Understand your assignment: What is the goal of this essay? What is the length and deadline of the assignment? Is there anything you need to clarify with your teacher or professor?
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.
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.
You should formulate your thesis statement—the central argument you`re going to make. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long.
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.
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.