Tis’ the season for exam essays and take-home exams. These are two things that we cannot help you with here at the Writing Centre. It is time for you to spread your metaphorical wings and fly. If you are one of our regulars, trust in what you have learned over the semester and apply it to your finals.

The WC closes on Friday, December 2nd, but you are not completely on your own. We are here in spirit. Kind of like the Ghost of Semester Past. Here are some tips to help you get through the final stretch of your semester:

Exam Essays


  • Tips #1: Plan


    • When writing any essay — whether it is timed or not — you should make a plan. Taking even just five or ten minutes to outline how you want to write your essay will improve your clarity and your structure.
    • You may have to write a mile a minute, but isn’t it better to end with a clear essay than one that is just following your messy train of thought?


  • Tip #2: Reread it


    • Even with an outline, it can be easy to just vomit words all over the page. Make sure that you take a couple of minutes at the end of your exam to look over what you have written.
    • Try to fix anything (grammar, content, structure, formatting) that sounds weird, doesn’t fit into the essay, or isn’t answering the question you were given.


  • Tip #3: Breathe


    • There is no question that time crunches can be stressful. Especially when the crunch is timed. You have 75 to 180 minutes to write one, maybe two, or maybe even three full essays.
    • Breathe. When you are stressed sometimes it is best to just take a deep breath and calm down.

Take Home Exams


  • Tip #1: Utilize your time


    • Most take home exams are due in a week. Take that time to go through the writing process.
    • Remember that thing you learned in grade five? Brainstorm, Plan, Rough Draft, Revise, Edit. Use it. Your grade school teachers didn’t just tell you about the writing process for fun. It actually works.


  • Tip #2: Use your text


    • Relate course material to your take home exam. Most exams will have material covered in the textbook or on online databases. Use scholarly information to make your essay a strong piece of work.


  • Tip #3: Make time


    • Unless this is your only class, you probably have other final exams or final papers happening around the same time. Schedule your time for the last few weeks of the semester.
    • Make sure to give yourself set times to work on your take home exam. It can be easy to forget about when you are in the midst of a busy schedule.
  • For more tips on writing take home exams, check out: https://lblearningservices.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/keys-to-success-the-take-home-exam/

I’m sure it was scary when you took off the training wheels on your bike as a kid. Taking that leap is hard, but it is also gratifying. You can do this. And you can rely on yourself to get this done. Take a few deep breaths and just push off.

If you need a little more support, take a look at last week’s guide to self-editing.

Until the new year my friends.

Your friendly talking pencil,

Gary Graphite