Tips and Training for Essay Paper UPSC Exam at Dr RajKumar Academy For Civil Services


BULLDOZER-CRANE approach: In mains examination, there are a total of 7 papers each having 250 marks. Out of the 7 papers, in 4 papers you can really make a difference and go ahead in the race. The 4 papers where you can really have an edge and score more than others is Essay, GS4 (ethics), Optional paper1 and 2. In other papers all serious candidates will score more or less the same marks.

In Essay one can score 135+ and go up to 150 if s/he is careful enough. This will easily give a lead of 10 to 15 marks compared to other candidates. But how do we achieve this?

First, let us look at what the UPSC notification says about the Essay paper-

“Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will be expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in orderly fashion, and to write concisely. Credit will be given to effective and exact expression”.

Key points here is:
• Keep closely to the subject of the essay
• Arrange the ideas in orderly fashion
• Effective and exact expression

What we can infer from the above is:
• more than the content it is the good structure,
• smooth flow
• simple representation of the essay

which will fetch you maximum marks. You should ingrain the above points in your mind, as a conscious mind will be able to detect immediately if we go off-track.

Motto: Candidate’s motto should be ‘EASY TO THE EYE’ of the Evaluator.

Sources/Books: Many candidates have a question- Which book to read for an essay. The answer is, there are no specific books to be read. Your holistic knowledge which you have gained from reading General Studies and Optional is enough.
Therefore importance should be given to how to represent whatever knowledge you have on paper.
Now let us look into the different parts in an essay and how each one should be written.

Time Management:

Total Time 180 Minutes
Essay Essay 1 Essay 2
Time for Framework 25 Minutes 25 Minutes
Time for writing 65 Minutes 65 Minutes
Total time 90 Minutes 90 Minutes

Essay Topic: A candidate should be careful while reading the essay topic. There will be key words in it and a candidate should take note of it.
For Example, 2014 mains paper-
“Was it the policy paralysis or the paralysis of implementation which slowed the growth of our country”
The key words here are – policy paralysis, implementation, growth.
Every paragraph, example, data should relate to the above key words.

Framework: This part is very crucial as it can make or break your chances of writing a good essay.
In this stage, one should select which essay to write and write a rough framework for it.
If one has difficulty in choosing the essay, follow the below steps:

• Out of the 4 essay choices in each part, narrow down your options to two essays. Two should be eliminated just by looking at it.
• For the remaining two essays, in the rough section (at the end of the answer script) divide the paper into two parts. Start jotting down the points that come to your mind about the two essays in their respective parts. Within 2-3minutes you will realize that, you have more fodder for one of the essay. That will obviously become your choice.

Note: The above exercise should happen within 5 minutes. If you have clarity about which essay to write then you save 5 minutes. Next is to write down the rough framework of the essay. Here one should jot down the various dimensions, subheadings, examples, flow charts, etc. and arrange it in the right manner. Write down only the points and not the complete information.
This framework will be like a trailer and your essay will be the full movie.
Once your set with your framework, start writing the essay. Don’t make huge changes from the framework to the essay once you start writing, as you will miss the flow.
Keep looking back at your framework so that you do not miss crucial points and the flow.
Now let us look at the different parts of the essay.

Introduction: Introduction can be of 3 types –
1. Quote from a well-known personality (should be relevant to the topic).
2. Start with a story (preferably real stories over fictional/cooked up ones)
3. Normal Start

While starting with a quote, one should be careful as misquoting and mismatch of quote-personality can go wrong. Along with this, irrelevant quote should be strictly avoided. These blunders can be costly as wrong impression about the candidate will be given to the evaluator and marks may decrease.
Starting the essay with a story can be very effective. As it’ll be easier for the evaluator to relate with your thoughts. But please do not start the essay with – “Once upon a time in a village, there was Ramu” !! Also don’t start both the essay with similar story. If you are not able to think of any quote or stories then you need not worry. You can have a normal start by telling about the crux of the essay topic.
Make sure you complete the introduction within 1.5/2 pages.

Note: No matter what kind of start you give, make sure it is strictly relevant to the essay topic.

Pointer: After the introduction, I suggest you to write a pointer. Pointer is that which tells the evaluator what to expect in the essay.
For example, from 2014 exam, “Was it the policy paralysis or the paralysis of implementation which slowed the growth of our country”
After the introduction you can write a pointer- “By the end of the essay we will see how both policy paralysis and paralysis of implementation has slowed the growth with suitable examples. What are the implications and how these problems can be overcome”.

Connectors: Most candidates miss out on the flow because they are not able to connect between different paragraphs. One paragraph should be connected to the other.
For example, from 2014 paper, after you write about policy paralysis and before you start writing about paralysis of implementation, you can mention at the start of the paragraph – “Now that we have seen how policy paralysis leads to slow growth. Let’s look at cases where paralysis of implementation leads to slow growth of economy”
This will prepare the evaluator about what he can expect next.
This will also fasten the reading and understanding of the essay for the evaluator.

Note: If the flow is smooth, an evaluator tends to allot more marks.

Body: After a good introduction and pointer, a candidate should back it up with a good body. If there is a drop in the level of writing then it again creates a bad impression, thereby a drop in marks.
A body should contain different viewpoints and data. The best way is to give it through examples.
A candidate instead of stuffing the essay with numerous examples, data, subheadings, etc. They can give 4-5 examples and discuss it in detail. Like giving positive and negative perspectives, how to overcome the problem mentioned, government steps in this direction, etc.
One should be careful and avoid subheadings such as- socially, culturally, politically, economically, women, children, etc. If at all one wants to use subheadings you should use it creatively.

Innovative methods: should be used to representing your views. To stand out of the crowd and look different one should use flowcharts, block diagrams, pie-charts, etc. But care should be taken to make it look relevant rather than using it for the sake of it.

Conclusion: One should end the essay in a smooth manner. Common mistake which a candidate does is ending abruptly. Conclusion can end with/without a quote but it should be more ‘forward looking’. It should show the stand a candidate has taken regarding the subject. Such a stand should be more or less a balanced one.

‘-1’ ‘0’ ‘+1’ Approach :
If are representing the different sections in numbers, then

Introduction – ‘-1’ (i.e. giving a background)
Body – ‘0’ (i.e. the present scenario with analysis of the topic)
Conclusion – ‘+1’ (forward looking)

No. of Pages per Section (approx..) –
1. Introduction: 1.5 pages
2. Body: Explaining each view with example/scenarios: 1.5 pages per example For five examples/scenarios: 7-8 pages
3. Conclusion – 1 page

Total : 10-11 pages
No. of words/page: 100
Total words: 1100 approx.

P.S.: We do not claim this to be foolproof. We believe each individual to be unique so one should use this write up to draw up his own style or if s/he is satisfied then candidate can follow this completely.