In one sense writing is the crucial step in the process of learning a subject, in that it helps you to get to grips with the new ideas. Without this it’s difficult, if not impossible, to know clearly just how well you’ve understood the subject.
In the same way, it also provides you with the opportunity to get feedback from your tutor, not just on how well you’ve understood the subject, but on how well you’ve communicated this, and where your strengths and weaknesses are, so you can concentrate your energies more effectively.
If you’ve planned the essay well, so that it’s got a clear structure, you’ll find, when it comes to preparing for the final exam, that the plan itself is just about the most important revision material you have. It shows you how you’ve come to understand the topic, and how you’ve organised the ideas. As such, it is the one thing that you will be able to recall and use most effectively under timed conditions. In fact many students who plan well use just these clearly organised thought patterns as their only revision material.
Writing an essay, then, is a valuable opportunity for learning, which ought to be approached positively. If you hide behind the text, just paraphrasing or copying what you’ve read, without processing those ideas and making them your own, your tutor will rarely see you, your abilities, or your problems, and you will never glimpse the extent of your abilities, or just how much you understand.
If you omit any of these or just rush them, certain familiar problems will emerge in your writing: irrelevance, weak structure, insufficient evidence and examples to support your arguments, lack of fluency between paragraphs, inconsistent arguments, and many others.
It’s also as important to separate each stage so that you leave, say, at least a day between each of them. Of course, it may not always be possible for you to do this. You may have a number of competing obligations that leave you only a few days to complete the essay.
On these occasions, the skills you’ll learn in this book to manage your time will help you cope more effectively. They will also help you organize your time so that with most pieces of work you can in fact find sufficient time between each stage. Not only does this allow you to return to your ideas fresh so that you’re able to see which of them needs to be edited out, but you will also find that your ideas and arguments have developed in the meantime