5 Tips To Write Well Under Pressure

Timed written responses are a great way for schools to get an authentic snapshot of you and your voice in writing. Unlike college essays that can be written, re-written, and edited heavily by family, friends, or advisors, the timed written environment is designed to show schools the real you.
Timed written assessments were not designed to stress you out, but for some college applicants, the pressure to come up with a response in a short time can feel a little intimidating. So here are some tips to write well in a timed environment:

Warm up

Before starting your timed assessment, do a couple of writing warm-ups to physically and mentally get you primed for quick, compelling writing.
Here are a few warm-up ideas:

  1. Write a thank you letter to someone who has inspired you.
  2. Write a letter to your grade eight self with advice for high school.
  3. Write a 300-word review of a product you absolutely love.
  4. Write a detailed description of your bedroom.
  5. Write a biography about your best friend

Once you’re warmed up, use the Kira Prep portal to simulate the experience of your admissions assessment in the Kira platform.

Write about what you know

Rachel Toor, author of Write Your Way In: Crafting an Unforgettable College Admissions Essay, recommends students stay “small and close” and tell “personal stories about things that matter to them—instead of declaiming about how things are in society today.”
Unfortunately, many college applicants try to go so grandiose that they miss the mark of sharing something meaningful. Trying to create something unique for the sake of being unique leads to overthinking and, ultimately, slower typing. But it doesn’t necessarily lead to what schools want to read.

Take inventory of your ideas

If you’re feeling a case of writer’s block coming on, don’t panic. It’s common. Rather than worrying about the perfect first sentence or whether or not you need a semicolon there, get all of your ideas out there and formulate the content you want to get across. As you get all of your thoughts out there, you’ll not only find yourself typing quickly and generating more ideas, but you’ll also have content crafted that you can drag around rather than retyping.
You may find yourself dedicating more time to editing before you submit than actually writing as much as you can right up to the deadline.

Press mute on your internal editor

Almost all writers struggle with their own internal editor. In a high anxiety writing trial, like an exam or a timed written assessment, the fear of making a mistake or not writing something compelling enough is heightened and makes the internal editor even louder.
Dedicate a certain amount of time to be a no-internal-editor zone and force yourself to just write through the uncertainty, deleting text only if you make a typo, but not to rewrite and over analyze sentences. After the dedicated time passes, you can edit and rework your sentences.

Read your work aloud before hitting submit

Reading your own work can be frustrating and ineffective, especially in a time crunch. When proofreading our work we often are so familiar with the content that we miss our errors that can be so plainly seen by someone new. One tip to get around that in a timed setting is to read the essay aloud to yourself.

“Read the essay out loud. I mean, loud enough so that your dog can hear it. That’s a great way to catch linguistic hitches,” she says.
Want more tips from Rachel Toor? Check out our interview with her about admissions essays and how to write your way to success.