Important Pointers for Essay Writing in the IAS Exam

The Essay Paper is one of the nine papers in the UPSC mains (written) exam. It has a weightage of 250 marks, which are counted for the final tally. Earlier, it used to be only 200 marks. There is no syllabus as such for the essay paper, and the essay topics can come from anywhere, particularly current affairs. Even though it might sound easy, it is necessary to prepare for this paper as the marks are counted for your ranking. It is also important to up your general awareness and critical thinking abilities.

The essay is essentially a piece of well-planned and organised writing. Now, not only for the essay paper per se, this form of creative writing is important for all the mains papers since the UPSC demands that all answers be in this format. This paper can be a boon for candidates who can write meaningful and well-structured essays since they can take the final marks notches above. The essay topics have come from both predictable and unpredictable areas. Aspirants should understand how to prepare for the essay paper, as well as how to write a good essay for the IAS mains exam. In this article, you will find the top ten tips for writing good essays that fetch top marks for the civil services mains exam.

Important points to make note of while writing an essay in the IAS Exam:

Topic Selection

In the essay paper, you have to write one essay out of a choice of four topics in two sections. So, there would be a total of 8 topics and you will have to write two essays. Selection of the topic is also important in this paper. Select a topic that you are comfortable with so that you do not run out of ideas while writing the essay. Also, take care to avoid topics that might be considered controversial or sensitive.


After you have finalised on the topic, think about it for a while and jot down all the points that you get in rough. 

Ideas Sequencing

Arrange and sequence your ideas and thoughts in such a manner that their logical consistency is maintained. Suppose you have ten points for a particular topic, arrange them in the way you would put them in the essay. After that, think of a good introduction and conclusion for the essay.

Quoting Facts and Figures

You should always substantiate what you say in the essay with facts and figures. Recent statistics should be provided to prove any point. Of course, you should only give authentic information and not make up stuff! 

Do not stray

Make sure you do not stray away from the topic asked. Going way off topic can cost you marks.

Write concisely

The word limit for the essay is about 1000 – 1200 words. Make sure you include all your points within the prescribed word limit.

Exact and Effective Representation

Represent your views in an exact and effective manner. Articulation, effective expression, logic, flow and rhythm are important. Correct grammar and style of writing adds to the overall effectiveness of the message which you want to convey through your essay.

Tone of the Essay

Always make your essay neutral and balanced. Show human concern and do not take extreme positions on particularly divisive topics. Do not use provocative lines such as ‘Panchayati Raj is a waste of taxpayer’s money’.


A candidate must be thorough and well verse with his/her general awareness. As topics come from Current Affairs, you need to have in-depth knowledge and background on trending topics in the world.

Revision and Proofreading

After you’ve written your essay, proofreading and revising your essay is absolutely essential. This is an absolute must if you are to score high marks on the paper. You should check spellings and grammatical errors.

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