Exams vs Essays: Which is best?

With both assessments carrying pros and cons which ultimately is the best?

Paige Rutter
20th March 2024
Image credit- Kelly Sikkema, Unspash.
Many of my assessments have been essays, and I’ve learnt over time the best way to plan and write them. As a former politics undergrad, essays did become my least favourite things towards the end. However, would I choose an exam over them? I’m not so sure. 

If you are anything like me, I love to leave my essays until the last minute (wouldn’t recommend). Because of this I will find myself coming up with ideas and planning my essay weeks before then when it comes to writing it, it will be a panic until it’s done.

This is the only reason I would side with exams over essays, I did many 48-hour exams and despite them being essay style but in a shorter time frame.

"I saw myself having less time to procrastinate. I also appreciated the relief of a module being over within 48 hours."

Depending on the topic, I found myself writing essays I enjoyed and having so much to talk about - the ability to have time to plan it out and fit everything in worked best. The opportunity to have more time to go back over your essay before submitting is better than the tight timeframe of an exam.

For example, with a 48-hour exam, although lecturers advise to spend a few hours on it, I would always find myself thinking about it for the full 48-hours. Often after it was submitted, I would come up with an idea which was much better than what I wrote. 

This was the downside I found to a 48-hour exam, there was a lack of time to be able to plan as I felt I needed to get cracking as soon as it was released.

"I would also fall back into old habits during exams and would spend most of the second 24 hours writing the full thing after more procrastination."

Having no control over what content I would be writing about also did not appeal to me. I did enjoy the fast pace of an exam, however, essays will always be my go-to. 

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