Essay in UPSC: The Deciding Factor of Success

UPSC is a well-known examination body famous for conducting Civil Services Exam every year. The complexity of its syllabus makes it one of the toughest examinations of the country. Every aspirant of UPSC finds the difficulty in gauging precise and exact syllabus of exam. The problem gets even more amplified when it comes to the paper of Essay which is given under Paper-1 of Mains stage. As far as weightage is concerned, the paper of Essay stands at par with all other papers of Mains Stage. However, unlike other papers, there is no well-defined syllabus of Essay.

If we scan the syllabus, then for Paper 1, UPSC mentions, "Candidates 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 for effective and exact expression". Such open ended and amorphous explanation leaves scope for lot of subjectivity and interpretation. Different experts suggest different strategies and suggestions to tackle essay paper. Amid such existing uncertainty, Essay paper of UPSC 2020 contains many surprising elements. The essay was heavily tilted towards philosophical approach.

Based on our experience of past so many years and keeping in picture the recent Essay paper, we suggest following Do’s and Don’ts for Essay paper:-

First, it’s extremely important to command over "art of essay writing" rather than "content of essay writing". Once this art has been effectively mastered, aspirants can use the art to write any essay under the Sun. Now, when we say art of answer writing, then it’s nothing but articulation, expression and arrangement of ideas.

Second, it’s not a wise idea to search for syllabus of essay. Syllabus of Essay paper is nothing but it’s only embedded in other parts of syllabus only. Hence, it’s advisable to focus on other parts only in terms of boundary of syllabus. You should be mentally prepared to write on any topic.

Third, aspirants should make themselves habitual in intellectual exercise of thinking and contemplating. In all other papers of Mains stage, we hardly have time to think. However, in essay paper, time permits to carve some reasonable time for draft work. Hence, you should develop this skill efficiently to bring essay towards perfection.

Fourth, aspirants must write decent number of essays in examination type environment. Joining any good test series is a good idea but if someone cannot join, he should practice past year UPSC essay papers. Any such exercise won’t serve the purpose if there is lack of proper evaluation. While attempting an essay, time management should be strictly implemented.

Fifth, it’s imperative to learn the philosophical aspect for each essay irrespective of the topic. Art of infusing philosophical angle has several advantages. It can be of great use if aspirants are attempting any philosophical based essay which always dominates UPSC. Infact, Essay paper of UPSC 2020 was entirely overshadowed by philosophical-based topics. Apart from this, with little intelligence, the skill can be effectively used in almost all the topics. Additionally, the art can also help you to fetch good marks in Ethics paper.

Sixth, aspirants must learn the art of expressing ideas in multiple strata and dimensions. A multi-perspective essay always make it look comprehensive and reflects confluence of ideas. No piece of articulation can be conclusive unless it brings strips of different ideas.

Seventh, it’s highly desirable for aspirants to integrate the entire syllabus in paper of Essay. For example, if an essay is there on recent Farm Bills, aspirants should examine it from economical, ethical, political, social, international and environmental perspective. Crux is to smartly apply all gathered knowledge of General Studies in the paper of Essay.

Eight, irrespective of topic of essay, every essay should be tied with a purpose. Every bit of essay including data, facts, figures, lines of argument should move with aim of finding a purpose. Crux is that after reading the essay, the examiner should get the essence hidden in the essay.

Ninth, aspirant should keep in mind that the essay should be a "complete piece of write up". Complete write up mean that it should not leave any unanswered argument or question. If you are quoting a thinker, make sure that the quote has been addressed somewhere in the essay. If you are raising a question, make sure to answer it somehow in subsequent paragraphs. If you are quoting a problem, make sure to suggest solutions. However, some arguments or questions can be left open ended if the purpose is only to kindle critical reasoning in the mind of reader.

Tenth, an essay should have logical flow of movement. It should not be abrupt and blunt. Essay is not only about filling the pages but it’s an art of articulation. Hence, all paragraphs should be connected to each other. Quotes should be there in proper place and it should not be there only for the sake of quoting. After reading the first para, readers should be interested to scan the second. Introduction should contain opening remarks and conclusion should connect all the dots.

Best Wishes
Ajay Sah
Faculty and Mentor at GS SCORE, New Delhi
( iasscore.in )

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