In UPSC Mains examination, the essay paper plays a very vital role. This paper carries a total of 250 marks. Initially, the candidates were asked to write only 1 essay in 3 hours till 2013, but after the change in UPSC syllabus, the challenge is now of writing 2 essays in 3 hours on diverse topics. The topics may range from administration, polity and international relations, federalism or decentralization, Indian Society, media and society, education, women and gender, science and technology and quote base abstract topics. However list given can face variation and some new topics too can be added in the existing list.
If we scan the UPSC 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,
Scanning the previous year papers you will come across multiple of topics that has been asked previously in UPSC Exam. These topics do not repeat further but through these topics you can have an assessment of the paper and these topics can be practiced to have a good grip on essay paper. There are two sections in essay paper - Section A and Section B each of which has four topics of essays. Out of these, candidates can select one topic from each section to write an essay. Candidates can select the topic of their choice from a choice of four topics. The UPSC Essay Paper is for a total of 250 marks with one essay for 125 marks.
An essay is defined as an organized collection of YOUR IDEAS nicely written and professionally presented. In other words, the essay must be well structured and presented in a way that the readers find it easy to follow and it must look tidy and not present any obstacles to the reader. It must have a clear readable interesting style. But above all, it must consist of your ideas about the issue in question.
Developing the skill to write a good essay needs preparation, which precedes the examination phase. Writing holds the key to an effective essay: it forms the core for conveying ideas from your mind to paper. Language skill is not developed overnight. It demands effort and perseverance. Your command over a language is determined by your desire to master it. The general essay paper plays a crucial role in compensating for the lack of high scores in GS and optional papers. Many of us commit the mistake of gathering facts and information on the probable topics at the eleventh hour of preparation, thinking that we can produce a good piece of work in the examination hall. What we have to understand is that arranging gathered ideas using an appropriate language is going to be a tedious job, especially when you have the pressure of time limit.
So start working on improving your writing skills right from the beginning of your preparation. Enhance your skills by developing an interest in learning more vocabulary, acquiring a wider information base, and having a passion for reading. The whole essay should be organically linked from one paragraph to another So that the examiner could feel the continuity and orderly flow and arrangement of your ideas. the unification among the paragraphs can be done through transitional words and phrases.
A - Accuracy, appropriateness, attentiveness to your reader, avoidance of ambiguity.
B - Brevity or conciseness, brightness or buoyancy.
C - Correctness ( of usage and grammar), clarity, consistency, concreteness.
In the course of UPSC preparation, you become a master of longitude of information. The essay paper requires you to filter, arrange, organize, and even innovate ideas out of that information, and, at the same time, not diverging from the selected topic. It’s not the dearth of content but the lack of organizational skill that holds many students back.
However, this can easily be mastered with regular practice, expert evaluation, and working on the mistakes. Once this is done, the UPSC essay paper would become the most rewarding part of the paper, taking you beyond 'the' line.
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.