Me vs. Timed Writing Exams

Upon the completion of my last IB History HL paper, I am now completely done with those 4- or 5-paragraph, 40ish minute timed essays for exams. Thank goodness.

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These are “AP-style” essays pretty much intended for timed writings. After all three AP histories, both AP Englishes, plus IB History and English (though, thankfully that one had a longer time limit and more meat to it), as well as all the accompanying practice and tests in class. (Oh, and AP French, which also included a similar essay. What a surprise.) Basically, I can crank these things out, but I hate the anticipation that builds to them and I never want to do them.

Maybe my mind will change when I’m a teacher, but honestly, the only thing I think these are useful for is getting something down on paper when there’s a time limit and, in the case of history, testing your ability to analyze from what you remember about the topic. Well, and I suppose to get something out of the students who won’t turn in their papers if you assign them at home. They serve well for that purpose–the graders aren’t extremely harsh and, furthermore, don’t spened that much time scoring them–but it just lacks something more.

I’ll do well on ever single essay, but there’s nothing I’m esepecially proud of or that I enjoyed. Okay, I admit I do enjoy the English ones if I have a cool analysis of the prompt/extract/poem and I get excited about it. But I can’t consider them among my best essays because they’re riddled with little errors (and bad handwriting) because I didn’t have the time left over to carefully reread. And while I do have to curb my habit of obsessive typo-checking, sometimes you just need to sleep on your thesis, do a bit of reading, and give yourself time to think of something that’s exactly what you want.

They’re also terribly formulaic. Context and thesis. Two or three main points with supporting evidence and analysis to connect to your thesis. Conclusion to wrap it up.There’s a limited way of going about it. You’ve also got to write linerally, and if you’re someone like me with concentration problems and accustomed to writing  (especially creatively) on a computer, it can be frustrating. I usually write on a word processor by jumping around when I have ideas or a specific way to word something and then connect and rearrange everything (and rewrite some). This is why writing something with a clear beginning and end and continuity on paper doesn’t jive well with me. And so, I don’t think the actual process of writing essays should be a one-fits-all approach.

I don’t really have a comment about the nature of standardized tests, because I haven’t had an experience with the new standards myself, and these exams are certainly not created with the same intentions. (Though I have heard some things about the approach to English…but that’s another thing. Plus, these tests are rapidly moving online.)  When I was in elementary in middle school, we always had a writing prompt that was more open-ended and creative, and I always found myself coming up with something fantastical.

That was fun. And for me, I do enjoy mad creative fervor..but I think it’s not the best way to teach writing to begin with. That isn’t what AP does necessarily, but I think with some students, the limited time and space makes it difficult for them to improve. A few take-home and extended time essays might not be enough for them to get it down in time.

So I’m not a fan (and frankly am just exhausted of these things), and I think it would be incredibly difficult to teach to all students. …And I’m also more exicted than I probably should be to have papers assigned for college.


Published by Olivia Anne Gennaro

Writer. Storyteller. Reporter. Podcaster. Nerd.

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