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.
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.
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.
Consider practicing writing under time pressure. You`ve probably written dozens of essays before–the only thing that sets a timed essay apart is that it`s timed. Students often struggle to complete the full essay within the time constraints, particularly if they have to write longhand when they`re accustomed to working on the computer.
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.
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.