Essay is the deciding factor in UPSC Mains score. Even after spending months in GS preparation, aspirants struggle to score even 100 marks in GS papers out of 250 each. If one prepares smartly and gives adequate time for Essay preparation, it is quite possible to score 150+ marks in Essay.
EduRev UPSC Experts on the advice of various IAS toppers including Anudeep Durishetty (AIR 1, 2017), Muskan Jindal (AIR 87, 2019) and others have compiled the following strategy that will help you attempt the section well and will enable you to score 150+ marks in Essay Writing. Go through EduRev’s course Essay for MAINS- UPSC, PCS & Other Competitive exams and practice as many essays as you can through it.
Step 1: Choose the Topic Wisely
Before choosing the topic, read all the topics more than once and choose the topic wisely from the given choices so that you will find enough points to write about the topic. Follow the guidelines below to choose the most appropriate topic for yourself.
- Understand if you have sufficient content or not: Topic should be chosen wisely and you should have a holistic understanding of the topic. Understand the topic you are choosing during the exam and think about whether you have sufficient content material for writing that or not.
- Choose topics from both the sections in first 5 minutes: Think over choosing the essay topics of both the sections in the starting only. This will save you from a lot of thinking and confusion in the end.
- After finalizing the topic, do no think of changing it: Once you choose a topic and start to write you may find difficult and tend to change the topic in between which would be foolishness and it will be too late to change the topic as you would have already utilized much time. Read the topic twice and think about the topic for 30 minutes.
- How to choose the right topic? Brainstorm these questions and try to come to a conclusion on choosing the right topic through them:
- Do you understand the topic well?Do you have information on the topic?
- Can you write 1000 words on that topic?
- Do you have related quotes/ data/ examples anecdotes?
- If the answer to all the above questions is yes for any topic then definitely go for that one only.
- Conventional or Unconventional Topic: Avoid thinking that a common topic cannot do you good since most candidates would opt for it. Take an unconventional topic only if you are most comfortable with it.
Step 2: Brainstorm about the topics for 15 mins and keep in mind the basic points.
Once you have chosen the topic to write don’t start to write immediately instead think about the topic for 15 minutes, Write down the random points that come to your mind at the end of the sheet, and Arrange the points that you have jotted down in sequence. Keep in mind the following points:
- Time Management: Time management is important for writing an essay. You should not devote more than 1.5 hrs per essay.
- 15 mins: Brainstorming and presentation
- 75 mins: Writing Part
- Stick to the topic: Remain stick to the topic and remind yourself after every ten minutes that you should not deviate from it.
- Cover width rather than depth: Do not go in-depth of any topic but write the essay in a manner that is holistic, multi-dimensional, and covers most of the perspectives.
- Some important tips to make your Essay worthy:
- Taking a stand: You should definitely take a stand but should follow a balanced approach overall while writing the essay. Both positive and negative aspects should be covered well. Try not to leave the examiner with a gloomy picture.
- Language and grammar: Keep your language simple. Try improving your vocabulary during preparation but avoid very difficult words as well. Avoid large sentences, break your thoughts in smaller sentences.
- Avoid basic grammatical errors: Creative use of language is welcome but avoid basic grammatical errors.
- Work on presentation: Underline the quotes, the keywords in each paragraph, the subheadings with a black pen. Let the first page be in beautiful handwriting, its the first impression!
- Emotional Aspect: Emotional aspect plays a good role too. In case your essay is touching someone’s heart than you will definitely get more points for the same.
Step 3: Structure your ESSAY
The structure & Flow of essays is important otherwise it will look like an extended GS Answer.
Once you have recalled, collected, and noted the points then the next step is to structure it as given below:
- Background/past example
- Main concept/theory
- Correlate with current event
- Advantages and disadvantages
- Suggested Changes
Here is the strategy devised by EduRev UPSC experts which you can follow to give your essay a good structure.
3.1. Introduction of the Essay
When it comes to writing an introduction for the UPSC essay, it should be around 120-150 words and should be able to meet these three basic conditions:
- Spark interest in the reader
- Relevancy to the given question
- Clear and concise
The next step is to meet these conditions and make sure that the essay is impactful. This can be accomplished in the following ways:
- Tell a Story: You can develop such characters wherever you feel that you can use a story to bring out the core theme of the essay. However, make sure that your story is clear, concise, and relevant to the topic asked to you.
- Narrate an Anecdote: You can start by narrating an incident or story that you have read in books or newspapers. You can even use a historical anecdote related to the question as a reference.
- Mention an Interesting Fact or Statistic: You can state facts that would build curiosity among the audience regarding that topic that you have chosen to write for the essay.
- Ask a Question: You can start with a series of rhetorical questions that will add flair to. These questions work as thought-provoking tools and help in engaging the audience.
- Start the para with a Quote (or a Poem): Starting with a quote or poem is one of the most time-tested ways to start the essay. Once you are done writing a quote, the rest of the introduction should elaborate the quote, explain its significance and make sure that it is relevant to the question.
- Give a Context to the Essay Topic: When you are considering this particular method, you need to describe the wide range of circumstances that are related to the topic you are writing for the essay. Here you can mention about the recent legislation, new government schemes, recurring current affairs topic, and so on.
- Define the Terms of the Essay: When you are considering this aspect, you can divide the question in small parts and define the meaning of every term of the essay. This technique is mainly used for the GS papers but if you are using this for the essay, then make sure that it does not read like that of a GS paper.
3.2. Body of the Essay
One should desist from discussing only one-sided view of the topic in the main body of Essay. Discussing both sides of the topics leads to an impression that you are open to discussion. Below mentioned are some points that can help you in writing the main body of an Essay.
- Dividing the essay & giving subtitles: Dividing the essay into different sections and giving subtitles helps the reader get an overall idea of the essay at the end without having to search for your line of thought. However, one should not write over-simplistic subheadings like pros, cons, etc.
- Structuring a paragraph: Let each paragraph represent one argument. The best way to structure a paragraph is to write the argument in first sentence of the paragraph and then explain it or give examples in following sentences. Consider each paragraph to be a mini-essay, which will present an argument, explain it, provide example/s, and write a very short concluding remark or transitory sentence for the next paragraph. Paragraphs should not be too long as they make the essay monotonous.
- Both sides of view: In the body, you must write about both sides of view as illustrated below:
What to avoid
- Too many examples: As the time and space in essay paper is limited, one should refrain from giving too many examples to corroborate an argument.
- Technical Terms: Avoid using technical terms of your field or your optional subjects.
- Shorthand expressions and symbols: Do not use shorthand expressions and symbols such as “&,” “can’t” and “don’t” in formal essays even if the time is limited.
- Flowery Language: Do not spend time in making your language flowery and your sentences long and difficult. Write in simple, short sentences and words.
- Informal Manner: Maintain a certain formality and avoid writing as if you are texting or emailing a friend.
- Controversial Statements: Your arguments should be balanced and logical. Do not write controversial statements or give controversial examples.
Quotations: If you are quoting, make sure that you write the exact quote in quotation marks. If you do not remember the quote, you can paraphrase it without using quotation marks and attribute it to the writer, but the essence of original quote should not be lost.
3.3. Conclusion of the Essay
The conclusion is the difficult part because of the short amount of time available for writing a conclusion. One should not write it in a haphazard manner.
- Clear transition from body to conclusion: There should be a clear transition from body to the conclusion. One of the common ways to do so is to use phrases such as “To conclude the discussion..,” “In conclusion…,” “Consequently…” etc. Do not merely say “As discussed above…” or “As shown in the essay…” instead of stringing the arguments together.
What to avoid
- Conclusions stating main argument: Conclusions that state main argument of the essay for the first time do not make an effective impression.
- Generalist Conclusion: The conclusion should not be too short and very generalist either.
- New Arguments: Do not introduce new arguments/philosophers/examples in the conclusion.
- Negative Note: Generally, one should avoid concluding on a negative or pessimistic note. Conclusions should be optimistic, positive, and forward-looking. Some practical suggestions given in the conclusion make the whole essay very effective.
- Brief summary of discussion: The conclusion should contain a brief summary of the discussion done in the main body of the essay. Given the word limit for this exam, at least two paragraphs should be written to conclude the essay.
- Conclusion: Reverse of Introduction: The conclusion can be said to be reverse-introduction. In the introduction, we start with a general discussion to lay down a specific topic for discussion. In conclusion, we summarize the discussion on a specific topic and end with a general tone.
We are sure by genuinely following the above three steps you can attempt the essays in a great manner in exam. Below is the strategy you can follow in order to prepare and practice Essay Writing for UPSC.