One of the biggest mistakes majority of IAS aspirants make during their mains exam preparation is not giving the required attention to their essay paper. You must know how to prepare for essay in UPSC Mains to score expected marks.

The essay paper is crucial. There are two compulsory essays to be written, both of which carry 125 marks each. If you are lagging behind in this section, it means you lose out on a big chunk of marks out of 250!

250 marks can literally make or break your chances at cracking your mains. Therefore, you must take your essay preparations seriously.

In this article, we will cover practical preparatory tips as well as an essay writing strategy that will help you score high in your paper.

The Right Way To Prepare For Your IAS Essay Paper

1. Start with an example

Surf the Internet for essays by toppers and experts. Read their write-ups and understand their approach on the topic. The more you read, the more knowledge you will gain as to what is expected by the UPSC.

2. Open the newspaper’s editorials

The Hindu has the best editorial page of any newspaper in the country. Make it a practice of spending much of your daily newspaper reading time on this section.

Mostly, essay questions are asked out of current affairs. Editorials are an apt gateway to the summation of the entire event, what went wrong, who’s who, and powerful insights into the topic on the whole.

3. Keep quotes handy

Every time you come across an impactful quote/phrase while reading your newspaper/magazine or even casually, make it a point to note it down. Phrases directly said by authorities on the issue at hand are more effective. Introduction with a good quote can make your essay quite interesting.

The opening and closing lines of the essay form the crux of it all. So, make sure you keep it interesting with quotes/phrases.

4. Practice essays on general topics

There are certain themes the UPSC sticks to. These include women, healthcare, development, internet, education, technology, etc.

During practice, you must try to include related data, quotes on the issue said by an authority figure, smart diagrams, case studies, initiatives of the government, etc.

5. Stick to reality and not theory

Agreed that essays are theoretical in nature, and some subjects are unfortunately way too theoretical for you to state realistic points. But a good essay is one, which highlights the topics in the sense of the present. You must avoid technical jargon as much as you could. Stick to current facts, data, and real-life examples.

It is good to give hypothetical examples, but nothing can beat the impact of a real situation that occurred.

For example,

In a topic like “Is gender Equality a myth or possible reality?”: –

Instead of repeatedly focusing on history of women in India, and theoretical paragraphs loaded with how bad a woman’s situation is, focus on data on disparity between male-female employment ratio, school enrollment rates, sex ratio, cases of female feticide, government policies for women’s development etc.

6. Include the crucial parameters

Irrespective of the topic, your essay is good only if it addresses the following parameters:

  • Social
  • Political
  • Environmental
  • Economic
  • Historical
  • Cultural
  • Legal
  • Ethical
  • International (if the topic demands)

Keep in mind to not get carried away by your passion for the topic. One-sided arguments and aggressive writing tone are detrimental to a good essay.

7. Mind the time

When you practice essay writing, keep an eye on the clock. Right from selecting the right topic, brainstorming the pointers in your head, framing the structure and penning it down, everything must be timed.

8. Seek out help from experts

You are definitely great at what you do, but nothing beats expert guidance! Take your written essays to be evaluated by an expert or someone you look up to as a mentor.

They will help identify and rectify your mistakes with effective feedback.

Let Us Quickly Understand The Best Strategy To Write A Great Essay:

1. It all starts with the right topic

Many candidates make the grave error of selecting an uncommon topic from the options, thinking that unconventionality will get them a higher score.

Do not make this mistake.

Irrespective of the topic, it’s the subject matter that gets the marks home. Select a topic you are confident about. Quickly brainstorm in your mind all the related quotes, data, facts, current issues, examples, government initiates, pros, cons, etc., you can draw on the topic.

If you feel you have enough information, pick that topic.

2. A strong structure is a must

It’s best to outline your essay around the PAST-PRESENT-FUTURE approach. Stick to the past least and more towards the present and future.

Your essay must necessarily have the following components:

  • Introduction
  • An interesting introduction can be a quote, a hypothetical relatable situation, or a real-life example. Avoid definitions as they’re too cliché. You introduction should clearly hint at what you will be covering in your essay.
  • Body
  • In well-linked, clearly worded, simple sentences analyze your topic.
  • In case of debatable topics, discuss both sides.
  • For others, keep it straightforward. And less story-like
  • Present multiple arguments; examine both sides of an argument
  • Give related examples
  • Conclusion
    • Summarize your topic and present your concluding stand. Always end your essay on a visionary note.

I hope this answers all your questions on How to Prepare for Essay in UPSC.

Good luck!

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About the Author

Greeta Sulochana

Greeta Sulochana is a content evangelist with a flair for compelling creative writing. She has penned down her thoughts in poetry and prose since the past five years, and has catered her skills to the Indian and international audiences. She started out as an advertising intern with Grey worldwide, and is now a full-fledged writer in passion and profession, who has worked for major national brands.

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