How to Write the Essay Paper in UPSC Mains?

How to write the essay paper UPSC civil services preparation

The essay paper is an important aspect of the UPSC civil services exams. It can make or break your outcome. There are two sections in this paper. Each section gives you four topics; you have to choose one topic each. Each essay you write is marked out of 125, making a total of 250 marks.

Click here to download the UPSC Mains Essay Paper 2020.

To download UPSC Prelims 2021 Question Papers PDF, visit the linked article.

Your general studies preparation is enough to cover possible topics, and you don’t have to study separate content for the civil services essay paper. You do have to remember certain aspects of writing a good essay if you want to have the edge over your fellow UPSC aspirants. A lot of IAS aspirants make the mistake of not focusing on the essay paper because of its general nature. However, there are many advantages of concentrating on this paper, such as:

  • You have the option of selecting one topic out of four. You should be able to leverage this to your advantage and shine in this paper.
  • The essay paper is an area where you can let loose your creativity while displaying your knowledge about the topics.
  • Also, you have three hours to write about 1000 to 1200 words per topic (word limit for essay in UPSC exam). Hence, you can do justice to the essay topic as you have ample time to structure your thoughts and then start writing.

Let us look at how your essay should be structured!

Your essay should ideally have an introduction, content, basic theme and conclusion. The introduction and conclusion are self-explanatory. Content should give a historical perspective to your topic. It should also include facts and events related to your topic. Try to cover relevant aspects of the topic. The basic theme should talk about your views on the topic. Take a stand but a balanced one. You should also describe the negative and positive aspects of the topic chosen.

How to select the UPSC essay topic?

  • Go through all the given topics well.
  • Choose a topic you know most and have significant knowledge about.
  • Try to avoid provocative issues where personal opinions can be controversial.
  • Select the topic only if you are sure of the meaning. For example, know what IT refers to in a given case – information technology or income tax.
  • Don’t necessarily pick a topic because it excites you. You should have content and a balanced approach while writing about it.

Features of a good essay

  • It should resonate with the topic given. Don’t stray from the topic merely to fill up the word count.
  • It should engross the reader. A good essay should ignite the reader’s curiosity about the topic. It should not be boring. The reader should feel like going on reading it.
  • It should be multi-dimensional. Don’t have a single viewpoint. Analyse the topic from different perspectives. You can provide new insights into the topic and impress the examiner.
  • It should be simple but effective and coherent. You need not write the Queen’s English but let the language drive home whatever point you are trying to make.
  • It should be grammatically perfect. Not only does it enhances your essay’s clarity it also avoids a negative impression.
  • It should be neat. This is why it is important to think about what you want to write before starting. This avoids scratching.
  • There should be continuity in your essay. Don’t jump from one point to another. Make your shifts seamless and smooth. Let there be a natural flow of points. This indicates clarity of thoughts.
  • It should contain quotes, headings, sub-headings and diagrams if required.
  • It should be structured appropriately.

Things to avoid in a UPSC essay question paper

  • Avoid writing in the first person.
  • Avoid being too aggressive in your writing. You want to portray an image of a composed person with balanced views. Aggressiveness can also show inflexibility.
  • Avoid being pessimistic in your writing. UPSC wants officers with a cheerful and positive disposition!
  • Avoid writing in points. Remember you are writing an essay.
  • You don’t have to agree with the stand taken by the question. Sometimes, a question can be a statement giving a particular view. You can write both negative and positive aspects of it.
  • Don’t stray away from the topic.
  • Don’t get too personal and name politicians or political parties unnecessarily. You are going to be a bureaucrat, not a politician or journalist!
  • Avoid giving quotes that you are not sure of. Don’t attribute quotes to the wrong people. And, definitely do not create your own quotes. You can’t fool the examiner. Doing so will certainly get you penalised.

You can write good essays if you develop the habit of reading good UPSC essays on a regular basis. Incorporate reading essays as a part of your UPSC civil services preparation. Also, do note that referring to UPSC previous year’s essay papers will help immensely. Remember, practice makes perfect!

For more on UPSC essay writing, read Useful technique to practice on essay topics for UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam.

UPSC Preparation:

UPSC 2023 UPSC Books
UPSC Calendar 2023 UPSC Notes
NCERT Notes For UPSC UPSC Prelims
IAS Online Application Form UPSC Current Affairs
UPSC Monthly Current Affairs Magazine IAS Toppers 
UPSC Question Papers IAS Eligibility


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