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Essay Writing tips for Civil Services Examination

An essay is a short written piece that reflects the author’s argument on a subject, in an analytical interpretive manner. There are two types of Essay – Formal and Informal. The formal essay focuses on impersonal topics, factual contents which might be backed up by statistics. Emotional Constituent is missing from this type. UPSC bases its Essay Paper for CSE on the theme of Formal Essay Writing only.

  • The Essay should be impersonal in nature and should focus less on emotive appeal.
  • The language of the Essay should not use the First-person reference.
  • A formal essay should always be written keeping in mind the seriousness of the topic, one is writing on.

The Essay paper of CSE consists of two essay topics of 125 marks each and the total marks of the Essay paper are –200 marks in total. The word limit assigned to each essay is around 1000 to 1200 words each and the paper is to be completed in 3 hours. The Essay paper is divided into two sections, which contain a set of four essays each and the candidate is required to choose one essay topic from each section.

Section A

Generally, Section A contains topics that focus on the connection of ideas reflecting your thought process- Rhetorical Types (Example – Wisdom Finds the Truth, UPSC CSE-2019).

Section B

Section B consists of topics that are more of an objective nature on Generic content (Example- Biased Media is a real threat to Indian Democracy, UPSC CSE-2019)- however, this division of topics is not inclusive. 

Why is Essay Writing Preparation Important?

  • Essay paper plays a crucial role in upping your game in the Mains Examination. It is important to keep this factor in mind while selecting the topic of your choice, as it is a good scoring paper where candidates have known to score above 150, which adds on to their total tally for Mains.
  • The Essay which is a window to your thought process has no set format on what UPSC expects from the candidates. Hence it becomes necessary that you devise smart techniques to help you score better in this section, as practice makes one perfect.
  • Due to the vast pool of information available on various topics, the candidates must ensure beforehand, a plan to chalk out the methodology which they intend to apply while writing this paper. This demands practice and not mere registering of facts and data to memory.
  • The syllabus of CSE clearly mentions that the “candidates are expected to keep their thoughts closely to the subjects”, hence it is essential for the candidates to not deviate from the central theme of their chosen topic. This too requires a focused practice.

One should remember that though you may have good writing skills, control of great vocabulary and a very accurate set of data memorized by heart, Practicing writing the essays, is the only key to ensure that these set of skills you own are put in a right trajectory, to ensure your selection in the services.

Format for writing a good Essay

  • An essay can be broken down into 3 parts -1. Introduction, 2. Body and 3. Conclusion.
  • As we know, First Impression is the Last Impression, Introduction, which is impressively written in an essay is sure to add an edge. You can begin with a quote or saying if you have any but use only those which are relevant to the topic of your choice.
  • While studying the topic, the candidate is expected to focus on the central idea which is being asked about in the topic. E.g the 2019 topic on Essay- Rise of Artificial Intelligence: Threat of Jobless Future or Better Job Opportunities through Reskilling and Upskilling – the central theme is Artificial Intelligence. The candidate should not deviate much from the central theme while writing the essay paper.
  • Candidates are expected to highlight various dimensional aspects of the central theme. To achieve this goal, one must learn to engage in brainstorming before beginning to write. Ideally, a 25 minutes brainstorming session can help a candidate in formulating the structure, multi-dimensional aspects one can include and gain a fair understanding of what the topic really demands. During this session, candidates can jot down their points in the form of a flowchart, mind maps, etc to save time. Brainstorming will help you 1) Identify what your essay demands, 2) Help you build a framework around the central theme, and 3)Define ideas and arguments which you will need to support your essay.
  • A good essay will always be multi-dimensional in nature (especially the Section-B ones). Candidates, in order to write a good objective essay, should try to integrate Political, Sociological, Economical, Technological, Environmental, and Legal Aspects of a central theme in the essay. The basics for a good essay by UPSC should try to include at least the social, economic, and political aspects of a topic.
  • The UPSC does not provide a specific format in which it wants the essay to be written. Candidates can connect a topic with materials studied for other G.S papers, to enhance the essay. g- Essay topic discussing Impact of Globalization can focus on India’s experience in the journey towards Globalization(GS Paper I), can include the impact of Globalization on Human rights (GS Paper II), Impact of Globalization on Middle-Income countries (GS Paper III) and Impact of Western Values in Indian society in a Globalized set up (GS Paper IV). The key here is that a candidate must master the art of connecting information one generally acquires while preparation for other G.S papers and Current Affairs, with the central theme of the essay topic.
  • Another important feature of the Essay should be Clarity of both Language and Idea. Language should be kept simple and the candidate should try to focus on writing about the topic rather than beating around the bush. This clarity can only be obtained by practicing Essay writing. Writing the Essay in points is a strict No-No; the structuring of the Essay should be in paragraphs. Ensure that the last line from where a paragraph changes, is of a transitional type. This will lead to a better flow of language from one paragraph to another.
  • The conclusion is another important aspect of an essay and can help you gain additional points. It should be definitive in ideas and bear a positive outlook. There are two ways in which a good conclusion can be written- either one can summarize the whole essay in the conclusion highlighting the main points in the whole essay, in a crisp manner, or follow “cyclic return” to the Introduction and mention it briefly.

Important Points to Remember

  • Focus on Introduction & Conclusion; this does not mean the Body should not be well structured, but having a good Introduction & Conclusion will help you earn brownie points in the Essay paper.
  • As already mentioned, Practice is the key to honing your writing skills for this paper. Try to jot down good quotes and ideas where ever you are reading something, to have good backup ideas which might be useful for your essays. Also, remember that the quotes you use are verbatim and relevant to the topic. Try to substantiate your ideas with good examples, data, and statistics which can be done by remaining updated with current events, so Read Newspapers daily. Also, Newspapers enhance your writing skills by providing great vocabulary. Newspapers are a good source of material for your essay paper.
  • Chose a topic on which you have a piece of good knowledge. Choose the Essay you are comfortable with and on which you have a grip on its various dimensions, only after interpreting the demands of the topic. Keywords can play a crucial role in showing the examiner, your in-depth knowledge of the subject. Hence it is essential that you choose your topic wisely.
  • During the brainstorming session, you should try to make flowcharts of your ideas and the essay’s structure, so that while writing, not much of your time is invested in this. Two essays are to be written in a duration of 3 hours, which means ideally you should give 1 hour 30 minutes to each.
  • Try to make fewer grammatical mistakes and choose simple words. Avoid repeating the same points and arguments. Revise the Essay on completion to erase errors or sentences which might be overdone.
  • Practice Essay writing before exams. Generally, candidates do not take the paper as seriously as the GS ones. This can be a huge mistake. This paper can be scoring if candidates practice well for it. Practicing beforehand can make you spot your weak points, improve your presentation style, and content.
  • Try to provide the interpretation of your meaning of the topic when you begin the essay. It provides a clear view of your understanding of the examiner and can be beneficial for earning more points. Try to understand the topic before you begin to write. Cross-check the terms with the Hindi section and if you are confused, do not attempt that topic and chose a new one. 125 marks is a Big Deal.

The Essay paper of UPSC is not to test your language skills but an attempt to understand your thinking process, ability to observe different dimensions in a topic. The essay should be kept simple yet relevant and organized. Try to go through the Previous Year Papers to understand the hot topics UPSC tries to engage its candidates in. In the end, Practice and the Art of explaining complex ideas and dimension in Simple words will help you write marks fetching Essay.

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