Writing an essay under exam conditions is the biggest nightmare for any student. It is not easy to write an essay when you have an entire month to prepare it, so imagine how hard it is to have only an hour to write not just any essay, but one that has to impress.
Rehearsal and preparation are crucial. You might feel that it is not possible to plan for such an essay because you do not know the topic. On the contrary. What you have to do is not prepare on a certain topic, but prepare to write an essay in the required time constraints.
Here is what you should do:
Plan your time wisely
First of all, read carefully what the topic and the requirements are. Before you start writing, you must be sure that you completely understand the question. If the teacher asks you to evaluate, do not fill the page with a summary. If you have to include evidence, do not write an essay on personal opinions.
Begin with the larger essay questions, to be able to answer them in time and to avoid burnout. For example, if one of the questions is worth half of the test score, you will spend half of the time to answer it.
It would be helpful to prepare an outline or an idea map quickly. Divide your ideas into topics and subtopics that are interconnected. A plan will help you bring together all your ideas and prevent you from forgetting to mention important arguments. Do not give too many details and do not waste a lot of time on this. You can write only phrases and keywords that you will develop later.
Do not spend more than 10% of the given time on writing it. It should include a concise and summary of the main points that you will raise in the body of the essay. Do not get lost in details and use short sentences. This will help you have clarity of purpose and thought.
The body should include the main argument, explaining it while keeping in mind the question and looking at it critically. This is the point where you should say why the initial premise might be limited or wrong, demonstrating that you have your own opinions, instead of memorizing somebody else’s ideas. This last part is called evaluation or analysis, and it is necessary if you want to get a high mark.
The conclusion is the part where you should put in balance the various arguments and see which of them are the most relevant. At the same time, bring something new, and avoid repeating what you already said in the introduction and the body of the essay. You can show why a particular argument from the ones you mentioned is strong, and give some examples.
How much should you write?
If the teacher hasn’t specified a certain number of words, then you can write as much as you consider or have the possibility to in the given time. Although quality beats quantity, do not write half a page and think that this would be enough. A strong ending will prove the teacher that you have been in control of your essay all the way through the end.
Make your essay easy to read and fluid, connecting the points from one paragraph to the other. Focus, do not waste time on too much thinking, figure out exactly what you want to write about and do not change your mind after you have written half an essay already.