What's New :
GS Mains Classes 2023, Batch Starts: 12th August

Essay Strategy for UPSC Mains

  • Categories
    General Studies
  • Published
    16th Jun, 2021

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,

Previous Year Questions

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.

Books and References For Essay Writing

For general reading -

  • My experiment with truth - M.K Gandhi
  • India after independence - Bipin Chandra
  • Discovery of India - J.L Nehru
  • Getting India back on track - by Ratan Tata
  • My experiment with truth - M.K Gandhi
  • India after independence - Bipin Chandra
  • Discovery of India - J.L Nehru
  • Getting India back on track - by Ratan Tata

For detailed reading -

  • Democracy in India NCERTe
  • Social Problems in India - Ram Ahuja
  • Women in Indian Society - Neera Desai and Usha Thakkar ( NBT Publication)
  • The Hindu ( editorial articles)
  • Yojana
  • Kurukshetra
  • Frontline

Strategy of Essay Writing

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.

The best answer to how to write the essay for UPSC can be very well formulated from the guidelines mentioned below. Let’s have a look at them:

  • The essay is not merely a test of your factual knowledge. It is a test of your creativity, inventive spirit, and capacity for the generation of new ideas.
  • The choice of words and the proper statement is important.
  • For that make a list of the alternative words for the words you use often.
  • Note down powerful sentences, paragraphs, and quotations whenever you find them.
  • Keep close to the subject matter. Whatever you write it must be totally relevant to the subject matter.
  • The introductory note should be around 5 to 7 percent of the length of the essay, the body around 86 to 90 percent, and the concluding remark again around 5 to 7 percent.
  • To obtain good marks remember the abc of essay which stands for a - for accuracy; b - for brevity and c - for creativity.
  • Don't take extreme views. Your essay should reflect your balance of judgment, holistic approach, and an analytical bend of mind
  • Select the topic wisely- A topic about which you are too passionate or feel strongly about. In this case, you may tend to get excited and fail to write a balanced essay. This can work against you.
  • After selecting the topic judiciously, you should not start writing straight away. It is advisable to think for some time and collect your thoughts. Write in pencil the points you want to write as doing so you can write your points in the correct sequence.
  • Once you have the rough points in hand, you can start writing the essay. While writing, you must adhere to a good structure.

ABC of UPSC Essay Writing

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.


Verifying, please be patient.

Enquire Now