How do I plan for essays in an exam?

One of the most common things your teachers will say to you in preparing for your English Literature exam is to make sure you write a plan. Personally I always used to ignore this advice because I thought I didn't have enough time to plan. However, I found that actually it was one of the most important parts of my whole exam. Firstly, plans are useful just to collect your thoughts. If you're looking at a question in your exam feeling daunted with no idea how to tackle the question, it is far better to write down some possible ideas than to throw yourself straight into it, to then find you have to start again later. 

Your plan could simply take the form of a mindmap, where you write possible ideas and start connecting them together. Once you have grouped them, these can then form your paragraphs. I always used to split my plan into my introduction, seperate paragraphs and then conclusion because I personally felt this to help me in structuring my argument. The worst thing you can do is start an essay not being sure how you want to finish it. Write your main point of the argument or analysis at the top of your plan so you can stick to it as you're writing. This will also show the examiner that you have thought it through. Also, if you do not manage to finish the essay, the examiner can see you had other points to make.

While I emphasise the importance of a plan, I must also say that it should not be any ore than a few lines long. All my plans were written very briefly, in shorthand notes within the first few minutes of the exam. This gave me time to collect my thoughts but I didn't take so long that I ran out of time. If you have an idea for a later paragraph as you are writing you can always go back and add it in, but make sure you restrict your planning time to three or four minutes at most. 

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