Essay is indeed considered one of the most misunderstood and underrated yet scoring paper in this entire Mains examination. We have seen, time and again that people have come up with fluctuating scores in essay over the years and hence, this points towards the fact that there is something different which UPSC wants from the essay of the candidates and if it finds that thing, one ends up getting good marks in essay. Based on my past experiences in CSE mains 2014, 2015, 2016) in which I scored 142, 148 and 158 respectively, I think It would be prudent to share my strategies as far as the essay is concerned. So, it goes like this…
- First of all, it’s not about writing heavy words and showing the strength of your vocabulary. Write an essay which even your grandmother can understand. I mean write in a simple yet lucid language. If you actually want to appreciate the power of simplicity, do listen to US ex-president Obama’s presidential speech of 2008 (available on You tube). He used the simplest possible vocabulary, yet very powerfully expressed his thoughts through his simple words.
- Coming to the concrete tips, try to write an essay having around 20-25 paragraphs (each para running into half a page) and each para must carry a unique idea which must not be repeated anywhere else in the essay. If you are dealing with social sector, mention health, education, etc. at that place only in a comprehensive manner and then move on to other dimension.
- The biggest issue while writing an essay is the fact that one often deviates from the topic and ends up irritating the copy checker and getting poor marks. I would like to suggest here one thing. While writing the essay, please keep mentioning the topic of the essay after every paragraph. Use the skill of your English (through active passive voice, direct indirect speech etc..), just try to mention the topic at the end of every alternate paragraph. This would give an impression to the examiner that SOMEHOW, you are still attached to the topic of the essay. Though this, one can definitely avoid huge fluctuations in the essay marks.
- Coming to the most important point that is the content of the essay. FOLLOW THE SYLLABUS OF GENERAL STUDIES (all 4 papers). SelfStudyforIAS.com has comprehensively covered most of the topics of General studies in a structured manner.
- As most of you would be doing this, starting the essay on a historical note, that is precisely how our GS SYLLABUS starts ( from ancient history and world history ). Do start thinking on the similar lines. Try to connect the topic of the essay with the syllabus of GS paper 1, i.e. start with history, then think about some geographical aspect, some urbanisation points, some society points, then related to world history if anything can fit into the essay. It is not necessary that you will get the point on each and every dimension but at least you can think over these and jot down important points.
- Then after GS 1, come to GS2 syllabus. Think about the essay topic from the point of view of constitution, polity, law, acts, institutions, it’s funding pattern etc. Think about DPSP, Fundamental Rights, Duties, Committees and their recommendations in the area of essay topic. Think about social sector i.e. health, education, vulnerability etc. Think about certain aspects of International relations IR, then also think about international institutions like World bank, IMF, UNESCO, UNICEF ( if any of these or steps taken by these can be mentioned in the essay or not..for e.g. toilet construction effort by World bank in Bihar). Thus, one would complete the another dimension of essay i.e. GS2 perspective.
- Coming to GS 3, start thinking about the economic angle of the essay topic. Think and connect agriculture , industries, LPG reforms, Food processing, Land reforms, etc. with the topic of the essay. Then connect Science and Technology with the essay. Connect Environment angle with the essay topic. Then think on the lines of other topics of GS3 such as internal security, paramilitary forces, money laundering, organised crime and whatsoever is the syllabus content.
- At last, we all know and appreciate the fact that every essay should end on a positive and ethical note. Which is why Ethics is kept at number 4 ( the last GS). Start using the keywords of the syllabus of essay such as attitudinal changes, aptitude, emotional intelligence, quotes of moral thinker, etc. If possible, you can present certain small case study on the essay topic at the end. I mean to say that the last one or one and half page of your essay should be on these lines with all positivity and nothing negative.
- So, please keep this thing in mind that you need to regularly keep seeing the GS syllabus point by point. You can even use a quote at the starting of the essay but that quote must be relevant, otherwise leave it. You can even start an essay with a short anecdote but that again must be relevant.
- At last, I would like to say that guys, do write an essay of around 1000 words, not lesser than that. Everything which I have mentioned above has been developed by me during the course of my UPSC journey and I, myself, have been following this technique for the last 3 mains and it has given desired result. As a result, I can definitely say that if one follow this technique, one would not be disappointed by his or her essay marks and the essay would be very comprehensive covering all dimensions ( since you are following GS syllabus itself). You will not be short of good and comprehensive points while writing your essay. You will get good marks, at least that is what I have ended up getting. Your essay will be RICH.
- Write around 4 – 6 Essays atleast before going into examination hall. Get feedback of your written essays also as it would plug in the deficiencies. Practicing would provide you inputs about how much time you take to write an essay, dimensions that you have covered & missed, whether your structure is proper, whether your essay is in good flow etc .
- That was all from my side regarding essay. Hope this helps.
Kumar Sunny Raj