One of the main challenges of the UPSC Mains is the essay paper, which is crucial in garnering maximum marks out of the 250 marks allotted for this paper. The paper carries not one but two essays on two different topics, which is, in fact, the biggest challenge of all.
If you are unsure about your Mains essay and want to know more about how to tackle them, this is the blog for you. So, let’s get into the details.
The UPSC Essays & Their Highlights
The UPSC Essay paper is one of the nine papers of the UPSC Mains. Its highlights are:
- Number of essays- 2.
- Marks are awarded for each essay-125.
- Total marks awarded for essay paper-250.
- Word count for each essay- 1000 to 1200 words.
- Paper duration-3 hours.
Experienced aspirants often rely on their General Studies preparation to help them write the essay, while freshers often underestimate its importance. Both mistakes are equally grave.
The essay paper does not merely test your factual knowledge. It tests your writing creativity and ability to think, rationalise, and generate new ideas. The Union Public Service Commission, which conducts the exam, states the following:
“Candidates are expected to keep close to the subject of the essay, arrange their ideas in an orderly fashion, and write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.”
In the UPSC essay, examiners consider multiple aspects of awarding the deserving marks for each essay, such as:
- Mastery of language
- Vocabulary usage
- Clarity in writing without grammatical errors
- Use of expressions
- Language coherence
So, how, where, and what should you do to polish your essay writing skills to deal with the UPSC essay? Here are the details.
5 Steps to Writing A Fantastic UPSC Essay
There is a definitive strategy to deal with UPSC essays. Here’s how it goes.
1. Choose the right topic
The question paper has four options, and you can choose one topic to write your essay. This is the most crucial part because what you choose to write about depends on your knowledge of the chosen topic. Hence, make sure you pick the topic you are comfortable writing about.
2. Organise your thoughts
Now that you’ve picked your topic do not be hasty about writing it immediately. Give yourself some time to:
- Collect your points about the topic.
- Use a pencil to write the points you want to add.
- Organise the points in a sequence.
Once you have all the points in a good sequence, you can commence writing the essay. A good essay should follow the “Introduction-Body-Conclusion” format, where the “Body” talks about the main subject, issue, or problem per your topic.
3. Develop the main content from the topic
Developing solid content from the chosen topic is like spinning an entire web from a single thread. You can choose the following options to develop your narrative:
- Temporal (relating to time)- Present, past or future
- Sectoral ( relating to a distinct section)- You may choose from any arena, such as media, sports, science, technology, religion, politics, business, and administration.
- Realm: Family, individual, society, community, national, or global.
- Problem and solution: Concept, benefits, problems and their solutions.
- Standard: Legal, environmental, scientific, historical, political, international, economic, social, and defense-related.
4. Corroborate your arguments
The essay’s body is where you should substantiate your arguments for your topic. Each paragraph in the main essay should discuss the argument and have a reason to back the same. This is where you can make use of:
- Expert opinions
- Constitutional provisions
- Relevant government schemes and policies
5. Conclude your essay
Your conclusion should be as strong as your introduction. Always end your essay on a futuristic and optimistic note. Summarise your essay in a concise paragraph, and then write your vision for the future. Use appropriate quotes, phrases, etc., to give your essay a thought-provoking end.
Preparation Techniques to Refine Your UPSC Essay
The UPSC essay is unlike any of the essays you may have attempted in your school and college days. It needs to be well-structured, appropriately worded and presented to make it appealing for the examiner to read and understand. All your information about the chosen topic should be presented and delivered in a proper format.
Generally, the content of your essay will come from your General Studies (GS) preparation. However, you may also rely on the following sources to gain more information and polish your essay-writing skills;
Non-fiction books like novels will help improve your vocabulary, sentence construction, figures of speech, argumentative skills, etc.
2. Stories, anecdotes, and quotes
Quotes and anecdotes from real-life experiences will help you earn brownie points to boost your overall score.
3. References: Statistical knowledge and references to government schemes will help substantiate your argument.
Many aspirants think extensive reading alone will help them write a good essay. Wrong. A good essay requires good writing skills that should be polished from the beginning of your preparation process. Here are some effective tips to use while practicing your essay writing:
- Rely on multiple sources to read and expand your knowledge base.
- Use simple sentences to deliver your message.
- Use powerful vocabulary that will add value to your essay rather than using complex words.
- Use phrases to give your essay a definitive edge.
Building your vocabulary is a lifetime process. You may come across unique, never-heard-before words in books or newspapers. If you do not recognise it, note it in a book, find its meaning, understand how the word is used, and try to implement the same in your essay.
Tips to Write a Well-Structured UPSC Essay
As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, a well-structured essay makes for a great essay. To write a well-structured essay, you must:
- Give a good introduction and conclusion, about 5-7% of the entire essay.
- Give a good body, which constitutes about 86-90% of the essay.
- Choose a topic that you are comfortable with.
- Stick to the core subject of the chosen topic.
- Keep your essay expansive and multi-dimensional.
- Use real-life incidents, anecdotes, etc., to give an appealing introduction.
- Use relevant but accurate quotes to reiterate your arguments.
- Avoid extreme or highly unpopular opinions to finalize your argument.
- Learn to use time judiciously for each essay.
- Present both negative and positive aspects and end with a balanced note.
- Transition smoothly from one paragraph to the next using connecting verbs and phrases.
- Always keep in mind the ABC of essay writing, where A implies Accuracy, B implies Brevity and C implies Creativity. These 3 will help you score better in the essay paper.
As far as the UPSC essay is concerned, it is not the dearth of content that’s challenging but the lack of writing and organizational skills that keeps you from delivering a good essay. However, there’s nothing that cannot be achieved with regular practice, and evaluation of mistakes. And the UPSC essay is no exception.
Reach out to us at Chinmaya Academy of Civil Services, Chennai‘s most reputed UPSC exam coaching centre, to make your Civil Service dreams come true.