Guest contributor, Erica Badino, is a writer on a quest to share her knowledge and experiences with students.
Essay writing is something students either struggle with, or shrug off like it’s nothing. I was fortunate to have the writer genes needed to get me through these academic milestones, but for those who aren’t born to be writers, these can be a cause of serious stress.
The stress doubles when the student is taking a timed test like the ACT or SAT that requires them to finish the essay in a certain amount of time. Fortunately, with proper practice and skills, students can learn how to write essays faster than ever before. Join us as we look at three tips for speeding up your essay writing.
3 Ways to Crank Up Your Essay Writing Speed
The secret to quickly written essays isn’t anything in particular, it’s a network of different practices and skills. It’s all about putting a plan together, practicing, and staying focused. Here are three ways to make that happen:
1. Put Together an Outline
Having an outline is key if you want to write faster. Going in without a plan will leave you open for writer’s block and dips in your productivity. I typically do all of my research and planning before a single word hits the page. This helps me gather my thoughts and establish a baseline for my topic.
Usually I focus on the points I want to make and write them down in sequential order. From there, I start with an introduction and then, if need be, jot down notes for each point on what topics I want to get into.
2. Practice Within Time Limits
Many essays are done within a limit. This is especially true of tests like the SAT and ACT. Writing under pressure isn’t easy, but if you can train yourself to do it, you’ll feel much more prepared for the big day.
The key is to not give yourself any extra time, and to work with a prompt you haven’t seen before. Recreate the exact situation that the test will take place in, and you’ll give yourself the proper tools and habits to adapt to the situation when it’s time to write.
3. Find Your Focus
Staying focused is far easier said than done. Consider these tips for keeping your focus intact while writing papers:
- Accept distractions, and meet them head on
- Stay where you are (in a test you don’t have a choice)
- Practice in silence
- Reward yourself when you hit certain goals
- Take a break every 45-minutes
- Edit when you’re finished writing, not during
- Leave a note for yourself to come back later if you get stuck on a spot
These tips will help you better stay in the moment and avoid things that will hamper your progress and ultimately slow you down. Sometimes it’s okay to come back to something later, or leave the editing for the final read through.
Writing faster is hard to imagine when you feel like you’re doing the best you can. These tips will help you make the most of your time and ultimately write faster without trying. Learning how to harness the tools you have in front of you is the secret to success.
How do you write faster? Let us know in the comments!
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On your home page, click on the “Account Information” link located just to the right of your avatar. You can even compare the below usage stats to last school year’s.
- Activation codes
- Total school logins
- Teacher and student login counts
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- Usage by test
- Subscription details and renewal dates
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Are you using USATestprep’s Class Activities or Quizzes in your classroom? What about our Puzzles and Flashcards? All of these standards-aligned resources are included with your school’s USATestprep subscription and can save you big when it comes to planning time. Give them a try in March!
Start your engines! An exciting new game has launched! Test Drive is now available to play in the game arcade. Costing four tokens, Test Drive gives students the opportunity to choose one of four characters (Tater Tot, Sasquatch, Naughty Chicken, or Penelope) and race around the track for a chance to finish in first place. Turbo boosts can be collected along the track for an instant burst of speed. Watch out for colliding opponents and sharp turns! This newest game is tablet-friendly and sure to be an instant favorite.
What’s the old way?
Previously, a teacher could edit assignment settings here (multiple attempts, minimum score, retry missed items) at any time, even after students started completing the assignment.
Why was it a problem?
That functionality was plagued by bugs, not to mention some confusion — were all students affected or only students who haven’t completed the assignment yet? What if the student has one attempt left and the settings are changed?
On top of that, it made troubleshooting much more difficult because what if the teacher changed the settings after the student finished the assignment? We didn’t keep track of those changes, so there was no way to be certain of the settings at the time when a student completed an assignment.
What’s the change?
We have removed those three settings from the Settings modal. So, here are the two main changes:
- If teachers want to change those settings, they must use the Edit button — but wait…can’t teachers only edit an assignment before any students have completed it?
- That is change #2. Teachers can only edit those three settings if NO students have completed it yet. That way, we can ensure that all students have the exact same settings.
Where can teachers view their settings?
To view the settings for a specific assignment, click on the assignment title. We’ve added the selected settings in those details as a reference.
USATestprep offers a variety of built-in accommodations on our site. These accommodations fall into two categories: Benchmark Accommodations and Assignments/Projector Based Resources.
- Duplicate Copy – When a benchmark is created, there is an option to make a duplicate copy. This is a great tool to use to meet the needs of diverse learners. The duplicate copy allows you to go in and change the test settings.
- Spanish Option – Questions, answers, and passages can be translated into Spanish. If you select this option, the test will not automatically be translated for every student. Instead, there will be a link at the top of the benchmark labeled “Español,” and if a student clicks on this link, the test will be translated.
- Reduce Answer Choices – This will reduce the number of answer choices from 4 to 3. It will still show all four answer options, but one will already be eliminated.
- Highlighter – We offer a highlighter tool that students can use to highlight key words and phrases.
- Audio Available – We offer audio recordings of passages, questions, and answers.
- Eliminate Answer – Students can hover over answer choices and choose to “Eliminate” the answer choice. When this is done, a line will be placed through the answer. If a student hovers over the answer choice again, he or she can “Restore” that answer.
- Printing Options – Our benchmarks can be printed in larger font sizes and with a variety of spacing options.
- Question Filters – When creating a custom benchmark, teachers can filter questions based on Low or High DOK or difficulty level.
Assignments/Projector Based Resources
- Multiple Attempts – When creating an assignment, teachers can allow students to have multiple attempts to improve their score.
- Minimum Score – Teachers can set a minimum mastery score on assignments.
- Difficulty Level – Our practice question difficulty levels can be adjusted to three options: Random, Beginner, or Advanced.
- Font Size – The font size for our projector based resources can be adjusted to be larger for students who may need this accommodation. For more information on accommodations, please refer to this webinar recording. To use these tools in your classroom, login to your USATestprep.com account.
- In the past, teachers could select a different start or end date for assignments within a group assignment on USATestprep.
- We are simplifying the Group Assignment interface:
- Teachers will select one start date and one end date for the entire group.
- The date picker tool is more user-friendly with a prettier calendar (updated for single assignments too).
- We added a message next to the end date to remind reachers that assignments are available to students for 2 months afterwards.
- If teachers prefer the old system of multiple assignment due dates, they can create multiple single assignments or break up group assignments into smaller chunks.
- What’s the benefit?
This change saves time when creating a group assignment and simplifies the interface quite a bit (no more date columns). Also, the date picker calendar is more user-friendly.
- What about existing group assignments?
Nothing will be changed. The exception is if a teacher adjusts the dates via the Settings modal (they will need to select one start date and one end date for everything), or if they click the Edit button to make changes to their assignment, they’ll have to select one start date and one end date for everything.
- Existing group assignments will not be affected unless teachers:
- Edit the start or end date.
- Add an additional assignment to the group.
1) Click on the “Classes” tab. Then, click the “Create New Class” link.
2) Give your class a name. Then, select the test(s) that will be used by this class and click “Continue.”
3) Now you can add students to your class. As you find the students you are looking for, you can add them by clicking the “+Add” link to the left of their names. Student names will appear on the left side as they are added. Click “Save and Manage Class” when finished.
4) Successful class creation will take you to the page seen below. Here you can click “Edit Class” to make adjustments, click “Password Cards” to print login information cards for each student, or click “Lock Game Arcade” to prevent students from playing games.
1) To change your account information, email preferences, or avatar, click “Edit Account.” Click “Account Information” to view activation codes, usage data, renewal dates, and account contacts.
2) Click on “Webinars” to access a wealth of training and expert insights on using USATestprep. Both pre-recorded and live sessions are available.
3) To access standards-aligned resources by content area and grade level, mouse over the top navigation. Click on the content area you wish to use. You will see a wide variety of online and printable resources, as well as projector games.
4) Click the respective tabs to create a class, benchmark, or assignment. Future emails will provide in-depth directions on using these sections of the website.
5) To access help resources, additional training information, and FAQs, click the “Need Help?” link. You may also contact USATestprep directly by clicking the “Feedback & Contact” button at the bottom of any page.
We’re beginning 2017 with a great enhancement: group assignments STAY TOGETHER in Graded Work. No longer do you have to use your FBI skills to find the first set of practice questions that a student completed for a 30-assignment group.
Other updates to Graded Work include:
- A new Completed column to show date completed and elapsed time
- Filters to view all results, assignments only, or independent practice only
- Group assignments can be expanded
- Only completed assignments will appear
- In the screenshot, for example, the student has completed 3 out of 12
- Due dates appear in pink if the assignment was completed late
- Elementary level students have a slightly different view since the Teacher/Class column was never implemented for elementary — that will be added soon