Timed Writing

Timed writings measure your raw writing ability and your skill at thinking under pressure. They also reflect your ability to recall, synthesize, and analyze detailed material. If you choose to complete the Timed Writing Essay in the Writing Center, you may choose from among these four prompts:

  1. What is a concept from your major that you think everyone should understand (including people outside of or uninterested in your major)? In your essay: (1) explain the concept and (2) explain its relevance (why should everyone understand this concept)?
  2. If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be and how would that title be a reflection of you?
  3. Imagine that you can return to three events/periods in your life and give your former self advice. Explain those periods/events, the advice you’d give yourself, and why you’d give that advice.
  4. If you could craft any event on campus -- with unlimited resources -- what would you do?  What would be the desired outcome(s)? What would you want people to learn?
  5. What would you do with a 300-gallon jar of mustard?

Of course, you are not allowed to have written out the essay in advance. You may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and handbook.

You will have 75 minutes to complete your essay in the Writing Center. Be careful to note the Writing Center’s posted hours to ensure you have time enough to complete the essay before the center closes, and plan accordingly.

We will provide a bluebook, and you must write in ink. You may also write your exam on one of our computers, but understand then that a consultant will have to check over your shoulder to ensure that nothing other than Microsoft Word is ever opened on your screen. Note: During the week (Sunday – Thursday) before Writing Portfolios are due, you must use a blue book for your timed writing exam – so if you prefer to use the computer, plan ahead and take your timed writing earlier in the semester.

You may also choose to use a timed writing essay from an in-class exam -- from a midterm or final exam, for example.  However, please note that your essay should be a response to a single prompt, representing about an hour's worth of writing.

To prepare for your Timed Writing Essay, read the instructions below several times and highlight the lines that you want to remember. You may bring this sheet with you.
  • Use an effective opening, restating the question so that your reader knows which one you’ll answer. Restating the question also proves to your reader that you have understood it.
  • Get right to the point. Use your first paragraph to provide an overview of your essay, which you can do because you have (probably) made an outline. Use the rest of your essay to discuss these points in more detail.
  • Back up your points with specific information, examples, or quotations from your readings and notes; in other words, use detail. Be precise and show important details that demonstrate your knowledge.
  • Omit extraneous material—readers can quickly spot answers that have been padded with irrelevancies. Write a good, concise answer rather than a long, ineffective one. Emphasize your original insights.
  • Mastery of grammar, proper punctuation, and correct spelling make a good impression.
  • When concluding, restate your central idea, but don’t simply list points you just made. Comment more broadly on the significance of your conclusions.
  • Proofread your essay for errors such as misspellings, incomplete words and sentences, and incorrect punctuation. Always allow a few minutes at the end of your session for this final step.
Students with documented academic accommodations through the AES office are subject to the following
guidelines, the same as for all students: the Writing Center allows students to complete the Timed Writing
on the computer until one week before Writing Portfolios are due; however, during the week (Sunday –
Thursday) Writing Portfolios are due, students may use only a blue book, copies of which are provided in
the center. No accommodations provide for extending the Writing Portfolio deadline.

Students who have documentation for extended time for exams may apply this accommodation in the
Writing Center, provided they have a photo ID and appropriate documentation. Please take note of the
Writing Center’s posted hours, and plan accordingly. Students may contact the AES office with at least
three business days’ notice if they prefer to complete the timed essay in a less distracting environment
and/or on a computer (during the last week before portfolios are due). The AES office will accommodate
students as space is available.