ESSAY STRATEGY BY ESSAY TOPPER
Chandra Mohan Garg, Rank 25
Essay Marks 149
Essay is the most taken for granted area in civil services preparation. We spend months preparing for GS-1, 2, 3, 4 but hardly any of us give any dedicated time for preparation of essay. It is important to understand that one essay paper is equivalent to almost 1.5 G.S papers in terms or scoring.
In 2014 I went without any preparation and ended up scoring 121 marks. In order to improve my rank I needed to focus on essay as there was a good scope of 30 plus marks. I made a strategy and worked on it, this helped me in scoring 149 in this attempt.
Before I begin, let me do away with few misunderstandings
- You need to be a champ in English ( your grammar, spelling mistakes, poor vocabulary cannot stop you from scoring high)
- Essay does not need preparation. Your GS knowledge can provide fodder but Essay unlike GS answers need lot more.
- You cannot improve so easily in essay. I increased 28 marks in Essay despite the fact that this year essay has been less scoring compared to last year.
Now let me discuss how to approach an essay:
- Choice of topic
Choice of topic should be clearly based on your holistic understanding of the subject matter. So choose a topic with which you are most comfortable. At times we think that the topic is so common that most of the people will choose it, so let me choose some unconventional topic. This is a totally wrong thinking, many people end up scoring poor marks due to this. So fight with your best weapons on.
- Interpretation of the essay topic
Do not be in a hurry to write an essay. Many people see the broader title and start writing the essay without even understanding the theme of the topic.
Eg- With greater power comes greater responsibility [2014 ].Now the moment people see power they somehow relate it to politics and bureaucracy and start building their essay around it, writing all theories, quotes and examples they know related to it. Here the theme of this topic is philosophical which talks of power present in any institutional system (family, religion, community, politics, administration etc), throughout society power is banked from people to a leader so that he can use that power for a common good. So with greater power comes greater responsibility. In this context we need to critically analyse the theme of the essay.
After selection of the topic we need to brainstorm to get fodder material that we can write in the essay. There are various things and various ways to brainstorm.
Key words:- break the topic and look for key words to tinker upon. Example – With greater power comes greater responsibilitywe know power and responsibility are key words. Now you can brainstorm around key words
Past-Present-Future: – Another way to think upon to get points related to the topic.
SPECLIH:-Think from Social, Political, Economic, Cultural, Legal, International, Humanistic perspective. You can make your own acronym and add more dimensions to think from
Now what to brainstorm: You can look for quotes, examples, events, illustrations, case studies, Government initiatives, and facts and figures etc. So anything that can make the essay more informative and interesting.
- Structuring the essay
Information is one thing but how to put that information in a structured and systematic way is very important. So need to focus on few things while structuring your essay
Outline: Create an outline of essay i.e. how will your essay proceed. I feel PAST-PRESENT- FUTURE is a good technique, you can have other ways to decide the flow of the essay as well. E.g.- “Dreams that should not let India sleep”, here I discussed Nehru’s speech of tryst with destiny to explain what those dreams were, Then came on present why that dream is faltering and then talked of future that what are these dreams and how can we fulfil it.
Breakup: Break up your essay properly
Once you have brainstormed the points, created an outline and structured your essay, now you are ready to write the content.
Language & Presentation: Write in simple language. No need of flowery expressions. Keep short sentences and small paragraphs
Explanation of points: Explain through examples or illustrations whatever you are trying to explain. Mention government Initiatives, policies & plans wherever possible. International examples or case study wherever possible.
Focus of essay: Throughout the essay the theme should be reflected and flow should be maintained from beginning to end. Each paragraph should link to the other .Also do not focus only on covering lot of dimensions in the essay. In this race we lose the flow of essay. More than knowledge essay should reflect your vision and ideas.
Introduction: Your Introduction should clearly lay down what the essay will entail, giving a brief idea to the reader. You can always use a story, quote, fact/Information or abstract way to create a context and then build your introduction over it.
Example:- “Is sting operation an Invasion in Privacy”. Here you could begin your Intro with the Tehelka story of Gujarat riots that hit the news and then raise questions was it good or bad and discuss that in the body.
Body: This part is all about analysis. Here three things are Important. 1.) If the topic is debatable you need to discuss both sides. If not then it will be straight-forward. 2.) In any case you will have certain line of arguments to put your case. 3.) Explain each of them through some examples.
Example: “Is sting operation an Invasion in Privacy”. This is debatable topic. So you will have both sides. Yes it in an invasion, No it is not an invasion. To discuss both sides you will have some arguments. Now when you put your arguments substantiate with the example and illustrations.
Conclusion: In conclusion focus on three things 1.) Summarise the topic 2.) Put your concluding stand 3.) Tell a way ahead. Try to end your essay on some positive/visionary note.
- What preparations you can do for the essay
Read: You need to read some good essays and learn how beautifully people put up their arguments. These essay don’t have diversity but depth. So reading some good essays can tell you how to begin an essay, write arguments, and conclude. Most Important is how to create a structure of essay.
Prepare: I don’t think coaching helps here. It has to be you.
- In your daily newspaper reading if you find some good lines or examples then keep noting them. Especially editorials.
- Take up some common/general topics like women, education, healthcare, internet, science (look at last 20 years essay) and prepare some fodder on it. Like quotes, imp case studies, examples, factual info, government initiatives etc.
- Have a repository of good opening and closing lines. You will find this through reading newspapers, good essays of others etc.
Write and evaluate: One should write at least 5-6 essays. When you write try to apply the points I explained above in this article. And most importantly get your essays evaluated by some teachers, selected candidates or sincere friends. This will help in making improvements.
- Time division
There is no hard and fast rule, it is totally your discretion but am telling it as this will be asked. So am sharing what I used to do.
- Topic Selection : 5 minutes
- Brain storming/creating outline/structure of essay : 15 minutes
- Essay Writing : 1hr to 1hr 5 minutes
- Revising Essay: 5 minutes
I have tried to explain to the best of my capabilities. If you still have doubts I have created a page on FB named CSE Preparation, you can post your queries there. Here is the link https://www.facebook.com/chandramohangargpage/
- What I wrote in 2015?
I don’t remember exactly what all I wrote in the essay, but yes I can share a brief where I can tell on what lines I tried to write my essay.
I wrote essays – 1. Education without values makes us a clever Devil and 2. Dreams that should not let India Sleep (writing topic in brief)
Sharing Essay-1 brief layout :
The UPSC Mains Exam has a total of 9 papers which includes an essay paper as well. The Essay Paper in the IAS Mains Exam consists of two sections A and B with four topics each of 125 marks and a total of 250 (125×2) marks. Candidates have to select a topic from each section and write about it in 1,000 to 2,000 words within the given time of three hours. The Essay paper is considered as crucial in determining the final result of selection and ranking of a candidate. The Essay Paper is considered as crucial as it is a compulsory paper and its marks are incorporated in computing the total and moreover what makes it crucial is that there is no in-depth study in an essay unlike optional subjects where any aspirant can claim expertise. Let us take a look at the conventional way of writing an essay that includes introduction, body and conclusion. Though this is the fundamental but the concept of an essay when it comes in terms of UPSC Paper it is quite tricky. An essay should be of topical text that is easy to understand or follow and comprehensive, succinct, composite and definite, as well as informative and logical. So, here are a few tips on how to structure an Essay Paper in the UPSC Mains Exam. For effective composition of an essay one should generally follow the below points that are ideally suggested by the senior UPSC Aspirants and toppers: What to write in the Essay?
- Read the topic carefully
- Think and recollect the points to be included in the topic for 30 minutes
What not to write in the Essay?
- Provoking Essay
- Do not get personal
- Deviating from the subject
Tips to enhance your Essay writing
- Recommended Reading
- Reading Books as Hobby
Before choosing the topic, read all the topics more than once and choose the topic wisely from the given choices so that you will find enough points to write about the topic. Once you choose a topic and start to write you may find difficult and tend to change the topic in between which would be foolishness and it will be too late to change the topic as you would have already utilized much time. Read the topic twice and think about the topic for 30 minutes. Once you have chosen the topic to write don’t start to write immediately instead ‘think about the topic for 30 minutes’. Because when one starts writing without thinking about the topic they may miss out many important points and in between or at the end they may remember more significant points which would be too late as there would be no enough pace left in the answer sheet or time to write more. Hence, it is recommended to utilize the first 30 minutes to think about the topic before starting to write as you have three hours to write the essay.
- Think about the topic for 30 minutes
- Write down the random points that come to your mind at the end of the sheet
- Arrange the points that you have jot down in sequence
Some important tips to make your Essay worthy Once you have recalled, collected and noted the points then the next step is to structure it as given below:
- Background/past example
- Main concept/theory
- Correlate with current event
- Advantages and disadvantages
- Suggested Changes
It is advised while writing an essay on a topic that maybe provocative not to get personal and criticize a person or government in your writing. Some topics would be provocative where you may tend to lose control in your writing and write something in offensive way, which is not appreciable and recommended as well. If you are writing about the disadvantages it is suggested to come up with few reforms that may change the disadvantages into advantages. Always memorize the quotes correctly and the name of the person who has quoted it. If you are not sure about the quote then it is advised to leave it instead of writing it incorrectly. For an effective essay writing one should clearly be sure of the purpose of writing the essay and should remember about the “Five Wives and One Husband” concept i.e., – Who?, Why?, What?, When?, Where?, and How?, that is taught in the school on the first day of Essay Writing. Following this concept will make you to stick around the topic and not to paddle away from the topic. Essay writing also needs continuous reading; hence it is suggested to candidates to read diverse topics and books and some of the recommended are:
- Editorial section of The Hindu Newspaper
- Magazines like Frontline, Kurukshetra, Yojana
- Watch discussions and debates on television
- Work on previous question papers essay topic
Finally, when it comes to Essay as one of the papers in the UPSC Exam, it is all about to understand and assess the personality of a candidate through which his/her views, ideas, suggestions, values, attitude, aptitude, coordination and communication (written) abilities and other attributes are analyzed that especially UPSC looks for in an aspirant. If you want to analyze or enhance your essay writing skills then participate now in our UPSC Essay Contest and win cash prize as well as free registration for UPSC Civil Services Mains Test Series.