The essay paper of the Mains exam of IAS (UPSC CSE) is very important and can make or break the game for any candidate. Thus here are some important tips from one of the toppers of the IAS (UPSC CSE) exam 2018, Shubham Gupta (AIR 6)
Essay Preparation Strategy
- The topics of the essay are either related to current affairs or philosophy and ethics. So you can depend upon your GS preparation as they cover them.
- Before writing the essay paper directly in the Mains Exam, take a day or two out and choose two topics to write proper essay papers.
- Give yourself the complete exam-like atmosphere and practice essay writing. This will help you understand how you want to attempt a particular topic.
- Do not expect the same or similar topics in the exam but condition your mind to write 10-12 pages about any topic.
UPSC Toppers Strategy for Optional Papers
Importance of Brainstorming
- Brainstorming is very important for the essay.
- You should divide the 180 minutes given for the two essays into 100 mins and 80 mins. 100 minutes for the first because the writing speed is slow in the beginning.
- Divide the first 100 minutes into 50 and 50 again. Take the first 50 minutes to brainstorm like choosing the topic, jotting down all the points related to that topic, sequencing them, and writing an introduction and conclusion.
- While jotting down the points, give yourself a freehold and write anything and everything that you can think of concerning your topic.
- Sequencing is important as it determines the direction of your essay and lets the examiner create a storyline in his mind about your essay.
- Involve some quotes or a storyline in your introduction and conclusion to give a better idea about the direction of your essay and use that storyline throughout the essay as examples.
Structure of the Essay
- All three - introduction, body, and conclusion- are important because the examiner slowly forms an opinion about what you have written.
- However, a brilliant introduction and conclusion can help gain a few extra marks in the paper which can be a gamechanger a lot of times.
- The introduction creates the first impression and the conclusion is where the marks are given thus devote a bit more time in writing them.
UPSC Toppers Strategy for IAS Interview
Use of Statistics
- The use of statistics depends from topic to topic.
- Philosophical and ethical essays rarely require any statistics.
- It is good to use them in topics where the statistics can be used to explain the point.
- However, statistics cannot be a substitution or an interpretation of the topic. It can only be supplementary and help you explain your point better.
Use of Diagrams
- Using any diagram is not very important in any of the essays or GS papers, especially if you cannot find any content for the flowchart or other diagrams.
- It can be a good idea as supplementary for some specific topics, just like the statistics.
- It makes the essay more attractive visually.
- It cannot be an alternative to good content. Even if you are using a diagram or a flowchart, you still have to explain that in as many words as you think is important.
- However, not using the diagrams doesn’t affect the marks.
Use of Headings
- The use of headings and subheadings has subjective opinions.
- It may break the flow of the essay or the answer that you are writing.
- The examiner can be restricted while evaluating into giving specific marks for specific sections. Don’t let yourself be evaluated differently for different sections.
- Instead, you can underline some important words or parts of the essay which is equivalent to giving the headings and subheadings.
Avoid Over Underlining
- Avoid over underlining in the essay. Be clear about how many words you want to underline in a paragraph.
- The number of underlined words has to depend on the length of the paragraph.
- For example, you can underline 10 words in a paragraph of 5-6 sentences.
This was the strategy followed by Shubham Gupta (All India Rank 6, UPSC 2018) for the essay paper of the IAS (UPSC CSE) exam. His score was 139 on the paper and these strategies certainly helped him in achieving that. We hope that it aids you in your exam too.
*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.