Timed Writes

Times writes: benefit or burden to us all?

Téa Schmid and Nyla Libed


By: Téa Schmid

Every AP English and AP US History student knows about timed writes. Whether you like them or hate them, they are very helpful.

There is no easy way to test one’s skills in writing with the same controlled circumstances for every student. Timed writes are the best way to test one’s writing skills. A handout about timed essays from the writing program at Duke University, the program states that the essays are popular with teachers because they allow them to grade holistically in a limited time frame. While it may not be entirely accurate on what a student is fully capable of with writing, it is the only way to fairly assess every student.

While the act of writing a timed write can be stressful and difficult, the practices done in class can help alleviate some of those issues. The more a student practices, the less likely they are to freeze up with anxiety on the actual test.

A high school AP course is a college level course; it should prepare students for college. In college, in-class essays happen more frequently. Taking timed writes now will help prepare a student for that anxiety-inducing situation. “I constantly get emails and letters from former students who say […] that as much as they hated the timed writes, they really helped out in college,” says Mrs. Jody Lineman, the AP Language teacher at Bothell.  

Overall, timed writes are awesome and while there are some flaws, aren’t there flaws with every system? So AP students, the next time you complain about timed writes remember they are there for your benefit.


Jane Wang
The clock ticks as students struggle to complete their timed writes.



By: Nyla Libed


It’s down to the wire. You can’t hear anything except the pounding of your own head, and the scratching of twenty pencils against paper. Got to focus, got to focus. You’ve got forty minutes. Forty minutes, one passage to read, three rhetorical strategies to analyze, and five paragraphs to write.

The stage has been set for arguably the most stressful forty minutes of your AP course: a timed write.

How can somebody fairly judge your ability to rhetorically analyze anything if you’re only given forty minutes to do it? Yes, there are some people that thrive under pressure, that rush of adrenaline stimulating their brain, pushing them to write their best.

However, that is not the case for everybody. Say you take around five minutes to read the passage you’re assigned, and of course, annotate any rhetorical strategies you see. When dividing the time taken to write each paragraph, that gives you a plentiful seven minutes to write each paragraph in your essay. Seven minutes to not only write out each paragraph, but seven minutes to clearly explain your thought process as to why these rhetorical strategies were effective.

How are we expected to perform our absolute best if we are put under this amount of pressure? Whatever happened to taking your time to examine the text and thoughtfully write down your ideas to make sure that you did the best that you possibly could at analyzing? When did speed become a higher priority than quality?

To put this in other words, I would rather eat a home-cooked meal that took two hours to make than a  McDonald’s burger that was prepared in five minutes.