Target UPSC Mains 2019: Essay Paper Analysis

The UPSC IAS exam 2019 is right at your doorstep and this must be a rather busy time if you are hoping to clear it and get the UPSC interview summons. One of the mains papers is the Essay Paper. Amidst the hullaballoo of the General Studies and the optional subject papers, the essay paper tends to get side-lined. No issues there as there is no set syllabus for this paper. But it would be imprudent to take this paper without any preparation whatsoever. You have to practice writing essays by making some rudimentary preparation about a few general relevant topics.

Points to note:

  • You must write the essays in the language authorised in the admission certificate. The medium must also be mentioned by you on the cover of the answer booklet. Answers written in any other language will not be evaluated by the board.
  • You must adhere to the specified word limit.
  • If any page or portion of the answer booklet is left blank, it must be struck off.

When you prepare for this paper, focus on a few areas like democracy, education, economy, technology, women, ethics, social issues, etc. Questions hover around them. In fact, you can get a lot of material from your general studies preparation itself.

Let us take a look at two interesting graphs.

Essay paper of 2015 and the number of questions asked from each topic.


Essay paper of 2016 and the number of questions asked from each topic.


There was a better mix of diverse topics in the 2016 paper when compared to the previous one. There was no question on education but there was one on innovation.

Question on innovation: “Innovation is the key determinant of economic growth and social welfare.”

2016 also saw a question (albeit controversial) on women empowerment after a gap of three years. The last time there was a question on this topic was in 2012.

The question in 2012 was: “Managing work and home – is the Indian working woman getting a fair deal?”

Capitalism and technology continue to be favourite topics. The questions generally tend to focus on the negative aspects of these concepts. But you must remember the answers must be balanced.

A comparison of the Essay Paper with the General Studies papers:

GS Questions

Essay Paper Questions

The nature of economic growth in India in recent times is often described as jobless growth. Do you agree with this view? Give arguments in favour of your answer. (GS Paper III, 2015)

Near jobless growth in India: An anomaly or an outcome of economic reforms. (2016)

The concept of cooperative federalism has been increasingly emphasized in recent years. Highlight the drawbacks in the existing structure and the extent to which cooperative federalism would answer the shortcomings. (GS Paper II, 2015)

Cooperative federalism: myth or reality? (2016)

Constitutional mechanisms to resolve inter-state water disputes have failed to address and solve the problems. Is the failure due to structural or process inadequacy or both? (GS Paper II, 2013)

Water disputes between States in federal India. (2016)

Explaining Mahatma Gandhi’s quote: “There is enough on this earth for every one’s need but for no one’s greed.”

Need brings greed, if greed increases it spoils breed. (2016)

The above table gives credence to the fact that a lot of the material for the essay paper is obtained from the General Studies material itself.

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