I write too much then struggle to cut it down to the word count

PRIORITY ACTION 1: review your note making process

If you are writing an overly long first draft, it may be possible that you are collecting too much information for the scope of the essay. It's important to remember that an essay is not a test of everything you know about a subject. Instead, it tests your ability to select the most relevant information in support of your overall argument. This will require you to prioritise the information you collect as you may gather more information than you can use within the word limit. Review the way you make notes to see if you can more accurately focus your information gathering. Use your essay question as a constant source of reference through your reading and note making. You may find analysing the question before you begin to make notes a good way of establishing the parameters of the essay. As you go on to read from a range of sources, refer back to your essay question before you make any notes. When you find a point that you think is relevant, think about how it connects to the essay question and how you would be able to use it in the essay. This will help you to avoid recording all related material in an unfocused manner.


Most writers find that they often produce a first draft that goes over the word limit. It is normal to need more than one attempt to work out the most relevant content for the essay or the most concise way of expressing ideas. However, if your first draft is significantly over the word limit, and the process of reducing your first draft is proving too time consuming, then you will need to review the way you are writing essays.

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