Timed Writing (The Prompt)

Time is always a limited resource. To help you use your time well, practice reading and brainstorming for different prompts.

Time is always a limited resource. Sometimes you will write with a time limit for a test, but the most common timed writing happens because you have a short amount of time to work on a paper because of your other plans. Manage your time in these assignments will help you balance your homework and personal life. 

When you are writing with a limited amount of time, it is extra important to plan your time so that you can give a complete answer. You do not have time to waste. Sometimes a time limit creates stress (especially during a test), so here are some tips to lower your stress and focus your time.

The Prompt

One reason that timed writing is difficult because you need to make quick decisions about ideas and organization. The brainstorm needs to be fast because you need to begin writing. This is different from many writing assignments when you have weeks to write your essay. 

First, you need to understand the question. This is true for any assignment, but it is especially important when you have limited time to make changes. You need to understand the type of writing (compare, describe, argue, explain) and create a thesis statement and supporting points. 

Once you understand the prompt, you can start creating your outline. 

Make a short list of the parts of the prompt if there are multiple questions. This is a good first step for creating a thesis and topic sentences. 

Outline Ideas

An outline is always good for your writing. You may think that the best idea is to immediately start writing. However, the time is limited, and that could lead to a very disorganized answer. Read the prompt carefully and make a short outline of ideas.

Your outline should include the important basics you will practice throughout this semester:

Timed Outlining

  • Read the prompt carefully. 
  • Brainstorm your ideas for each part of the question.
  • Organize your ideas into a clear outline.
  • Decide on what is the most important to include.
  • Write a thesis statement that answers the prompt.
  • Write topic sentences for your main points.
  • Write a restated thesis statement.


Exercise 1: Analyze Timed Writing Prompt

Read the prompts below. What type of writing is this? What questions do you need to answer in the prompt?

  1. What do you think is better: a vacation to an exciting city or a relaxing natural place? Why do you think that type of vacation is best? Explain your answer using details and examples.
  2. Describe your home city. What does it look like? What are the people like? You can compare it to Provo if that helps you describe the city with more detail.
  3. What are some of your habits and routines? Why do you do those things everyday? How did you start those habits?

Exercise 2: Timed Writing Practice

You have 30 minutes to respond to this prompt. Your answer should be around 250 words long. Before you begin, think about how you will use your time to complete the task

Prompt: What technology do you use to learn English? Describe how you use that technology in class or on your own to practice the language. Be specific in your details and examples.

This content is provided to you freely by Ensign College.

Access it online or download it at https://ensign.edtechbooks.org/foundations_c_writing/timed_writing_2.