Strategy for essay-writing in IAS exam

Strategy for essay-writing in IAS exam

Essay is taken as granted area in civil service preparation by most of the aspirants.  In one way the fate of the candidates is decided by the most...

Essay is taken as granted area in civil service preparation by most of the aspirants. In one way the fate of the candidates is decided by the most unpredictable component of the syllabus is ‘Essay’.

Even most of the seniors, peers or teachers have not come up with a concrete strategy to prepare for Essays. It is ironical that despite being the most flexible component of the UPSC syllabus, it is the essay that spoils your chances.

So, if anyone tells that the right way to write an essay and by right means that the benchmark set by UPSC, be sure that the person has got a long way to go before he/ she can truly understand UPSC.

It is observed that the aspirants with excellent writing skills scoring 70% in essay in their first attempt are barely managing 35% in their next attempt. It is the other way round also with a number of aspirants.

We spend months preparing for GS-1, 2, 3, 4 but hardly any of us give any dedicated time for preparation of essay. It is important to understand that one essay paper is equivalent to almost 1.5 G.S papers in terms or scoring.

Aspirants need to do away with
few misunderstandings

1. Aspirants need to be a champ in English (grammar, spelling mistakes, poor vocabulary cannot stop from scoring high).

2. Essay does not need preparation. General Study’s knowledge can provide fodder but Essay unlike GS answers need lot more.

3. Candidates cannot improve so easily in
Approaches to an essay
Choice of topic

Choice of topic should be clearly based on holistic understanding of the subject matter. So choose a topic with which you are most comfortable. At times we think that the topic is so common that most of the people will choose it, so choose some unconventional topic. This is a totally wrong thinking, many people end up scoring poor marks due to this. So fight with your best weapons on.

Interpretation of the essay topic Do not be in a hurry to write an essay. Many people see the broader title and start writing the essay without even understanding the theme of the topic.

For example in 2014 the essay is - With greater power comes greater responsibility .Now the moment candidates see power they somehow relate it to politics and bureaucracy and start building their essay around it, writing all theories, quotes and examples they know related to it.

Here the theme of this topic is philosophical which talks of power present in any institutional system (family, religion, community, politics, administration etc), throughout society power is banked from people to a leader so that he can use that power for a common good.

So with greater power comes greater responsibility. In this context we need to critically analyse the theme of the essay.

Brainstorming after selection of the topic we need to brainstorm to get fodder material that we can write in the essay. There are various things and various ways to brainstorm.

Key words
Break the topic and look for key words to tinker upon.
With greater power comes greater responsibility we know power and responsibility are key words. Now you can brainstorm around key words

Another way to think upon to get points related to the topic.
Think from Social, Political, Economic, Cultural, Legal, International, Humanistic perspective. You can make your own acronym and add more dimensions to think from
What to brainstorm

You can look for quotes, examples, events, illustrations, case studies, Government initiatives, and facts and figures etc. So anything that can make the essay more informative and interesting.

Structuring the essay
Information is one thing but how to put that information in a structured and systematic way is very important. So need to focus on few things while structuring your essay

Create an outline of essay i.e. how will your essay proceed. Feel PAST-PRESENT- FUTURE is a good technique, you can have other ways to decide the flow of the essay as well. E.g.- “Dreams that should not let India sleep”, here one can discuss Nehru’s speech of tryst with destiny to explain what those dreams were and can also discuss Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam think big dreams etc.

Then came on present why that dream is faltering and then talked of future that what are these dreams and how can we fulfil it.

Break up your essay properly
Once you have listed out the points, created an outline and structured your essay, then write the content.


Language & Presentation
Always write in simple language. No need of flowery expressions. Keep short sentences and small paragraphs.
Explanation of points
Explain through examples or illustrations whatever you are trying to explain. Mention government Initiatives, policies & plans wherever possible. International examples or case study wherever possible.

Focus of essay
Throughout the essay the theme should be reflected and flow should be maintained from beginning to end.

Each paragraph should link to the other .Also do not focus only on covering lot of dimensions in the essay. In this race you may lose the flow of essay. More than knowledge essay should reflect your vision and ideas.

Introduction should clearly lay down what the essay will entail, giving a brief idea to the reader. Always use a story, quote, fact/Information or abstract way to create a context and then build the introduction over it.

“Is sting operation an Invasion in Privacy”. Here you could begin your Intro with the Tehelka story of Gujarat riots that hit the news and then raise questions was it good or bad and discuss that in the body.

This part is all about analysis. Here three things are Important.

• If the topic is debatable you need to discuss both sides. If not then it will be straight-forward.

• In any case you will have certain line of arguments to put your case.

• Explain each of them through some examples.

“Is sting operation an Invasion in Privacy”. This is debatable topic. So you will have both sides. Yes it in an invasion, No it is not an invasion. To discuss both sides you will have some arguments. Now when you put your arguments substantiate with the example and illustrations.

In conclusion focus on following things
• Summarise the topic
• Put your concluding stand
• Tell a way ahead.
• Try to end your essay on some
positive/visionary note.
Preparation for Essays

You need to read some good essays and learn how beautifully people put up their arguments. These essays don’t have diversity but depth. So reading some good essays can tell you how to begin an essay, write arguments, and conclude. Most Important is how to create a structure of essay.

• In your daily newspaper reading if you find some good lines or examples then keep noting them. Especially editorials.

• Take up some common/general topics like women, education, healthcare, internet, science (look at least 20 years essay) and prepare some fodder on it. Like quotes, imp case studies, examples, factual info, government initiatives etc.

• Have a repository of good opening and closing lines. You will find this through reading newspapers, good essays of others etc.

Write and evaluate
One should write at least 5-6 essays. While writing try to apply the points explained above. And most importantly get the essays evaluated by some teachers, selected candidates or sincere friends. This will help in making improvements.

Time division
There is no hard and fast rule;
it is totally your discretion.
1. Topic Selection :
5 minutes
2. Brain storming/creating
outline/structure of essay :
15 minutes
3. Essay Writing : 1hr to 1hr 5 minutes
4. Revising Essay:
5 minutes

Now, by linking this essay with various components of the syllabus, you can create a number of good points for your essay. Here are some examples:

Paper I
Indian heritage and civilization
Gandhian thoughts on the importance of letting our civilization welcome others while maintaining our identity and uniqueness. This is particularly important in view of the ongoing clash of civilizations.

Women issues
Gandhi’s idea on emancipation and empowerment of women and it’s applicability in modern India.

Communalism and secularism
Gandhian message of communal harmony and tolerance.

Numerous examples of Gandhian views on the importance of charity, role of family, social capital, social norms, cinema etc.

Gandhian message of self reliance and it’s synthesis with the idea of global commons/ was Gandhi against globalization.

Paper II
Constitution and polity
Gandhian idea of a nation state
Local governance
Panchayati Raj as envisaged by Gandhi.
Gandhian conception of the idea; the
concept of village gramodyog etc
Gandhian model of education that
emphasized upon imparting skills
International relations
Gandhian ideals of co-existence, non- violence, non- proliferation etc applied to the current foreign policy paradigm; satyagaraha and non- violence as tools to pursue foreign policy goals.

Paper III
Inclusive growth
Gandhi’s talisman and it’s remarkable resonance with the very idea of inclusive growth

Economic development
Gandhian idea of self dependent village communities
Gandhian apprehensions with respect to western model of industrialization
Agriculture and animal rearing
Gandhi’s ideas on organic cultivation, supplementary income through animal rearing etc.
Gandhian message on cleanliness and sustainability (remember the quote related to man’s need versus man’s greed?), Gandhi’s views on vegetarianism etc

Paper IV
All Gandhian ideas with respect to revenge, change, forgiveness, happiness, strength etc reflect the essence of this component of the syllabus. We can use all of them wisely to make our points look better and logical.

At this point of time, it is important to mention about current events. Try to relate the topic with the current events. It will add to the personality of your essay. For example in this case, following examples can be included:

Corporate social responsibility
Gandhian idea of trusteeship
Struggle for democracy in various parts of the world

Gandhi’s thoughts on democracy
Crisis in the Parliament

Gandhian idea of true leadership

Now there are some other tools that are always handy in helping you make your essay multi- dimensional. Have a look and think how they can be used in different scenarios:

• Preamble to the Constitution
• FRs and DPSPs
• Millennium Development Goals (Now
Sustainable Development Goals)
• Quotations by eminent personalities
• Important Supreme Court judgements
• Concepts of sustainability and environmental ethics etc

Having shown you the importance of knowing the syllabus by heart and keeping oneself updated with the current events.

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