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Help! I don’t write essays to revise – is that ok?

If you don’t write essays to revise for essay-based exams, you’re not alone

Most guides for exam revision, especially for essay-based GCSEs and A-Levels, recommend writing practice essays. If this fact makes you glance around to see if anyone else is feeling guilty, you’re not alone. Many people don’t use practice essays as a method of preparation, even for exams that are essay-based. But is that necessarily bad?

The golden rule of revision is that you should do what is best for you

The fact is, by the time you get to that point in school, you’re probably written dozens of essays. You’ve studied how to plan them, research them, structure them, write them, and even proof read and edit them. When it comes to essay time, it may be that the actual writing of the essay isn’t the part you need to practice. If that’s the case for you, there are other key areas on which to focus your revision.

A key part of this is, of course, making sure you have the knowledge you need. There are certain facts that, in regular life, you may be able to Google and have as close as your phone, but in an exam situation, these need to be internalised and ready to be pulled from memory. Taking time to make sure you have these thoroughly memorised is a very effective use of revision time.

Similar to having the knowledge at hand, is making sure your analytical skills are sharp. Practicing looking at an issue from multiple viewpoints, identifying and articulating the complexities of an issue is also key to a top-grade effort.

Many people also find that trying to repeat a practiced essay results in a flattening of their creativity. The writing becomes deadpan and uninteresting. When considering that your paper will sit in front of a person who is marking many, many essays in a row, having that extra spark that indicates both interest and enthusiasm, is a good thing.

The edge may not be in practicing the whole process, but rather in making sure the foundational skills and knowledge are strong, and then displaying them in the moment, letting the intensity of the exam work for you. You may find that you’ll analyse the topic in the moment, resulting is sharper arguments and more robust conclusions and analysis.

Student, know thyself… and write with confidence when the time comes.

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