How to Write Good UPSC Essay - Arun Kumar (IRTS)

Arun Kumar (IRTS) shares his UPSC essay preparation strategy and tells the importance of Essay Paper in the UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination.

It is an interesting journey of Arun Kumar in UPSC Essay writing, where he improved his UPSC essay marks from 68 to 132 and finally in UPSC Mains 2016 he secured 163 marks. (Incredible improvement in UPSC Essay marks!)

Importance of UPSC Essay Paper for Civil Services Examination

UPSC Essay Paper command maximum marks equivalent to any of the GS or Optional Paper, however, it is generally neglected by aspirants during IAS preparation. Students generally are under the impression that mere preparation of GS subjects would suffice essay preparation. However, in reality, it has been seen over the years that with less than 1/10th of mental hours put for any GS Paper, a UPSC essay can fetch you a lot more marks than any GS paper could get. A well-written UPSC essay paper can secure more than 150 marks easily in final mark-sheet whereas it is rather impossible to score such marks in any of the GS paper.

Preparation for UPSC Essay Paper

UPSC Essay preparation requires little effort and that too mostly overlaps with GS preparation. However while reading any articles, news, current related topic, a specific orientation is required.

1. Maintain an Essay notebook and keep on writing topic wise fodder points from study material that you read while preparation. These fodder points may be in the form of small para, quotes, facts or any keywords related to the topic. Make sure you keep on revising these entries just to avoid last minute mugging before the exam.

2. Identify important issues in News and keep on digging more about them from other sources like static books, internet etc. For eg., Gorkhaland demand is again in news, so try to find out the background of the issue, the rationale behind the demand, governments stand, Committees and their recommendations on the creation of the Newer States, legislative procedure, similar examples in past etc. It will help in writing Essay related to, Regionalism, Need of smaller states, Reorganisation of Indian States etc.

3. Write at least 8-10 full essays on varying topics before the exam that will give enough confidence and clarity.

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Writing of UPSC Essay in Exam

UPSC Essay paper is divided into two sections having four topics each. Now on the D-day, you will have to write two essays in 3 hours, picking one from each section. So by simple logic allot equal time for both the essay topics (1.5 hours for each).

1 Selection of Topic

Selection of topic is very crucial as it decides the quality of content that you are going to write in the next 3 hours. Therefore following things need to remember before zeroing down on any essay topic;

1. Don't be in a hurry and give at least 5 minutes for the selection of topic.

2. Select the topic in which you are most comfortable. Don't think whether the topic is too general. If you have good command, content and confidence in the topic pick it and finalise it.

3. Never ever try to pick topic under the notion that it is different and the majority are not going to write on this. It is a poor presumption that easy on not so common topic will fetch you more marks. I have done this mistake in my first attempt and ended up with just 68 marks. On the contrary, I chose very common but relevant topics in 2016, like Interstate water dispute and Jobless growth, and secured 163 marks.

4. Choose a topic in which you have diversified content. The essay requires a multidimensional approach hence content should cover as many areas as possible.

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2 Brainstorming over topic

Once you have finalised the topic, the next stage is brainstorming over it. Try to write down whatever you remember related to the topic in rough space. Devote at least 10 minutes in jotting down all related points. It is always advisable to first think, categorise, and prepare a loose skeleton with proper flow, before writing on any topic.

3 Structure of UPSC Essay

UPSC these days ask Essays mainly in two patterns;

First, Famous saying/Quotes. For eg., With greater power comes greater responsibility and

Second, In the form of Questions such as, Is the growing level of competition good for the youth; Was it the policy paralysis or the paralysis of implementation which slowed the growth of our country?

Structuring of the essay very much depends on how the topic is framed. If it falls into the first category than structure would be like, first define what power and responsibility are, various dimensions of power starting from local to Universal level, historic to modern day examples and so on. Each para would cover various dimensions of topics.

On the other hand, if the topic falls into second category successive paragraphs will try to find out possible reasons and answers to the central question.

4 How to Start and End

Starting and concluding an essay is a very important aspect of good UPSC essay writing. I have seen approaches in which essay starts with quoting recent incident, story, and famous saying. You may adopt any of these approaches as there is no hard and fast rule for this; however, it should be kept in mind that starting paragraph should be small, straight forward and should generate enough curiosity in mind of the reader to read further.

An end paragraph of the UPSC essay should have a lasting impact on the examiner. It is said that before you frame your opening paragraph, you must know what the end you are going to write. Clarity on end helps in maintaining flow and helps in sticking to the topic. The end should ensure a question asked in the essay topic is answered holistically, conclusively and your stand should be reflected firmly. Use of famous quote, visionary statement or any relevant 2 liners should be used to bring finality in your writing and thoughts.

Also Read: GS Preparation Strategy Suman Sourav Mohanty (AIR 9)

5 Other important aspects of UPSC Essay writing

1. Equal time and word limit for both essays. In 2014 exam, I wrote the first essay in approx. 1100 words and took 2 hours and the second one in 400 words in the remaining one hour. I could score just 132 marks. Whereas in the 2016 exam I adopted a balanced approach and wrote approx 750 words on each topic and secured 163 marks.

2. Language of the UPSC essay should be as simple as possible. Key to success is good content and systemic flow, not the Shakespearean language.

3. Time management is very crucial. Keep 5 minutes in last for each essay to review, underline keywords, check any grammar/spelling mistakes etc.

My Journey

I have seen a remarkable improvement in my UPSC Essay marks in last 3 attempts. I have scored from mere 68 marks to 132 marks and from there to 163 marks. In hindsight if I try to analyse the reasons behind such variation then it would be as follows;

Case I (68 Marks):

1. I did a mistake of choosing the wrong topic under the notion that my essay topic should be different than majority aspirants. Whereas very simple topics like Science and technology is the panacea for the growth and security of the nation were also present in the paper.

2. My content was uni-dimensional.

Case II (132 Marks):

1. I had very good content on the first topic but gave 2 hours on writing this whereas could devout only remaining 1 hour for the second essay.

2. I wrote more than 1100 words on the first one but could only write 450 words on the second topic in the remaining time.

3. Unequal treatment to both essays.

Case III (163 Marks):

This time I chose two very common but relevant topics like Water disputes between states in federal India & Near jobless growth in India: An anomaly or an outcome of economic reforms

1. This time I deliberately devoted equal time for both essays and wrote around 750 words on each topic.

2. My content was multidimensional and was factually very rich.

Marking in GS and Optional papers are very conservative these days whereas, with the introduction of two essays, the scope of scoring has increased tremendously in the essay paper. 150 plus score in Essay paper can give you decisive lead with very little effort. So it would be wiser to adopt this strategy in the early stage of preparation itself rather than keep on repeating the same mistake again and again.

Finally, I also thank NeoStencil's online essay test series and critical evaluation which helped me fine tune my essay structure.

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