How to write an essay plan

My name is Julia, and I have recently completed my Business Studies degree at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). In first year, I never realised how useful it was to plan my essay in exams. I would always get stressed, run out of time and not fully answer the exam question. When I learned how to make essay plans, it really helped me in exams as it kept me calm, staying focused on answering the question. I thought I would share some of my top tips when answering exam questions.

Julia Harrison

One of the most common reasons for exam failure is…. not answering the question. Demonstrating that you understand the question is the first step in producing an answer, so structuring your answer is as important as what you know. More content is not necessarily better so remember this and don’t let it worry you if notice someone is writing crazy amounts more than you in the exam, the most important thing is to answer the question!

1. Build an introductory paragraph

The introduction is about the question not the answer. Restate the question in your own words and find and use key words that show you know what the point of the question is by defining key words/concepts/theories.

2. Plan your key points which will support your argument

Write each of your key points - every point will represent each new paragraph and form the basis of your essay structure.

Underneath each key point write one or two examples from your research/work that supports your point eg quotes or ideas as well how you will conclude that paragraph.

3. Conclusion

Restate the question and refer back to the main points, to answer the essay question.

Example plan

Below is the structure of a plan template that you could draw in the exam and populate with the information you have revised.


  • Restate question
  • Define key words/concepts and theories

Paragraph 1 – Topic sentence

  • Idea/ argument
  • Examples
  • Conclusion

Paragraph 2 – Topic sentence

  • Idea/ argument
  • Examples
  • Conclusion

Paragraph 3 – Topic sentence

  • Idea/ argument
  • Examples
  • Conclusion


  • Restate question and reinforce points made throughout the essay to close and answer the question

For more advice on managing exams, check out Julia's Exam top tips.

LJMU's Student Advice and Wellbeing services run a range of workshops, projects and activities that are designed to improve students’ wellbeing. They also cover coping strategies and techniques to manage some of the stresses and anxieties associated with exams to optimise students' potential to succeed. So rest assured that the University has services available to support you during times when you’re not feeling your best, visit the Health and Wellbeing page to find out LJMU can support you or email the Health and Wellbeing Team at

External help

There are national support helplines such as Anxiety UK 03444 775 774, which is a charity that can provide support over the phone (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm) to students when stress becomes overwhelming. If you require specific external support, check out the NHS website for a variety of helplines.


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