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In-Class Essay Guide : How to Write
  • Oct 2022
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In-Class Essay Guide : How to Write

6th October 2022

You'd been anticipating this day for a week. It's that dreaded day when you have to write an in-class essay.

You don't perform well under duress. You don't have time to plan your thoughts. You're never sure what to write.

You're terrified and can feel your heart racing in your chest. A panic button or, at the very least, an Easy Button is required.

Even if you do have one, hitting it amid class is unlikely to make writing your essay any simpler. It's also unlikely to impress your professor.

So, what should you do?

Staying cool and preparing for an in-class essay is the best thing you can do (and maybe leave the Easy Button at home).


The Best Way to Prepare for Your In-Class Essay

If you know you'll have to write an in-class essay, your professor may assign it in one of two ways:

  • Your professor may inform you that you will be writing an essay (and provide no clue about what you might be writing about).

  • Your professor may provide you with a list of potential subjects or questions to help you prepare for the essay.

I'll give you some pointers to help you prepare for any form of in-class essay.

Writing an in-class essay without prior knowledge of topics or the essay prompt.

If your professor only advises you to expect to write an in-class essay on a specific date, you must try your best to anticipate what you will be expected to write about.

Here are three ways for anticipating questions.


#1: Get inside the mind of your professor

This may be more difficult to accomplish towards the start of the semester. However, if it's at least mid-term, you should have a fair idea of how your professor is.

No, I don't mean knowing he'll put on that ridiculous tweed jacket with elbow patches just because it's Thursday and that's what he wears every Thursday.

I'm talking about knowing what themes he believes are essential and what he'll most likely ask you to write about.

For example, does he keep reminding you to go over the study questions after each chapter? If so, he's probably giving you a signal about what kind of information to look into.

Has he spent the last three weeks rambling on about the reasons for the Vietnam War, then seemingly at random references in an in-class essay? If that's the case, you can generally expect him to ask you to write anything regarding the causes of the war.


#2: Review your notes, the course handouts and PowerPoints, and the text

Consider the main points of the knowledge you've been learning. Consider the chapter or module's objectives.

Has your lecturer already assigned you goals or informed you what you should study? (If you can't remember, consult the syllabus.)

Course descriptions often include the course's goals and objectives.) All of these things can help you anticipate potential queries.


#3: Try to anticipate the type of question your prof might ask

Is your professor interested in contrasting characters from different novels? If this is the case, any form of comparison question could be a good fit for the essay.

Does your professor begin each lecture discussion by asking the students to tie the course subject to current events or current topics? If that's the case, odds are he'll ask a similar question in the in-class essay.

Writing an in-class essay with knowledge of the topic or the essay prompt

If your professor gives you loads of study recommendations or even sample questions for the essay, don't assume you can skip studying. It's not a good idea to wing it when you get to class.

You will not be able to compose a successful essay unless you practice and prepare. It's like receiving a top rank in Call of Duty the first time you play. It's simply not going to happen. Writing (and gaming) both require practice.


#1: Review the sample questions carefully

Remember that these are essentially assignment directions, so double-check that you understand what you're supposed to be doing. Should you explain, compare and contrast, or argue?

Pay close attention to the details as well. Make sure you've supplied at least three instances if you're required to do so. Please do so if you are specifically instructed to avoid certain topics or disputes.

Don't waste valuable points by neglecting to read the instructions!


#2: Annotate your text or take notes on a separate page

Take advantage of any opportunities to use your book or notes while writing an in-class essay. Make the mistake of believing that you will have time to search for facts while working. That time will be required for writing.

Instead, make notes in your book on which sections you might paraphrase, quote, or otherwise use to support your claims.

Even if you can't use the notes in class, the act of writing them down helps you recall the content. This, of course, means that you'll have a higher chance of retaining the crucial information when it comes time to compose the essay.


#3: Try a practice essay or outline

If your professor assigns you two or three questions and instructs you to write about one of them, you can try writing out the answers to the questions.

If you decide to write a practice essay, keep track of the time. This will help you plan your time for in-class writing.

You may not have the time (or energy) to compose ten example essays if you have a list of ten probable questions. You can, however, outline suggestions for each question.

Even if you can't utilize your notes during the in-class essay, you'll be better prepared to compose it because you'll know exactly what you want to write about.

You might also look at sample essays on your projected topic to get ideas on how to approach your essay.


"That was simple!"

Don't you feel better about writing an in-class essay already? A little planning goes a long way toward reducing the stress that often comes with timed writing assignments.

If you're one of those people who feels a little better prepared but is already worried about how to manage your time in class, read How to develop a study habit in a short duration.

Good luck, and take it easy!

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