(frequently asked questions)
Do I have to stick to it?
Definitely not. The plan is for YOU. It exists to help orient you within the essay and to help ensure a full answer. You can deviate from it if you wish, and you may find that as you write the essay you have more and more ideas. Stop and take the time to brainstorm them down then reassess. Adjust your plan! If your ideas are so plentiful and your overall answer seems to be changing, go back a couple of steps to preparation writing then mapping and redo your plan.

Is a plan the same thing as an outline?
Yes. There are many different names for most things associated with essays.

But I've written lots of essays without them before. Why do I need one now?
The more complicated the assignment, the more complicated the answer, the more ideas you'll use, the more you'll have to organize them to ensure successful completion of the assignment. To write a comprehensive, interesting paper, you need organization. You may be able to fluke a good paper, but a good plan will help you toward writing a good paper every time.

Should I use one in an exam situation?
A plan is a great thing for an exam: it will give you a guide to follow when you're panicked, it will help you remember all of the parts which you are prone not to do when under pressure, it will help stop you from rushing, it will ensure a full answer.

Once you have chosen your structure and written your plan you are ready to write your first draft.
Go to Writing the first draft.