How To:

Ace Every Essay Assignment with Less Substance, More Fluff

Essay writing is the bane of most students' educational existence. Whether you're a college student tired of slaving away over 30-plus page research papers or a high school student just trying to get through AP Language, chances are you'd love to find a way to cut down on all the writing. Before you spend hours googling facts and figures to cram into your next paper, work smarter by cutting down on content.

More Words = More Points

According to Dr. Les Perelman, director of undergradute writing at MIT, in some cases, the quality of your writing doesn't matter at all. After studying high school students' SAT essays, Dr. Perelman discovered that length was key to a high score—even if the facts are incorrect.

Image by Teach and Learn/Flickr

Those who answered the SAT's mandatory writing prompt with a short, concise essay were awarded the lowest scores, while those whose essays were filled with excess words snagged the highest. Perelman found that mistakes, such as incorrect dates for historical events and improperly attributed quotes, did nothing to alter a student's score. Successful essays, according to the College Board and Perelman's findings, only comes to those who write more, not well.

Go Ahead & Fluff Things Up

Most students, of course, aren't exactly worried about SAT scores anymore. Instead, you're wrapped up in research papers and literature analyses. Essay writing for classes usually takes some time, even if you have it down to a science. Yet similar to those College Board graders, the instructor grading your work cares only about the length, not the substance.

Image by Tim Riley/Flickr

Your teachers and professors see a lot of students every day. Each class they teach comes with assignments and, if they're the kind of teacher who loves giving lengthy homework, a lot of grading. Though it might appear that your teachers spend hours of their time pouring over each individual paper, that's typically not the case. They enjoy having free time, too, and with 50-plus papers to grade, they aren't going to devote a whole lot of their time to careful reading.

As US News mentions, professors can spend as few as 10 minutes reading your carefully crafted essay. As a result, they care about only one thing: your point. Did you answer the assignment? Does it meet the length requirement? Anything beyond that is just extra work and extra reading.

Will Your Teacher Fall for the Trick?

We know that stuffing more words into an SAT essay means a better score, and the same goes for busy professors and teachers swamped with grading. The more rushed they are to grade written work, the more likely they are to offer grades based on length and good bullshitting than actual, factual research and strong writing.

Image via Shutterstock

You can easily tell if your teacher is one who grades on looks rather than substance by looking for a few signs. First, how many students are they facing? If you're sitting in a large lecture hall, or know that there are two other sections of the same class with the same instructor, chances are they've got a heavy student load. This most likely means they're overwhelmed with assignments—and they just want to make sure you're turning work in, no matter its quality.

Just like the pressure of a rapidly approaching essay due date, teachers feel the time crunch of handing out grades soon thereafter. If it looks like you've put some effort into it, you'll get a better grade than shorter, lighter essays.

Image via Shutterstock

Additionally, as mentioned in the same US News piece, a larger school often means substance doesn't matter. At big colleges, professors tend to rely on graduate students, teaching assistants, or even their departmental office assistants to grade the sea of papers that flood their inbox every semester.

If you attend a school with a student body of 10,000 or more, there's a good chance your work is graded by someone who has very little knowledge of the class, not your actual instructor. In this case, who cares if your obscure poetry facts aren't 100 percent true? The grad student might be an English student, too—or they could spend their days in the Psych lab, only reading their textbook and not yours.

Insert Fluff at Your Own Risk

Save yourself some time on your next essay assignment by skipping the time-consuming research process and filling each line with fluff. Of course, grading varies from teacher to teacher, so use this method at your own risk. Make sure adding fat to your assignments won't hurt your grades—a semester with an angry teacher wouldn't be good for your GPA.

Cover image via Shutterstock

1 Comment

This brings to mind a Southeast Asian History exam I didn't study for, where I wrote a completely made-up story about a war between two sultans (or something). I got a B while some of the people who wrote historically accurate essays got Cs. It did help that the teacher was a bit... unstable.

Now, many reports and research papers that and up on my desk that hide substance (or the lack of it) in loads of fluff. It's maddening.

Thankfully, all my decent English teachers preferred substance to fluff.

Share Your Thoughts

  • Hot
  • Latest