Out of the 9 subjects in the UPSC Civil Services Exam, the Essay Writing paper is perhaps one of the most unpredictable in nature. With a weight-age of 250 marks for two essays of 1000-1200 words each, this paper can make or break your chances.
Most of the times aspirants have all the information they need to write a stupendous answer but lack a strategy to write and present their points effectively.
Given below are few amazing tips that i found useful in writing my essays.
1. READ, COMPREHEND AND THEN WRITE
A lot of times the euphoria of knowing the answer leads to hurried writing. This is a very common mistake and one that should definitely be avoided. Once you have read the question, give your mind some time to understand and comprehend it. Collect your thoughts, analyse the various perspectives to the question, and then decide on a structure.
Utilize the rough work section to divide the essay into an intro, body and conclusion and divide the information you have on the topic amongst these three headings.
- The Intro should briefly describe the topic and present your stand/argument. It should give the examiner a clear view of what is to follow.
- The Main Body will contain a detailed description or the main essay. Try not to be too general here and present very specific and relevant information only. Also, remember to tie your paragraphs together i.e. keep a continuous thread running and avoid abruptness.
- The conclusion should be able to deliver the entire crux of your essay in a powerful manner. You may rephrase some points from your introduction but avoid using too much of the same information.
2. HAVE A CATCHY OPENING
They say well begun is half done, and this is especially true of essays. An introduction is the first impression of your essay, so spend an appropriate amount of time in deciding on a commanding opening. A good introduction will consist of any of the following:
- An appropriate quote that succinctly sums up your argument. It will be a good idea to mug up some quotes related to contemporary issues as well as general topics. Topics like technology, agriculture, education form some recurring themes.
- A short quote by an influential personality will add tremendous weightage. For example, 2017 featured a topic about the decline in farming as a source of subsistence for farmers. Here i put in a quote by Nehru which says, “Everything else can wait, but not agriculture”, and then commented on how the exact opposite was happening in India right now.
- Excerpts from an authoritative case study related to the topic. Numerous case studies are conducted and published by UN agencies, and other international organisations on a regular basis. Here again you just have to read a summary of a few important ones and insert it in your answer. For example, i used the inference from a case study by Asia Development Bank in one of the essays on gender equality.
- A story to support/build your argument. It may be inspired from a successful person’s life or can be just a reference to a famous story everyone is familiar with. Popular stories like the Hare and the Tortoise or stories from the Ramayana can be inserted in a lot of essays which focus on moral issues. Of course, do remember to give just a passing 3-4 line mention and not write the entire story!
3. ADD STATISTICS TO MAKE IT INTERESTING
You will come across plenty of statistics regularly during your Current Affairs preparation. Remember to keep an eye out for them as they add a lot of value to your essay.
Make a mental note or jot them down in a stats notebook for quick reference. Stats related to the GDP, trade balance, food production, poverty, Government spending etc., must definitely be kept in mind. The Economic Survey, as well as newspapers, is an excellent source of authentic stats.
However, keep in mind that you do not swamp your essay with stats or bluff at any point. 2-3 stats per essay are sufficient.
4. FOLLOW THE GOLDEN MEAN
Buddha’s philosophy of taking the middle path is the best advice for a well-rounded essay. While writing the essay, it is best to not get carried away by passion. One must present a balanced view which lists out the pros as well as cons of an argument.
By doing so you are able to display your analytical skills to the examiner and demonstrate your ability to view an issue from all perspectives.
However, in a rare case where the topic demands taking sides, you must do so. When writing such an essay, you must be your own critic. Take time to ponder over the counter-argument to your stand and give a suitable reply to that too. Your willingness to consider other views and present a logical reply will certainly leave an impression.
5. DRAW A SCHEMATIC WHEREVER POSSIBLE
Schematics generally refer to a diagram that shows the main features or form of something. It is essentially used to explain the working of a process/phenomenon using clear diagrams.
Technically used by engineers to draw circuits, schematics can be very useful in essay writing as well. You can explain an occurrence more clearly and in half the time it would take to write about it.
You can add as many elements to them as you want but it is best to stick to 4-5 terms for a good visual appeal.
6. READ AND RE-READ THE ESSAY TOPIC
There is plenty of time at hand when attempting the essay paper. Utilize this time to read the topic again and again. This helps in two ways:
- It helps you stay on track and not divert from the topic. Sticking to the word limit is an important aspect of essay writing. A clear understanding of what the examiner is asking will help you focus on the relevant things and sieve out the redundant information. Thus staying within the word limit.
- Repeated readings of the topic will help you get a different perspective each time. It will stimulate your mind to produce fresh ideas and help you critically analyse the topic.
7. WRITE A BALANCED CONCLUSION
The conclusion presents a summation of your views and arguments in the essay. You may review the key points of the essay here in 8-10 lines.
This requires you to master the art of rephrasing, which can easily be done when practicing essay writing during test series. You can also make a call to action here or propose a unique and logical solution (wherever the topic demands).
Just like the introduction is your first impression, the conclusion is your last attempt to leave a mark on the examiner.
8. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
While writing does come naturally to some people, it is not an art which cannot be practiced. Simply reading the tips will not help you till you test them practically.
Join a reliable test series will help you devise your own strategy for essay writing as well as introduce you to novel topics.
Practicing essays will also help train your mind to present the information in a coherent and clear manner.
We at UPSC Pathshala make essay writing a part of daily preparation. For every 3-4 days of study, there’s a ‘Question Sheet’ which has extremely tough 3-4 subjective questions to attempt. These are evaluated each time by your mentor. This goes on for the entire year! You write about 350 answers in a year. By that time, presenting your thoughts coherently becomes second nature to you.
Author: Akshay Palande
Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.