Approach to Write a Good Essay in UPSC Examination

An essay is an organized collection of ideas, representing the author’s point of view on a given subject. It must be presented professionally, well organized and structured. It is desirable that the essay is easy to follow and readable with a convenient style. It must holistically address the issues that are relevant to the subject under study.

Learning to write a good essay can be quite a challenge. However, if we know the steps and practice rigorously, it can be easy as well as joyful. However, it needs preparation on a regular basis. Though some people may have the ability to write wonderful essays without a shred of preparation, it does not hold good for everyone.

What is the significance of Essay in the UPSC Civil Services Examination?

The Essay apart from holding significant marks in the Main Examination is important also because it is a reflection of your deepest thoughts and ideas. While other portions of the syllabus can be mastered with the help of good books, note-making exercises, regular answer writing etc., to score well in an essay would require efforts in a different direction.

It would mean inculcating clarity of thought that can be subsequently put in words with ease, to write a good essay. Bluffing with oneself would hardly work. This is particularly so, when the pattern of the examination is such that hoping to score well by cramming a few topics would remain a pipedream. The only way to succeed would be a constant evaluation of one’s thought process to ensure that there remains little scope for confusion.

However this is not to say that the art of scoring well in an essay cannot be mastered. Since essay is all the more important in the changed pattern, it would be   foolhardy to pay inadequate attention to it. It can very well turn out to be the deciding factor in a good or bad rank or may be even selection or ouster. This is more so with the changes that have been    introduced.

How to select a topic for the Essay?

There may be a plethora of areas from which the topics of essay have been chosen. The topics may also be such that they cut across different domains. It is always best to choose a topic which is nearest to the area one is comfortable with. Though it is difficult to strictly compartmentalize a particular topic in one particular field of study, yet a careful study of the title gives us a fairly good idea, about the field of study it may be related to.

The foremost consideration in making a choice should be the personal interest in that area of study. Even if the factual content about the topic may be lacking, one can more than make it up if one is interested in that field. In any case, factual data is not too important for writing a good essay; rather it is one’s deep insight and clarity of thought that makes the deepest impact.

Therefore, the only criteria behind choosing a particular topic must be one’s ability to come up with novel and interesting ideas. In making a choice the topic needs to be clearly understood. There much be no doubt in one’s mind about the meaning of the topic. For instance, if one chooses the topic, say “India’s tryst with destiny”, without knowing the meaning of “tryst”, it might prove to be quite cataclysmic for one’s own UPSC destiny.

How to make an Outline/Mind Map of your Ideas?

The best way to make an outline of your own ideas is to jot down all that comes to the mind regarding that topic, as a first step. Lateral thinking is very important at this stage. Rigorous brainstorming and non-sequential thinking would produce the best results. At this stage, it is important to ask oneself as many questions as one can. A pen must be used to jot down all that comes to the mind. There is no need to think about the structure at this stage. It has to be spontaneous and arbitrary.

However, the next stage would involve picking about your best ideas. The entire essay must revolve around these key ideas. These key ideas must be written in a clear and concise  manner to make it evident to the examiner that they are the key issues chosen by you.

The next step would involve making an outline of the essay, before straightaway beginning to write. One needs to make a rough map to ensure that the essay would be well connected, structured and unified.

How to write the Introduction?

It is at this stage that one begins with actually writing the essay. Since the first impression is the most important, it is important that the introduction be such that it catches the attention of the reader. It can begin with a quotation, a question, an exclamatory mark or even a recent or historical event.

It should build up the issue and provide an insight into your key ideas. The reader must get a fairly good idea about what your essay will convey by reading the introduction itself. It should set the tone of the essay and start off the discussion that will take place in the body.

How to write the Body?

The body must take over effortlessly from where the introduction ended. There should not be   a disruption in the flow. The reader should not get the idea that he has moved over to a different part of the essay.

Each individual paragraph in the body must convey a single idea only. The ideas must be expounded in the clearest and most balanced way. There should be no hint of rigidity in the thought process that is being conveyed through your words.

It is also a good option to write in a more conversation style. This way, the reader would feel that you are talking “with” him, rather than talking “to” him. This would ensure that the reader continues to maintain an interest even when the essay moves over to areas that you are not entirely confident with.

How to highlight the Main Points?

It is not considered a good practice to use too much underlining or using a different colored pen to highlight the main points while writing the essay. The writing style should be such that the reader’s flow does not break, but the key issues are brought out fairly clearly in each paragraph. The best way to do so is to confine one paragraph to one idea only.

Should we use Heading and Subheadings in Essay?

While dividing the essay between Introduction, Body and Conclusion is a normal practice followed, there can be some headings in the main body text, however, too much headings will kill the soul of the essay because an Essay is to reflect your ideas and not factual knowledge.

However, at the same time, it really depends upon the topic you have chosen to write. For example, some topics such as “Urbanization and its hazards (2008)”, or “The Cyberworld-Its charms and challenges (2000)” may need you to essentially divide the main body part in some headings. Some other topics such as “My vision for an ideal world order (2001)” or “National Identity and Patriotism (2008)” or “Does Indian Cinema shape our popular culture or merely reflect it (2011)” need a consistent and organized flow of Ideas rather than a body divided into many subheadings.

How to write a Conclusion?

The purpose of the Conclusion would become futile if your essay is such that you need to use the keyword “In Conclusion” explicitly. The conclusion should be such that it effortlessly ends. The ending should be graceful as well as balanced. It should show a positive, optimistic and pleasing personality. Ending with a memorable quote or question or providing it an interesting twist would also be a good idea.