Useful tips for writing IAS Mains essay paper
The essay paper having two sections A and B with four topics each (the candidates have to select a topic from each section and write on it for 1,000-2,000 words with a time duration of three hours) for total marks of 250 (125x2) in the civil services main examination is crucial in determining the final outcome, selection and ranking.
It is critical because it is a compulsory paper and its score is incorporated in computing the total. It is decisive because there is no specialisation in an essay and so no aspirant cannot claim expertise, unlike optional subjects.
Finally, an essay is a paper, which does not have a reservoir of definitive information as in the case of general studies. All this constitutes a challenge. It is vital to understand that an essay is a reflection of the personality -- ideas, views, analysis, assessments and inferences, values, attitude, aptitude, orientation and communication (written) abilities, all the attributes that are wanted by UPSC in an aspirant.
An essay is considered a complete composition. The essentials of essay writing would be the format (framework, structure), information (content, substance), language (expression, presentation), and logic (analysis and information).
The conventional design of looking at essay writing in terms of the introduction, body and conclusion is only the format. Although, this is fundamental to essay writing, the concept of an essay is quite intricate. An essay is expected to be a topical text that is self-explanatory and comprehensive, concise, composite and unambiguous, informative and logical.
For every effective composition one should ideally begin with clarifying the purpose of the composition to oneself. This is true about all written and spoken communication. It's best that this principle be applied to essay writing. Although, the question cues that are recommended at this point may appear archaic, they are useful and often overlooked. At every critical juncture, while writing a topical text all applicable queries must be asked to oneself about the issue in question, e.g. who, what, where, when, why, how?
These questions would obtain answers that would make the text organised and accurate and also ensure that no aspect has been omitted. Proficiency in applying this principle, i.e. the appropriate choice of questions, will come with extensive practise, periodic evaluation and critical analysis.
The format comprises:
- An impact-oriented thematic introduction containing the core conceptual scheme, the defining criteria, the central idea, etc.
- A series of paragraphs containing arguments based on information, analysis and systematic inter-connectivity
- An overall impressive synoptic presentation or an effective conclusion or a final inference.
The introduction is the opening part of the essay and should be confined to a paragraph, especially since, unlike a book, the introduction of an essay is not captioned. The introductory paragraph is expected to introduce the topic, and wherever necessary, explain the central theme or idea, basic or core concepts, and definitional criteria. The introduction should arouse interest and generate curiosity in the mind of the reader, be it an examiner.
The main text of an essay, after the introductory part is over, essentially is a systematic organisation of information based on a consistent methodology. It deals with the topic and related issues to be addressed, the correlation of facts, figures, ideas, views, concepts; an in-depth, systematic, coherent analysis based on the topic leading to logical inferences; as well as making (if it is required) plausible projections and providing with (if necessary) viable solutions. The text of the composition must develop, support and explain the main ideas stated in your introduction or thesis paragraph.
As the text draws close to the conclusion, the essay should have reached the stage of 'critical mass', a sort of a climax. The conclusion, a summary, should express the essence of the essay. It should not contain any fresh evidence, facts or figures.
How to Write Essay in UPSC Exam/How to write essay for UPSC Exam/how to write an essay in UPSC exam?/Essay writing in UPSC/Essay for UPSC Mains/Essay writing in UPSC
The Essay Paper is one of the nine papers in the UPSC civil services mains exam. In this paper, you will have to write two essays each with a word count of 1000 – 1200. One topic can be selected from a choice of four topics. The Essay Paper is for a total of 250 marks with one essay for 125 marks. You would have read many articles on our website on how to prepare for the essay paper in the IAS mains exam. This article tells you how to write an essay for UPSC exam.
It is recommended that you follow certain steps while writing the essay paper.
How to write essay for UPSC?
- Read the topics thoroughly
This is the most important step in the process. You should choose one out of four topics. While selecting your topic, make sure you know most about that topic out of the given topics. What not to select:
- A sensitive or controversial topic like say, feminism.
- A topic about which you are too passionate or feel strongly about. In this case, you may tend to get excited and fail to write a balanced essay. This can work against you.
Also Read | How to choose the right essay topic: UPSC Mains
- Think for some time
Once you’ve selected your topic, you should not start writing straight away. It is prudent to think for some time and collect your thoughts. Write in pencil the points you want to write. This is important because only then you can write your points in the correct sequence. For instance, if you are writing about India’s relations with her neighbours, you need to write the historical facts and events in the beginning. Suppose you start writing the essay, and realise only towards the end that you have forgotten to mention a crucial detail in the historical part; it would be too late to add it because of a space crunch. Therefore, it helps if you write your rough points in the beginning.
Once you have the rough points in hand, you can start writing the essay. While writing, you must adhere to a good structure. The structure of a good essay is as follows:
- Main issue/problem/subject
- Current scenario/current news related to the topic
- Positive and negative aspects
- Reforms/way forward
You can get brownie points if you also include:
- Relevant quotes/sayings by famous personalities (ensure to quote verbatim – wrong quotes make you look careless or lazy).
- Relevant government schemes and policies.
- Any figures or numbers (must be accurate otherwise don’t include them).
Important pointers to note while you write:
- Don’t resort to name-calling. Never get personal in your essay.
- Don’t have extreme views. The Buddha’s middle path can help you here!
- Don’t just present problems. Give possible reforms/solutions also.
- Don’t criticise the government/administration excessively.
- Even if the topic is provocative, your essay shouldn’t be. Present a balanced picture. You don’t HAVE to agree to the topic.
- Avoid writing utopian solutions.
- Keep in mind you are a future officer, not a journalist!
Visit BYJU’S Website for strategy and articles on free IAS prep and all the latest on UPSC IAS exam.