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 time aspirants have all the information they need to write a stupendous answer but lack a strategy to write and present their points effectively.
Valuable Essay Writing Tips for UPSC
Writing allows you to see into your own mind. What you write on paper will reveal to the reader how you think, argue, and support your point of view. As a result, essay writing is required for the majority of competitive examinations and academic entrance exams.
We also have a 250-point paper in the Civil Services Exam, which is equivalent to a General Studies paper. Despite its importance, aspirants rarely give the first paper the attention they deserve.
First-timers believe they will write an excellent essay on the final exam, whereas experienced aspirants believe that because they have already studied extensively for GS, writing a good one will be sufficient. This is a fatal error in judgement.
Questions One Should Ask Themselves
#What the UPSC has to say about the essay?
#What should I do and where should I start?
#Language and expression improvement
#On the subject of subheadings and rough drafts
#What you must stay away from
#What is the best way to start a paper?
#Developing an Essay’s Content
#Providing evidence to back up your claims
#How do you end an essay?
#My notes, collection of quotes, and sample essays.
Read, Comprehendand 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 writing piece 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.
Example: It was the year 1893. In the British colony of South Africa, a bright, young lawyer was travelling first class on a train. Despite the lawyer’s possession of a valid ticket, a white man objected to his presence in the compartment during the journey.
The white man insisted that ‘coloured’ men such as himself should ride in the third class, not the first. The lawyer was thrown off the train when he refused to give up his seat. Offended by the discrimination, the young man resolved to fight injustice through truth and nonviolence. He went on to become the change agent he desired to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi was his name.
The Main Body will contain a detailed description or the main writing. 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 concluding sentence in a stand-alone paragraph announces that the paragraph is finished, complete. In the writing, a paragraph’s final sentence is more likely to serve as a transitional device, linking one paragraph to the next.
In a writing piece, the flow is crucial. It is also linked to the order of writing. There are two types of orders that can be written.
#The author chooses to go from known (given) concepts to unknown ones in the Known-to-New order of writing. To build on the unknown, new material is gradually added.
#Simple-to-Complex is a writing style in which the author establishes a foundation of easily understood concepts before building on it with increasingly complex ideas.
#The FREQOES method can be used to add content to the various paragraphs.
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.
Example: In conclusion, probing the ground realities of catchy headlines like “the new emerging women power” adds more substance and nuance to the gender justice discourse. These nuances do not negate society’s achievements thus far, but rather point to the remaining distance to be covered.
The first step toward eliminating problem areas and weaknesses is to identify them. India has demonstrated a strong commitment to change by pledging to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which include gender equality and women’s empowerment as ideals.
Elements in Essay
#A good CSE essay is built on the foundation of three basic elements: political, social, and economic.
#Other dimensions, such as technological, legal, constitutional, and technical, can be added to these.
#The persona is another crucial component. Good personal experiences or anecdotes can undoubtedly improve the effectiveness of an essay, but they must remain within the accepted ethical framework.
Have a Catchy Opening
They say well begun is half done, and this is especially true of the writing. An introduction is the first impression of your writing, so spend an appropriate amount of time deciding on a commanding opening. A good introduction will consist of any of the following:
#a made-up event or story (in which you introduce a character);
#a true story;
#or a straightforward definition of the words in the question (not recommended in Essay)
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, and 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 by 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 that focus on moral issues. Of course, do remember to give just a passing 3-4 line mention and not write the entire story!
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 writing.
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 writing with stats or bluff at any point. 2-3 stats per writing piece are sufficient.
Follow the Golden Mean
Buddha’s philosophy of taking the middle path is the best advice for a well-rounded essay. While writing, 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.
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.
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.
Revise Your Essay
To revise, read the essay from beginning to end, underlining important words or phrases (preferably with a scale and pencil). If there are any spelling or grammatical errors, correct them. Ensure that the pages are neat and tidy.
A few words may be added or removed, but this should not be done excessively. It’s also not a good idea to add entirely new ideas/sentences to the essay during revision unless the information is crucial to the essay.
Write a Balanced Conclusion
#The conclusion presents a summation of your views and arguments in the writing. 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 practising 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.
Practise Makes Perfect
While writing does come naturally to some people, it is not an art that cannot be practised. Simply reading the tips will not help you till you test them practically.
Joining a reliable test series will help you devise your own strategy for writing as well as introduce you to novel topics.
Practising 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.
Hopefully, the above article was helpful and you got to know how to frame your essay. Essay writing can take time but, reading the question properly, understanding it and then revising it again, should be managed. These are some important steps in the examination hall that should be done.
Still, having doubts? Then, do drop them in the comments section below or contact UPSC Pathshala.