Although it may seem like a waste of time – especially during examswhere time is tight – it is almost always better to brainstorm a bit before beginning your essay. This should enable you to find the best supporting ideas – rather than simply the first ones that come to mind – and position them in your essay accordingly.
However, it`s important to keep in mind that your professor understands the circumstances under which the essay was written. They`re fully aware of the time pressure you were dealing with, and they will judge your work far differently than they would judge a typical essay with a deadline set weeks after the assignment date.
On the topic of planning, it`s important to sketch out an idea of how long you want to spend on each section of your essay. If you know the number of paragraphs you`ll need to write ahead of time, you can do this before the exam even starts!
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.
When composing essays, many students stop and read over each paragraph once they finish it, making sure that it`s well-written and free of errors before advancing to the next one. This approach is entirely logical when there`s no time pressure involved, but it can actually work against you during an exam.
Remember the paragraph-based schedule we discussed above? It`ll be useless if you don`t do regular check-ins during the exam. Keep an eye on the clock to ensure you`re always on track.