UPSC Civil Services Mains 2015 – How to attempt Essay paper

Dear Readers, 

In this article, we will discuss the pattern, syllabus, time management strategy and general approach to tackle the Essay paper.

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducted the Civil Services Preliminary exam 2015 on the 23rd of August 2015 to recruit candidates for 24 prestigious services in various government departments. Around 15,000 candidates have successfully cleared the Preliminary examination and they will appear for Civil Services 2015 Mains, which will be conducted from the 18th December to the 23rd December, 2015.

What is an essay?

An essay is a comprehensive argument on a topic, which reflects the author’s knowledge and the direction of his/her thoughts. The Essay paper is one of the most important papers in the UPSC Civil Services Mains exam as it tests a candidate’s knowledge of concepts, analytical prowess and attitude.

Overall, the nature of topics in this part of the exam is unpredictable and there is no set pattern or strategy that is followed by UPSC. The essay obviously plays a decisive role in your selection and can increase or lessen your chances of securing a good rank and getting selected for the Interview.

Paper Pattern:

The UPSC Civil Service Mains Essay paper has two sections – Section A & B, each with four different essay topics. You have to write an essay of about 1,000 – 2,000 words on any one topic in each section. The Essay paper is worth 250 marks (each essay carries 125 marks) and has to be solved within 3 hours. 

How to write an essay: 

Let’s go step-by-step to understand the three important parts of the whole essay-writing process: selection of a topic, structure of the essay and the actual essay writing.

1) Selection of topic: 

This is the most important step as the selection of the topic dictates your efficacy in the essay writing process. First, you should take a few minutes to carefully go through the given topics and form a rough outline based on your knowledge of the topics. In order to determine the right topic for the essay, the easiest benchmark is your knowledge for particular topics. Look for the topic for which you have the maximum knowledge – you should select that topic generally. In some rare cases, you might encounter two topics for which you have similar knowledge. In these cases, select the one where you can present the topic in a better manner. You should be confident of making the information and facts flow into a seamless essay. Overall, take around 10-12 minutes to select the topic.

2) Structure of the essay:

This is the most important step because this effectively defines the thought process that you would adopt while writing the essay. Without the right structure, it is difficult to convey facts, opinions and your personal stand on the issue effectively. Ideally, your essay should comprise three parts:

i) Introduction

ii) Body

iii) Conclusion

This is a very simple way of breaking down the essay into tangible units. This basic classification will help you define the placement of information in the essay. 

a) Scope of the essay: To get the structure right, you should first decide on the scope and nature of your essay. For example, the scope of an essay on ‘India’s foreign policy since independence’ should include the following: a correct timeline of events, India’s foreign policy viewed from different angles like the NAM and the Cold War, India’s Nuclear Policy, emerging Third World economies, etc. 

Ask yourself questions to decide the sub-topics/angles that will help in meaningful arrangement of your factual data. Remember to limit the scope of your essay as per the time limit in the exam. The essay should neither be too short nor too lengthy. It should be concise enough to explain the core idea. 

b) Think, collect, & analyse: Devote time to think about your topic with a clear & focused mind. The syllabus of the four General Studies papers provides enough data, facts and statistics on varied topics. Try to recollect this information and list out points related to your essay topic. Now go through the points to evaluate their relevance to the topic. Analysing the data gives your ideas a direction and your essay the right attitude. 

c) Rough outline : 

Spend the next 45 minutes to form a rough draft of the essay based on the sub-topics. In one-line sentences, describe what you will later elaborate in each paragraph. Make note of quotes, dates and other important references you plan to include. Make sure to fit the data in our three part structure, i.e. Introduction, Body and Conclusion.

3)   Writing the essay: 

As mentioned above, an essay consists of three parts. Let’s now analyse how you need to approach these three parts:

i) Introduction: The introductory paragraph helps to attract and hold the reader’s attention and this makes it very important. You should make the examiner curious about what s/he is going to read further in the essay. 

a) The introduction of the essay should build up the topic and present the core theme in an engaging manner. Use information that is not present in the body but will grab the reader’s attention.

b) Introduction can be started with a thesis statement, a famous quote or an anecdote. It should also contain keywords from your topic. 

c) It should also give a brief idea about the scope of your essay. 

d) Keep it simple; don’t get too verbose in the introduction.

e) Introductory paragraph also reflects your attitude. For the reader, it is your first impression. Thus, do not make the examiner feel disoriented and confused at the beginning. 

ii)  Body: This is the most important part of your essay as it provides in-depth analytical arguments for every point you wish to elaborate in the essay. This is where you can present your knowledge of the topic, your analytical ability and assessment of ideas.

a) Use your rough outline to write paragraphs based on a single idea/point. Every paragraph should be meaningfully complete. The following are the main points to be considered while writing a paragraph.

b) Topic Sentences: A paragraph should begin with a ‘topic sentence’, which is a one-line introduction, which states the main idea of that paragraph. 

c) Supporting sentences: Supporting sentences form the main body of the paragraph and include facts, statistics and other examples.

d) Closing sentences: These sentences form the conclusion of your paragraph and summarise the main idea. You can end your paragraph with an assessment of the angle explained in the paragraph and other concluding remarks. 

e) Transitions: To keep up the flow within a paragraph or between two paragraphs, you are advised to use transition words such as ‘accordingly’, ‘likewise’, ‘for instance’, etc. 

f) Maintaining a lucid flow of the essay is essential. Paragraphs should not have loose ends as they confuse the examiner.

g) Make sure not to include random points. Our objective is to keep the examiner’s focus on the essay and nothing should distract him from it.

h) In-depth and coherent analysis reflects your thought process and critical understanding of the topic. 

i) Whenever you describe present problems/ issues, try to provide a brief and practical solution to the same. Merely raising questions without solutions does not serve any purpose. 

j) Do not present very personal views as it may have a negative effect on your essay. 

k) Highly negative and harsh viewpoints should be avoided. Your essay is your persona for the examiner. Hence, optimistic and solution-oriented attitude will paint a better picture of your personality.

l) Do not get too engrossed in a sub-topic and deviate from the central idea of the essay. 

iii) Conclusion: The conclusion provides your final outlook and assessment as regards different angles discussed in the body. 

a) Conclusion should generate a sense in the reader that he agrees with your point of view.

b) It can include a famous quote or an unconventional yet practical solution. Do not end your essay with questions minus a definite solution. It presents a pessimistic view and evasive attitude. 

c) Your conclusion should be balanced, practical and within the purview of the current scenario. An optimistic and balanced conclusion will complement your whole essay.

iv) Language of the essay: The language you use has great value and plays a deciding role in the overall expression of ideas.

a) Your language should be simple and should enable your essay to have a seamless flow. It should help the examiner understand complex concepts quickly as this may help to sustain his interest.

b) Correct grammar and usage of words, well-balanced tone and subtle formality is necessary to effectively convey your ideas.

c) Do not use long sentences as it confuses the reader and eventually fails to convey the intended point.

v) Revision: 

a) After you finish writing, make sure to use the last 15-20 minutes to revise your essay thoroughly. 

b) Look for grammatical and factual errors, spelling mistakes, etc. 

c) Make sure the essay has all the points that you included in your rough draft.

d) Revision and final corrections are important to ensure overall perfection. 

We at PaGaLGuY are providing you with a list of topics that are based on the current affairs/ events and can probably be asked in the UPSC Civil Services Mains 2015 Essay paper.

In the Essay paper, candidates get marks in the range of 30-120. But, don’t worry! Getting 120+ out of 200 is not an uphill task if you know the art of communicating your ideas. Crisp language and captivating style of writing will help you achieve this goal. 

Best of Luck!!!

Read Next