A ploy conceived by English teachers to show their jaded outlook towards students who are either too stupid to do it anyway, or are smart, but prefer pin-point to the point answering rather than spending five paragraphs trying to convince "X" to do "Y". They usually give people a week or so to do the essay, but it is known fact that nobody does the stupid things until the night before it's due.
Tom - "We're going to see a movie, wanna come along?"
Ray - "No, I've still got this clusterfuck of an essay to write."
William -"You mean the one where you have to write five pages about what your favorite aspect of Beowulf was and why?"
Ray - "Yep. See you guys monday."