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.
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.
The most important part of writing an essay exam is ensuring that you`re answering the question was posed. Even if you made sure you were interpreting everything correctly before you began, you may have forgotten to address a subquestion or integrate an example as you were writing. Before you submit, read the prompt again and make sure your completed essay matches up!
Without a clear plan, you run the risk of realizing partway through that you`ve drifted off topic or written yourself into a corner, and fixing these mistakes will consume a ton of extra time.
For example, if you`ve been assigned a five-paragraph expository essay for a high school class, you`ll probably spend the most time on the writing stage; for a college-level argumentative essay, on the other hand, you`ll need to spend more time researching your topic and developing an original argument before you start writing.
If you realize that you`re falling dangerously behind schedule, it might be necessary to cut some arguments or examples you planned to include. Although making these omissions can be painful, it`s better to leave out a few points from one section than to leave out an entire paragraph because you ran out of time.