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How Long Should An Essay Be?

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Essays are the most popular academic assignments in school. Writing essays can be challenging, mainly if you have limited experience in academic writing. Trying to figure out how long should an essay be can also be tough. Many people tend to ask, does the word count affect the quality of the work? The answer is yes and no. It can be long or short, but what’s important is the content. Institutions have a word limit for the purpose of fairness, testing communication skills as well as critical thinking skills.

The length of an essay varies depending on the subject of study, departmental guidelines, specific course requirements, and mainly the tutor’s instructions. An essay is usually shorter compared to research papers and dissertations. Your assignment will indicate the number of pages or words you are expected to write in most cases. For example, 1000-1200 words or 3 to 5 pages, double spaced. For many students who buy college essays online, getting the correct length is not a problem, but for those who don’t, this post will guide you on how long your essay should be.

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How Long Should Each Essay Part Be?


The introduction is an important paragraph in an essay. It not only introduces an overview of your argument but also hooks the reader to your paper. Once you fail to impress the reader at this point, they’ll lose interest in your work. An introduction gives a roadmap of the essay in a logical order; therefore, it needs to be strong. It might be one or two paragraphs depending on the simplicity or complexity of the paper. If your essay is longer, let’s say more than 3000 words, you might need two or more paragraphs. Remember to introduce your thesis statement at the end of your introduction. 


The main body is the longest part of the essay. This is because each paragraph covers a specific topic that relates to the thesis statement. It allows you to make your arguments, give your evidence and do the citations. Here, you have a chance to convince the reader, depending on what your claim is. A short essay can have three paragraphs, while a longer one of 3000 words can have five paragraphs. Therefore, it is important to use transition words to create a good flow.


The conclusion is the section that wraps up your argument and points. Conclusions answer questions like, is there an answer to your problem statement? Have you proved your argument? What further research is needed? Are your findings relevant? Sometimes, conclusions attempt to connect the essay to broader issues or areas of further study. Your conclusion can be a single paragraph or more, depending on the discussion of your paper. Most importantly, do not introduce new ideas in the conclusion to avoid confusing the reader.

Different Essay Length For Various Academic Level

  • Short and long essays
  • College application
  • Highschool
  • Undergraduate college
  • Graduate school admission
  • Graduate school

Short and Long Essays 

Essays are divided into two major categories—long and short essays. Long essays have 1000 words and more. Short essays, on the other hand, have 900 words and below. If a paper has less than two pages, it is also considered a short essay. A long essay will have three or more pages. Again, this will vary depending on the line spacing and the size of the font used. Below is a guide showing how long an essay should be.

Let’s dig deeper and determine the answer to the question, how long should an essay be?

College Application Essay

A college application essay is essentially a short one. When you start to write your own, it is good to note that the recommended length is between 200 and 650 words. Depending on which word count you go for and the line spacing used, you will use one or two pages.

College application essay experts, however, recommend a college application to have approximately 500 words. It should have single line spacing to give you a single page. If you use double spacing, you’ll get one and a half pages at most. 

High School Essay 

High school essays also fall in the category of short essays. Many high school assignments will require the student to write 300-1000 words. The number of pages for such will also vary depending on the line spacing and font size used. 

High school essays generally test a student’s grammar and the flow of ideas. It is for this reason that they are not long. The focus here is not the breakdown of a particular idea but to enable the student to write coherently. Some high school teachers can request longer essays from their students, but this is rare.

Undergraduate College Essay

The undergraduate college essay falls into the category of long essays. Undergraduate students face one of the most challenging writing experiences. However, compared to other levels discussed here, undergraduate college essays offer more time to write. 

Generally, undergraduate college essays will vary between 500-5000 words. The exact number of words that a student will write depends on the program the student is taking. Undergraduate essays are important for explaining concepts in-depth to show proficiency in the given topic. Most undergraduate essays create room for more research on the topic. 

Graduate School Admission Essay 

When applying for graduate school, an essay is as equally important as applying for an undergraduate. For graduate school admission essays, the focus is on your academic goals and how a postgraduate program will help you. 

Such essays do not demand a lot, and we can classify them as short essays. Generally, a graduate school admission essay will be between 500 and 1000 words. The exact number of words to write will depend on the candidate and whether there are any specific instructions on the same. 

Graduate School Essay 

The requirements for graduate school differ a bit compared to other levels. For graduate school, long-form essays are normal and take the form of research papers. These have the purpose of elaborating a single idea in-depth. A graduate school essay will be between 1250 and 10000 words. Sometimes, these long-form essays are hard to write. You might want to consider getting an MBA essay writing service.  

Can I Go Over The Suggested Word Count?

Going above the word count often occurs if you do not follow the instructions. Another reason might be the lack of a structured outline that shows you what your essay will cover. You might end up including too much information that might not be necessary. So, ensure you outline the major arguments and stick to them. Similarly, follow the instructions.

If you write an essay and add a few extra words, you can get away with the exceeding word limit. However, exceeding the word limit by many words can be a turn-off for your tutor. Tutors usually like students who follow instructions. They do not expect you to go beyond the word count they set. If you do, your tutor might conclude that your essay is full of filler words or irrelevant information, which is not good for you.

Can I Go Under The Suggested Word Count?

Writing an essay below the word limit is not advisable. It often happens if you fail to follow the prompt instructions on word count. If you also fail to comprehensively discuss all the major arguments about your topic you might end up having fewer words. Going under the suggested word count suggests you have nothing to say or your thoughts are inadequate, an impression you do not want to give.

If you can exhaust all your points under the word limit, you will probably get away with it as long as you provide clarity and communicate well. However, most essays have strict word limits that must be adhered to. When your tutor gives you a 500-word essay, he expects you to elaborate on the topic as well as you can in those number of words. You might want to consider making your essay longer.

How To Make Your Essay Longer

If you have exhausted all your points but still haven’t been able to achieve your word count. Here are some of the tips that will help you increase the word count.

1. Add Evidence and Examples

Claims need to be backed up with evidence. You can also add supporting evidence to any ideas you’ve discussed in the essay. Doing more research on a certain idea will give you more additional information to use. For example, if you had used one source to explain a point, find a second source. This will not only lengthen your essay but also make your essay stronger.

2. Use Transitional Words

The use of transitional words like because, therefore, nonetheless, though will make your essay longer. The purpose of transitional words is to make sure the reader jumps smoothly from one idea to another. Hence, they need to be natural. Please don’t force them into sentences or overuse them. 

3. Make Sure You’ve Included Everything 

Go through your essay and check if you’ve exhausted all the points you wanted to talk about. Ask yourself if you’ve answered all the questions or if there’s anything that needs further explanation. If the answer is yes, then make the magic happen.

4. Break Up Paragraphs 

If you have a long paragraph, you can decide to break it into two. This is important, particularly if you have a paragraph that talks about two different ideas. Remember, don’t give any unnecessary information.

5. Review Your Introduction and Conclusion

Sometimes new ideas strike as you continue writing your essay. Go back and check if you’ve left out any important information. If so, kindly add it.  At the conclusion, make sure you’ve summarized the main points in the essay. Also, remember to provide a solution to the reader.  

6. Use Quotations

Quotations are a great way of adding something extra to your argument while also increasing the word count. They also show that other writers agree with your ideas, and this solidifies your arguments. Don’t just use quotations for the sake of increasing your word count; make sure they are relevant to your subject topic. 

7. Be More Descriptive

Don’t just state things, go into details but also don’t overstate. For example, if you say high school students get sick because of bad food. Go ahead and give the reader the food timetable and maybe even use examples and say what the students think of their diet.

How To Make Your Essay Shorter

Sometimes you can have too much content that’s way over the word count. You might find yourself in a situation where you only have relevant content. So what will you do to reduce the word count?

1. Choose Active Voice 

Active voice uses fewer words than passive voice. They also make your communication more clear and communicative. Consider using more active voice sentences. 

2. Use Shorter Words 

Wherever possible, use short words instead of longer ones. Using contractions like; don’t or they’ve will help you achieve this. 

3. Revise Needless Transitions

As much as transitional words can help your essay look longer, let go of the unnecessary ones. Your sentences need to look natural rather than forced or misplaced.

4. Avoid Filler Words 

These are words like, you know, basically, just, very, needless to say, for what it’s worth, etc. Such words are unnecessary and add clutter to your work.  Avoid using them at all costs.

5. Remove Redundant Sentences 

If you have a sentence or two in the same paragraph that talks about the same thing. Consider choosing one because, as said earlier, the main objective is to have concise writing. You can also combine them into one sentence. 

6. Replace Noun With Verbs 

Nouns are usually longer and force you to add other extra words to make them grammatically correct. For example, instead of using, The categorization of…, use Categorizing…, Also, get rid of unnecessary helping verbs. 

7. Eliminate Anything That Doesn’t Relate To Your Main Point 

This is an easy step to reduce your word count. It will not only help you reduce the word count, but also make your essay better to read. 

8. Use Contractions 

A contraction is a shortened form of a word. For example, you can use don’t instead of do not. This is a great trick, mainly if you want to reduce your word count. You can consider eliminating redundant words or passages. 

What If There Is No Word Limit?

Sometimes, you’ll be required to write an essay, and there won’t be a specified word count. So, it will be up to you to figure out how to come up with the number of words to use. First, you’ll need to establish the type of essay required, then use the tips below;

Use A Sample

Find related essays that match your content. See how many words they have used. This will certainly give you a faint idea of the word count you can use in your essay. 

Read The Description 

An instructor might not have specified the word count, but there might be something to guide you in the description. It might be something like, in two well-developed paragraphs.” That means the two paragraphs can be pretty long but within a reasonable limit, about 450–500 words. So this kind of situation requires you to estimate or even guess a bit.

Search For The Length  Requirements

They say if it’s not on Google, it doesn’t exist. Use google or any other digital platform like Quora to see the discussions about the essay writing requirements. You can also search within the college site to see if you can get answers. 

Contact The Instructor 

If there is completely no mention of paragraphs or pages or no clue from the websites, contact the college for clarity. Generally, the word limit for a standard college admissions essay is 500 words. The limit is enough to get your points across fast, as admissions officers have thousands of essays to read. 

Let The Paragraphs Guide You

The number of discussion points determines how many paragraphs you’ll have in your essay. For example, if you have five points in the main body, that means five paragraphs. So this will allow you to stick to the necessary points without having many or few words.

How To Maximize Your Word Count Effectively

You want to write a good essay that communicates effectively. An essay with clear writing, relevant examples, and an essay without redundant sentences. Here are tips that will help you have a good word count. 

Prepare An Outline 

An outline is like a roadmap that will guide you on how to write your essay. As a result, it will help you focus and develop every idea. Outlines also give an essay good order and flow. Thus, this will help you achieve clarity and help you stick within the word count. Likewise, have an outline that includes all the major arguments you would like to include in your essay. That way, you will not leave out any points and have more than enough words.

Review Existing Literature

Checking other similar essays will give you a faint idea of how long your essay should be. Hence, you won’t go too much beyond or above your word count. 

Be Straightforward and Concise 

Avoid overstating or giving too much necessary information. This will not only confuse the reader but also make your arguments weak. But when you are straightforward and concise, you make it easy for someone to read and clearly understand your essay. 

Be Relevant 

If you have any information that doesn’t relate to your main argument, you can cut it out. Remember, everything should be tied to your thesis statement. Thus, removing unnecessary information will help you reduce the word count. 

Edit and Proofread  

We all tend to make mistakes in our writing. But grammatical errors make a writer look unprofessional and careless. Make sure you use tools like Grammarly to edit your work, or if you have any doubts, ask for editing services. This way, they’ll either remove unnecessary words or add more, a tip that will help you work within your word count. 

Use Examples and Illustrations

Tables, diagrams, and illustrations are included as part of the word count, especially when they appear in the main body of your work. Find relevant items that provide important data rather than just illustrative material. Where you have used examples to illustrate your points, consider using another example. 

Answers To Popular Questions

How Long Is a 500-word Essay?

A 500-word, double-spaced essay, with font Times New Roman and font size 12, is about 2 pages long. If the essay is single-spaced with the same font type and size, it will be only 1 page long. The same essay would be about two and a half pages long for other non-standard fonts such as Courier with wide spacing and letters.

How Long Is a 1000-word Essay?

Most essays require a double-spaced format, Times New Roman, and 12pt font size. Following this format, a 1000-word essay comes to about four pages. For a single-spaced essay, the length will be about two pages long.

How Many Pages Is a 1500-word Essay?

A 1500-word essay is about three pages, single spacing or six pages, double spacing. The count is for the standard font sizes of 12-point Arial or Times New Roman. However, the page count is determined by your editor settings and might differ for other fonts and specifications. 

How Many Pages Is a 2000-word Essay?

A 2000-word essay is about four single-spaced pages or eight double-spaced pages for the conventional 12-point Times New Roman or Arial. For other fonts such as Courier, it would be around nine pages, double-spaced.

How Many Paragraphs Are In an Essay?

The standard format of an essay is the 5-paragraph essay. However, an essay can have 3 or 4 paragraphs or as many paragraphs as need be, depending on the essay’s length. All essays should have a minimum of 3 paragraphs as there must be an introduction, body, and conclusion.
Below is a table that summarizes how long an essay should be, considering both single & double-spaced options.

Types Of EssaysAverage Word Count Approximate Number of PagesEssay Content
High School essay300 – 10001 – 4 They have an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The content varies depending on the subject matter.
Undergraduate Application Essay200 – 6501- 3 These essays talk about why you want to enroll in that particular school.
Undergraduate Essay500 – 50002- 18These types of essays are written in school. The content also varies depending on the subject matter.
Graduate School Admission Essay500 – 10002 – 4They involve a detailed personal statement stating why you want to get admission 
Graduate Essay1250 – 10,0004 – 36They include in-depth research, problem statement, and conclusions.
An essay guide
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It is important to know which type of essay you are writing and what word count is expected at each academic level. This will guide you when researching how long essays or term papers should be whenever you have a writing assignment.

How Long Should An Essay Be? Infographic by Brightwriters

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How long is a short essay?

A short essay should be approximately 300 – 500 words. That is 1- 2 pages. Remember, it doesn’t have to be of less quality because it’s a short essay. Put the same effort you would have put in while writing a longer essay.

How long should Common App essays be?

Common essays should be between 250-650 words. Ensure to stay within this length.

How many pages is a 650-word essay?

A 650-word Times New Roman essay, font size 12, and double spaced with a one-inch margin should not be more than two and a half pages.

How many words is considered a long essay?

A long essay has more than 1000 words. Sometimes it can even go up to 3000 words. When writing a long essay, remember to focus only on the relevant content.

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