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How Long Is an Essay: Answers You've Been Looking For

How long is an essay that professors constantly ask their students to write? The numbers differ depending on various requirements, and unfortunately, there are so many of them that most young people find themselves lost. Essay size is vital because only by knowing what it is, you can adequately plan the content, number of sources, or even time you’ll be spending on this work. We are going to help you figure out all these intricacies once and for all: take a look at explanations and examples below and keep them in mind whenever you get another writing assignment.

Average College Essay Length: General Facts

Before we delve into specific examples based on subjects and educational levels, let’s look at some general statistics. All papers are divided into three typical sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. So, the shortest essay should have at least 3 paragraphs, one for every respective section. Each of them has its own specified length that students specializing in different majors should follow. It doesn’t matter whether you’re studying in college and working on English or Math tasks, the standard will be the same. Introduction should range from 5% to 10% from content. So, if we are talking about a 1000 word essay, intro should be 100 words maximum. If an essay has 5000 words, this length could increase up to 500 words. The same rule covers conclusion: never make it longer than 10% unless asked for it specifically because you could lose points over this. Body receives the remaining amount of content. So, its academic length should be approximately 80% from an essay.

Making Sense of Sentences and Paragraphs

Overall length of the paper as well as of its separate parts isn’t the only thing that matters.  Word count for essays’ sentences and paragraphs is important, too, so there is a certain format you should follow for meeting academic requirements. Try sticking to the following norms. One sentence normally ranges between 10 and 35 words. Anything shorter fails in conveying your thoughts properly while longer sizes make your content too hard to read. As for paragraphs, they should have between 100 and 200 words. Their maximum length equals 2/3 of the standard Word page. When it comes to really short papers, make sure you include 3 sentences minimum into your paragraph, and you’ll do just fine.  

How Many Paragraphs Are In an Essay?

Now it’s time for looking at a more specific example. Essay length often differs in terms of types: this way, easier tasks like writing a letter for a friend take approximately 600 words. They should have between 2 to 4 paragraphs. Reflections and personal narrations range between 1000-1200 words, and they require creating somewhere between 4-8 paragraphs. Persuasive, argumentative, as well as analysis papers should be longer. Students must perform a lengthy research for them and express their views by basing them on scholarly sources. How long are essays like this? They take about 1500 words, which equals 5 academic pages as well as 6-13 paragraphs.  

Term papers start with 1500 and go up to 2100 words. They demand serious work, dedication, and extensive research, so you should really pace your content and include at least 9 paragraphs. Dissertations are the biggest task that students should be working on for an entire academic year. Their minimal size is 3000 words, and it’s impossible to really calculate numbers of paragraphs that should be present because there are too many conditions and variations involved.

Essay Length Depending on Type and Complexity

Now, let’s analyze how long an essay should be  in accordance with your study level. High school, college, university — these writing levels have different complexity. We’re going to dissect them based on the quantity of pages they require.  

  • High school papers. A 5 paragraph essay is the most common assignment given to high school students. At this stage, they are learning how to piece their thoughts together as well as conduct the simplest analyses. Tasks like this have between 300 and 900 words, where two paragraphs go for intro and conclusion while the remaining three are given to the body.
  • College essays. In college, homework becomes more complex. You are already expected to know how to perform long analyses and use evidence, so your investment should be more intense. Don’t expect an assignment like a  five paragraph essay — you’ll encounter diverse papers with varying nature, and their size is going to range between 900 and up to 4000 words. Average size would actually be about 4-8 pages (which is between 1200 and 2400 words), but exceptions happen, so we decided to give you the smallest and the biggest possible numbers. The tasks could involve research, proposals, reports on companies’ performance, qualitative analysis, etc.
  • Admission essays. Admissions could be of two different types. When you’re applying to college, you’ll likely be required to write a 750 word essay detailing your personal experiences or interests. You’ll need to indicate what strengths you have and why you decided to choose this institution in particular. For admissions on a graduate level, the size increases. It should have around 1000 words, and requirements might be more difficult. This way, you could be asked to respond to a specific prompt or elaborate on your experiences in a more thorough manner.
  • Graduate essays. This is the most complex type of academic work. At this point, a 500 word essay will look like a dream — word count here is going to be between 2500 and 6000 words. This is a lot, so you’ll have to consider whether you are prepared to do so much work before attempting to apply for this level of education. Naturally, the final size depends on your discipline and type of a task. But there will be a lot of stuff to do, that’s for sure — and that’s not even counting dissertations.  

Writing Below the Required Word Count

If you wanted to know, “How long should an essay be?”, then you likely got your answer in the sections above. But note that these facts are universal for the most part. Professors might ask you to write less or more words — everything depends on their own preferences. So the first thing you should do is check your instructions. What do they state? How many pages are needed? Use the numbers above only if you are given free rein in writing. But there is one rule you must follow regardless of any other circumstances: never go under the suggested length. If you were told to write a 250 word essay, you cannot write any less than that. Even 245 words might piss college professors off, so they’ll tank the entire essay without even giving it a chance. Avoid this mistake if you want to get an adequate grade. If you feel out of any ideas, try to expand those you’ve already presented. Add more sentences with details until the word count meets minimal requirements.

Learn how to write an essay and make it perfect.

Writing Above the Requested Word Count

While some students struggle with expanding their essays and reaching the minimal mark of the word count, others are overly enthusiastic. They love writing or feel interested in a specific essay topic, so they cannot stop on time and keep adding new information even after exceeding the number of pages they were asked to write. Would that be fine with professors? This is something you should find out by yourself. In general, writing more is definitely better than writing less, so you have more chances of earning appreciation and praise for your efforts.

But once again, this depends on your professors. Their attitudes differ: some are pleased to see extra dedication and evaluate it highly, thinking that students deserve a higher grade simply for genuinely trying to complete the task. Others could get annoyed. These professors don’t want to spend time on reading more than they are paid for. They already have many other essays to check, so any delay frustrates them. This type will stop reading as soon as they hit the word count they requested. If they asked for a 200 word essay and a student wrote 250 words, they’ll stop at 200, making their assessment on this basis. Remember these nuances if you’re one of enthusiastic writers.

Follow Length Guidelines for Creating a Perfect Essay

Of course, the length of an essay isn’t everything, but it forms the basics that help determine how much content you’ll need to generate as a writer. Be attentive to your instructions and follow what your teachers say. Some of them might welcome deviations from the word count while others will hate it, so try being careful. When in doubt and if instructions aren’t clear, just ask, how long is a short essay / a long research paper? Keep the numbers we offered above in mind, too. 

Posted by Diana B., January 22, 2021