UPSC IAS Mains 2020: How to Write a Good Essay?

UPSC: Essay paper is one of the merit-based papers in UPSC IAS Mains exams carrying 250 marks. In this article, we have provided tips on how to write an effectively good essay to score high marks.
UPSC IAS Mains 2020: How to Write a Good Essay?

UPSC: In the UPSC Mains Essay paper, candidates have to attempt two essays, each within a word limit of 1000 –1200 words. The paper is divided into two sections and one topic can be selected from a given choice of four in each section. The Essay Paper is for a total of 250 marks with one essay carrying 125 marks. Unlike the GS papers that are marked purely for content, the essay paper is examined not just on the content, but also the language, coherence, and the way you structure your essay.

In this article, we have discussed every important detail which should be focused upon while writing an essay. These tips will help you enhance your writing skill and structure your easy to gain better marks in UPSC IAS Mains 2020.

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How to Study for the Essay Paper?

This is the most common question among the candidates appearing for the Mains exam. It is important to note that most of the content you write in the Essay comes from your GS preparation. Apart from these, you can also refer to the following references:

• Read Magazines: For social topics, you can refer to specific issues of Yojana/EPW/Economic Survey, etc. Make notes on the latest statistics related to a topic and also about the positives and criticisms of govt schemes in a particular sector. 

• Read Columns and Articles: Reading columns and articles in newspapers will help you develop a mature thought process. Apart from imparting knowledge, they will also let you come across good figures of speech, the art of argumentation, powerful rhetoric, and unique content, etc.

• Note Down good stories/anecdotes and quotes: Anecdotes, quotes, and real-life stories you see in newspapers and books which can be used in an essay should be noted down. These can be used in the introduction or as an example in your essay. 

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How to Structure Your Essay?

The most common method of structuring an essay is breaking it up into paragraphs. Another important aspect is to use sub-headings or sub-titles. Check below some key points that you can include in your essay structure:

• A Good Introduction: A good way to start your essay is to have that touch of humanity and warmth in your introduction. This can be done by:

a fictitious incident or story (by introducing a character);

a real-life anecdote; or

a quote.

• Use of Subtitles: One can be a little creative with the subheadings. Instead of bland subheadings such as ‘Benefits of Nuclear Energy,’ we can use “Nuclear Energy: Promise or Peril?’ Similarly, for the essay on Technology, instead of writing ‘Advantages and Disadvantages of Technology, one can use “Technology: A Double-Edged Sword”

• Smooth Transition Between Two Paragraphs: The candidate needs to maintain a temperament throughout the essay. An unexpected jump from one topic to another leaves a poor reading experience which will reflect in the final marks. To maintain a smooth transition, you can either end the last paragraph with an interlinking line about the following paragraph. Another way is to add a question at the end of a para so that examiner’s attention is helplessly carried to the next.

• Developing the content: In the main body of the essay, each para must have an argument or an idea and a reasoning to back that argument. You can substantiate it through a real-life example, a statistic, an authentic committee or organisational report etc. For example, if you are arguing that Capital punishment is an expensive form of justice, you should be able to given an example or a statistic or the Law Commission’s opinion as to how the subjects of the death penalty are overwhelmingly from poor communities.

Statistics, examples, expert opinions, and constitutional provisions are crucial and they make your arguments authoritative.

• Conclusion: The conclusion of the essay should be futuristic and optimistic note. Conclude your essay with a vision statement. If you had introduced a fictitious character, then it’s always advisable to end your write-up with a reference to that character. It gives a sense of completeness to the essay.

Points to Remember:

Your essay needs to be expansive and multi-dimensional. Do not beat around a single perspective throughout the essay.

Always write what is asked, not what you know or feel like. Stick to the subject of the topic.

Be comfortable with the essay topic you choose to write on. Understand every term mentioned, and decide only when you are sure about the content you would deliver.

Avoid extreme or highly unpopular opinions.

Do not dedicate a disproportionate amount of time for the first essay and rush through the second. Divide your time smartly.

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