argh! is it possible to write 8,000 words in four days?


my masters exams included a three-day (72 hours) take-home exam. in these 72 hours I wrote 10'000 words and the quality was good enough to earn the best grade.
of course, i was prepared (i had to submit three different topics to the examiner and on the day the exam started got a question out of one of these topics): i had read the literature, thought about the structure of possible papers, and even started writing little "general" bits like background info. and of course, i had made sure i'd have optimal conditions: my mum was there and cooked healthy meals and made sure i drank enough, my partner made me go to bed at night, a number of friends came running at my calls, proof-read sections for me, discussed structure, went for short walks during breaks with me... and stayed the last night when I worked until 5am, making sure i put the parts of the document together correctly (deadline for submission was 9am). so - it can be done. but afterwards i felt like dead for a while!


Wow Shani, that's tough. Is that typical in Switzerland?

Well done on getting the best grade though


I just did 4000 words in about three days. I think any more than that would have been really at the expense of quality.

One of my supervisors tells me that 1000 words is the optimum and that trying to do any more than that is usually counterproductive. While as an undergraduate, I would have written twice as fast, I find that PhD writing seems to be a much slower affair. Having said that, if you know your sources inside out and have a VERY clear plan, I'm sure it can be done.


thanks juno, it's been a while now yes it is tough and yes it was at the time typical for arts and social sciences subjects in switzerland (though not everywhere). things are changing now with the bologna-reforms so i doubt this form of exam will continue to exist much longer.
while being exhausting, it was also fun - and, i believe, a lot more "real" than normal exams. when in life do you have to write on 4 topics in two hours without access to books/internet? but, situations where you have a few days, access to any info you need, and a strict deadline at the end, are much more common... a bit like what chris is doing right now


Hi Shani,

danke fuer den Veloland Tipp, ich bin allerdings nicht sehr weit gekommen - die Schweiz war doch zu bergig.


Hej! Thanks for your comments - things are going okay. I plan to really blitz today: getting the words down and polishing tomorrow.

I will message when I finish - and then sleep. Forever.

Must have a sample draft chapter written for a end of first year panel meeting next week - but obviously the panel needs to read it beforehand.

The Swiss exam system sounds brutal!


I can write a 1000 words an hour (at least) but thats only if it's me writing up my own work, having to use references takes much longer.

Having no distractions helps, turn off messengers, turn off the internet (if you don't need it). Try and give yourself small aims and rewards, "1000 words by x o'clock and I can have a kitkat with my coffee" etc but be realistic!


hi chris - am on 12 000 now, how is it going? i really need to work on my flow and my argument. that hasn't fallen into place yet.


I have written 2,700 words so far today. And will need to write about another 4,000 words or so by the end of tomorrow. No sleep for me tonight. And then there is referencing. And then I need to update my biblio' and lit review briefly. Then print by Friday morning and put in the panels pigeonholes...Phew. I will do it. I can do it. I have to do it. We will both do it..

It is okay, even if it isn;t totally fluent it kind of communicates what I want it too...or the level of research I have done looking for sources...

Good luck to you. Will check the board in a few hours..


am also gonna be up for the better part of tonight. hope we can finish on time. later..


I don't think I can do this!


so, jojo and chris - how did the night's work go? i hope you got done what you wanted and are now giving yourself the well deserved rest!

i do wonder: both of you seem to be constantly writing, and high numbers of words, too. what is it that you write? are these chapters of your PhD, upgrade reports, journal articles, conference papers?

do you tend to work in spurts like this with breaks in between or do you keep up that pace all the time?
i'm really impressed and amazed by both of you.


Eeek! Don't be amazed! Really - it is soooo bad that I have to cram work like this. It is still a tail-back I think from when I used to work for money and did my PhD at the same time. I only left work a week or so ago so haven't had time to adjust to normal working.

This is my first year report. And I need to upgrade my literature review to. I slept last night, phew. So I will probably have to stay up all night doing it. But at least it seems achievable, just now - it didn't at 00:30 last night!


hi shani - am writing my second and chapter. i've written a paper for publication which i decided to make ch. 3. my thesis has five chapters. i hope to finish the first 3 by december/ january.

always writing is what happens when you're not so organised. i work best under pressure. without pressure i can't get myself to concentrate. am gonna be up for the better part of the night today. managed to write about 3/4 of it yesterday. today i'll focus on flow and fill in the gaps.


Hi Chris,

did you eventually manage your 8000 words? If so this would be amazing, if not I think this is (very) understandable.