IAS Mains Essay Preparation Tips – UPSC Study Guide. Normally we don’t prepare separately for Essay paper. But this 200 marks is very critical because the range of the marks of tined by the students in this paper varies from 30 to 155, which is very vast and can be very critical for anybody. So, therefore preparation for this paper is very essential but it is a very easy process because out of the 5 essays, we have to answer any one of them. Every year if you see the previous years essay papers one essay is from topics like Environment, one related to the Women Issues, One Essay is related to Science and Ethics and also from Economics, Globalisation & Impacts etc. Get IAS Preparation Tips for Beginners too from this article.
About IAS Mains Essay Paper
The essay paper having two sections A and B with four topics each (the candidates have to select a topic from each section and write on it for 1,000-2,000 words with a time duration of three hours) for total marks of 250 (125×2) in the civil services main examination is crucial in determining the final outcome, selection and ranking. Also get IAS Preparation Tips for Beginners.
It is critical because it is a compulsory paper and its score is incorporated in computing the total. It is decisive because there is no specialisation in an essay and so no aspirant cannot claim expertise, unlike optional subjects. Get IAS Preparation Tips for Beginners.
IAS Mains Essay Preparation Tips – Selection of Essay
Selection of essay is most important because once you start with it, you cannot look back or start with a new one. Therefore select an essay in which you know you can write. Now, some people will say that they don’t have the know-how about how to write such a long essay. I will say that it would be better to write good content (above 1500-1700 words will fetch you good marks).
After you select an essay, think it from a wider dimension and don’t confine to a particular sphere. Like in poverty, other than economic dimension, it has political, social, humanistic dimension as well. Further, we suffer from poverty of knowledge (women not demanding their rights in household), poverty of humanity (parents killing their child), poverty of culture, poverty of nationalism(NE exodus, regionalism) and so on.
write as much as you can on the last page of the sheet and then try to streamline them in a fashion that it shows the flow of essay and your thoughts.
Do not write out of context stories which have no relevance. We have seen people writing irrelevant stories in their essay to increase the length. It is better to write to the point and explain in a manner that is not repetitive.
Start essay with a ‘text/ quotation’ that sets the precedent for your first paragraph. If you are not able to remember any saying of a popular personality, better to avoid and start with something that is not abrupt but sets a platform for your topic.
The same flow shall be maintained in the body of the essay. Always try to analyse the point you put forward and never add irrelevant information at any cost. In conclusion, always try to write your opinion (I did, not recommended) and what is your stand on the topic. The conclusion shall not be more than 200 words.
We are also providing IAS Preparation Tips for Beginners from this article.
One Golden rule
Only writing constantly on any topic that appear in newspaper, whether for 200 words will help a lot in increasing your essay marks. Always use simple English.
Tip#1: Think for 30-45 minutes
before you start the Essay writing
Take this example.
They asked an essay on Gandhi, I start writing it. I write something like
Gandhi was born in Porbandar &
then He went to England…africa..come back…freedom struggle..Gandhi-Irwin..2nd
After 1 hour of writing, I realize that I forgot mention about Champaran’s Indigo Struggle when Gandhi got actively involved in Indian Freedom struggle for the first time! Now I can’t add it. Because there is no space in initial pages. However I can still try to add it in the conclusion like
…in 1947 Gandhi won the fight he started with Champaran…”
But when Examiner doesn’t find the mention of Champaran in the initial pages, then he gets an impression you forgot it = less marks. Hence everything has to be written in its place.
That’s why you must…..
Think for 30-45 minutes before you start the Essay writing
You’ve 3 hours to write the essay. Don’t immediately start
- 1st try to recall everything that you can remember / want to say about the
- Take a pencil and write them all (in very brief) on the end of the answer
- See if there is any chance of adding some diagram or table in it?
|Do you remember any?
||*Related to that topic, What are the
Once you’re done adding everything that you can think about, regarding the essay- then give those topics, order of
The order is very important, just like in wedding
parties you start with Soup…dal-roti and…Ice cream in the end.
The order should be
- Background / History related
- Main concept / theory / what the subject is about
- Current scenario related to it.
- Good sides
- Negative sides / obstacles
- Suggested reforms
everything has to be written in its place.
Gandhi’s Champaran must come in the beginning not in the end.
Now SOME DON’Ts
Tip#2:What not to write in essay
- Autocracy is better than democracy. (know that it’s the democracy that’s allowing you to criticize it) so you should never justify certain solution to India’s problems.
2. Excessive criticism of Govt. / administration (I mean the frontline and The Hindu’s stand)
3. Seeing negative sides with out suggesting reforms in
Tip#3: Provocative Essays
Sometimes the essay topics are given in such a way, that you want to agree all the way. E.g.
- Panchayati raj is wastage of tax payer’s money. (yes it seems so, just like NREGA but when you’re writing an Essay you need to maintain some balance)
- Poor people are their own enemies.
In such cases – just because he gave you statement doesn’t mean you’ve to sing in his tune throughout the paper.DO NOT forget to show the other side of the mirror.
Its Easier to criticize a non working things than to fix it. (Remember this all time during essay.)
Donot give filmy solutions to real life problems. (Munna Bhai MBBS / Slum Dog Millioner.)
Tip#4: Donot get personal
- Don’t go naming individual politicians – their achievement / scandals (Kalmadi, Raja,Amar Singh etc.)
- (except in the foreign policy related essay, where you’ve to analyse from entire Nehru’s Panchsheel era to Vajpayee’s Lahore Bus visit and current affairs.) our Foreign policy has changed with every prime minister so their names need to be mentioned.
- Never write essay talking like “Congress did this and BJP did that.” It’s the trait of a common man, not of a future officer.
- Give a balanced answer With out getting into hero-worship or mud slinging
- If criticizing Govenrment in the essay alone was going to make you IAS officer, then every journalist of Aaj Tak would be an IAS officer.
- An officer’s trait is to remain ‘anonymous’, ‘faceless’ and neutral- meaning your essay should look like it has been written by a graduate.
Same applies for
- Religion / culture/ language-literature (in philosophical essays)
2. States (in polity / federalism / Development)
I’m not saying you should transform into a sterile person writing the essay with out having any personal view/ opinion or righteous anger but, you mustn’t become too much passionate about certain things.
I’m saying all this because you can never be sure about what will be the political / ideological / religious / regional alignment of the examiner.
This suggestion also applies while dealing with Public Administration (optional subject).
- Don’t make mistakes in writing who said what. E.g. you quote Abraham Lincon’s sentence and write George Washington said it. nothing will make you look more stupid in the eyes of the examiner than that.
2.Quote Exactly as it was said. Mao said “Power flows from the barrel of a gun” so you should not write it as
“barrel of the gun contains power”
“muzzle of the gun flows the power”
You must quote the quote verbatim. If you’re not sure then don’t quote it.
Tip#6: Padding & Deviating from the subject
Even in the worst case, you’re supposed to write 1200-1500 words for a 250 marks essay.
Padding means, you don’t know the exact answer so you just beat around the bushes and write the garbage stuff to fill up the pages, while this tactic does work in the school and college exams but don’t try it in the essay paper.
Don’t write too many proverbs / quotes/ (invented) case studies/examples per page. It makes the examiner think that you’ve no input of your own so you’re just filling up the pages.
Do not pick up the subject where your idea or thought content is very low.
- Ex. you picked up “Do we need nuclear power” – So you start with how thermal power-stations create pollution, there is huge demand and low supply of electricity, nuke power is cheap, and
then the dangers such as Japanese Tsunami etc.
- After 4 pages, your thoughts and ideas are exhausted-you’ve nothing more to say and assuming that you write 100 words per page, you realise that only 400 words won’t get you any marks ! now you can’t scratch those pages and write a new essay on new topic, you’ve wasted enough time on this one.
- So you decide to continue with this nuke-power essay and start rewriting the same stuff you already stated in different ways and then you’ll deviate from the main topic- like nuke power is unsafe as we saw in Japan
so we need to switch to renewable energy source like Sun, Wind and Water -> then 4 pages on advantages of renewable energy as if this is an essay on “the benefits of Non-renewable energy” and not on nuke power, you write about the pro-cons of hydro-electricity like dams and displacement of people.
- Then you realise “omg, displacement of people also applies while making nuke-powerplants like in Maharashtra!“ so you come back to the topic -half page written but still you’ve not filled up enough pages so you start talking about to land-acquisition policy and start writing the pro-cons..another half page on it. Then you think “oh i must talk something about the Indo-US nuke deal” so you go on talking about how we haven’t signed the CTBT and yet N.S.G gave us clearance and China-Pakistan couldn’t stop it so we are a global power now and we deserve a permanent seat in UNSC! This kind of padding goes on until time is up.
- You’ve messed up the whole thing, you totally deviated from the subject. Your essay doesn’t have any flow of thoughts or proper rhythm. The seasoned examiners immediatly sniff out this padding and they don’t give much marks for it, your expected score for this kind of garbage writing is less than 50/200, means even with decent score in all other papers, your chances of getting interview call is close to zero. You’ve jeopardised your chances
of selection in IAS, you’ve digged your own grave. That’s why
- take great care in picking up the subject
- first 30-40 minutes for thorough thinking.
- stick to the subject
Same applies while dealing with the big 60 marker question in GS and optional papers. (not 30 minutes of thinking but atleast 5-7 minutes!)
Suggested Reading – IAS Mains Essay Preparation Tips
Essay is not something that can be learned reading one book or reading for 1 month.
It’s a continuous and long process takes some diverse reading before you’ve enough content to write something decent and something big enough to fill 20 pages to fetch 100+ marks.
- Editorials of english newspapers ( but don’t get swayed about by either leftist
or capitalist stuff preched by both sides)
- Magazines like Frontline,
yojana, Kurukshetra. (it gives you the fodder material: statistical data to quote like how many % illiterate and so on but again don’t use too much statistical data for padding and most importantly don’t ‘invent’ your own case studies and stat.data)
- Watch English news channel – discussions / debates.
- See the old question papers and try to make an outline of each and every Essay asked so far.
Reading Books as a Hobby
To increase your idea and ‘fodder-material’ for brain storming, you can read some books outside studies, related to Indian culture, democracy and Development, just for time-pass
And last but not least
Insights is the best website on which you can increase your writing skills. It provides you ample opportunity for willing candidates to achieve the desired goals.
IAS Preparation Tips for Beginners – Beginners also can follow the above mentioned strategies.
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