Do you have a (very) fast approaching deadline? Perhaps your essay is due today, or you have a dissertation deadline looming in just a few days. Well, you’re in luck. We’ve compiled some top tips from some of our most experienced academic writers, so you can learn how to write an essay (or other assignment) fast, without compromising on quality.

Sarah: look our for sneaky deadlines

The first thing I have learned about meeting extremely tight deadlines is, whenever possible, ,b>don’t let a deadline sneak up on you. I take pains not to knowingly let a deadline draw too near without having an essay well underway because I work better when I am not under too much pressure. Moderate pressure focuses my mind. But major deal of pressure? I simply freeze up.

Sometimes, though, a tight deadline is beyond your control. This has happened to me in education and in employment. As annoying as it might be, a short deadline in an educational setting is good preparation for life. For me, the major problem that I have when writing to a short deadline comes from taking pride in what I write. That may sound strange. Let me explain.

Because I take pride in my writing, I want whatever I have written to be the best it can be. That can easily change from being a source of motivation to being a dead weight.

An example: let’s suppose that I am required to write a 2,000-word analysis of a complex problem. It needs complete references, and it must be submitted before 5pm the day after tomorrow. I know perfectly well that, within that time frame, there is no realistic possibility that I’ll produce something that reflects my abilities and satisfies me. Quite simply, I have other responsibilities and plans, other commitments and deadlines, that aren’t going to just disappear so that I can work around the clock on this one thing. Even if I could work around the clock, my analysis would in the end be the worse for it. Working till half past stupid in the morning is one thing. But that’s a punishing regime and inevitably, if I work hours like that, the errors that I make multiply.

If you are a perfectionist, that quandary will probably sound familiar to you.

Experience has taught me to manage my expectations. Not everything that I write will be first-class. Experience has also taught me that’s not a problem. A competent, thoughtful analysis that meets the requirements and is submitted on time is perfectly respectable. Not everything has to be a masterpiece.

If you are a perfectionist, that quandary will probably sound familiar to you.

Experience has taught me to manage my expectations. Not everything that I write will be first-class. Experience has also taught me that’s not a problem. A competent, thoughtful analysis that meets the requirements and is submitted on time is perfectly respectable. Not everything has to be a masterpiece.

Think about it this way: when it comes to assessed work, will you get a better mark for a solid piece of work submitted on time, or a staggering work of genius submitted after the deadline? In many institutions, that would be a trick question: the moment the deadline has passed, electronic submissions close. What’s more, as far as most assessors I’ve known are concerned, nothing takes the glamour off a work genius quite like receiving it after you’ve already received a mountain of submission to assess.

It isn’t that I think complacency is a winning strategy. What I’m saying, rather, is that there are times when counsels of perfection ought to be ignored. “The best is the enemy of the good,” as Voltaire observed. So when I have a short deadline, I focus on the requirements and I meet them and I don’t kick myself later as if I have failed.

Varuj: the power of a really great outline

Time. We all wish that we had just a little bit more of it. Whether it is because there are multiple different assignments due, or whether it was because we spent a little bit too much time procrastinating and facing writer's block, there are instances where we need to write essays quickly.

When I first started writing essays, I would just sit down at the computer and start to write, especially if I was in a hurry. I gave little thought about how my paragraphs would be structured, and the idea of flow never crossed my mind. In these instances, my only focus was getting words down on paper, meeting the word count, and pressing that submit button at least one minute before the deadline.

This strategy rarely worked. My professors would comment that my work was disjointed, unorganised, and lacked critical thinking. I just sort of accepted these comments because I knew that I tried to write my essay quickly and I did not give it my best effort. Yet, as time has passed, I have learned a lot about how to write an essay fast. I have learned that even if I only have a few hours to write it in, an outline saves me so much time.

An outline is basically a short version of my essay, but the outline is like a skeleton, and I fill in the blanks as I go along. I start by breaking down the word count – let’s say I have to write 1500 words. I begin by allocating 10% for the introduction and conclusion (150 words each). This leaves 1200 words for my body paragraphs, so about 5 in total.

I then number out my sections, creating topics that I want to discuss. For each paragraph, I create a topic sentence, and then brainstorm some ideas that I think could fit well in this section. If there are course readings that I need to include, I mention these under each heading.

Once I have all my topics and a basic idea about what I am going to say, I rearrange the paragraphs into the most logical order, using the cut/paste function. Then, I pick what I think will be the easiest paragraph to write and I start there. After I have finished that paragraph, I move on to the next easiest, and then the next.

I never start by writing the introduction. I always write that last. This is because I want to make sure that my thesis or argument is consistent with what I have said in the body. If I want to appear like I put in a lot of effort, my introduction and conclusion have to match (in terms of the argument). Just because the reader will start with the introduction, it doesn’t mean that this needs to be my starting point.

While no method is perfect and will work for everyone, I have found that taking fifteen minutes to write a basic plan can save me hours of editing work later on. Instead of my work coming across disjointed, it now appears organised and ready for submission!

Simon: work out what you really want to say

You attended every lecture and seminar. You took notes assiduously. You did your reading. You even did extra reading. Yet, somehow, that end-of-term deadline slipped away from you. Now, it’s looming close. Too close! And you’ve Googled desperately and found this blog post. How to write an essay fast? How to finish an essay in 3 hours? I will be brief, because I know your time is precious.

Six words for you. No. Four words. My advice in four words, distilled from my twenty-year career in academic writing:


What? That's it?

That’s it. And here is why it’s important. The word ‘essay’ was originally a French word, coined in the seventeenth century, from essayer, meaning ‘to attempt, to try’. Not many people know that and it wouldn’t be important here.

Except, something of that original sense still lingers in people’s minds, when it comes to writing essays. Students, especially ones desperate to know how to write an essay quickly, latch on to that open-ended, free-form ‘try’. Pre-university schooling plays a role. ‘Just get something down’, teachers often say, ‘we can always tidy it up later’. What emerges, particularly when pressed for time, is a conception of the essay as an improvised piece of writing. It is one that you start without knowing how it will end. Your ideas will flitter onto the page like well-ordered butterflies. It’s a lovely thought. But it’s hugely debatable whether any of the great essayists ever wrote like this, or whether they just practiced that dashed-off, extemporised feel for literary effect. Ars est celare artem, after all. It is true art to conceal art.

I’m actually a huge supporter of drafting paragraphs, pages, and even entire chapters, as a useful way of thinking through complex ideas. But there is no place for this free-form and, quite frankly, self-indulgent thinking, when time is limited. A drafted, prototype ‘try’, done at leisure, can be mulled over, filed away, or even thrown in the bin. And all, in their way, are useful outcomes that propel you forward. But they take time – time you do not have.

If there’s a single route to how to write an essay in an hour, it is having something to say. Read your question, work out what your response is, the thirty-second elevator pitch version of it. The version that is stripped of introductory trappings, historical overviews, summaries of theories, and literature reviews. As soon as you have something to say, you can work backwards. You can work out a route through your given time and word-count as to how your essay can persuade its examiner of your something to say.

Plot that route, on a napkin. It’s easier to make big changes to an essay’s structure before it’s been written, rather than after. So take time with the napkin. It will, I guarantee you, save you time in the small hours of the morning, when you’re exhausted, over-caffeinated, and not at your sharpest. That napkin is your map, your north star. With it, you’ll never be lost for what to say next, or how to finish. With no decisions to be made, all you have to do is sit back. And now, write! Write furiously! Write, like you’re running out of time…

Nina: focus and scan

Picture the scene: you get an assignment from your professor. You then realise, in a slight panic, that the due date is just one week away. What's your approach?

Perhaps you pop on your "Mr/Mrs organised" hat and take your time planning everything out the moment the work is assigned. Or perhaps - and because you're reading this blog post I'll assume this is the more likely scenario - you have left things to the last minute, and now you need to write an essay fast.

My two top tips when it comes to writing an essay in a short deadline are simple: focus and scan.


Switch off your smartphone. Phone calls, social media updates, push messages – these are exactly what we don't need when we are writing an urgent essay. Smartphones are designed to hold our attention, to have us constantly scrolling or swiping. Remove the temptation altogether and either turn your phone off, turn it on to 'do not disturb' mode, or even download an app that locks your social media so that you can't access them, even if you are tempted.

Find a quiet working space. Background noise and distractions are a recipe for disaster if you're working to a tight deadline. Switch off the television, turn down the radio, and find a workspace that's private and quiet. If listening to classical music helps you concentrate, great! But having Friends on in the background or listening to your roommate on TikTok is only going to distract you further, so remove yourself from unnecessary noise and distractions wherever possible.

Don't panic. The more we panic, the more time we waste. It's the ultimate catch 22! You'll be far more productive if you feel cool, calm, and collected. So, take a few deep breaths, make sure you're aware of your deadline but not clock watching, and hunker down with your essay. Calmness helps you work much quicker and be as productive as possible in your limited time frame.


You've got three hours to finish your essay, and a requirement of using at least 10 scholarly sources. On the verge of hysteria, you realise that you simply don't have enough time to scrupulously study all of your sources. Here are three ways to effectively scan your literature and save time, without sacrificing your references:

Read the abstract. The abstract is key for anyone working to a tight deadline. The abstract includes all key information about the article and will help summarise which sections are worth looking through, and whether the article is even helpful or relevant to this specific essay you're writing.

Pick sections to read. As a rule, research articles have a rather rigid structure, and this structure will help you. It is likely that you'll find the required information in either the methods, result, or discussion sections, so head to these parts of the literature first and foremost to save time.

Make notes. Ideas come and go - they are fleeting. Keep track of what you're scanning - that is, note down the title of the article and the list of your findings. As thoughts and ideas come into your head, note these down too. This will help you to keep all your ideas for the essay in one place.

Working on a tight deadline is a difficult and stressful job. Both focusing on your work and scanning sources for ideas will help you save precious time, and enable you to quickly dig out ideas and generate those of your own.

Help is here

Everyone has different methods and techniques for getting academic work done in a hurry, and using all these tips above might not work for you. If one method speaks to you more than another, give it a go and see if helps you get your essay done quickly.

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, have a look at our Urgent Deadlines Service. We can help you with any assignment – essay, dissertation, exam revision, coursework – in any way you need, whether that’s model writing, marking, editing, or proofreading. We can often deliver your work on the same day, which is ideal if your deadline is really tight. If you’re unsure exactly what you need, contact us and we’ll be happy to talk you through how it works.