How Long Is an Essay? The Ultimate Essay Length Guide

It’s safe to say that most students struggle with the word limit within an essay. Sometimes, it’s hard to find ideas for a text and meet the word requirement for every part of the paper. With so many factors influencing essay length, it’s easy to get confused.

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The picture enumerates the factors influencing essay length.

Luckily, our custom-writing team has your back. In this article, our custom-writing experts will answer all your questions regarding essay length. We will also help you write papers with an ideal number of words!

📜 Is Essay Length Important?

📏 essay parts: recommended length.

  • 🤔 How to Make Essays Shorter or Longer
  • 📑 Essay Length & Formatting
  • ❓ Different Academic Levels FAQ
  • 📚 Essay Length: Different Types
  • ⭐ Other Aspects
  • 📝 Essay Examples

🔍 References

Often, the phrase “word limit” causes panic among students. After all, if an essay is too long or too short, your grade will be lowered. However, in reality, there’s nothing to worry about. When it comes to words, limitations are beneficial for both the students and the professors.

Let’s see what exactly it means.

Many people believe that the longer an essay is, the better. However, according to Frontiers, research shows that it’s a bias that couldn’t be further from the truth. A perfect-length paper is one that allows students to express their ideas and showcase their knowledge fully while keeping it clean and simple.

What Influences Essay Length

Various factors determine the length of an essay. Here are the most important ones:

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Let’s start with the essentials. Usually, assignment length is given as a number of words rather than pages. Unless your supervisor or instructor mentions any specific limitations, it’s acceptable to be 10% below or above the word limit.

It’s also worth knowing the 80/20 rule . According to it, the body should constitute 80% of the text, while the intro and the conclusion take up the remaining 20%.

Keep reading to learn more about the recommended length of each essay part. The main numbers are shown in the table below:

How Long Should an Introduction Be?

An introduction is the first section and the face of your essay. For that reason, it needs to be compelling and well-thought-out. Usually, it consists of 3 to 5 sentences or 50 to 80 words .

An introduction must have a hook, some background information, and a thesis statement. While the attention grabber and the thesis are usually brief, you may need 2 to 3 sentences for the background. To avoid going overboard, try to stay on topic and don’t add any filler.

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How Long Is a Body Paragraph in an Essay?

The length of a body paragraph may vary. Sometimes, it can be limited to a single sentence. In other cases, it may take up a whole page. Usually, it’s recommended to have between 80 and 200 words (5-8 sentences) per body paragraph.

Since the paper’s body contains the most information, it’s necessary to explain and support your ideas properly. That’s why it’s no big deal if your body paragraphs go slightly over the word limit.

How Many Body Paragraphs Should Be in an Essay?

Like the word count, the number of paragraphs is determined by the type of paper and its topic. The minimum is 1. Generally, however, the body consists of 3-5 paragraphs , 1 for each argument.

To improve your paper’s structure, ensure that there are as many paragraphs as there are points in your thesis statement. Each one should have a purpose and support your arguments. If there’s any fluff, it’s better to get rid of it.

How Long Should a Conclusion Be?

Like the introduction, the conclusion consists of 50-80 words . It’s essential to keep it simple and only mention the central ideas. A weak concluding sentence may affect the reader’s understanding of the topic and spoil the overall impression of your paper.

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🤔 How to Make Essays Shorter or Longer: Best Tips

Undoubtedly the essay’s content is more important than the number of words you use. But there are times when students go more than 10-15% below or over the limit. Is there a solution to this problem?

Yes, there is! In this section, we will share the most useful tips to help you stay on point with your paper’s word count.

How to Make Essays Longer

Since having enough words is essential for a good grade, we’ve collected the best tips that can help you lengthen your essay without teachers noticing:

  • Use relevant quotations.  You don’t need to litter your essay with citations, but using them whenever appropriate is a great idea. For instance, if you’re working on a book analysis, referencing a couple of direct quotes from the source text will make your essay more credible and increase the word count.
  • Give examples.  Go through the claims in your paper and provide additional evidence where possible. It will make your essay longer and more informative.
  • Use transitional expressions.  Adding transition words and phrases is a natural way of increasing the number of words. It will also improve your essay’s readability. 
  • Add more references.  Providing references is always a good idea when writing a formal essay. That way, you will increase the number of words and make your paper more credible.
  • Work on your descriptions.  If you struggle to develop new ideas, go over what you’ve already written and consider adding some descriptive words. It’s a great idea for creative essays to include more imagery. 

How to Shorten an Essay

Another struggle of academic writing is cutting down the number of words in your essay to meet a set limit. We are here to tell you that it’s not that hard. Writing straightforwardly and keeping your sentences short is a key to concise content. Here are several strategies you may use to tighten a lengthy essay:

  • Choose the active voice.  It takes up less space than passive voice. Using it also makes your writing more professional and compelling.
  • Remove needless transitions.  Transitions can indeed maintain the flow of the paper. But some transitional phrases can be easily removed.
  • Get rid of unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.  Some students tend to overuse adjectives and adverbs. It adds wordiness to their writing.
  • Avoid running starts.  Some students like to start their sentences with long phrases like: “there are,” “it is believed,” or “the fact that.” Getting rid of them makes texts much more concise.
  • Delete “that.”  In most cases, the word “that” can often be easily removed from texts.

Another cool trick is to use our summarizing tool as essay shortener. Try it out!

📑 How Long Is an Essay Depending on Formatting?

As we mentioned earlier, the essay’s length is usually limited by the number of words. But sometimes, a teacher may ask you to write a specific number of pages. This is trickier because the amount of text you can place on the page depends on the formatting. By using the font size and spacing properly, it’s possible to make the paper visually longer or shorter. Let’s discuss it in more detail.

The picture describes how formatting affects essay length.

Essay Spacing: How Does It Affect the Length?

  • Adjusting the spacing between lines.  Try to make the changes as slight as possible. For instance, if you were asked to double-space the paper, use 2.1 or 2.2 spacing instead. Another option is to slightly extend spaces between paragraphs.
  • Extending the margin size.  You can increase the right and bottom margins by a quarter to make very subtle changes in length. For example, if the margins are 1 inch , you can set them at 1.25 inches instead. 
  • Increasing the spacing between characters.  It is less noticeable than the line spacing. Still, try not to overdo it and keep the numbers between 1.2 and 1.5 . 
  • Adjusting the footer.  Add a footer with page numbers to stretch the bottom margin even further.
  • Lengthening the header.  You can extend your header by adding your name, e-mail address, or other relevant information. Another option is double-spacing it.

Length of an Essay: Font and Size

  • Using the right type of font.  If your instructor didn’t specify which font you should use, go for the bigger ones. We suggest Arial, Bangla Sangam MN, Cambria, or Quicksand. They will make your text look longer without being too on the nose.  
  • Using a bigger font size.  This is another technique that can come in handy. However, be careful and don’t increase your font by more than 0.1-0.5 pt.  
  • Increasing the size of periods and commas.   This is one of the less noticeable tricks you can use. For instance, if your paper’s font is 12 pt. , increase it to 14 pt. only for punctuation marks. Italicizing periods and commas will also add several lines of length to your essay. 

What to Do if There Are No Length Guidelines

Sometimes a teacher sets no word limit for a written work. What to do in that case? Well, first, you can ask your professor to confirm if they have simply forgotten to mention it. But if that’s not the case, here are a couple of helpful solutions:

  • Think of the paragraph number.  Sometimes, you may be given the number of paragraphs instead of words. In that case, you can decide on the number of words depending on how many paragraphs you have. 
  • Think about the topic’s complexity.  The length of your paper is also directly dependent on the theme. If the topic is simple, 4-5 paragraphs will be enough. A more complex issue may require an in-depth explanation, so your essay can be 6-8 paragraphs long.

❓ Essay Length for Different Academic Levels FAQ

The length of the elementary school essay is usually short. Usually, a paper needs to have around 3-5 paragraphs, with 4-5 sentences per paragraph. Primary school essays can be 1-2 paragraphs long.

The word limit for a middle school essay is usually between 300 to 1000 words. The most common essay length is 500 words, which is about 5 paragraphs. However, it may differ from school to school.

The length of the high school essay may differ depending on the school and the complexity of the task itself. Usually, however, a paper can be between 300 to 1000 words long.

The length of the undergraduate college essay often falls within the range of 1500 to 2100 words. It translates into roughly 5-7 pages. 5 pages is the most common essay length at this level.

When it comes to the graduate school admission essay, the word limit is usually between 500 and 1000 words. It’s possible to go slightly over or below the set limit; however, it’s best to stick to the requirements as close as possible.

📚 How Long Should an Essay Be: Different Types

Now, let’s talk about different types of essays. How long should they be? Keep reading to learn about the length of college essays, short and extended ones, scholarship essays, and research papers.

How Long Is a College Essay?

When it comes to a college essay, it’s more important to stick to the word limit than with any other paper. Some teachers may refuse to read it unless it meets all the requirements.

The shortest limit for a college essay is about 250 words which is the shortest length of a Common App personal statement. It’s also rare to see a good college essay with over 650 words . So, an average piece usually has between 150 and 650 words ; you can go over or below the limit by 50.

How Long Is a Paragraph in College Essays?

A college essay usually consists of 4-5 paragraphs . One paragraph takes about 1/3 of the page, which is roughly 5 sentences . Each sentence corresponds with one of the following components:

  • Topic sentence.
  • Explanation.
  • Transitions.

College Essay Length Requirements: Top 5 Schools

To understand the requirements for a college application essay even better, take a look at the table below. It showcases the top 5 schools and their length criteria for personal statements. Keep it in mind when writing your college essay:

How Long Is a Short Essay?

A short essay is usually 500 words long. Using 12pt Times New Roman font with standard margins and double spacing should result in about 2 pages of text.

Extended Essay Length

An extended essay is different from a short or a standard one. It requires extensive research and thorough explanation. That’s why the upper limit for this kind of essay is 4000 words . In this case, a typical essay length is 3500 words or 18 paragraphs .

Scholarship Essay Length

Generally, scholarship papers have a limit of 500 words , which is 1 page in length. Most scholarship programs provide additional requirements that indicate the minimum number of words or pages. If there are no set limitations, you can stick to the limit.

How Long Is a Research Paper?

Typically, a research paper is between 4000 and 6000 words long. Sometimes, there are shorter papers, which have around 2000 words, or in-depth ones with over 10000 words.

⭐ Other Aspects of Essay Length

When it comes to essay length, many different aspects come into play. Here, we’ve gathered all the essential information regarding an essay’s number of pages, paragraphs, words, and references.

How Many Paragraphs Are in an Essay?

Sometimes, it is more convenient to count paragraphs rather than words. Let’s now figure out how many paragraphs are in essays of different lengths. You may also check out the examples to see what such an essay looks like:

How to Count Paragraphs in an Essay Based on Word Count

You can also count the number of body paragraphs for your essay using the formula below:

Number of body paragraphs (average) = (TWC – TWC*0.16)/100

  • TWC – total word count
  • 0.16 – an average percentage of total word count for introduction and conclusion
  • 100 – an average number of words per paragraph

How Many Pages Are in an Essay?

The number of pages in your essay may vary from subject to subject. But it’s still possible to determine the number of pages based on word count. Check out the numbers below to see the conversions with bonus examples:

You can also use a specialized calculator such as Word Counter to determine a number of pages in your essay.

What Does an Essay Look Like when Typed?

You might be wondering: what do essays of different lengths look like when typed? Well, here’s the table where you can find out the metrics for single- and double-spaced papers.

How Many Pages Are in a Handwritten Essay?

In case you need to turn in a handwritten paper, you should check out the table below.

Counting Words in a Handwritten Essay

If you don’t have enough time to count the words in your handwritten essay one by one, here’s what you can do:

  • Count how many words there are in one line. Take the first and last lines and a line in the middle of a page. Let’s say there are 15, 14, and 15 words in them. Then, the average number of words per line is 15.
  • Next, count how many lines there are on one page. Let’s say there are 17 lines on a page.
  • Take the number of words per line and multiply it by the number of lines per page. In our case, we multiply 15 by 17. So, there are 255 words per page on average.
  • Finally, multiply the number of words per page by the number of pages. If your essay has 3 pages, it is approximately 765 words long.

How Long Does it Take to Write an Essay?

It is crucial to know how long writing will take you, especially if you are working on an exam essay or just short on time. Note that you need to consider the time for typing and researching necessary to complete a piece. Research time may vary. Usually, it’s 1-2 hours for 200-250 words .

The picture shows the fact about the average speed of writing.

Below, we’ve gathered the average writing time for average and slower writing speed:

And here are the results in pages:

How Many References Does an Essay Need?

Another essential part of any composition is the reference list. Different academic levels require different references. You’ll find out how many of them should be in your paper in the table below!

📝 Essay Examples: Different Length

Finally, we’ve gathered some excellent sample essays of different lengths. Make sure to check them out!

We also recommend you check out our free essay samples sorted by pages:

  • 1-Page Essay Examples
  • 2-Page Essay Examples
  • 3-Page Essay Examples
  • 4-Page Essay Examples
  • 5-Page Essay Examples
  • 10-Page Essay Examples
  • 20-Page Essay Examples
  • 30-Page Essay Examples
  • 40-Page Essay Examples
  • 50-Page Essay Examples

Now you know all about essay length, word limits, and ways to lengthen or shorten your text. If you know other interesting tricks, make sure to share them in a comment! Good luck with your writing assignments!

You may also like:

  • How to Write a Process Analysis Essay: Examples & Outline
  • How to Write a Precis: Definition, Guide, & Examples 
  • How to Write a Critical Analysis Essay: Examples & Guide
  • How to Write a Narrative Essay Outline: Template & Examples
  • How to Write a Formal Essay: Format, Rules, & Example
  • Word Limits and Assignment Length: Massey University
  • The Paragraph in the College Essay: California State University, Long Beach
  • Introductions & Conclusions: The University of Arizona Global Campus
  • How Long Should a Paragraph Be?: Daily Writing Tips
  • Paragraphing (Length Consistency): Purdue University
  • Hitting the Target Word Count in Your College Admission Essay:
  • How Long Should Your College Essay Be? What is the Ideal Length?: College Vine
  • Writing Personal Statements Online: Issues of Length and Form: Penn State University
  • Pen Admissions: Essays: University of Pennsylvania
  • Essay Questions: University of Michigan
  • Essay Structure: Harvard University
  • Components of a Good Essay: University of Evansville
  • Write Your Essay: UNSW Sydney
  • College Writing: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 21 Helpful and Easy Tips to Make an Essay Longer: Seventeen
  • How to Make a College Paper Longer: ThoughtCo
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College Essays


Figuring out your college essay can be one of the most difficult parts of applying to college. Even once you've read the prompt and picked a topic, you might wonder: if you write too much or too little, will you blow your chance of admission? How long should a college essay be?

Whether you're a terse writer or a loquacious one, we can advise you on college essay length. In this guide, we'll cover what the standard college essay length is, how much word limits matter, and what to do if you aren't sure how long a specific essay should be.

How Long Is a College Essay? First, Check the Word Limit

You might be used to turning in your writing assignments on a page-limit basis (for example, a 10-page paper). While some colleges provide page limits for their college essays, most use a word limit instead. This makes sure there's a standard length for all the essays that a college receives, regardless of formatting or font.

In the simplest terms, your college essay should be pretty close to, but not exceeding, the word limit in length. Think within 50 words as the lower bound, with the word limit as the upper bound. So for a 500-word limit essay, try to get somewhere between 450-500 words. If they give you a range, stay within that range.

College essay prompts usually provide the word limit right in the prompt or in the instructions.

For example, the University of Illinois says :

"You'll answer two to three prompts as part of your application. The questions you'll answer will depend on whether you're applying to a major or to our undeclared program , and if you've selected a second choice . Each response should be approximately 150 words."

As exemplified by the University of Illinois, the shortest word limits for college essays are usually around 150 words (less than half a single-spaced page). Rarely will you see a word limit higher than around 650 words (over one single-spaced page). College essays are usually pretty short: between 150 and 650 words. Admissions officers have to read a lot of them, after all!


Weigh your words carefully, because they are limited!

How Flexible Is the Word Limit?

But how flexible is the word limit? What if your poignant anecdote is just 10 words too long—or 100 too short?

Can I Go Over the Word Limit?

If you are attaching a document and you need one or two extra words, you can probably get away with exceeding the word limit by such a small amount. Some colleges will actually tell you that exceeding the word limit by 1-2 words is fine. However, I advise against exceeding the word limit unless it's explicitly allowed for a few reasons:

First, you might not be able to. If you have to copy-paste it into a text box, your essay might get cut off and you'll have to trim it down anyway.

If you exceed the word limit in a noticeable way, the admissions counselor may just stop reading your essay past that point. This is not good for you.

Following directions is actually a very important part of the college application process. You need to follow directions to get your letters of recommendation, upload your essays, send supplemental materials, get your test scores sent, and so on and so forth. So it's just a good general rule to follow whatever instructions you've been given by the institution. Better safe than sorry!

Can I Go Under the Word Limit?

If you can truly get your point across well beneath the word limit, it's probably fine. Brevity is not necessarily a bad thing in writing just so long as you are clear, cogent, and communicate what you want to.

However, most college essays have pretty tight word limits anyways. So if you're writing 300 words for an essay with a 500-word limit, ask yourself: is there anything more you could say to elaborate on or support your points? Consult with a parent, friend, or teacher on where you could elaborate with more detail or expand your points.

Also, if the college gives you a word range, you absolutely need to at least hit the bottom end of the range. So if you get a range from the institution, like 400-500 words, you need to write at least 400 words. If you write less, it will come across like you have nothing to say, which is not an impression you want to give.


What If There Is No Word Limit?

Some colleges don't give you a word limit for one or more of your essay prompts. This can be a little stressful, but the prompts generally fall into a few categories:

Writing Sample

Some colleges don't provide a hard-and-fast word limit because they want a writing sample from one of your classes. In this case, a word limit would be very limiting to you in terms of which assignments you could select from.

For an example of this kind of prompt, check out essay Option B at Amherst :

"Submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year that best represents your writing skills and analytical abilities. We are particularly interested in your ability to construct a tightly reasoned, persuasive argument that calls upon literary, sociological or historical evidence. You should NOT submit a laboratory report, journal entry, creative writing sample or in-class essay."

While there is usually no word limit per se, colleges sometimes provide a general page guideline for writing samples. In the FAQ for Option B , Amherst clarifies, "There is no hard-and-fast rule for official page limit. Typically, we anticipate a paper of 4-5 pages will provide adequate length to demonstrate your analytical abilities. Somewhat longer papers can also be submitted, but in most cases should not exceed 8-10 pages."

So even though there's no word limit, they'd like somewhere in the 4-10 pages range. High school students are not usually writing papers that are longer than 10 pages anyways, so that isn't very limiting.

how long is an essay usually

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Implicit Length Guideline

Sometimes, while there's no word (or even page) limit, there's still an implicit length guideline. What do I mean by this?

See, for example, this Western Washington University prompt :

“Describe one or more activities you have been involved in that have been particularly meaningful. What does your involvement say about the communities, identities or causes that are important to you?”

While there’s no page or word limit listed here, further down on page the ‘essay tips’ section explains that “ most essay responses are about 500 words, ” though “this is only a recommendation, not a firm limit.” This gives you an idea of what’s reasonable. A little longer or shorter than 500 words would be appropriate here. That’s what I mean by an “implicit” word limit—there is a reasonable length you could go to within the boundaries of the prompt.


But what's the proper coffee-to-paragraph ratio?

Treasure Hunt

There is also the classic "treasure hunt" prompt. No, it's not a prompt about a treasure hunt. It's a prompt where there are no length guidelines given, but if you hunt around on the rest of the website you can find length guidelines.

For example, the University of Chicago provides seven "Extended Essay" prompts . You must write an essay in response to one prompt of your choosing, but nowhere on the page is there any guidance about word count or page limit.

However, many colleges provide additional details about their expectations for application materials, including essays, on FAQ pages, which is true of the University of Chicago. On the school’s admissions Frequently Asked Questions page , they provide the following length guidelines for the supplemental essays: 

“We suggest that you note any word limits for Coalition or Common Application essays; however, there are no strict word limits on the UChicago Supplement essays. For the extended essay (where you choose one of several prompts), we suggest that you aim for around 650 words. While we won't, as a rule, stop reading after 650 words, we're only human and cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention indefinitely. For the “Why UChicago?” essay, we suggest about 250-500 words. The ideas in your writing matter more than the exact number of words you use!”

So there you go! You want to be (loosely) in the realm of 650 for the extended essay, and 250-500 words for the “Why UChicago?” essay.

Help! There Really Is No Guidance on Length

If you really can't find any length guidelines anywhere on the admissions website and you're at a loss, I advise calling the admissions office. They may not be able to give you an exact number (in fact, they probably won't), but they will probably at least be able to tell you how long most of the essays they see are. (And keep you from writing a panicked, 20-page dissertation about your relationship with your dog).

In general, 500 words or so is pretty safe for a college essay. It's a fairly standard word limit length, in fact. (And if you're wondering, that's about a page and a half double-spaced.) 500 words is long enough to develop a basic idea while still getting a point across quickly—important when admissions counselors have thousands of essays to read!


"See? It says 500 words right there in tiny font!"

The Final Word: How Long Should a College Essay Be?

The best college essay length is usually pretty straightforward: you want to be right under or at the provided word limit. If you go substantially past the word limit, you risk having your essay cut off by an online application form or having the admissions officer just not finish it. And if you're too far under the word limit, you may not be elaborating enough.

What if there is no word limit? Then how long should a college essay be? In general, around 500 words is a pretty safe approximate word amount for a college essay—it's one of the most common word limits, after all!

Here's guidance for special cases and hunting down word limits:

If it's a writing sample of your graded academic work, the length either doesn't matter or there should be some loose page guidelines.

There also may be implicit length guidelines. For example, if a prompt says to write three paragraphs, you'll know that writing six sentences is definitely too short, and two single-spaced pages is definitely too long.

You might not be able to find length guidelines in the prompt, but you could still hunt them up elsewhere on the website. Try checking FAQs or googling your chosen school name with "admissions essay word limit."

If there really is no word limit, you can call the school to try to get some guidance.

With this advice, you can be sure you've got the right college essay length on lockdown!


Hey, writing about yourself can even be fun!

What's Next?

Need to ask a teacher or friend for help with your essay? See our do's and dont's to getting college essay advice .

If you're lacking in essay inspiration, see our guide to brainstorming college essay ideas . And here's our guide to starting out your essay perfectly!

Looking for college essay examples? See 11 places to find college essay examples and 145 essay examples with analysis !

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Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.

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How Long Should an Essay Be? Essay Length Guide & Tips

How long is an essay

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Have you ever wondered how long is an essay? The simplest answer is that it should be as long as specified in the requirements. However, when it comes to practice, everything isn't so easy. The length of an essay can vary greatly depending on its purpose, level of education, and specific assignment instructions.

How many pages or words do you have to write to achieve the perfect essay length? How to keep your writing clear, structured, and logical staying within the specified word limit? What is the length of different types of essays and how to achieve a perfect match of the paper content and length? Find the answer to these essential questions and discover real-life examples in this ultimate guide. If you need to write your essay and there are no instructions, StudyCrumb essay writers will guide you.

Importance of Essay Length

An essay length and word count are important because they help you achieve your goals. If you're writing a paper to impress an admissions committee, it should be long enough to give the committee the information they need. At the same time, it shouldn't be too long. Otherwise, it may seem boring or uninteresting. 

In addition to helping you achieve your goals, the length of an essay and word count can also help make sure your paper is easy to read and flows well. You also have to stay compliant with the specific writing requirements to get full credit for the paper. Staying within the word limit is one of them. You can use our free tool to count how many words your paper is to make sure you stay within limits.

What Impacts Essay Length?

So, how long your essay should be? The trick is that it depends. In general, academic papers are divided into three categories:

  • School essay
  • College essays
  • University papers.

Depending on the educational level, the length requirements will be different. In addition, there are 4 essential factors that determine the volume of an academic essay.

  • Essay type Different types of essays have different requirements regarding length and content, which are usually listed in your professor's syllabus or instructions.
  • Educational level For example, college students are generally expected to write longer papers compared to middle school essay.
  • Essay topic If your professor gives you a topic that requires research (like "How has technology impacted education?"), chances are your paper will go beyond the limits of a 1000 word essay . But if they want you to share your impressions on a movie, you can fit it into 275 words well.
  • Specific requirements your professor may have For instance, if they want a piece that's three pages, double-spaced, and includes footnotes, then those are the parameters you'll need to work within.

Essay Length Recommendations

It's important to know the length of your essay before you start writing so that you can decide on the word count for each paragraph and stay compliant with other recommendations of your professor. So, after we have discovered the main factors influencing the essay’s length, let’s find out how long should an essay be depending on the type of paper and educational level.

Average Essay Word Count and Page Count Directions

Feel free to use our converter to find out how many words fit on a page.

High School Essay

500-800 words are usually enough for a typical 5 paragraph essay in high school. This is the space you can use to fully express yourself and your ideas at a high-school level. The most important thing is that you have a clear thesis statement and a good introduction that draws the reader in. Make sure your conclusion is also solid and makes a strong point while tying everything together. If you're asked to submit a high school essay that is shorter than 500 words, it's likely that the teacher wants you to focus on a very specific part of the prompt.

>> Read more: How to Write an Essay?

College Admission Essay

The length of a college admission essay is often shorter than those written for high school. With this type of task, you have to stay within 650 words on average but it depends on the type of college you’re applying to, so make sure you check with the school directly before writing your essay (they will have recommendations on length). College admission papers can be either analytical or narrative—the length doesn’t change based on what type of essay it is.

Undergraduate College Essay

An undergraduate essay in college should be between 500-650 words, but it still depends on the paper type and topic to cover. The length of an undergraduate college essay varies depending on the type of paper being written as well as what type of school you're attending (public vs private). It also depends on whether you're writing an essay of any specific type – an argumentative piece or a narrative piece. In terms of writing style, this type of essay is more formal than what would typically be expected from a high school essay.

Graduate School Admission Essay

Graduate school admission papers should be between 500-1000 words, depending on what type of graduate program you're applying for. This essay is just the paper that matters most to the admission committee, so it's important to make sure that it's clear, concise, and well-written. The admissions committee will be looking for a strong introduction, a compelling thesis statement, and an effective conclusion. The introduction and conclusion paragraphs can be a little shorter than the body ones. To get an idea of graduate school admission essays length and logic, take a look at successful sample papers. 

>> Learn more: How to Write an Essay Fast?

Graduate School Essay

The general rule of thumb for all graduate school essays is that you should keep it under 1000 words. This is because the admissions committees are looking for a comprehensive review of your background and experiences that includes information about your academic, professional, and personal life. 500-1000 words for a graduate school essay is the academic average. Use up to four pages to fully explain your reasoning and express your ideas. Also, keep in mind that the length and content requirements are usually set by the school itself.

How Long Is Every Part of an Essay

As you know, every paper consists of an introduction, body, and conclusion. But how many words should you write for each section? Keep in mind a simple yet general rule of 80/20. It means that your essay’s body should contain 80% of all your content. This is also the room for explaining your “why” and “how”, citing relevant studies, and providing argumentation. 

Now, let’s find out how to write each of the parts while keeping an average essay length and the required word count in mind. 

To ease your essay writing process, we advise preparing a draft. If you have never done it before, take a rough draft example .

Average Length of Essay Parts

How Long Should an Introduction Be for an Essay?

The introduction is the first paragraph of an essay. It serves as the opening for your essay. The introduction should provide a brief summary of the topic, point out the significance of your topic, and give a preview of what you will discuss in your paper. If you are writing a normal essay with up to 550 required words count, your introduction should take approximately 100 words. Most general essays will have one or two paragraphs in their introduction section.

>> Read more: How to Start an Essay

How Long Should an Essay Body Paragraph Be?

An average length of a body paragraph is up to 150 words. It means that each you should take up four to six text lines (Times New Roman 12). Build up your body paragraphs in the next way to achieve the right lengths, keep your flow logical, and follow a word limit within an essay. Around 5-7 sentences are usually enough for a short essay paragraph, so:

  • Write a topic sentence to every paragraph.
  • Present a research-supported statement.
  • Offer your argumentation.
  • End with a transition phrase.

>> Learn more: How to Write a Good Body Paragraph

Deciding on the Number of Body Paragraphs in an Essay

So, how many paragraphs should you write to create a full-length essay that’s also compliant with your professor’s requirements? The answer is simple: You should write as many body paragraphs as it takes to get your point across. That means that if you have a lot of information to share, then you might want to add more paragraphs. If you don’t have much information, then you can keep the number low. Below is the average number of paragraphs (including into and outro) depending on the word count:

  • 275 words - 3 paragraphs
  • 550-words - 4-5 paragraphs
  • 1100 words - 6-8 paragraphs.

How Long Is an Essay Conclusion Supposed to Be?

As you know, a conclusion in an essay is its final part and it should never be longer than your paper’s body. Generally, it is necessary to write one paragraph for simpler and typical essays and two paragraphs for longer papers.

But the important thing is not to overdo it. If your conclusion is too long, the professor is likely to lower your grade — just because you failed to follow the academic writing standards (even if there are no complaints about your outro content). That’s why on average, a conclusion of an essay should be up to 100 words long.

Tips to Achieve the Required Length

So, at this point,  you know how long general essays should be and how many words in an essay are depending on its type. Now, let’s deal with the most challenging task and find out what you can do to make your essay longer or shorter, improving its quality along the way.

Making Your Essay Longer

Use the next 5 tips to transform a short essay into a longer one.

  • Add examples. You can use your own experiences. Use examples from other people or books that relate to the topic.
  • Add facts, statistics, and citations. Adding these kinds of details will help prove how well-informed you are on this topic and help back up some of your claims.
  • Use transitions but don't overdo them. They're useful for helping readers follow along with your paper. But too many transitions may sound just like an attempt to extend the paper’s volume.
  • Double-check your argumentation. Providing a clear argumentation is difficult. That's why you have to double-check your reasoning and make sure you hadn't combined two different arguments in a single paragraph. To fix such a mistake, add one more section to your paper’s body for each of the arguments you have. Such a simple tip will make your writing clearer too.
  • Read sample papers on the topic to grab more ideas. Chances are you've missed some important points. The papers of other students will help you fill the gaps and reasonably extend the word count.

Making Your Essay Shorter

Some students tend to write significantly more than an average essay word count. It may sound paradoxical but writing longer essays is easier than short ones. In the latter case, you should be as concise as possible. Here is how to make your essay shorter without losing the main ideas and disrupting the flow.

  • Remove irrelevant examples. You don't need to give several detailed examples for every point you make. Look at your thesis and ask yourself if every example supports that thesis. If not, cut it.
  • Make your paragraphs 4-sentences long. In this way, you will achieve a shorter essay volume and improve clarity at once.
  • Remove repetition. If something has already been said in the paragraph before, but it doesn't fit in the current context, get rid of it.
  • Make your introduction and conclusion shorter. An introduction is supposed to be interesting enough that readers want to keep reading. A conclusion is supposed to summarize everything you said. Don't reinvent the wheel in these sections.
  • Use a readability check tool. Transforming long and difficult-to-read sentences into shorter and clearer ones. It is one more way to make a long essay fit into the provided requirements.

Mistakes to Avoid When Adjusting the Length of an Essay

When adjusting the length of a paper, there are a few mistakes to avoid.

  • Adding unnecessary details. It's easy to think that you need to add more information when trying to make your piece longer. In reality, this is often not the case. Try balancing your explanations and keep them to the point in every sentence.
  • Cutting the necessary details. If you have too much information and need to cut it down, do so carefully. For example, if you have several suitable citations to include, use the most relevant or the most recent one instead of adding them all.
  • Writing “one more paragraph” for the sake of volume. This is a mistake because you can end up with a poorly-argued and too-watery piece.
  • Missing essential research. Missing essential research can be a big mistake because then you won't have enough information to write actually on the topic. In this case, your paper is likely to be too short.
  • Adding irrelevant citations. Irrelevant citations make your paper look like it was written by someone who doesn't know what they're talking about. They also make your essay look less credible than it truly is.

How Long Should an Essay Be Depending on Format?

So, how long are essays and how many pages should you write, depending on the formatting style you are required to follow? The trick is that different formatting styles may require you to use different fonts, sizes, and spacing. For example, if you write in MLA, you have to use Times New Roman 12, while APA usually requires you to use Arial 11. Both styles imply using double spacing. Now, let's discover how spacing and font size affect the paper’s length.

  • 275 words (Times New Roman 12, double-space) – 1 page
  • 550 words (Times New Roman 12, double-space) – 2 pages
  • 1100 words (Times New Roman 12, double-space) – 4 pages
  • 275 words (Arial 11,  double-space) – 1 page
  • 550 words (Arial 11, double-space) – 2 pages
  • 1100 words (Arial 11, double-space) – 4 pages

If your professor specifically required to use single spacing, it will take two times less space than when using double spacing.

Font and Size

Using the right font and size is important for getting the full grade for your paper and staying compliant with the professor's requirements. Agree, it will be disappointing to get a lower grade just because you've used another font that your professor asked you to use. Fortunately, the requirements for font and size aren't too diverse or complicated. So, here is a list of commonly used fonts and sizes for MLA, APA, and Chicago formatting styles.

APA style format :

  • Font: Times New Roman or Arial

MLA format essay :

  • Font: Times New Roman

Chicago format :

What to Do if There Are No Essay Length Requirements?

If you're writing an essay and there are no essay length requirements, don't panic! There are still some guidelines you can follow to make sure your essay has the right length.

  • Be guided by general academic writing rules. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to keep your papers between 500 and 1,000 words. If you're writing an essay for school or university, it should also be double-spaced, with one-inch margins on all sides of the page.
  • Consider paper type. Get back to the chart with essay types and recommended length we've provided above. Use this volume as a starting point.
  • Suggest the right volume depending on the topic. Some topics require several pages to be fully researched and explained. Others require stating your personal opinion that may fit well in two-three paragraphs.
  • Ask your professor. As for the simplest but still right solution, ask your professor for help determining what length would be best for your essay. If they give you some guidelines but don't specify exactly how long an essay paragraph or sentence should be, then follow those guidelines instead of worrying about word counts or page numbers.
  • Take a look at sample papers on similar topics. See how those students organized their thoughts into paragraphs and sections. You might even consider using their format as a starting point for your own piece.

Using Length to Determine an Essay Scope

It may seem that the length of your paper is just a formal requirement. In practice, it is a framework that helps you organize your essay sections. If you're writing a short essay, it's likely that you have a narrow focus and are only looking at part of the issue in question.

For example, if you are required to write a 550-words paper, you can immediately understand that you have to write an intro and conclusion (100 words each). Then, share the remained 450 words between three-four body paragraphs (100-150 words each). 

Next, everything becomes even easier. Outline the core ideas for each of the paragraphs. Support them with studies and citations and add your vision.

Bottom Line on How Long Is an Essay

So, now we have covered everything that matters for determining the right essay length and writing a full-credit paper following the requirements. In most cases, your professor will kindly provide you with a precise number of words you have to write. Otherwise, be guided by general academic writing rules for an essay type you are about to create. And keep the rule of thumb in mind. 

Regardless of your paper volume, it should be well-researched, clear, logical, structured, and reasoned.


If you don't feel like sticking to instructions, we will always help you. Our professional college essay writers will write excellent work of any length. Just fill out an order on our website and get your essay done quickly.

FAQ About Essay Length

1. how long is an essay in middle school.

A middle-school essay is usually up to 550 words. An essay in middle school is typically short because the students are learning how to write, and they're not yet comfortable with long-form writing. These papers are typically short because they're meant to answer one question or dwell on a single subject being studied.

2. How long is an essay in sentences?

The length of an essay in sentences depends on the type of essay and the amount of information you have to cover. A 550-word typical essay usually consists of 15 sentences, given that the length of each sentence is approximately the same. However, if you are used to writing longer or shorter sentences, their total number may vary. So, the best tactic is to write sentences without clauses to keep them clear and understandable.

3. How long should a short essay be?

A short essay should be no longer than 550 words. The point of a short essay is to convey an idea in a precise and focused way, so it's important that you don't waste any words on unnecessary details. The best way to match the necessary word count is to write an outline before writing a final draft. In this way, you will know how much space each section will take up, at least approximately.

4. How many pages are in an essay?

The answer to this question depends on the topic, scope, and depth of your essay. In general, an essay of 2-3 pages is considered short; 4-6 pages is average; 7-10 pages is long. The amount of pages also depends on the spacing you are required to use. Using double-space between paragraph extends the page count twice.

5. How many words are in an essay?

There's no one answer to the question of how many words are in an essay. It depends on the type of essay you're writing and the formatting style you use, as well as your professor’s requirements. A standard word count for college essays is between 550-1100 words. However, some professors may request that you write more or less than this amount.

6. Can I go over the expected essay length?

The more compliant you are with the professor’s requirements, the more chances of getting full credit you have. So, don’t go over the expected length. Still, you can write up to 50-100 words more if the point you would like to add really matters for your reasoning.


Daniel Howard is an Essay Writing guru. He helps students create essays that will strike a chord with the readers.

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How Long Is An Essay? A Guide To Essay Length

Learn the length of six different essays and the factors that affect the essay length.

The length of an academic essay varies depending on your academic level, your field of study, your department’s policies, and the requirements of your particular course. In most cases, the length specifications are listed on your assignment sheet. It can be expressed as a range of words, paragraphs, or pages, or as a specific number.

In college, the majority of professors will provide you with a general outline of how long your essay should be. Please continue reading if you want to learn more about essay length.

Table of Contents

How Long Is An Essay?

An essay is typically a brief composition that aims to be clear and concise. In the academic setting, essays can be useful in demonstrating your knowledge and in presenting an idea, but they are not as in-depth as a thesis or research paper.

A higher education assignment will typically include instructions on the expected number of pages or words. Typically, this will be a range, say between 2500 and 4000 words.

Verify the assignment’s specifics and any guidelines your teacher may have before you begin formulating a plan for “how to write my paper.” Here are a few quick reminders:

  • Every essay must have a beginning, a body, and a conclusion. This means that in order to cover everything, your essay must have at least three sections.
  • Typically, a basic paper will have a five-paragraph essay. The introduction and conclusion paragraphs in this essay are typically much shorter.
  • One of your essay’s main ideas should be covered in each body paragraph.

The best thing you can do when submitting an essay, whether it’s for a college application or an academic assignment, is to carefully read the instructions. Most of the time, you should gain a basic understanding of the word count required of you.

The fact that you don’t have to lengthen your essay to reach the highest number should be noted if you are given a “range” for your essay’s word count. Simply use the language you need to support your position. And here is the information about the essay length in 6th grade , 7th grade , and 8th grade .

  • High school essay: 300-1000 words
  • Essay for college admissions: 250-650 words
  • Essay for college students in their first year: 1500-5000 words
  • Essay for graduate school admission: 500-1000 words
  • essays for graduate school: 2500-6000 words

how long is an essay

Essay Length Tips

The advice provided below is relevant to academic essays that are assigned as writing assignments. The following section will cover every topic related to admissions essays.

  • For essays, there should be a minimum of three paragraphs—an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
  • An essay with five paragraphs is the most typical format for a basic paper.
  • The opening and closing sentences are always proportionately shorter in length.
  • Only one main idea, which is your topic sentence, may be covered in each body paragraph.
  • About 275 words typically appear on a page of Times New Roman (12pt) text that is double-spaced.
  • Double that, or about 550 words, can fit on a single page.

How Long Are The Six Types Of Essays?

Here are the six types of essays you should know:

The One-paragraph Essay

The one-paragraph essay, which is typically between 150 and 250 words in length, may be given by academic tutors simply as practice for the fundamentals of paragraph writing, or it may be used for specific purposes like practicing summarizing an article that has been read in class or writing an extended definition of a concept.

One-paragraph essays can be used as a diagnostic tool to quickly assess a student’s writing ability. For the one-paragraph essay, you must combine at least some of the introduction, body, and conclusion into a single paragraph, unlike other essay lengths.

The Three-paragraph Essay

The three-paragraph essay, which is typically 500 words long, is used to introduce students to the idea that all essays should have an introduction, a body section, and a conclusion if the writer wants to produce coherent and logical writing.

The first and last paragraphs will be the introduction and conclusion, which are typically a little shorter in length. The central body paragraph will contain the essay’s content or argument.

The Five-paragraph Essay

The five-paragraph essay is typically set by teachers who are satisfied that their students understand the introduction-body-conclusion essay structure and who want to give them more freedom to elaborate on the ideas and arguments the writer has presented in the body section of the essay. It is typically 1,000 words long.

With an essay of this length, the introduction and conclusion are still each given one paragraph, but the body of the essay can have three paragraphs devoted to the discussion of the theme. Now that the essay has reached this length, it is acceptable to use certain essay types, like cause and effect essays, and compare and contrast essays.

The Extended Essay

While it’s uncommon for such essays to be longer than 5,000 words, the extended essay is the most typical type of essay that’s assigned during a bachelor’s or master’s degree. It may be any length. With a plus or minus 10% word count tolerance, the most typical lengths for an extended essay are 1,500, 3,000, and 5,000 words.

Such essay types may also start to follow more complex structures, such as those found in dissertations and theses, rather than just adhering to the introduction-body-conclusion structure of shorter essays, which will undoubtedly require research and referencing skills.

The Dissertation

Generally assigned as the final project for both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, the typical length of an academic dissertation is 10,000 or 15,000 words. Unlike shorter essay types, dissertations have more complex structures and are almost always based on primary research (original research that the writer has conducted themselves).

Last but not least, the thesis is the longest style of academic essay and is only used by Ph.D. candidates. The doctorate thesis, which is typically between 40,000 and 60,000 words long, may include all the components of a dissertation, but in much greater detail and with more thorough research.

Such essays are almost certainly original and are based on primary research, with a larger focus on the accuracy of the literature review, data collection, and data analysis. Many students will never write an essay of this kind.

How Long Does Each Essay Section Need To Be?

Each paragraph in a short essay (400–1000 words) usually contains 100–200 words. Shorter than the total number of words in the body section, the introduction and conclusion should be about the same length.

For a 1000-word essay, the introduction and conclusion should each be 4–5 sentences long, according to Jennifer Duncan from The Writing Centre at the University of Toronto at Scarborough. The length of these sections can be several paragraphs or even entire pages if your word count must be higher.

how long is an essay

You may have seen conversion charts that state, “This number of words equals this number of paragraphs.” They are all based on fixed paragraph lengths and are therefore not very accurate.

Yes, you can convert an essay that is 400–800 words long in this way. But, when your paper is bigger than a thousand words, your paragraphs can scale along, which means their number won’t grow exponentially with the overall essay size.

A long essay (2000 words) won’t necessarily have fifteen paragraphs, for example, if a 700-word essay has five paragraphs.

How Long Is The Introduction In An Essay?

Typically, your introduction, or first paragraph, is referred to as a hook. Here, you should catch the attention of the reader and introduce the topic of your essay. When choosing a length, keep it brief and sweet whenever possible.

It’s usually a good idea to do some planning ahead of time to make sure every section of your essay is the proper length. A seasoned essay writer will carefully read the instructions to make sure you comprehend the task.

Your essay’s complexity and depth should be apparent from the recommended word count. Give a high-level overview of your topic if your essay is only supposed to be a few paragraphs long. You can delve more deeply into the details in longer essays.

You must be as clear and concise with your argument as you can in short essays. When you’re given a higher word count, however, you shouldn’t use this as an excuse to “waffle”. Follow the outline you create for your essay and stay on point.

When deciding how much information and support you should include in each section, an outline should serve as a road map.

How Long Is A Paragraph In An Essay?

As mentioned above, the answer to “how long should a college essay be?” usually starts with a base answer of “at least five paragraphs”. This makes it possible for you to introduce your thesis or commentary, follow it with three supporting paragraphs, and then end with a summary.

Your essay will have a range of paragraph length s. In the majority of academic essays, the main body of the argument should occupy the majority of the paper. Here, you should develop your ideas and support them with examples.

Generally speaking, the introduction should match the essay’s overall length. The introduction can be one or two paragraphs long if your text is only about 3,000 words. A longer, more detailed introduction that provides background information and context may be necessary for complex essays.

A single paragraph should typically serve as your essay’s conclusion. A paragraph might not be enough to summarize everything you’ve said, especially if your paper is longer and more involved.

How Long Is The Conclusion In An Essay?

The last section of your essay is the conclusion . For shorter essays, it is typically one paragraph. In this section, you should restate the main ideas from the body and summarize your analysis. Depending on how long the essay is, the conclusion may be 300–700 words long.

How Long Is The Outline In An Essay?

For a university-level essay or argumentative essay, you’ll need a more thorough outline with the same elements as a simpler outline, but with more specifics that include evidence and justification for your supporting points. The length of an outline should be no longer than 1 to 2 pages .

What Influence An Essay’s Length?

The length of a typical essay is influenced by a variety of factors. The word count of your paper depends on

Academic Level

In terms of presentation and length, essays written for high school and primary grades differ from those written for universities and colleges. Before beginning an academic essay, it is crucial to read the guidelines for each level.

Depending on the subject, different essay length requirements apply. Long and short essays are common in papers in the humanities, social sciences, and law. The length of the long essays can be anywhere between 20 pages and 6 pages, double-spaced, while the short essays are between 500 and 875 words long.

Essay lengths can also vary depending on the instructor and the subject matter, including English literature, composition, linguistics, leadership, and business. You will see different length requirements for essays depending on the subject you are studying.

Departmental length requirements for essays vary between universities and colleges. The length requirements of the department should be understood because they can guide your decision regarding how many words to use in your essay.

Essay Prompt Or Tutor’s Instructions

The guidelines provided in the essay prompt are another important factor in determining the number of pages or words you must use. The essay prompt not only specifies the essay topics, but also how many words, lengths, or pages your essay should be.

Spacing Of The Sentences

Pages in a typical academic essay are double-spaced due to the essay’s typical structure. The essay instructions may, on occasion, demand that you write your essay using only single spaces.

how long are essays

A single-spaced page has about 550 words on it, compared to about 275 words on a double-spaced page. By this analogy, a single double-spaced page would have twice as many words as a single single-spaced page. An essay that is one page long and single-spaced contains the same number of words as an essay that is two pages long and double-spaced.

Other times, teachers will instruct students to write 1.5-spaced-line essays. The length of your essay in this situation should be determined by the word count per page.

As a result, even as you read the assignment instructions, pay attention to the kind of page spacing that your professor or instructor requires. The preferred word count, which is always plus or minus 10%, is made easier to stay within.

Fonts Used In The Essay Paper

Papers are typically written in font 12 for academic writing. Most academic institutions have adopted this size as the standard for essays.

Making the font larger results in more pages, but fewer words. Always write your essay using the font size and style suggested by the teacher in the essay prompt, given the wide variety of fonts available.

Paragraph Lengths And Formats

150 words or so would be considered a typical paragraph length. It will depend on how many pages you are writing and how many paragraphs you will have. For instance, as we shall see later, a 6-page essay with double spacing will contain a total of 1650–1800 words.

10% of the word count is allocated to the introduction and conclusion paragraphs, which means that they each have between 165 and 180 words. You will have the final word count to balance the paragraphs at your discretion because the other body paragraphs will split it.

Using Length As A Guide To Topic And Complexity

The suggested word count not only helps you determine how long your essay should be but also makes it easier for you to determine how much complexity and information you can fit into the available space.

The creation of your thesis statement, which establishes the parameters of your overall argument and identifies the primary subject of your essay, should be guided by this.

A focused, narrow topic and an obvious, unambiguous line of reasoning are requirements for a short essay. A longer essay should still have a clear focus, but it may also need to take a more comprehensive approach to the subject or make a more complex, ambitious argument.

Make sure you have a clear understanding of how much evidence, detail, and argumentation will be required to support your thesis as you create the essay’s outline.

Consider revising your thesis to be more general or more specific if you discover that you lack the ideas to fill out the word count or that you require more space to present your case effectively.

The amount of time you will need to spend editing and proofreading the essay will also depend on how long it is.

What To Do If My Essay Is Too Long Or Too Short?

It’s usually best to stick to the range you’re given if you’ve taken the time to determine how long your essay should be for high school or college. You should try to write an essay that is at least as long as what was asked of you in the assignment.

If you’re struggling to hit the suggested word count, you can consider:

  • To make your points stronger and more credible, add more examples, supporting data, and in-depth analysis to each paragraph.
  • Ensure that you thoroughly analyze and clarify each of your points without leaving any room for doubt.
  • additional research is being done in order to examine a subject from a different perspective.

Don’t add any filler to simply increase the word count. Aim to avoid becoming overly fixated on a particular number and stick to simple sentences whenever possible. Get as much useful information as you can into your essay—that’s the key.

Notably, just as you should reach at least the minimum word count, you should avoid exceeding the maximum word count. You may occasionally go 10% over the maximum word count. You might be able to use 3300 words for an assignment with a word count of up to 3000, but it’s best to double-check with your instructor to be sure.

If the additional words are irrelevant to your argument, exceeding your suggested word count won’t impress your professor. You should probably proofread your writing to make sure everything is accurate and as brief as possible.

Get rid of extraneous words and keep in mind that it will take longer for your instructor to grade an essay the longer it is.

Always strive to write your assignment for the minimum amount of time specified. In the event that you have trouble writing enough words:

  • To strengthen or clarify your points, include more examples and supporting data in each paragraph.
  • Aim to elaborate on your points more fully and make sure each example has been fully explained or analyzed.
  • In a new paragraph, elaborate on a different aspect of your subject. In order to make a more ambitious argument, you might need to revise your thesis statement.
  • Don’t use filler; doing so will weaken your essay and obscure your argument.
  • Keep your focus off on a precise figure. It’s more important that your argument is compelling and sufficiently developed for an essay of the advised length than whether you use 50 or 100 words to convince your reader of your point of view.

What Is The Ideal Essay Length For College?

Here, “college essays” imply essays written for admissions. Compared to the ones you write for homework, admissions essays are very different. They usually want to convince the committee that you are a deserving candidate.

how long are essays

The appropriate section of the college website should have all the information about such essays available to the public. However, you still have some options if you don’t know the word count requirement and can’t find it. Below is a quick answer to the “how long is a college essay” question.

An essay for college typically has 500 words.

Admissions Essay Length Tips

  • Once you open the college’s site, look for phrases like “essay questions,” “information about supplemental essays,” “application instructions,” etc.
  • Because board officers must read a large number of them every day, admissions essays are typically brief (250–600 words).
  • Keep the length within the specified range; for example, if it says 500–550 words, the maximum length would be 600.
  • Don’t go over the word limit because it might prevent someone from reading your essay all the way through.

What If There Are No Restrictions On Length?

College essay prompts occasionally don’t specify a maximum length. But don’t worry just yet; there are a number of ways to handle this circumstance.

A Sample Of Your Writing Must Be Submitted

Potential candidates may have a variety of options. Amherst College offers you two options: (Option A) compose a response to one of the quotations on the list, or (Option B) turn in a graded essay that best demonstrates your writing abilities.

The final option implies that your options are constrained by the number of words in the papers you can pick from. However, there is usually a page with instructions for paper sample submissions.

The Description Makes It Clear How Long It Should Be

Wellesley College does not specify a word count or a number of pages in the instructions for the essay prompt. Instead, it says, “in two well-developed paragraphs.” So, paragraphs can be as long as 450–500 words, which is a reasonable maximum. Therefore, this is when you’ll need to make an estimate or even a little guess.

You Must Look For The Length Specifications

It can happen that the essay length requirements are not listed on the same page as the prompts. But if you Google it, you can discover posts on social media sites and forums that cover these essay writing requirements.

You can also try searching “long” or “length” within the college site by typing “” with those words.

Call The Admissions Department Right Away

Call the admissions office if you can’t find the word limit guidelines anywhere. Even if they don’t have a precise figure, they can estimate the length of your essay based on the ones they have already read.

Why Is Adherence To Expected Essay Length Important?

Remember that the length of the essay the professor expects will vary depending on the student’s academic standing. Even if you are unsure of the precise word count requirements for an essay for a particular class or university course, follow the general guidelines.

The tutor may conclude that the student did not submit the assignment with sufficient effort if the student writes an essay that is shorter than anticipated.

In fact, if the essay has a large word count, the student may have added unnecessary information without doing proper analysis or used wordy constructions.

Conclusion: Polish Your Essay

Most assignments include explicit instructions on how many words or pages you are required to write. Instead of being a precise number, this is frequently a range (for instance, 2500–3000 words or 10–12 pages). Finding the ideal essay length can seem like a challenging process.

Fortunately, using the aforementioned advice, you ought to be heading in the right direction. Don’t forget to share this post if it helps you.

How Long is a Short Essay?

Short essays usually involve answering a question related to course content and could be anywhere from 200 words to 750 words long, depending on the professor’s guidelines. Writing a short essay can be difficult because you have to decide what information is most crucial to include and what can be skipped.

How Long is a 200-word Essay?

A 200 words essay will be 0.4 pages single-spaced or 0.8 pages double-spaced . 500 words make up one standard single-spaced page.

Is a 500 Word Essay Too Short?

In general, 500 words or so is pretty safe for a college essay . In fact, the word limit is pretty typical.

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how long is an essay usually

How Long is an Essay

how long is an essay usually

How Long is an Essay?

High school essays typically range from 300-1000 words, focusing on a 5-paragraph structure. College admission essays are brief, 200-650 words, showcasing personal interests. Undergraduate essays vary, spanning 1500-5000 words, depending on course and institution specifics. Graduate admissions require more detailed essays of 500-1000 words, while graduate-level essays often extend from 2500-6000 words, reflecting deeper research and analysis.

The question of how long should an essay be– whether you are a pro or not–should come from something OTHER than your liking 💯. 

Sure, you can always follow your heart whenever you want to put your sentiments and purpose into words. It is, however, another truth that there is an external factor that always determines how effective you are as an essayist: the WORD COUNT.

Let us not all lie. No matter how good or bad we are at writing things, word count always matters. This factor may come into play when it becomes one of the criteria for judging one’s written output or a measure of someone’s writing prowess if it is made out of a career. Thus, one thing is for sure: even if it sucks, we always consider how long should an essay be.

But just like any other factor influencing good writing, managing an ideal word count for essays can be quite a breeze. All you have to do is pan out your purpose, know your audience, and be strategic in monitoring your word count. All of the know-how, and many others, will be discussed thoroughly in this blog, so stick around to see the magic!

How Long is an Essay Considering the Factors that I Have to Follow?

Factors everywhere. A good result cannot be determined well and objectively without these factors. Sure enough, good writing, while considering its word count, can be a walk in the park if one considers the following factors that regulate an ideal (or sometimes, required) word count.

Academic essay varies depending on multiple factors. Asking the “WHY” on something provides you with a clear way how you can finish it. In writing, this “why,” which represents your intention or purpose, gives you an outline of how you may navigate the entire process– and manage your word count as well.

Once you have set your writing goals before the writing process, you can prepare the right information that you will inject into the sections of your manuscript, as well as an approach (more than two is fine; do not be shy!) that will serve as your structure. Writers have different purposes– dictated or not, explicit or implicit, thus producing different preferences for word count.

One may have many demands in its purpose, making the word count a bit overboard. Some do not demand that much, translating to a permissible count. One thing is for sure, though: purpose drives your writing journey, so whether you measure your essay length or not, it must be clearly stated on the paper!

When we say that your feelings matter so much in your writing, that has to be minimized considerably because maintaining word count and determining how many words should an essay be sometimes depends on the people who read and use it.

A specific group of people always know what they want in a writing piece– either they like it long and extensive or short yet succinct. With this reality (arguing about it will not give you good marks) in mind, you have to be a sucker for their preferences.

The good thing about this, though, is you already have some ideas on how you will create your piece (versus thinking about it from scratch), and your horizons will widen since you will craft a piece that reflects other people’s liking. A little note when considering the audience as one of your considerations for word count is that they are already giving you a favor.

Nature of the Writing Task

Along with the wish to maintain an average essay word count, you must know WHAT you are writing about. Mostly common among academic institutions, the nature of a writing task may come off as explicit through the name itself (is it a traditional expository essay? A narrative report? A critical essay?) or implicit through the specifications of the task (Should there be an outline to adhere in the task? Should one use a specific structure or approach to the creation of a text?).

Determining how many words should there be in an essay will largely depend on what you are writing about, and the elements and features of these various tasks may shorten or lengthen the word count.

In Studyfy, however, you can see these factors come into play and create a concoction of a text like no other. With a tailor-fit custom essay writing service that offers a variety of academic, business, and personalized research papers that vary in word count depending on your purpose, you can yield personal success in your sheer convenience. 

How Long is an Essay in High School?

In high school, essays typically vary in length based on the assignment type, ranging from 500 to 1500 words for narratives, 800 to 1500 words for expository essays, 500 to 1000 words for reflective essays, and 600 to 1200 words for process essays. Always follow your teacher's guidelines.

High school is the period in education where students’ lower and higher-order thinking skills (LOTS/HOTS) are put into practice, and essays and other related written tasks are manifestations of their learning of these skills.

Although there is a tendency for students to ask someone “to write an essay for me ” because of being overwhelmed with too much information, writing an essay in high school is the best starting point for students to practice writing and presenting information by counting what is important and relevant.

The following is the list of common essay types and their ideal word count:

Narrative Essays

Its primary purpose is to narrate a specific event or describe a scenario using quotations, vivid descriptions, and imagery to convey the situation in writing accurately. Although adjectives, literary devices, and other strategies for vivid conveyance may mean a considerable amount of words to be injected into the piece, the essay length of a narrative text may range from 500-1500 words. 

Expository Essays

Typically following the traditional and rigid 5-paragraph format, these essays present information about a topic or clarify a particular concept, phenomenon, or entity. While some sources may put the count range from 300-1000 words, the extensiveness of this essay type may enlarge the range from 800-1500 words.

Reflective Essays

Also known as reflection entries, these essays are beneficial for developing students’ metacognitive skills, as they are expected to recall personal thoughts and experiences about a certain topic. A typical reflective essay falls within the range of 500-1000 words, depending on how downright or deep your reflection is. 

Process Essay

These kinds of essays are pretty common in Science courses, such as Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Sometimes, coupled with a diagram or chart, a process essay explains how a certain practice, concept, or phenomenon happens step-by-step.

While some process essays may be words because some steps have to be elaborated for clarity, most are straightforward and do not need to be intricate since they are practical and mass-oriented. Because of this, process essays range from 600-1200 words.

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How Long is an Essay in College? Ideal Essay Length and Word Count

In college, essay lengths vary widely. Admission essays are typically 200-650 words, undergraduate essays range from 1500-5000 words, graduate admission essays are around 500-1000 words, and graduate-level essays can span 2500-6000 words. Always adhere to your assignment's specific word count guidelines.

To say that the essays in college get a lot more difficult than in high school, well– it is more complicated than that. Now that you are expected to have harnessed the necessary skills to process and interpret certain information, you now have to deal with types of writing tasks that are often extensive and time-consuming, to say the least.

Admission Essay

Impressing the admissions committee with a personalized essay is the number one goal, and guess what: You do not need a long string of words to do that. How long should essays be without using too many words in a college acceptance letter?

An admission college essay can be as short as a word count of 200-650 words, while graduate admission letters are more detailed with 500-1000 words. A quick tip: Show your personality and make an impact by clinching them with a few yet powerful or attention-catching quips. 

Critical Review Essay

Critiquing a text, film, book, or any other body of literature may require every bit of your research effort and HOTS. You have to dissect the subject into components and make sense of these components while making sure that you find gaps, associations, and relevance to a particular “lens” that helps a seemingly oblivious observation to become apparent.

It is thus safe to say that your word count may go bonkers, with an ideal range of 1500 to 3000 words, depending on the structure of your paper and the approach to criticism.

Persuasive Academic Essay

A persuasive college essay may land you a good harnessing of marketing and sales skills. This essay enables you to take a stand and advocate something for your audience to do the same thing by presenting credible and evidence-based claims and arguments.

A unique thing about persuasive college essays is that they use the technique called “Call to Action” to magically turn readers’ attention to your claim realistically and feasibly. Considering the elements that must be included in this essay, an 800-1500 word count is preferred.

Comparative Analysis Essay

Comparing and contrasting two ideas, phenomena, or concepts may take a while to provide total comprehensibility. Since the points of comparison may exceed the usual threshold, the word count may also swell up. Still dependent on the elements being compared in this analysis essay, the ideal word count is 1800-3000 words.

This writing task encapsulates the various documentation, research, and analysis of a specific case or scenario, most preferably something peculiar or novel. When creating a case study, it is somewhat impossible to be concise in describing the locale of the scenario.

You have to exhaust your vocabulary and presentation skills to convey the case into analysis effectively. With that being said, its ideal word count is 2000 to 3500 words, depending on the case’s complexity.

College Essays: Help is Near

College writeups can be difficult to do, and to pay for an essay may take a bit of shame and courage. However, the feeling of shame will change to relief if you know that a custom writing service that serves personal writing style and needs like Studyfy gets everything covered.

All of the specifications you need to be in the write-up, plus the necessary information that is pivotal to the success of your paper, will be yours if you sign up for a Studyfy service!

Did you like our article?

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FAQs: How Long Should An Essay Be?

How long is a typical essay if you will be using the ibc format.

IBC format, for starters, is the basic “Introduction-Body-Conclusion” format conventionally used for essays. Just like the IMRAD format in research papers, this format is standardized and widely accepted in academic institutions and other fields.

To determine the typical word count of an essay following this format, you must understand the weight of relevance each section holds. For instance, it is typical for an introduction to weigh less than the body, which should habituate the most significant information in the essay.

The same goes for conclusion. If the IBC format follows a 20-60-20 ratio and you aim for a 150-word minimum count per section, the entire count can be 750 words minimum.

How long are essays in college, considering that it will be a lot more difficult to write one?

Difficulty may translate to a longer word count, and we understand if it has been kept as a notion in your experience as a current or future college student. If you keenly noticed the type of essays presented at the collegiate level, the minimum word count is 250 (for admission essays) while the maximum is 3500 (mostly common among case studies).

Regularly, however, typical essay writing tasks range from 800-1000 words, especially if you are talking about concept, term, or research papers that are being done at the end of a unit of work or as a terminal course requirement.

Whether an undergraduate college essay, research paper, graduate school essays, or any type of academic writing, it's important to adhere to a specific word count and word limit. As college essays tend to be lengthy, an additional challenge is to incorporate all relevant information in a clear and succinct way.

Maximize your chances of admission with our expert admission essay writing service . Take action today to secure your academic future!

‍ How many words should an essay have if I wanted to fill an entire page?

Although this question is a bit practical and unhinged at the same time, we are also guilty about this, as we seldom check the word count of our paper when we finish a page. From our experience, you can fit 500-700 words in a page, but the count still depends on the font size, spacing, justification, and other formatting elements of your document. 

How long is an essay supposed to be in one paragraph?

The answer is invariable since we have to consider lots of factors about the purpose and nature of the writing task. From a general approximation, however, an essay paragraph can be within a hundred words. Exceeding it may render it lengthy and too tiring to read.

How many words should a high school essay be if no one provided an outline to adhere to?

When there is no explicit instruction about the word count of a high school essay task, you might find the 150-word minimum rule per section handy, in consonance with the 20-60-20 rule discussed briefly in the first question (although this is widely used if you are following the IBC format). You may adjust the minimum word limit depending on the difficulty or nature of the task.

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How long is an Essay? A Guide to Appropriate Essay Length

Table of Contents

How long is an essay ? The length of your article is determined by several factors. These include level of education, course of study, departmental guidelines, and tutor’s requirements.

Compared to a research paper or dissertation, an essay is a shorter piece of writing. This article provides general guidelines for the length of different types of essays.

Since there are several essay types, it is crucial to understand the length required of your assignment. On average, an essay should be at least 700 to 1,200 words. It shouldn’t be too long or too short.

Usually, when an instructor hands out a project, the number of pages to be written will be given alongside. The instructor will often give the word count for the assignment, which will be more helpful than just telling the number of pages. This will mostly be a range (e.g., 500-800 words).

Most important in writing an essay is to prioritize quality over quantity. The focus should be on making a solid argument about the subject rather than hitting the specified word count. However, writing an essay according to the specified length is possible without compromising quality.

The specified length of your essay gives you a sense of how much information and complexity you can fit into the given space. This will determine how you outline your ideas and structure your argument.

The time needed for editing and proofreading also varies by the length of the essay.

A few tips to keep in mind when writing an essay include:

  • An essay should have a minimum of three paragraphs. The paragraphs should contain the introduction, body, and conclusion, respectively.
  • For an introductory paper, a five-paragraph structure is typical.
  • The conclusion and introduction paragraphs are generally shorter.
  • Each central idea should occupy a separate body paragraph.

There is a standard essay length for most high school, college, graduate, and professional schools. Although it is usually difficult to determine the length of an essay by words, working within the specified range is generally good. The following guidelines will help you determine how long your essay should be.

1. High School Essay

The recommended word count for a high school essay is 300 to 1000 words. It may vary, but you’ll often need to write a 5-paragraph essay that contains an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

2. College admission essay

College admissions essays are much shorter than any other. They range from 200 to 650 words and contain a few paragraphs that express your motivations and interests.

3. Undergraduate college essay

The length of undergraduate essays varies depending on the institution, course of study, and course levels.

However, no matter the length, every undergraduate college essay must include the following:

  • Introduction
  • Body (containing the subject arguments)

The word count of a typical undergraduate essay ranges from 1500 to 5000 words.

4. Graduate school admission essay

A typical graduate admission essay contains about 500–1000 words detailing your statement of purpose and highlighting some of your academic achievements.

5. Graduate school essay

Graduate school essays are usually more detailed and comprehensive, which means they tend to be longer. A typical graduate school essay ranges from 2500 to 6000 words.

First, you need to decide how many words your essay requires. Afterward, you can break it down into paragraphs. A short piece of 600-800 words will require that each section contains 100-150 words.

The introduction is one of the essential parts of an essay. The introduction is usually the same length as the conclusion and is shorter than the body. It should be just one paragraph and should match the length of the essay. For example, an essay with a length of 500 words would have an introduction of about 100 words.

The essay’s main body is usually the longest part and should take up the most space. It would be best to put each argument and idea in a separate paragraph. The paragraphs in the main body should be roughly the same length.

The conclusion of the essay is often a single paragraph. It should sum up the main points in a convincing way.

man wearing a blue shirt, writing on paper with a pen

Writing your essay according to the specified length is essential, especially when your instructor recommends it. However, the length of your essay should not compromise its quality .

Creativity and originality are crucial factors in writing a well-structured essay, but it’s also vital that your essay is well-written.

Essay length can vary depending on the requirements of the forum you are submitting your work to. If the length is not specified, the specifications in this article should help you determine the length.

How long is an Essay? A Guide to Appropriate Essay Length

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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How Long Is an Essay: A Guide to Reaching the Perfect Word Count

how long is an essay usually

Does the Length of an Essay Matter? How Long Should Every Essay Part Be? 5 Tips on Nailing the Essay Length on the First Try FAQ Final Thoughts

So, you’re tasked with writing an essay. Chances are, you were given a simple length requirement, measured in words or, perhaps, pages. But how do you make sure your essay – and each of its parts – is neither too long nor too short?

You’ve come to the right place! Our essay writing experts have put together this guide on acing the essay length for students like you. Here’s all you need to know about the perfect word count, from why it matters to how formatting can impact it.

Does the Length of an Essay Matter?

It does! First of all, if you submit an essay 1,000 words longer than the length requirement your instructor set for you, you shouldn’t hope for the highest grade. (Yes, even if its quality is superb.) The same rings true if you submit a work that’s way shorter than required.

That said, the length your instructor puts in the task description is usually not hard-set. If it says, for example, that the preferred length is 800 words, you can still exceed it by another 80-100 words (if not stated otherwise).

But what if you don’t have a requirement at all? How many words in an essay should there be, then?

Unfortunately, the answer is… it depends. Here are the four factors that determine what would count as the perfect length for a specific paper:

  • Topic . If it’s a complex one, you’ll need to take your time to convey your point of view with all the evidence required – and that means a longer text.
  • Discipline . In economics and sociology, essays are typically shorter as you need to be succinct and use objective, matter-of-fact language. In humanities, however, you can take your time painting a perfect picture with metaphors and other literary devices.
  • Academic level . The more advanced it is, the more sophisticated – and lengthy – your essay should be.
  • Type . Persuasive, narrative, and informative essays all need a different number of words to achieve their respective goals.

How Long Should Every Essay Part Be?

Most likely, you have a general length requirement – let’s say, five pages – and that’s it. But how should you distribute that word count across the introduction, main body paragraphs, and conclusion?

A good rule of thumb is to use the 80/20 rule. According to it, the main body should take up 80% of the word count, with the other 20% dedicated to the introduction and conclusion. When navigating through these requirements, students might find themselves overwhelmed. However, with advanced tools like AI paper typer , they can streamline the writing process and ensure that their papers adhere to the prescribed structure and length guidelines effectively.

Here’s the length of a standard college essay, part by part:

  • Introduction : three to five sentences, 50-80 words;
  • Main body : three to five paragraphs, each five to eight sentences and 80-200 words long;
  • Conclusion : three to five sentences, 50-80 words.

Pro tip : you don’t have to hit the required word count perfectly. Your assignment’s length can be up to 10% below or above the requirement (unless your instructions specify otherwise).

5 Tips on Nailing the Essay Length on the First Try

We asked our essay experts what students should know to write a perfect paper on the first go. Here are the five tips they’d like to share with you:

  • Read your prompt closely . Re-read it after you do your research. Make sure you understand the assignment perfectly and cover the topic from every angle required.
  • Start writing with the main body . It’s usually a lot easier to write the introduction once you have the draft of the main paragraphs.
  • Consider adding new paragraphs . If you can’t reach the recommended length, return to the prompt and do some more research. You’ll probably find a new angle or argument you can use to add another paragraph to the main body.
  • Make your text concise . Avoid filler phrases and sentences – express yourself using as few words as possible. If you find yourself staring at the way-too-long draft, don’t hesitate to delete whole sentences and paragraphs without mercy.
  • Don’t overthink the length requirements when you’re writing . If you do, it’ll hinder your process. Sure, you shouldn’t exceed the recommended length by a thousand words. But leave worrying about the word count for the editing part!

How Long Should an Essay Be Depending on the Formatting?

Sometimes, you may receive the recommended length requirement measured in pages instead of words. While the number of words is easy to check (although different applications can return slightly different results), the number of pages can vary depending on the formatting. On top of that, a formatting style may come with its own recommended length.

So, how long are essays in different formatting styles? Let’s break down the three most common scenarios:

  • APA . APA essays are typically between 1,500 and 2,500 words long. As the APA format requires double line spacing, this translates into six to ten pages.
  • MLA . MLA doesn’t have a recommended essay length, so you can write even short works (under 1,000 words). MLA requires double-line spacing, so every page will roughly contain 275 words. A 1,100-word page will then be a four-page one (not including the Works Cited page).
  • Chicago . The Chicago style also requires double-line spacing, meaning one page equals roughly 275 words. Don’t include the title page in the page count.

As you can see, double-line spacing means one page is about 275 words long. However, if you’re required to use the single-line spacing, count every page as 550 words!

How long is an essay, and what’s the preferred length for its parts?

As for how many words in an essay there should be, your work should meet the requirement set by your instructor (+/-10%). If you weren’t given a requirement at all, remember that there’s no clear-cut answer to the question, “How long should an essay be?” The ideal length then depends on the discipline, topic, type, and academic level.

The main body should take up at least 80% of your paper, with the introduction and conclusion constituting the rest. Both the introduction and conclusion are typically one paragraph long each, rarely exceeding five sentences and 200 words.

Do I absolutely have to reach the suggested length?

Essays a bit shorter than the suggested length (no more than 10%) are usually tolerated. However, take a close look at your assignment: if it specifies that it’s the minimum length requirement, it means you do have to reach it.

If you struggle to hit the recommended length of an essay, here are a few tips:

  • Add a new paragraph to the main body describing a new argument or aspect of the topic.
  • Avoid using filler words just to meet the length requirement (your instructor won’t appreciate it).
  • Look for new evidence or source material that can expand your paper.

Can I exceed the suggested word count?

Unless stated otherwise, you can exceed the length requirement by no more than 10%. So, for example, if the suggested length is 2,000 words, you can submit a 2,200-word paper. However, make sure this rule on how many words in an essay you can use applies in your case by checking in with your instructor!

We advise you not to exceed the length limit unless you absolutely have to do it to drive your point home. If you struggle with it, ensure every sentence is concise, and don’t hesitate to ‘kill your darlings.’

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the question “How long is an essay?” doesn’t have a clear-cut answer. Too many variables impact the answer.

If you have a word count suggestion or limit, stick to it. You can submit a work a bit shorter or longer than the preferred length, but do it only if you must.

And if you don’t have any guidelines on how long your paper should be, check in with your school. Perhaps its website has recommendations on the standard essay length. If that doesn’t help, you can resort to searching for a standard length for an essay of the relevant type, discipline, and academic level online.

In any case, you should strive to write only as much as necessary – not more and not less. But if you struggle with it for now, you can always turn to Papertyper for AI-powered help!

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What are the six different essay lengths?

how long is an essay usually

This is the second of three chapters about Essays . To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Discuss why essays might vary in length

– Outline the six major lengths of academic essay

– Provide defining features for each essay length

Chapter 1: What is an academic essay?

Chapter 2: What are the six different essay lengths?

Chapter 3: What are the seven different types of academic essay?

Before you begin reading...

  • video and audio texts
  • knowledge checks and quizzes
  • skills practices, tasks and assignments

The length of essay you’re assigned will likely depend on where you are exactly in your academic course. Generally, assignments at the start of a bachelor’s degree will be shorter than those required in a student’s final years, just like master’s  and doctoral-level essays will continue to increase in both length and difficulty.

1. The One-Paragraph Essay

Generally about 150 to 250 words in length, the one-paragraph essay may be assigned by academic tutors simply in order to practise the basic concepts of paragraph writing, or it may also be used for specific purposes such as to practise summarising an article that’s been read in class or to write an extended definition of a concept. Additionally, one-paragraph essays may also be used as a diagnostic to quickly determine the level of a student’s writing. Unlike other essay lengths, for the one-paragraph essay, you’ll need to include at least some introductory, body and conclusive elements within the same paragraph.    

2. The Three-Paragraph Essay

Usually around 500 words in length, the three-paragraph essay is generally used to introduce students to the concept that all essays should maintain an introduction , body section and conclusion if the writer wishes to produce cohesive and a logical writing. The introduction and conclusion will be the first and last paragraphs and tend to be a little shorter in length, while the central body paragraph will contain the essay’s content or argument. A simple table explaining the balance of content in a three-paragraph essay has been provided below:

About Essay Types 2.1 Three Paragraph Essay

3. The Five-Paragraph Essay

Around 1,000 words in length, the five-paragraph essay is generally set by tutors who are content that their students understand the introduction-body-conclusion essay  structure and wish to allow more freedom to expand the ideas and arguments presented by the writer in the body section of the essay. This length of essay still only dedicates one paragraph to the introduction and conclusion , but allows three paragraphs to be dedicated to the exploration of the theme in the essay’s body. At this length, certain essay types such as cause and effect essays or compare and contrast essays may now be utilised. The following is a simple diagram of the balance of paragraph lengths in a five-paragraph essay.

About Essay Types 2.2 Five Paragraph Essay

4. The Extended Essay

The extended essay is the most common type of essay that’s assigned during a bachelor’s or master’s degree , and it may be of any length – although it’s unusual for such essays to be above 5,000 words. The most common lengths for an extended essay are 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 words, with a word count allowance of plus or minus 10%. Such essay types will most certainly require research and referencing skills , and may also begin to follow more complex structures such as are found in dissertations and theses rather than simply following the introduction-body-conclusion structure of shorter essays.

5. The Dissertation

Generally assigned as the final project for both bachelor’s   and master’s degree , the typical length of an academic dissertation is 10,000 or 15,000 words. Unlike shorter essay types , dissertations have more complex structures and are almost always based around primary research (original research that the writer has conducted themselves). The following table demonstrates some of the key parts of a dissertation as well as the rough word count  percentages for each section:

About Essay Types 2.3 The Dissertation

6. The Thesis

Finally, the thesis is the longest academic essay type and the one that’s reserved for doctorate students studying PhDs. Generally between 40,000 and 60,000 words in length, the doctorate thesis may contain all the elements of a dissertation but in much more detail and with more careful investigation. Such essays  are almost certainly original and are based on primary research , with a larger focus on the accuracy of the literature review , data collection and data analysis . Many students will never encounter this essay type. 

Once you can recognise which essay length you’ve been assigned, the next question covered in Chapter 3 is about determining the type of essay you have to write. This is because each essay type will require particular styles, structures, foci and language.

To reference this reader:

Academic Marker (2022) Essays . Available at: (Accessed: Date Month Year).

  • Harvard Writing Center
  • Leeds University Library
  • Purdue Online Writing Lab


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How Long is an Essay?

10 August, 2021

12 minutes read

Author:  Donna Moores

Making sure that you stick to the recommended amount of words is important for your academic performance. Even the slightest deviation from requirements might reduce your grade. But why let such a nuisance spoil your mark when you can just know what word count for each specific essay type is? So, how long is an essay? This question seems to be the talk of the town among students. As all students know from experience, the higher the academic level and the more specific the study area is, the stricter the course requirements are and the longer the essay should be. In the following guide, we will discuss how essay length varies depending on the academic level and what to do to find out what a proper essay length should be.

How Long is an Essay?

Essay Length Tips

Try to stick to the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule indicates that an essay should have the following structure: 80% of the text should be covered in the main body, and only 20% – in the introduction and conclusion. If you want to make sure that your text is easy to comprehend – make use of this rule. Structuring the paper in such a way makes sure that the reader does not lose the key idea of your essay.

Cover a single topic sentence in one body paragraph

Another valuable tip covers the composition of body paragraphs. Namely, keep in mind that each paragraph should reveal only one topic sentence, one point, and one argument. It is inappropriate to discuss two points in the same body paragraph since the whole essay loses its coherence this way. If you feel like you have some extra points to add, it is always better to create a new paragraph for this purpose.

Take spacing into account

Spacing plays an important role in assuring you follow the word count. For instance, a single-spaced page contains 550 words, while a double-spaced page contains 275 words respectively. So, according to the spacing you choose, you can always keep track of your word count. But to make sure you are as accurate as possible, you can always check the number of words right in Microsoft Word or Google Docs.

Five – this is the minimum required number of paragraphs

A basic paper structure requires five paragraphs, where three paragraphs belong to the main body part, and the other two cover introduction and conclusion. Keeping the outlined structure in mind always proves helpful, especially when it comes to sticking to a suggested word count.

Different Essay Length for Different Academic Levels

As a rule, a middle schooler is expected to write way less than a university student. Although the essay length often depends on the assignment type rather than academic level, the difference still exists. Below we will discuss what a recommended essay length for school and university essays is.

How Long is a Middle School Essay?

Middle school is where essay writing skills are being tested professionally. How long should a college essay be? Normally, essays length for middle school students varies between 500 and 1000 words. A typical middle school essay follows a well-known essay structure: introduction, body paragraphs, and summary (five paragraphs). Main body is usually the most informative part of a school essay and takes 80% of the word count. So if your teacher asks you to deliver a 1000-word essay, keep in mind that they expect you to write 800 words of main body text. But how long is a 500 word essay, for example? Well, this wordcount equals a page and a half. Based on this length, you can count the number of pages required for your essay.

How Long is a High School Essay?

There are several things that you, as a high schooler, might want to keep in mind. First of all, the essay structure remains exactly how it was in middle school. The only difference is that your tutor will expect a more profound analysis as well as a bigger essay length. Students need to show a more professional attitude to the topic and write approximately 2000 words for each essay.

How Long is a University (Undergraduate level) Essay

Apparently, the essay length will gradually extend as soon as you enter higher academic levels. At the university stage, students are challenged with complex subjects and are asked to reflect on the knowledge they gained during the course. Usually, Bachelor students write 5-10 page papers.

University essays imply demonstrating not only the knowledge and skills obtained during the course but also showing your writing skills. Students usually get long time frames to write such papers as they require research and extensive analysis.

If you are an undergraduate student, you may expect your professor to assign a couple of 1500 -word essays that explore a particular topic.

How Long is a University (Graduate level) Essay

A graduate level essay is similar to an undergraduate one. Although it often depends on the topic, university, and course, there are a lot of similarities between university essays for students of all academic levels. For a graduate-level student, the word count is somewhere between 3000 and 6000 words. However, courses that also imply other kinds of assignments, such as lab reports or practical exercises, might have looser essay length requirements.

Other requirements apply for those who are about to write their final dissertation or a master thesis. These are assignments that ask you to write 100,000 words or even more. For this type of assignment, you will be given a couple of months to research and write a paper.

How long is each part of an essay?

The length of each essay part usually depends on the general word count for the entire paper. How long is a 1000 word essay then? If the suggested essay length equals 1000 words, then you need to devote roughly 80% of the word count to the main body part, 10% for introduction, and 10% for a conclusion. However, if you are about to prepare a 10-page paper, this does not mean that final remarks and introduction should be proportionally big. Instead, it is always a plus when you keep your introduction short and up to the point. The same concerns the conclusion part. Always make sure you use only the most relevant information and avoid pouring water just to make the text look massive.

How to Manage Essay Word Count

Trying to achieve the suggested essay length might sometimes turn out to be quite a challenge. Here are some tips to make it easier for you:

Create an outline

Creating an outline before starting to write a final draft can do you good. First of all, having a clear plan indicates how many words you should write for each essay part. This approach will prevent you from extra editing work as well as give your text a transparent structure and message. You will get an idea of how to use the space that you have and avoid adding unnecessary information throughout the text.

Review the extant literature

To write better papers, it is always recommended to acknowledge the topic you’re working on. The reason why a lot of essays get poor grades is hidden in the insufficient topic understanding, so make sure you do solid research.

Make use of examples

Using examples in the text always proves to be a good idea. First, this approach enriches the text and gives it a lively tone. Additionally, referring to examples helps a lot when it comes to extending the word count. If you need to write 100 more words but have no idea of  what to add – add examples! Also, you may include some facts, data, or basically any evidence.

Revise your paper

Revising proves helpful when it comes to reducing the essay length. If you wrote 1500 words instead of 1000 – simply review the text and search for the information which sounds extra. Once you take a fresh look at your essay, you will certainly find entire sentences that do not fit in or just don’t make a lot of sense.

Can I go under the suggested length?

Going under a suggested length isn’t a crime as long as you’re close to the suggested word count. In other words, it is fine to write 900 words if the suggested length is 1000, but writing less than 900 words might affect your grade. Nonetheless, we suggest that you try to get as close to the required word count as possible – your tutor will appreciate it. If you are struggling to extend your text, here is what you can do:

  • Take a look at your essay points and try to provide more clarifications on their regard.
  • Use new paragraphs to shed light on the problem but from a different perspective.
  • Search for evidence and add it to body paragraphs.

Can I go over the suggested length?

As a rule, no one expects you to fit into exactly 500, 1000, or 2000 words. The standard acceptable deviation usually equals 10% of the text. This means that if the paper’s instructions ask you to write 2000 words, it will be fine if you go up to 2200 words.

However, this rule might not hold true in some cases, which is why we advise you to consult your professor on this matter.

We also recommend all students make the word count as close to the required one as possible. Exceeding the standard length always equals more time spent on evaluating the assignment, so try to compress your essay by using the following techniques:

  • Check whether your arguments are in line with the thesis statement and don’t. hesitate to get rid of extra information.
  • Make sure each body paragraph reveals one point only.
  • Reduce sentence length so that each sentence fits in a single line.

What if there are no length guidelines?

It might be the case that your paper does not provide any writing instructions at all. In this case, you can manage the situation in several ways:

Simply search for the requirements online

If no strategy seems to work – just google it. You will easily find social media posts and forum answers on how to write a specific kind of essay. Besides, you can visit your chair’s website and look for essay length requirements there. It sometimes happens that professors don’t indicate any word count because the information about it is available on the website.

Make conclusions based on the paper description

Take a look at your essay instructions. If they say that you should write a paper with three brief body paragraphs, it means that each paragraph should equal 150-200 words. If the paper asks you to develop your ideas in well-developed paragraphs, you will certainly need to write at least 400 words for each.

If you aren’t sure – contact the administration

If you couldn’t find the information regarding world limits but still feel like it is important to stick to rules, get in touch with the admissions office. They might not tell you exactly how long your paper should be; but they will tell you what an average, acceptable word count is.

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How Long is an Essay in Academic Writing

Published by Alaxendra Bets at August 17th, 2021 , Revised On August 22, 2023

Essays are the most popular academic assignments you will ever come across, but many students are not familiar with the differences between  different types of essays . As a matter of fact, you might not even know  how long an essay is supposed to be.

This can happen especially when you do not have any prior academic writing experience. These academic essays can range from concise essays to relatively lengthy essays, e.g. a  thesis project that is so detailed and lengthy it is just like a book.

Consult your department or tutor if you are unsure about how long your essay is supposed to be. The expectation regarding the length varies widely, depending on the nature of the subject you are exploring, your academic institute, and the expectations of the tutor who assigned the task.

In most cases, you will be assigned an essay with clear requirements regarding the number of pages to be included or the number of words to be produced (15-20 pages or 2,500-3,000 words).

It makes sense to consult your tutor if you are in doubt. Some tutors do not allow an inch of space, whereas others are more lenient and flexible in their approach.

This article provides detailed guidelines for the lengths of different types of essays. Here it is important to recognise that your essay’s quality is far more important than its length.

An essay that is long enough but lacking depth in content and analysis will not fetch the required results.

Rather than focusing on hitting a certain word count, you must look to write a high-quality essay that addresses the research problem and provides arguments for and against your thesis.

Different Essay Lengths for Different Academic Levels

Expectations about university-level essays are almost always higher than middle and high-school essays.

You need to see the academic level requirements you are  writing the essay  for and ask yourself how long an essay has to be before starting to write the essay.

Below, we will discuss essay writing patterns that can be applied at different academic levels.

How Long is a Middle School Essay?

The concept of the essay in a student’s academic career generally starts in middle school. Students are required to write essays normally consisting of 300-1,000 words at this level.

The essay comprises the five-paragraph model, sometimes called the hamburger model, which includes five paragraphs,  starting from the introduction .

The next three paragraphs will comprise the  main body ,  discussing the essay’s main theme and justifying the  thesis statement . The final paragraph provides a  conclusion .

It is improbable that the introduction and conclusion chapters would go over one paragraph at this academic level.

How Long is a High School Essay?

If you are a high school student and wondering how long an essay is, then there are a few things that you must keep in mind.

Your essay’s  format and structure   remain the same at high school, although your teachers would like you to expand your essay’s length and make it approximately 3-5 pages long.

The introduction section and  the main body  can be expanded to increase the word count, whereas the conclusion section’s length should still fall within one paragraph.

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How Long is a University (Undergraduate Level) Essay?

The essay’s length will increase dramatically at this stage, depending much on the course you have taken and the  topic  you are exploring. Undergraduate students have to cope with writing longer essays (normally of 5-10 pages).

Special classes are designed for undergraduate students in most universities, where they are taught essential  essay writing skills . To make sure that all students undergo this writing practice, essays are assigned in  assignments .

As the semester progresses, students are required to submit final essay assignments contributing a larger percentage to their overall grades.

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How Long is a University (Graduate Level) Essay?

Graduate-level essay writing is not very different from undergraduate level. It mainly depends on the requirements of the university, topic, course, and specifically the tutor.

Some university courses include several  essay writing assignments  because the course structure is designed as such.

Other universities do not involve regular essay writing as they focus more on presentations, laboratory sessions, and other practical learning experiences. The word count for essays at this level ranges from 2,000 to 6,000 words approximately.

Let’s understand this through an example; Chris is a student of English Literature and has many essays to write throughout the degree programme. On the other hand, Susan belongs to a Chemical Engineering programme that requires her to write just one or two essays throughout the year. Her programme deals more with practical knowledge, experiments, and calculations. The below table will help you to understand how long an essay should be.

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How to Manage Your Essay Word Count

You could end up receiving a poor grade despite meeting the essay length requirements. This can happen, especially if you have written an essay to fill pages using verbose or wordy expressions that do not address the thesis.

It shows that you have not understood the purpose of the assignment and rather just focused on the length without setting boundaries for your arguments. This produced quantity, not quality. Want to get an A+ on your essay assignment?

Here are some essay writing tips for you to consider when writing academic essays:

  • It is recommended to prepare an outline of the essay before you  start working on the essay . It allows you to include all the essential points that need to be covered, such as the  introduction ,  thesis statement ,  main body , and conclusion , before the actual write-up. This approach will help you to ensure that every critical element of the essay is in place.
  • Many students  struggle with essay writing  because they aim to meet the word count requirement even if they are completely unfamiliar with the topic. You must review the existing literature on the topic before starting to write.
  • Use examples and illustrations. This will enable your readers to grasp information that could be otherwise hard to understand.
  • Even if you are writing a short essay, make sure you are writing based on the essay outline. Short essays need to be straightforward, to the point, and concise, but should clearly present your argument.
  • Each section of the essay should be relevant to the topic. Review each line and paragraph. Make sure that each paragraph focuses on a single point and doesn’t meander. On the other hand, a longer essay allows for more space to adopt a broader approach and guide the audience through a complex reasoning line. However, longer essays still need to maintain a focus.
  • Please do not sacrifice your introduction or conclusion chapters as they enable you to grasp the readers’ attention. Note that the introduction chapter provides the basis of the essay, while the conclusion chapter summarises your overall research and analysis.
  • For longer essays, you will need to spend considerable time  editing and proofreading , so you must plan this aspect of your essay assignment accordingly.
  • When developing your essay outline , review the existing literature to collect details, arguments , and evidence relevant to the subject topic. You might want to revise the thesis to be more specific or more general if it appears that you need more space to present a convincing argument or lack enough information to make up the word count.

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Can you Go Over or Under the Required Essay Word Count?

In this regard, the best practice would be to write within the specified word count because the word limit is set in keeping with your academic course requirements and academic level.

Your tutor would clearly state exactly how much detail should be provided in the essay. If you find your essay length below what was suggested, it means that you have not been able to explore the topic to its full.

Writing an essay that is shorter than the expected length can result in a low grade, as your tutor will perceive that you have not put enough effort into writing the essay.

If you are struggling to reach the expected word count, then the following tips will be of great help:

  • Strengthen and clarify your arguments by adding more examples and evidence to the content of your essay.
  • Analyse each example in detail. If you have not done so, then consider explaining your points more comprehensively.
  • Do more research to find a new aspect of your topic that you have not already included. Be aware that this could also require you to revise your introduction and conclusion paragraphs accordingly.
  • Avoid using filler. Your tutor will negatively mark your essay if it looks like you used unnecessarily complex words and duplicated the same information.
  • Try not to think about the word count as you write the essay. Let the depth and strength of your arguments be the driving force.

Going beyond the word count would not be a good approach either, but whether you will be marked negatively for writing more words than required depends on your tutor. Some tutors are flexible and lenient in their approach, while  others are strict  and may penalise you for exceeding the length.

If your essay is over the acceptable word count, it is recommended to consult your tutor and seek permission. However, remember that longer essays will take your marker longer to grade your work and potentially annoy them.

If your essay is well above the suggested benchmark, then you will need to edit it to bring it down to within the suggested limits:

  • Exclude information, paragraphs, or parts of paragraphs that appear to be irrelevant to your thesis and argument. If in doubt, leave it out.
  • Ensure that each paragraph in your essay is concise, focused, and does not deviate from your essay’s  main topic .
  • Remove any filler verbiage and words that you have used just for the sake of increasing the word count of your essay.
  • Do not remove any information that is directly relevant to your essay’s topic and adds weight to your reasoning’s coherence.
  • Do not forget to revise the  transitions  after you have cut out the unnecessary information.
  • The introduction and conclusion chapters are of critical importance in essay writing, so avoid sacrificing these two sections. Make sure you give enough space to introduce your topic and summarise your main argument comprehensively.
  • After making any of these revisions, it is imperative that you read the affected sections carefully. Edits can have knock-on effects; it is good practice to read the entire essay through again.

The Length of Each Section of your Essay

Since we have already explored how long an essay should be, it is time to figure out how long each chapter of the essay should be. The main body should occupy most of the space, as this part engages the reader with different arguments, provides pieces of evidence, and shares ideas.

The introduction part should be in proportion to the total length of the essay. For essays with a suggested word count of 2,000 words or less, it is recommended to have an introduction chapter with just one or two paragraphs.

The length of the introduction can vary depending on the word limit provided. It is possible to add extra paragraphs in very long essays.

The conclusion section is short and concise, briefly summarising the key points without going into much detail. The length of the conclusion section will also depend on the overall word limit of your essay.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long is an essay in academic writing.

The length of an essay in academic writing varies based on the assignment and level. Typically, undergrad essays are 1,000-2,500 words , while postgrad ones can be 2,500-5,000 words . Follow guidelines for precise word count and structure.

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How Long Should An Essay Be? 6 Different Essay Lengths

Ritik Sharma

  • December 20, 2023

The length of an essay can vary greatly depending on the type of essay being written and the purpose for which it is being written. While there is no strict rule on how long an essay should be, some general guidelines can help you determine the appropriate length for your essay. In this article, we will discuss 6 different essay lengths and provide tips on how to write a strong essay at each length.

What is an Academic Essay?

Before we dive into the different lengths of essays, it’s important to understand what an academic essay is. An academic essay is a piece of writing that presents and defends an argument or point of view on a specific topic. It is commonly used in higher education as a way for students to demonstrate their understanding and critical thinking skills.

An academic essay should be well-researched, well-structured, and well-written. It should also follow a specific formatting style, such as MLA or APA, and include citations and a bibliography. The length of an academic essay can vary depending on the type and purpose of the essay.

6 Different Essay Lengths

1. the one-paragraph essay.

The one-paragraph essay, typically 150 to 250 words, acts as a learning exercise for students to grasp the basics of paragraph writing.

Academic tutors may assign it for various purposes, such as summarizing an article or giving an extended concept definition.

Furthermore, one-paragraph essays can be a diagnostic tool to evaluate a student’s writing proficiency.

This type of essay incorporates introductory, body, and concluding elements within a single paragraph.

2. The Three-Paragraph Essay

The three-paragraph essay is commonly used to introduce students to essay structure. It typically consists of around 500 words.

The essay includes an introduction, body section, and conclusion. The purpose is to teach students how to write cohesively and logically.

The introduction and conclusion, which are usually shorter, serve as the first and last paragraphs of the essay.

The central body paragraph contains the content or argument of the essay.

3. The Five-Paragraph Essay

Tutors often assign a five-paragraph essay to assess students’ grasp of essay structure.

The body section benefits from the added flexibility to expand ideas, typically spanning approximately 1,000 words.

This type of essay dedicates one paragraph each to the introduction and conclusion while allotting three paragraphs to explore the essay’s theme.

This length allows essay types like cause-and-effect or compare-and-contrast essays to be effectively utilized.

A simple diagram can illustrate the allocation of paragraph lengths in a five-paragraph essay.

4. The Extended Essay

The extended essay is commonly assigned for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

It can vary in length but typically does not exceed 5,000 words.

Common word lengths for an extended essay are 1,500, 3,000, and 5,000 words, with a 10% allowance.

These essays require research and referencing skills and may follow more complex structures like dissertations and theses.

They are not limited to the traditional introduction-body-conclusion structure of shorter essays.

5. The Dissertation

Dissertations are usually assigned as the final project for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

The typical length of an academic dissertation is around 10,000 to 15,000 words.

Unlike shorter essay types, dissertations have more complex structures.

Dissertations are almost always based on primary research, which means conducting original research.

Dissertations require the author to conduct research rather than rely solely on existing sources.

6. The Thesis

The thesis is the longest type of academic essay, typically written by doctoral students studying for a PhD.

It is considerably longer, ranging from 40,000 to 60,000 words, compared to other types of essays.

While similar to a dissertation, a thesis delves into greater detail and involves more extensive research.

These are typically based on primary research, emphasizing the accuracy of the literature review, data collection, and data analysis.

Not all students will come across this essay type during their academic journey.

However, it requires an immense amount of time and dedication to complete.

In addition to these types, essays are classified into 5 other types: High School Essays, College Admission Essays, Undergraduate College Essays, Graduate School Admission Essays, and Graduate School Essays.

Let’s have a look at the table below to understand the suggested lengths for these essays:

The length of an essay can vary depending on the type and level of education. Knowing the lengths of essays can help students effectively plan and manage their assignments. However, it’s important to remember that the length should not be the sole focus when writing an essay.

It’s equally important to focus on the quality of content and meeting the assignment’s requirements. A well-crafted essay with cohesive arguments and supported evidence is more valuable than simply meeting a specific word count. Students should prioritize developing their writing skills to effectively convey their ideas and arguments rather than solely focusing on meeting a certain length requirement.

1. How long should an essay be?

The length of an essay can vary depending on the type and level of education, ranging from 250 words for a short essay to 60,000 words for a thesis.

2. Can I exceed the recommended length for an essay?

It is generally not recommended to significantly exceed the recommended length for an essay as it may indicate a lack of conciseness and focus. However, ensuring that all necessary points and arguments are adequately addressed within the essay is important.

3. How long should each paragraph be in an essay?

The length of each paragraph can vary depending on the content and purpose of the essay. Generally, paragraphs should be at least three sentences long and focus on one main point or idea. It’s important to balance too short and too long paragraphs for cohesion and clarity in the essay.

4. How do you increase or decrease the length of an essay?

To increase the length of an essay, students can expand on their arguments and provide more evidence to support their points. They can also include additional examples, quotes, or analysis to add depth to their ideas. Students can eliminate unnecessary details or repetitions to decrease the length and ensure concise writing by avoiding filler words and phrases. However, it’s important not to compromise the quality and coherence of the essay in the process.

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How Long is an Essay: A Detailed Guide

Published by Ellie Cross at November 1st, 2021 , Revised On February 1, 2024

A specific essay length can help you quickly formulate an outline of your essay. The length of the academic essay is usually shorter than other research writing pieces like dissertations and reports.

The essay’s length may vary depending on the

  • Essay’s topic requirements
  • Types of essays
  • Academic level

Your instructors usually provide clear guidelines, including the essay’s expected length, while assigning it. Sometimes they also allocate specific word count to each section if necessary. Still, if you are unsure about the essay’s length, this article will guide you in detail about how long an essay will be as per the guidelines for each essay type.

Also read: How to write an expository essay 

Types of Essays at Different Education Levels

1. high school essays:.

You may be asked to write an essay about a particular topic in high school. A high school essay’s ideal length mainly depends on the specific essay guides provided by the school. Whether the essay is persuasive, expository , literary or narrative , the word count is generally 800 to 1000 words.

In most cases, a 500 words essay will have three paragraphs, including;

  • Introduction

Whereas a 1000 word essay can have up to five paragraphs, starting with an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

2. College Admission Essays:

You will submit this essay along with your college application. It is a short essay with a restricted word count of about 250 to 600 words. It is also known as a personal statement where you express your goals and aspirations behind your application for admission. You should stick to the essay’s restricted length and avoid exceeding the word limit as it can negatively impact your admission application.

3. Undergraduate College Essay:

In college, your instructor will assign you different types of essays . University essays require critical thinking and analysis. The length of the essay is typically between 1000 and 5000 words.

Always check with your tutor or administrator to be sure of the word count limit before writing the essay outline . These types of essays are commonly known as extended essays, and they may challenge your research and analytical skills.

4. Graduate School Admission Essay:

The essay for admission to graduate school is usually a detailed personal statement with a length of about 500 to 1000 words. In the graduate school admission essay, you will write in detail about your achievements and motivations behind applying for graduate school.

5. Graduate School Essay:

Graduate-level essays are likely to be lengthy and extensive as they are extensive research-based and must demonstrate analytical and critical skills. This type of essay has a length of about 2500 to 6000 words.

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How Long is Each Section of an Essay?

You can decide the length of each part of an essay depending upon the whole essay’s length. The following section describes each part of an essay and its ideal length.


The introduction is the first paragraph of an essay where you introduce your topic and explain briefly what you will discuss in the remaining essay. For example, in a 3000-word essay, your introduction will be 200-300 words to introduce your topic and lay out the framework to present your main argument.

The introduction consists of several small key elements like a thesis statement and a hook to grab your reader’s attention. It is better to keep your introduction precise and to the point.

Body paragraphs:

The number of body parts your essay comprises largely depends on the length of the whole essay.

For example, there will be a single body paragraph in a short essay of three paragraphs.

This means that there is a total of five paragraphs in a 1000 words essay, including an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph. More body paragraphs allow you to elaborate on different aspects and add more details depending upon the essay’s requirements.

Also read: How to write a rhetorical analysis essay


The conclusion is the last part of your essay. It is usually a single paragraph for shorter essays. Here, you should restate the critical points from the main body and summarise your analysis. The conclusion can go up to 300-700 words depending upon the length of the essay.

What to do if My Essay is Above or Below the Required Length?

An essay’s length is a piece of important information to know for students, but that is not all you should care about while writing an essay. Including unnecessary and irrelevant details to meet the required word count can negatively impact your grade.

When you are assigned an essay with a specific length, you should write your essay within the required limit. If your essay is significantly below the word count and you struggle to meet the requirements, the following tips can be handy.

  • Research more on your topic and include any relevant aspect you have not discussed before. Through further research, you would get clarity on the topic and explain it in a more concise and logical manner.
  • Elaborate on specific parts of the essay by adding more information and analysing certain aspects in detail.
  • Research and include evidence and examples to strengthen your standpoint. The addition of relevant examples in your essay can show your in-depth understanding of the topic.

However, sometimes you may also face a situation where the essay length crosses the required limit. This situation occurs in personal statement writing tasks where you may struggle to decide which information to include or exclude.

An essay well below the suggested word count can also harm your grades.

The following tips suggest ways to make your writing precise and within the assigned essay length.

  • Read your essay thoroughly and check if you have included any unnecessary detail irrelevant to your chosen topic.
  • You should make sure that each paragraph in your essay is relevant to the thesis statement and does not differ from it.
  • Look out for any redundant details that are repeated in the essay.
  • Create an essay outline before starting your essay to assign an estimated length to each section of the essay. In this way, you will maintain the required essay length and set a balanced word count for each portion of the essay.

Also read: Organising your thoughts to write an essay

Frequently Asked Questions

What should be the length of an essay.

The length of an essay varies depending on the purpose, topic, and guidelines. Generally, essays can range from a few paragraphs to several pages. It’s essential to follow any specified length requirements or word limits provided by the instructor or publication guidelines.

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It would be best if you planned the structure of your essay before you start writing. An essay outline is perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of the essay writing process.

The Sat essay is almost like a formal essay assigned in college for which you might have to examine some content. The SAT essay might be optional, but we suggest taking it and showing the universities that you are ready to be on board.

Before we describe a narrative essay, it will make sense to understand what is an essay and what are the different types of essay.

A student of the school, college, or university is assigned to write academic essays throughout the academic career. An essay can be described as a brief composition of informative writing.

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Frequently asked questions

What is an essay.

An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.

In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.

Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.

Frequently asked questions: Writing an essay

For a stronger conclusion paragraph, avoid including:

  • Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the main body
  • Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion…”)
  • Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g. “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

Your essay’s conclusion should contain:

  • A rephrased version of your overall thesis
  • A brief review of the key points you made in the main body
  • An indication of why your argument matters

The conclusion may also reflect on the broader implications of your argument, showing how your ideas could applied to other contexts or debates.

The conclusion paragraph of an essay is usually shorter than the introduction . As a rule, it shouldn’t take up more than 10–15% of the text.

The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.

To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

Let’s say you’re writing a five-paragraph  essay about the environmental impacts of dietary choices. Here are three examples of topic sentences you could use for each of the three body paragraphs :

  • Research has shown that the meat industry has severe environmental impacts.
  • However, many plant-based foods are also produced in environmentally damaging ways.
  • It’s important to consider not only what type of diet we eat, but where our food comes from and how it is produced.

Each of these sentences expresses one main idea – by listing them in order, we can see the overall structure of the essay at a glance. Each paragraph will expand on the topic sentence with relevant detail, evidence, and arguments.

The topic sentence usually comes at the very start of the paragraph .

However, sometimes you might start with a transition sentence to summarize what was discussed in previous paragraphs, followed by the topic sentence that expresses the focus of the current paragraph.

Topic sentences help keep your writing focused and guide the reader through your argument.

In an essay or paper , each paragraph should focus on a single idea. By stating the main idea in the topic sentence, you clarify what the paragraph is about for both yourself and your reader.

A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

  • In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
  • In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
  • In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory

At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

In rhetorical analysis , a claim is something the author wants the audience to believe. A support is the evidence or appeal they use to convince the reader to believe the claim. A warrant is the (often implicit) assumption that links the support with the claim.

Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, building up logical arguments . Ethos appeals to the speaker’s status or authority, making the audience more likely to trust them. Pathos appeals to the emotions, trying to make the audience feel angry or sympathetic, for example.

Collectively, these three appeals are sometimes called the rhetorical triangle . They are central to rhetorical analysis , though a piece of rhetoric might not necessarily use all of them.

The term “text” in a rhetorical analysis essay refers to whatever object you’re analyzing. It’s frequently a piece of writing or a speech, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, you could also treat an advertisement or political cartoon as a text.

The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to explain the effect a piece of writing or oratory has on its audience, how successful it is, and the devices and appeals it uses to achieve its goals.

Unlike a standard argumentative essay , it’s less about taking a position on the arguments presented, and more about exploring how they are constructed.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

If you have to hand in your essay outline , you may be given specific guidelines stating whether you have to use full sentences. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor.

When writing an essay outline for yourself, the choice is yours. Some students find it helpful to write out their ideas in full sentences, while others prefer to summarize them in short phrases.

You will sometimes be asked to hand in an essay outline before you start writing your essay . Your supervisor wants to see that you have a clear idea of your structure so that writing will go smoothly.

Even when you do not have to hand it in, writing an essay outline is an important part of the writing process . It’s a good idea to write one (as informally as you like) to clarify your structure for yourself whenever you are working on an essay.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

Your subjects might be very different or quite similar, but it’s important that there be meaningful grounds for comparison . You can probably describe many differences between a cat and a bicycle, but there isn’t really any connection between them to justify the comparison.

You’ll have to write a thesis statement explaining the central point you want to make in your essay , so be sure to know in advance what connects your subjects and makes them worth comparing.

Some essay prompts include the keywords “compare” and/or “contrast.” In these cases, an essay structured around comparing and contrasting is the appropriate response.

Comparing and contrasting is also a useful approach in all kinds of academic writing : You might compare different studies in a literature review , weigh up different arguments in an argumentative essay , or consider different theoretical approaches in a theoretical framework .

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

If you’re not given a specific prompt for your descriptive essay , think about places and objects you know well, that you can think of interesting ways to describe, or that have strong personal significance for you.

The best kind of object for a descriptive essay is one specific enough that you can describe its particular features in detail—don’t choose something too vague or general.

If you’re not given much guidance on what your narrative essay should be about, consider the context and scope of the assignment. What kind of story is relevant, interesting, and possible to tell within the word count?

The best kind of story for a narrative essay is one you can use to reflect on a particular theme or lesson, or that takes a surprising turn somewhere along the way.

Don’t worry too much if your topic seems unoriginal. The point of a narrative essay is how you tell the story and the point you make with it, not the subject of the story itself.

Narrative essays are usually assigned as writing exercises at high school or in university composition classes. They may also form part of a university application.

When you are prompted to tell a story about your own life or experiences, a narrative essay is usually the right response.

The majority of the essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Unless otherwise specified, you can assume that the goal of any essay you’re asked to write is argumentative: To convince the reader of your position using evidence and reasoning.

In composition classes you might be given assignments that specifically test your ability to write an argumentative essay. Look out for prompts including instructions like “argue,” “assess,” or “discuss” to see if this is the goal.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

An expository essay is a common assignment in high-school and university composition classes. It might be assigned as coursework, in class, or as part of an exam.

Sometimes you might not be told explicitly to write an expository essay. Look out for prompts containing keywords like “explain” and “define.” An expository essay is usually the right response to these prompts.

An expository essay is a broad form that varies in length according to the scope of the assignment.

Expository essays are often assigned as a writing exercise or as part of an exam, in which case a five-paragraph essay of around 800 words may be appropriate.

You’ll usually be given guidelines regarding length; if you’re not sure, ask.

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