“Keep me in mind” is the name of some country song that I don’t remember much of, but pretend for a minute that it’s a writing assignment speaking to you.
I see this pretty often as a teacher and as a tutor too (just a couple days ago I helped someone who was running into this same thing). People will get a writing assignment about a particular topic and they’ll hit the ground running.
The essay ends up being a perfectly fine essay, but it ends up not really actually answering the question it was supposed to answer.
The key to avoiding this? Always keep the prompt in mind. As you outline, as you write, as you revise, have that prompt front and center somewhere you can see it.
And not just the prompt … keep your thesis, your whole point of your essay, top of mind, too.
Your writing will be better for it!