How To write an essay

The following are some of the tips given by candidates who scored more than 120 in essay in the main exams.(Good marks in essay like interview decide your rank in the final total)

Few points which should be kept in mind regarding essay writing:
  • Keep the essay language very general and simple. Sentences should not be technical at all.
  • Do not try to show off the strength of your core subjects (e.g. A lawyer by profession may be tempted to quote judgments extensively or a doctor by profession may try to quote lots of examples from medical field, etc). UPSC discourages core information in essay and prefers generalist approach
  • While choosing topic idea of marks should never come to your mind. Rather the criteria should be - Will you feel happy after writing on that topic for 3 hours? or Will you feel proud that you wrote on that topic? This way your natural self will come out automatically and you will come out with a very elegant experience in those three hours of exam.

Strategy for the 3 hours
  • Choosing topic
  • choosing a topic out of 4 topics is very important. Please spend first 10 minutes in just zeroing in on the topic you are most comfortable with.
  • As far as possible choose that topic which is least controversial or where there is least double viewpoints. For e.g. Issue of tackling terrorism (2011) , preparation of Indian society (2010), women based topics, child issues, etc.
  • Avoid those topics where your weakness can get exposed.
  • Spend next 20 mins in collecting ideas about the topic and scribble them down in the last 2-3 pages of the answer booklet. Do NOT start writing immediately on the topic.
  • Introduction of the essay is the most crucial part of your essay. After all first impression is often the last impression. (approx 250 words – 15-20 mins)
  • Start the topic tangentially and not directly with a famous quote of words of any great personality. This way you'll attract attention of the examiner.
  • Write the introduction in an abstract manner – you should not use all the arms and ammunition but just give a trailer to the examiner as to what is hidden more in the armory
  • Prepare the background for the topic in the introduction. For e.g.
  • On a topic like preparation of Indian society for global leadership talk a little about demography, social issues, ethics, etc in 50-60 words
  • On a topic related to women talk about role of women in India's progress and materialistic approach, etc
  • Complete the introduction in max 200 – 250 words with 4-5 paragraphs
  • Main body (approx 1000 words – 60-80 mins)
  • The more you correlate here the more marks you are going to get.
  • Write paragraphs of 50 words approx and go topic by topic. Correlate India's agriculture, history, societal issues, cinema, security, defense, population, ethics, morality, federalism, polity, economic aspects, etc as much as u can.
  • Keep the language and sentence framing futuristic and at the same time don't hesitate in constructive criticism of the present state of affairs.
  • Quote lots and lots of examples in between to support your viewpoint. Just talking in the air will turn away the examiner.
  • Keep a bank of important quotations always handy with you which you can stuff in between the paragraphs. For some reason certain examiners love the quotes.
  • Do not hesitate in quoting from scriptures like Gita, Bible, Thirukkural, Grant sahib, etc whichever you are comfortable with. It will only make your write-up more colorful.
  • Do remember 1-2 poems which can fit in any type of topic. This would make the essay artistic in nature and set you apart from others.
  • Always keep 50-100 words reserved for Fundamental duties, DPSP, Gandhi an principles, moral principles.
  • Keep 50 words reserved for implementation aspects – role of political class, bureaucracy, etc
  • As said above mix and match in main body and do not make things overly technical in one niche domain.
  • Do not write in points, do not draw figures, etc in the whole essay but just paragraphs.
  • While you are writing the main body, read the essay heading every 15 mins so that you don’t digress from the topic and stay on the right course always.
  • Use two pens – both blue and black ink to write the main body. One ink can be used for quotes, relevant examples, keywords, personality names, facts, summary, 1 line conclusion etc and other ink for general sentences. This will make the task of examiner easier and increase the probability of higher score in the essay.
  • Keep writing the 1 line mini-summary in a flowery language after every 100 words to make the examiner feel that you are writing only what is required in the topic.
  • Do NOT do any cutting in the essay and be extremely neat and clean in writing. Your writing should be good, at least neat and readable.
  • Underline the keywords or make boxes on them to increase the visibility.
  • Conclusion (approx 250 words: 20-30 mins)
  • Conclusion is extremely critical and seals the fate many times.
  • It is not equivalent to introduction. In introduction we clean the ground while in conclusion we polish it for future use.
  • Examiner should get a idea of your vision or your thinking in the conclusion and sum up on a higher note.
  • In the 30 minutes allocated for conclusion, last 10 mins should be for the last 50 words of your essay. One has to be extremely careful in these 50 ending words.
  • Finish up everything within 2 hours and 45 minutes and last 15 mins should be kept handy to revise the essay again.
  • Remove all the grammar mistakes, spellings, etc. Underline wherever necessary.

One must prepare daily a few quotes, few topics asking for prospective ones which can come in exams, in the longer run you will have huge reservoir of materials in 12 months.