Key Tips to Craft a Powerful Essay in UPSC CSE Mains by Expert & IAS Officers

UPSC

Preparing for UPSC CSE Mains? Here are some important tips to help you write well and ace the essay paper.

The UPSC CSE’s essay paper is among the nine that aspirants are required to clear. Here, they choose one from four topics and attempt two essays, each with a word count of 1,000-1,200 words. The essay paper is for a total of 250 marks, and each essay carries 125 marks.

T Prateek Rao, credited with securing 147 marks, the highest score in the essay paper so far, tells The Better India, “Most aspirants have an average to above-average hold on their essay writing skills. However, no matter how good you think you are, only repeated practice and regular third-party evaluation will help you get better.”

He also urges aspirants to stay away from self-correction and always refer to a third party for constructive feedback on the essay.

He also says that aspirants must try and make the essay as engaging and relatable as possible. “As far as possible, include anecdotes and real-life incidents in your essay. Making the essay relatable to the examiner is sure to fetch additional marks. Adding such anecdotes acts as a hook to keep the examiner interested in your essay. Make sure your distinctive writing style comes through in your essay.”

To be able to write better, one must read on a variety of topics. He adds, “To be able to write well, one must read. That is the first step in ensuring that your writing keeps getting better.”

Aspirants could pick up Yojana and read the first article in the magazine to get a sense of how governmental essays are written.

IAS officer prateek rao standing in the academy flanked by post-its. Essay high scorer.
Prateek Rao at the academy.

Alongside, Anudeep Durishetty, who secured an AIR of 1 in the 2017 examination, has written extensively on how best to write an essay. In his blog, he wrote, “Introduction to an essay is like an opening scene to a movie. It should start strong, give a brief idea of what’s coming ahead, and make your audience want for more. A well-crafted introduction creates that urgency and curiosity in the minds of the readers, captivating them into reading the rest of the write-up. A splendid introduction is, therefore, a prerequisite for a splendid essay.”

He urges aspirants to weave a story while writing the essay, while keeping three pointers in mind:

a. It must generate interest in the reader.
b. It must be relevant to the question.
c. It must be concise.

Embellishing your essay with statistics and facts is also a great way to grab the attention of the examiner.

UPSC CSE topper
Anudeep Durishetty

On the importance of letting the examiner know your stance, he writes, “A thesis statement is a single sentence near the end of your introduction that presents your stand on the given topic. If your essay is fluid with each argument flowing into the next effortlessly, then there is no need to write a thesis statement. But if you are new to writing essays and want to make things clear upfront, without leaving anything to guesswork, then state it. As you write more essays and become better at flow and structure, focus on subheadings and coherence between paragraphs to make the thesis statement unnecessary.”

Meanwhile, in a Twitter thread, Krishna Tupe, founding member of an online UPSC training portal discusses five frameworks that may be used to expand UPSC essays. He urges aspirants to look at any given topic with the following acronym in mind:

PESTEL- EC
Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, Legal, Ethical, Cultural Health, Education and Employment.

While presenting arguments, one must be sure to include various perspectives — women, weaker sections, children, disabled, old aged, and LGBTQ. One must also include a micro and macro view of the topic. Furthermore, aspirants could also look at the topic from a historic point of view, current day scenario, and a futuristic approach as well. This will make the essay well rounded.

Sources:
How I Secured One of the Highest Marks in UPSC CSE’s Essay Paper: IAS Officer by Vidya Raja
How to Write Essay Introductions in UPSC Exam by Anudeep Durishetty

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