Celebrate Your Accomplishments

Find a Distraction Free Place to Work

Your work is going to go much more slowly if you cannot escape from distractions. It’s difficult to write an essay when you are dealing with noisy roommates, a busy library, or a crowded cafe. If people think it is okay to constantly interrupt you, that is problematic as well.

This is why it is important for students to identify two or three out of the way spots that are quiet. This way you can put your head down and get to work. Just be sure that the place you select has wi-fi, and that you are free to work there as long as you  need. Having good lighting and room to spread out your work can be helpful as well.

Use Technology to Keep Yourself on Track

Of course, you could be your own worst distraction. If your phone is a distraction, you could simply silence it or put it in another room. On the other hand, social media and other temptations can be difficult to avoid. After all, you cannot simply work without your computer. If you can’t resist checking social media or your friends’ Instagram accounts,  you might want to consider downloading an app that will block specific websites for a period of time.

You might also  use a tomato timer. Their are apps using the pomodoro method to help you stay on track. Basically, the timer keeps you working for 25 minutes at a time, then offers you a break at the end of each session. Every three or four work sessions, and you receive a 15 minute break.

Organization is Key

If you are continually fumbling around looking for notes, your pen, your textbook, etc. there is a problem. Keep your work area clean. Clear away everything that is not related to your essay. Use Evernote or some other app to keep your notes categorized and organized.


When trying to estimate the amount of time it will take to write even a basic essay, you have to consider research, writing time, and a variety of other factors. A 1200 word paper could take anywhere from five hours to well over twenty. By following the tips above, you may be able to shave off some time.  Happy writing!

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