Define a topic: If you`re allowed to choose your own topic, try to pick something that you already know a bit about and that will hold your interest.
Take note of the amount of time allotted for the exam and split it into reasonably-sized segments, leaving some time at the end for revision if possible. Without a schedule to follow, it`s easy to become too focused on a single paragraph and run out of time to finish the essay.
Therefore, if you take the time to review your notes and ensure you understand everything that was discussed, it should be difficult for the essay question to catch you off guard. As soon as you read the question, relevant course concepts will start popping into your head, and you`ll just have to organize them into a coherent essay.
Perfecting paragraphs is a time-consuming process, and, if you spend too much time editing before the essay is finished, you might have to rush through the last few sections or leave them out entirely. For this reason, it`s best to focus on producing a complete first draft before you worry about edits and revisions.
Some students react to the time pressure of essay exams by scribbling down their introduction as soon as they`ve read the question and figuring out their points as they go. While it might seem counter-intuitive, taking five or ten minutes before you start writing in order to draw up a plan will be an enormous time saver.
Once you hand your exam to the professor, relax! It`s easy to work yourself up after an essay exam when you didn`t get the chance to read your work over or you feel like your arguments were weak.