For additional practice, you can invent your own writing prompts by selecting one or two quotes from a book of quotations, then creating an assignment that addresses the subject. Sometimes, your assignment can simply be the question, “Do you agree or disagree? Why?” When used with a good quote, this is usually focused enough to result in an interesting essay.

The more you practice, the faster and better you’ll become at writing timed essays. If the outfielder in the softball game had practiced vaulting the fence or located a nearby gate before that ball sped by, he might have been able to enjoy his moment of glory. Similarly, you have a chance to prepare thoroughly for the timed essay exam—will you be ready when the challenge comes? 

Published on March 6, 2009

Janice Campbell, who homeschooled her four sons from preschool into college, is author of Transcripts Made Easy, Get a Jump Start on College, Evaluate Writing the Easy Way, and Excellence in Literature, a classics-based, college-prep English curriculum for homeschoolers. She is the creator of the Beat-the-Clock Essay Workshop and also directs the National Association of Independent Writing Evaluators ( Visit to learn more and to sign up for her free e-newsletter!

This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb ’09 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Get more great homeschooling help by downloading our FREE report entitled “The Secret to Homeschooling Freedom” by visiting