The essay paper is an important aspect of the UPSC civil services exams. It can make or break your outcome. There are two sections in this paper. Each section gives you four topics out of which you have to choose one topic each. Each essay you write is marked out of 125 making a total of 250 marks.
Click here to downloadthe UPSC Mains Essay Paper 2016.
While you don’t have to study separate content for the civil services essay paper, for your general studies preparation is enough to cover possible topics, you do have to remember certain aspects of writing a good essay if you want to have an edge over your fellow UPSC aspirants. A lot of IAS aspirants make the mistake of not focusing on the essay paper because of its general nature. However, there are many advantages of concentrating on this paper such as:
- You have the option of selecting one topic out of four. You should be able to leverage this to your advantage and shine in this paper.
- The essay paper is an area where you can let lose your creativity while displaying your knowledge about the topics.
- Also, you have three hours to write about 1000 to 1200 words per topic (word limit for essay in UPSC exam). Hence, you can do justice to the essay topic as you have ample time to structure your thoughts and then start writing.
Let us look at how your essay should be structured
Your essay should ideally have an introduction, content, basic theme and conclusion. The introduction and conclusion are self-explanatory. Content should give a historical perspective to your topic. It should also include facts and events related to your topic. Try to cover relevant aspects of the topic. The basic theme should talk about your views on the topic. Take a stand but a balanced one. You should also describe negative and positive aspects of the topic chosen.
How to select the UPSC essay topic
- Go through all the given topics well.
- Choose a topic that you are most aware of and have significant knowledge about.
- Try to avoid provocative issues like feminism since you don’t know about the examiner’s gender or personal bias.
- Select the topic only if you are sure of the meaning. For example, know what IT refers to in a given case – information technology or income tax.
- Don’t necessarily pick a topic because it excites you. You should have content and a balanced approach while writing about it.
Features of a good essay
- It should resonate with the topic given. Don’t stray from the topic merely to fill up the word count.
- It should engross the reader. A good essay should ignite the reader’s curiosity about the topic. It should not be boring. The reader should feel like going on reading it.
- It should be multi-dimensional. Don’t have a single viewpoint. Analyse the topic from different perspectives. You can provide new insights about the topic and impress the examiner.
- It should be simple but effective and coherent. You need not write the Queen’s English but let the language drive home whatever point you are trying to make.
- It should be grammatically perfect. Not only does it enhances your essay’s clarity it also avoids a negative impression.
- It should be neat. This is why it is important to first think about what you want to write before you start. Clearly picture in your head the order of things you want to write in your essay. This avoids scratching.
- There should be continuity in your essay. Don’t jump from one point to another. Make your shifts seamless and smooth. Let there be a natural flow of points. This indicates clarity of thoughts.
- It should contain quotes, headings, sub-headings and diagrams if required.
- It should be structured appropriately.
Things to avoid in a UPSC essay paper
- Avoid writing in the first person.
- Avoid being too aggressive in your writing. You want to portray an image of a composed person with balanced views. Aggressiveness can also show inflexibility.
- Avoid being pessimistic in your writing. UPSC wants officers with a cheerful and positive disposition!
- Avoid writing in points. Remember you are writing an essay.
- You don’t have to agree with the stand taken by the question. Sometimes, a question can be a statement giving a particular view. You can write both negative and positive aspects of it.
- Don’t stray away from the topic.
- Don’t get too personal and name politicians or political parties unnecessarily. You are going to be a bureaucrat, not a politician or journalist!
- Avoid giving quotes that you are not sure of. Don’t attribute quotes to the wrong people. And, definitely do not make up quotes. You can’t fool the examiner. Doing so will certainly get you penalised.
You can write good essays if you develop the habit of reading good UPSC essays on a regular basis. Incorporate reading essays as a part of your UPSC civil services preparation. Remember, practice makes perfect! For essay writing practice, take part in the BYJU’S essay writing contest and win a cash prize along with learning. Click here for more. UPSC Essay Writing Contest
For more on UPSC essay writing, read Useful technique to practice on essay topics for UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam
ESSAY STRATEGY BY ESSAY TOPPER
Chandra Mohan Garg, Rank 25
Essay Marks 149
Essay is the most taken for granted area in civil services preparation. We spend months preparing for GS-1, 2, 3, 4 but hardly any of us give any dedicated time for preparation of essay. It is important to understand that one essay paper is equivalent to almost 1.5 G.S papers in terms or scoring.
In 2014 I went without any preparation and ended up scoring 121 marks. In order to improve my rank I needed to focus on essay as there was a good scope of 30 plus marks. I made a strategy and worked on it, this helped me in scoring 149 in this attempt.
Before I begin, let me do away with few misunderstandings
- You need to be a champ in English ( your grammar, spelling mistakes, poor vocabulary cannot stop you from scoring high)
- Essay does not need preparation. Your GS knowledge can provide fodder but Essay unlike GS answers need lot more.
- You cannot improve so easily in essay. I increased 28 marks in Essay despite the fact that this year essay has been less scoring compared to last year.
Now let me discuss how to approach an essay:
- Choice of topic
Choice of topic should be clearly based on your holistic understanding of the subject matter. So choose a topic with which you are most comfortable. At times we think that the topic is so common that most of the people will choose it, so let me choose some unconventional topic. This is a totally wrong thinking, many people end up scoring poor marks due to this. So fight with your best weapons on.
- Interpretation of the essay topic
Do not be in a hurry to write an essay. Many people see the broader title and start writing the essay without even understanding the theme of the topic.
Eg- With greater power comes greater responsibility [2014 ].Now the moment people see power they somehow relate it to politics and bureaucracy and start building their essay around it, writing all theories, quotes and examples they know related to it. Here the theme of this topic is philosophical which talks of power present in any institutional system (family, religion, community, politics, administration etc), throughout society power is banked from people to a leader so that he can use that power for a common good. So with greater power comes greater responsibility. In this context we need to critically analyse the theme of the essay.
After selection of the topic we need to brainstorm to get fodder material that we can write in the essay. There are various things and various ways to brainstorm.
Key words:- break the topic and look for key words to tinker upon. Example – With greater power comes greater responsibilitywe know power and responsibility are key words. Now you can brainstorm around key words
Past-Present-Future: – Another way to think upon to get points related to the topic.
SPECLIH:-Think from Social, Political, Economic, Cultural, Legal, International, Humanistic perspective. You can make your own acronym and add more dimensions to think from
Now what to brainstorm: You can look for quotes, examples, events, illustrations, case studies, Government initiatives, and facts and figures etc. So anything that can make the essay more informative and interesting.
- Structuring the essay
Information is one thing but how to put that information in a structured and systematic way is very important. So need to focus on few things while structuring your essay
Outline: Create an outline of essay i.e. how will your essay proceed. I feel PAST-PRESENT- FUTURE is a good technique, you can have other ways to decide the flow of the essay as well. E.g.- “Dreams that should not let India sleep”, here I discussed Nehru’s speech of tryst with destiny to explain what those dreams were, Then came on present why that dream is faltering and then talked of future that what are these dreams and how can we fulfil it.
Breakup: Break up your essay properly
Once you have brainstormed the points, created an outline and structured your essay, now you are ready to write the content.
Language & Presentation: Write in simple language. No need of flowery expressions. Keep short sentences and small paragraphs
Explanation of points: Explain through examples or illustrations whatever you are trying to explain. Mention government Initiatives, policies & plans wherever possible. International examples or case study wherever possible.
Focus of essay: Throughout the essay the theme should be reflected and flow should be maintained from beginning to end. Each paragraph should link to the other .Also do not focus only on covering lot of dimensions in the essay. In this race we lose the flow of essay. More than knowledge essay should reflect your vision and ideas.
Introduction: Your Introduction should clearly lay down what the essay will entail, giving a brief idea to the reader. You can always use a story, quote, fact/Information or abstract way to create a context and then build your introduction over it.
Example:- “Is sting operation an Invasion in Privacy”. Here you could begin your Intro with the Tehelka story of Gujarat riots that hit the news and then raise questions was it good or bad and discuss that in the body.
Body: This part is all about analysis. Here three things are Important. 1.) If the topic is debatable you need to discuss both sides. If not then it will be straight-forward. 2.) In any case you will have certain line of arguments to put your case. 3.) Explain each of them through some examples.
Example: “Is sting operation an Invasion in Privacy”. This is debatable topic. So you will have both sides. Yes it in an invasion, No it is not an invasion. To discuss both sides you will have some arguments. Now when you put your arguments substantiate with the example and illustrations.
Conclusion: In conclusion focus on three things 1.) Summarise the topic 2.) Put your concluding stand 3.) Tell a way ahead. Try to end your essay on some positive/visionary note.
- What preparations you can do for the essay
Read: You need to read some good essays and learn how beautifully people put up their arguments. These essay don’t have diversity but depth. So reading some good essays can tell you how to begin an essay, write arguments, and conclude. Most Important is how to create a structure of essay.
Prepare: I don’t think coaching helps here. It has to be you.
- In your daily newspaper reading if you find some good lines or examples then keep noting them. Especially editorials.
- Take up some common/general topics like women, education, healthcare, internet, science (look at last 20 years essay) and prepare some fodder on it. Like quotes, imp case studies, examples, factual info, government initiatives etc.
- Have a repository of good opening and closing lines. You will find this through reading newspapers, good essays of others etc.
Write and evaluate: One should write at least 5-6 essays. When you write try to apply the points I explained above in this article. And most importantly get your essays evaluated by some teachers, selected candidates or sincere friends. This will help in making improvements.
- Time division
There is no hard and fast rule, it is totally your discretion but am telling it as this will be asked. So am sharing what I used to do.
- Topic Selection : 5 minutes
- Brain storming/creating outline/structure of essay : 15 minutes
- Essay Writing : 1hr to 1hr 5 minutes
- Revising Essay: 5 minutes
I have tried to explain to the best of my capabilities. If you still have doubts I have created a page on FB named CSE Preparation, you can post your queries there. Here is the link https://www.facebook.com/chandramohangargpage/
- What I wrote in 2015?
I don’t remember exactly what all I wrote in the essay, but yes I can share a brief where I can tell on what lines I tried to write my essay.
I wrote essays – 1. Education without values makes us a clever Devil and 2. Dreams that should not let India Sleep (writing topic in brief)
Sharing Essay-1 brief layout :