What Is A Good Essay Length

As a former college admissions officer who read over 3,000 essays every admissions cycle, I can’t stress enough that students should consider quality over quantity when drafting college essays. My colleagues have previously written blog posts encouraging students to draft essays in their everyday voice, and to avoid replacing normal words with cousins from the thesaurus. The bigger picture here is to tell your own story as clearly and concisely as you can. The same goes for the length of your personal statement—hone in on the specific message you want to convey and deliver it as succinctly as you can.

Admission officers prioritize content over quantity. I never met an admission officer who literally counted the words in a college essay. Outliers in either direction were immediately noticed, though—writing 250 words when the space accommodates 650, or submitting 2-3 pages when a single page was requested—can send a bad first impression. But the difference between 280 words and 315 words, or 512 words and 627 words, will go completely unnoticed. Admission officers do notice, however, the clarity of your thought and the effectiveness with which you convey your ideas. If your message was well-said in 250 words but the maximum was 300, so you added 50 words of fluff, those 50 words are diluting the strength of your message.  Similarly, if you wrote a 500-word piece you’re proud of but the maximum is 300, please don’t go line-by-line to delete extra words; instead, reconsider the scope of your essay, because you may have selected a larger topic than can be thoughtfully addressed within the word count.

For those of you still concerned about the literal word count: The most common “personal statement” length is in the ballpark of 500 words. The three standardized application portals—the Common App, the Universal App, and the Coalition App—all request personal statements capped at 650 words, but that’s the absolute limit, at which point your writing will be cut off.  I consider 500 the “sweet spot,” but don’t stress if you write an essay closer to 430 or 620 that you’re honestly proud of.  Many colleges also ask for short answer responses, sometimes called supplemental prompts or personal insight questions, in the range of 150, 250, or 350 words; in this case, aim for the suggested length and be aware of the hard limits on either end, but don’t stress if you’re over or under by 10-15%.

How long should an essay or research paper be?


These tips on how long an essay, research paper or writing assignment will help you make good grades and take your papers and essays from just ok to an A+ paper. Keep reading to finds some tips on essay writing such as how long an essay should be and how to make your essay longer or how make a research paper shorter.


How do you know how long an essay should be?

Many times an instructor will tell you how long an essay or a research paper should be or give you a page number range, such as saying the paper should be between 5-7 pages. If you don't have a page range, the length of your essay can depend on a lot of things. When in doubt, ask for guidance. If you can't get help, you'll have to guess.

During an essay test, usually one or two paragraphs will answer short essay questions.

For big essay tests, where there is only 1 question for a whole hour-long test, you will be expected to compose an entire essay. In that case, write 5 paragraphs including all the parts of a composition of between 1-2 written pages.

For high school papers, usually teachers want normal essays or research papers to be between 3-5 pages, and they expect more like 5-7 pages for final papers. In middle school or junior high school, normal papers will probably be 1-2 pages in length and final paper 2-4. Naturally, you should go by what your teacher tells you and only use this as a guide if you don't have more information.

In college, it depends on what level the class is and the level of importance of an assignment. Early in the semester or to review reading assignments, you will only have to write maybe 1-3 pages, or 5-7 for more important tasks.

For an final paper in an intro or 100-level college class, professors don't usually ask for more than 10-12 pages. For a final research paper at a 300-400 level or upper level course, you can be expected to produce papers of 15-20 pages. Naturally, this depends on the university you're attending, the professors' preferences and your field of study. Math majors will not have to write long papers. History majors will write lots of lengthy papers.

How long is each part of an essay?

If you are wondering how long each part of an essay (the introduction, the body and the conclusion) should be, here are some ideas of how to balance the length. The overall length of an essay will often depends on how big the topic is.

The list below will give you a rough idea, but the main point is that each part should be in proportion to the other parts. As an essay gets longer, the body should become longer than the corresponding introduction. The below outlines can give you a rough idea. Most teachers will not fault you for going too long, but they will dock your grade for writing too short of an essay, so err on the side of too long if you have to go one way.

How long should each section of a paper be?

As an essay gets longer, each part must get longer to balance. Your introduction and conclusion will always be the shortest parts, and should be similar in length. They will ALWAYS be shorter than the body of the paper. Every essay needs an intro, a body and a conclusion.

For a 1 page essay or to write an answer to a long essay test, make each section one paragraph.
1. Introduction with thesis statement, 1 paragraph
2. Body point A, 1 paragraph
3. Body point B, 1 paragraph
4. Body point C, 1 paragraph
5. Conclusion, 1 paragraph

For a 5 page essay:
1. Introduction, about 3/4 to 1 page
2. Body point A, about 1 page
3. Body point B, about 1 page
4. Body point C, about 1 page
5. Conclusion, about 3/4 to 1 page

For a 10 page paper:
1. Introduction, about 1 page or 1 and a 1/2 pages
2. Body point A, about 2 and a 1/2 pages
3. Body point B, about 2 and a 1/2 pages
4. Body point C, about 2 and a 1/2 pages
5. Conclusion, 1 page or 1 and a 1/2 pages

For a 15 page paper:
1. Introduction, about 1 and a 1/2 or 2 pages
2. Body point A, about 4 pages
3. Body point B, about 4 pages
4. Body point C, about 4 pages
5. Conclusion, about 1 and a 1/2 or 2 pages



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