It's test time, and this one isn't multiple choice. Your teacher gives you a sheet of paper with a question on it. The only problem is, you can't immediately see a definite answer. It's time to pull it together and, at the very least, be able to sound like you know what you're talking about.
Read the question carefully. Make sure you understand what is being asked of you. Think of the different meanings of the specific words within the question.
Mull the question over before attempting to answer. Absorb it. Think about what you know or have learned about the topic. Taking this time can have a calming effect, which will help you to write a more cogent response.
Develop an opinion, if you haven't already. Your argument will be more convincing if you believe what you are writing. This decision will be your thesis. You don't have to take an extreme stance. If you are ambivalent about the topic, be prepared to address this in your essay. Being able to cite arguments for and against either side will make you appear to have a better understanding of the material.
Jot down an outline. A disorganized essay, despite its content, will not get your point across. Make sure to address any possible objections to your thesis early in the essay, and save your strongest arguments for the end.
Write your essay, referring to your outline. Hopefully, after having taken time to develop a thesis, mull over the topic, and sketch an outline, your thoughts will flow from you into clear writing.
Read your essay over, if you have time. Focus on high-order content, such as ideas and themes. Make sure you have thoroughly answered the question asked of you. If you are not under strict time constraints, take the time to check for proper grammar and spelling.
Do not plagiarize. Your teacher will likely know that you aren't using your own words. There are severe consequences for academic dishonesty.