Essay Length - How Much Over or Under Can You Go? Watch

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wordsearch
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#1
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I have an essay that was set at 2,500 words. How many words over or under can this be, or am I expected to get that exact amount :/

I know this probably varies but if you know what it would be at your uni that would be helpful. It's a first year essay if it makes a difference!
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Jonah Ramone
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#2
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My essays are usually 2,000 words, and I aim to hit at least 1,800. I'd say you should be looking not to go more than 250 words over or under.
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thelostchild
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I've always been told to do ±10% so for 2500 word essay anywhere between 2250-2750.

If you exceed those most places will start deducting marks
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hobnob
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Some universities are very strict about word limits, so you might want to check your course handbook, just to be on the safe side. Unless your essay is blatantly too short or too long (i.e. 10 pages for a 3000-word essay or 8 pages for a 6000-word essay, or something like that chances of someone actually counting the words in your essay are rather slim, though, so you'd probably get away with an extra paragraph. Unless you're submitting it electronically, perhaps, because that makes checking your word count a lot easier, obviously...
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ShaolinTemple
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Do they deduct marks if it's lets say 2650 words (150 words over) or they deduct marks after the 10%
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hobnob
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(Original post by ShaolinTemple)
Do they deduct marks if it's lets say 2650 words (150 words over) or they deduct marks after the 10%
It depends. You'll need to check your university's regulations on this. They'll be somewhere in your course handbook.
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apotoftea
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Ours is 10% either way and over that we get penalised
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Minardi
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#8
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We're fine 10% either way, over than and there is a penalty. I think thats the norm.
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Ice_Queen
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10% for us too. I managed to negotiate extra with a tutor though.
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iolaus
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We have 10% either way and no penalisation, if we go between 10 and 20% then you loose 10 % marks (so if it was a 70% essay you'd get 60%). Over 20% and they refuse to mark it and it's an outright fail
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Angelil
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#11
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10% in Exeter too.
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love_mojitos
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You have to ask your uni and check the regulations. We may only get marks deducted if we got 10% over. But if you can do an essay in under 10% then why not!
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Quinion
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For us, 10% above means the start of deductions on a standard scale (ie x% off per y number of words over the 110% limit). The above replies confirm that's pretty much a norm.
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love_mojitos
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Jesus we have handed in essays way over the word count and do not think got penalised!!!
So you will have to ask the Uni, that is the best help anyone can give!
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love_mojitos
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By the way my brother went to Loughbrough and first informed me of the 10% either way rule, but Sheffield Hallam only applies 10% over rule and says you may be penalised!
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99p And A Flake
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At Warwick they ignore every word after the 1500th or whatever the limit is, so you don't lose marks per se, you just can't gain them. I don't think going under is a problem though, unless you really take the mickey
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Catsmeat
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#17
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(Original post by sporkoflife)
I have an essay that was set at 2,500 words. How many words over or under can this be, or am I expected to get that exact amount :/

I know this probably varies but if you know what it would be at your uni that would be helpful. It's a first year essay if it makes a difference!
I've consistently gone over my word limit, and whilst my supervisors havn't distinctly suggested that I should cut down I feel that It's probably time that I should. After all, a functional essay demands clarity and succinctness rather than extended 'mess'; the longer an essay the harder it is to keep a handle on the development of a tight argument. Actually, we don't have bounded word limits as our supervisors tend to set the questions on their own inspiration, and don't seem that anxious to suggest any particular length (though it has generally been around 2,500).

2,500 words sounds a suitable length, though I suppose it depends what subject you're reading for...
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~Sam~
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We're not allowed to go more than 40 words over without being penalised, so not every uni is 10%
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Fields
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#19
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We have page limits rather than word limits which makes it easier for them to check, and if you go over they (allegedly) don't even read the excess page(s).
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fuzzyduck
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#20
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On my course they say that for a 2,000 word essay you should aim to write a minimum of 1,800. If you write less than that they will only mark the essay if you show definite signs of achieving a pass mark. There is no specific penalty, but they say it is their experience that under-length essays do not receive good marks.

As far as going over the word limit is concerned, they are fairly strict and say they will not read anything over the word limit. Again, there is no specific penalty, but they will treat your essay as though the last part has not been included, and so you will lose marks for structure as your essay will have no conclusion. However, at the moment we do not have to submit our essays electronically, so generally essays that are 50-60 words over will get away with it.

If you are less than 10% over the word limit, you can generally cut it down a fair bit just by removing unnecessary words and rephasing sentences to make them more concise.

If you're seriously over, go through your essay with a highlighter pen, separating it into sections, for example, introduction, point one, point two, point three, point four, point five, conclusion. Then read through all the points you're making and delete the one which contributes the least to your argument, and is therefore less effective.
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