- Think for Thirty Minutes
- What *NOT* to write in an Essay?
- Provokative Essays
- Don’t get Personal (Cong.vs BJP)
- Quoting the Famous Quotes
- Padding with Fodder Material
- Suggested Reading
- Reading Books as a Hobby
- Related articles
This is what I learned from my seniors and toppers.
There are plenty of articles on internet on how to prepare the essay (=read
editorials daily etc.) I’m writing one about how to ‘actually’ write it inside
the exam hall.
In the Essay paper, they give you 4-5 essays and you’ve to
write only one. Time limit -3 hours, Max-marks=200.
In a 2 marker question, UPSC specifically mentions that answer it in 20 words. So with that logic, you’re expected to write an essay containing around 2000 words for the 200 marks.
Tip#1: Think for 30-45 minutes
before you start the Essay writing
Take this example.
They asked an essay on Gandhi, I start writing it. I write something like
Gandhi was born in Porbandar &
then He went to England…africa..come back…freedom struggle..Gandhi-Irwin..2nd
After 1 hour of writing, I realize that I forgot mention about Champaran’s Indigo Struggle when Gandhi got actively involved in Indian Freedom struggle for the first time! Now I can’t add it. Because there is no space in initial pages. However I can still try to add it in the conclusion like
…in 1947 Gandhi won the fight he started with Champaran…”
But when Examiner doesn’t find the mention of Champaran in the initial pages, then he gets an impression you forgot it = less marks. Hence everything has to be written in its place.
That’s why you must…..
Think for 30-45 minutes before you start the Essay writing
You’ve 3 hours to write the essay. Don’t immediately start
- 1st try to recall everything that you can remember / want to say about the
- Take a pencil and write them all (in very brief) on the end of the answer
- See if there is any chance of adding some diagram or table in it?
|Do you remember any? ||*Related to that topic, What are the |
Once you’re done adding everything
that you can think about, regarding the essay- then give those topics, order of
The order is very important, just like in wedding
parties you start with Soup…dal-roti and…Ice cream in the end.
- Background / History related
- Main concept / theory / what the subject is about
- Current scenario related to it.
- Good sides
- Negative sides / obstacles
- Suggested reforms
everything has to be written in its place.
Gandhi’s Champaran must come in the beginning not in the end.
Now SOME DON’Ts
Tip#2:What not to write in essay
1. Autocracy is better than democracy. (know that it’s the democracy that’s allowing you to criticize it) so you should never justify certain solution to India’s problems.
2. Excessive criticism of Govt. / administration (I mean the frontline and The Hindu’s stand)
3. Seeing negative sides with out suggesting reforms in
Tip#3: Provocative Essays
Sometimes the essay topics are given in such a way, that you want to agree all the way. E.g.
- Panchayati raj is wastage of tax payer’s money. (yes it seems so, just like NREGA but when you’re writing an Essay you need to maintain some balance)
- Poor people are their own enemies.
In such cases – just because he gave you statement doesn’t mean you’ve to sing in his tune throughout the paper.DO NOT forget to show the other side of the mirror.
Its Easier to criticize a non working things than to fix it. (Remember this all time during essay.)
Donot give filmy solutions to real life problems. (Munna Bhai MBBS / Slum Dog Millioner.)
Tip#4: Donot get personal
- Don’t go naming individual politicians – their achievement / scandals (Kalmadi, Raja,Amar Singh etc.)
- (except in the foreign policy related essay, where you’ve to analyse from entire Nehru’s Panchsheel era to Vajpayee’s Lahore Bus visit and current affairs.) our Foreign policy has changed with every prime minister so their names need to be mentioned.
- Never write essay talking like “Congress did this and BJP did that.” It’s the trait of a common man, not of a future officer.
- Give a balanced answer With out getting into hero-worship or mud slinging
- If criticizing Govenrment in the essay alone was going to make you IAS officer, then every journalist of Aaj Tak would be an IAS officer.
- An officer’s trait is to remain ‘anonymous’, ‘faceless’ and neutral- meaning your essay should look like it has been written by a graduate.
Same applies for
1. Religion / culture/ language-literature (in philosophical essays)
2. States (in polity / federalism / Development)
I’m not saying you should transform into a sterile person writing the essay with out having any personal view/ opinion or righteous anger but, you mustn’t become too much passionate about certain things.
I’m saying all this because you can never be sure about what will be the political / ideological / religious / regional alignment of the examiner.
This suggestion also applies while dealing with Public Administration (optional subject).
1. Don’t make mistakes in writing who said what. E.g. you quote Abraham Lincon’s sentence and write George Washington said it. nothing will make you look more stupid in the eyes of the examiner than that.
2.Quote Exactly as it was said. Mao said “Power flows from the barrel of a gun” so you should not write it as
“barrel of the gun contains power”
“muzzle of the gun flows the power”
You must quote the quote verbatim. If you’re not sure then don’t quote it.
Tip#6: Padding & Deviating from the subject
Even in the worst case, you’re supposed to write 1200-1500 words for a 250 marks essay.
Padding means, you don’t know the exact answer so you just beat around the bushes and write the garbage stuff to fill up the pages, while this tactic does work in the school and college exams but don’t try it in the essay paper.
Don’t write too many proverbs / quotes/ (invented) case studies/examples per page. It makes the examiner think that you’ve no input of your own so you’re just filling up the pages.
Donot pick up the subject where your idea or thought content is very low.
- Ex. you picked up “Do we need nuclear power” – So you start with how thermal power-stations create pollution, there is huge demand and low supply of electricity, nuke power is cheap, and
then the dangers such as Japanese Tsunami etc.
- After 4 pages, your thoughts and ideas are exhausted-you’ve nothing more to say and assuming that you write 100 words per page, you realise that only 400 words won’t get you any marks ! now you can’t scratch those pages and write a new essay on new topic, you’ve wasted enough time on this one.
- So you decide to continue with this nuke-power essay and start rewriting the same stuff you already stated in different ways and then you’ll deviate from the main topic- like nuke power is unsafe as we saw in Japan
so we need to switch to renewable energy source like Sun, Wind and Water -> then 4 pages on advantages of renewable energy as if this is an essay on “the benefits of Non-renewable energy” and not on nuke power, you write about the pro-cons of hydro-electricity like dams and displacement of people.
- Then you realise “omg, displacement of people also applies while making nuke-powerplants like in Maharashtra!“ so you come back to the topic -half page written but still you’ve not filled up enough pages so you start talking about to land-acquisition policy and start writing the pro-cons..another half page on it. Then you think “oh i must talk something about the Indo-US nuke deal” so you go on talking about how we haven’t signed the CTBT and yet N.S.G gave us clearance and China-Pakistan couldn’t stop it so we are a global power now and we deserve a permanent seat in UNSC! This kind of padding goes on until time is up.
- You’ve messed up the whole thing, you totally deviated from the subject. Your essay doesn’t have any flow of thoughts or proper rhythm. The seasoned examiners immediatly sniff out this padding and they don’t give much marks for it, your expected score for this kind of garbage writing is less than 50/200, means even with decent score in all other papers, your chances of getting interview call is close to zero. You’ve jeopardised your chances
of selection in IAS, you’ve digged your own grave. That’s why
- take great care in picking up the subject
- first 30-40 minutes for thorough thinking.
- stick to the subject
Same applies while dealing with the big 60 marker question in GS and optional papers. (not 30 minutes of thinking but atleast 5-7 minutes!)
Essay is not something that can be learned reading one book or reading for 1 month.
It’s a continuous and long process takes some diverse reading before you’ve enough content to write something decent and something big enough to fill 20 pages to fetch 100+ marks.
- Editorials of english newspapers ( but don’t get swayed about by either leftist
or capitalist stuff preched by both sides)
- Magazines like Frontline,
yojana, Kurukshetra. (it gives you the fodder material: statistical data to quote like how many % illiterate and so on but again don’t use too much statistical data for padding and most importantly don’t ‘invent’ your own case studies and stat.data)
- Watch English news channel – discussions / debates.
- See the old question papers and try to make an outline of each and every Essay asked so far.
Reading Books as a Hobby
To increase your idea and ‘fodder-material’ for brain storming, you can read some books outside studies, related to Indian culture, democracy and Development, just for time-pass for example
Me and my ruined essay
In 2009’s mains attempt, I got only 20/200 marks in the Essay. It was about ‘are we a soft state?’. I wrote it only from the foriegn policy and law-n-order point of view, without seeing the cultural -historical contexts. It was a monotonous essay without any spark. Moral of the story: do try to see different angles of the subject and give a thorough thought before you start writing.
Some veterans are in opinion that you should pick up the essay on technical subject, example space-technology, advances in medical science, how IT has changed lives and so on. Because only a few people attempt them, and due to technical nature, your ideas are unlikely to be in conflict with the examiner so you’ll get more marks.
But then again you need enough ‘content’ to write 1500+ words else the padding route=digging your own grave. And there are enough toppers who wrote the non-technical essay and still got in the top-merit list so as usual for every generalisation made about UPSC, you’ll find a counter example!
Predicting Essays for 2011 Mains paper
- As usual coaching classes try to anticipate which essays will be asked, and UPSC makes sure they are not asked. So be prepared for
- everything- don’t just rely on selected hot-topics like Lokpal and Civil society.
- In old times, it was quite predictable, see the papers from 1997 to 2006: almost every year there is an essay on polity-judiciary, one on women
- empowerment, one on Science-tech, one on democracy and governance. But nowadays UPSC is rapidly breaking the trends.
- Lets look @ the 2010 paper. People predicted: there will be some essay on games, due to CWG or Asiad or even on corruption and good Governance given CWG and 2G scams. But there was nothing.
- I’m putting the comparative list of essays asked in last two years (2009 and 2010). Make your own judgement and prediction and prepare accordingly.
Vulnerable groups of society (India vs. Bharat Debate)
- Should a moratorium be imposed on all fresh mining in tribal areas of the country? (2010) (can be classified as current affairs due to Mines regulation bill)
- Are our traditional handicrafts doomed to a slow death? (2009)
- From traditional Indian philanthropy to the Gates-Buffet model-a natural progression or a paradigm shift?-2010
- The focus of health care is increasingly getting skewed towards the ‘haves’ of our society-2009
- Preparedness of our society for India’s global leadership role. 2010
- Are we a soft state? 2009
- Good Fences make good neighbors. 2009
One more bad news: in 1997 to 2006 era, UPSC gave 6 subjects and you had to write one essay, in 2009: five options and in 2010 : only 4 options.
UPSC Civil Services Main Examination Syllabus
The Civil Services Mains examination aims to test the academic talent and the ability of the candidate to present the answers in a clear and coherent manner. The Examination is intended to assess the overall intellectual traits and understanding of the concepts rather than merely the check their information and memory.
Aspirants become eligible for Mains only after qualifying Prelims Exam. If you are looking for prelims exam syllabusClick here
Revised UPSC Exam Pattern (2018)
The UPSC has revised the pattern of Civil Services Main examination from 2016.
Now there are 7 + 2 = 9 papers to be answered in the main examination. All of them are of descriptive type. There are two qualifying papers 1) any modern Indian language of 300 marks 2) English of 300 marks. The marks of these two papers will not be counted in the merit list of the main examination.
The candidate is allowed to pick any one language from the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution or English as the medium for writing the mains examination.
According to the new pattern in the UPSC syllabus, there are "FOUR" General Studies paper each comprising of 250 Marks with a total of 1000 Marks are made compulsory. The scope of the syllabus of General Studies papers are of degree level.
There is only "ONE" optional subject to choose from the list of subjects. It comprises of two papers each of 300 marks. So the optional paper has total 600 marks. Candidate is allowed to take up literature as an optional subject "without the condition of having the same at graduation level.” The scope of the syllabus of optional paper is higher than the bachelor's degree but lower than the master's level.
Interview/Personality Test is of 275 Marks. Candidate can give preference of the language in which they may like to be interviewed. UPSC will make arrangement for the translators.
The total mark of the written examination is 1750 Marks.
The Interview/Personality Test will be of 275 marks.
The Grand Total 2025 Marks
Summary of the Latest Pattern of Civil Services (Mains) Examination
Paper - A
Language -300 Marks
Candidate can take any Modern Indian language but this paper is of qualifying nature
Paper - B
English -300 Marks
This paper is of qualifying nature
Paper - I
Essay - 250 Marks
Can be written in the medium or language of the candidate's choice
General Studies-I 250 Marks
(Indian Heritage and Culture,
History and Geography of the World and Society)
General Studies -II: 250 Marks
(Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)
General Studies -III 250 Marks
(Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
General Studies -IV 250 Marks
(Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)
Marks carried by General Studies papers are 4X 250=1000
Optional Subject - Paper 1 -250 Marks
Optional Subject - Paper II -250 Marks
Candidate is allowed to take up literature as an optional subject "without the condition of having it at the graduation level."
Sub Total (Written test) 1750 Marks
Marks of English and Language will not be counted in the total tally of marks for the written exam. So the total of the Mains exam will be 1750 Marks Only.
Interview/Personality Test - 275 marks
Candidate can give preference of the language in which they may like to be interviewed. UPSC will make arrangement for the translators.
Grand Total 2025 Marks
A candidate is allowed to use any one language from the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution or English as the medium of writing the examination.
Civil Services Mains Exam Syllabus
The written examination will consist of the following papers:
Paper A - Modern Indian language 300 Marks - Qualifying nature - Marks not counted - Passing mandatory-
(i) Comprehension of given passages.
(ii) Precis Writing
(iii) Usage and Vocabulary.
(iv) Short Essay
(v) Translation from English to the Indian language and vice-versa.
Note 1: The Papers on Indian Languages and English will be of High School level and will be of qualifying nature only. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for final ranking.
Note 2 : The candidates will have to answer the English and Indian Languages papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where translation is involved).
Paper B - English - 300 marks - Qualifying nature - Marks not counted- Passing mandatory
The aim of the paper is to test the candidates' ability to read and understand serious discursive prose, and to express his ideas clearly and correctly, in English and Indian Language concerned.
The pattern of questions would be broadly as follows:-
(i) Comprehension of given passages
(ii) Precis Writing
(iii) Usage and Vocabulary
(iv) Short Essay.
Essay - 250 Marks - To be written in the medium or language of the candidate's choice. Candidate is required to write an essay on a specific topic. The choice of subjects will be given. They are expected to keep their thoughts closely to the subject and arrange their ideas in orderly fashion and be concise. Credit will be given to effective and coherent expression.
General Studies-I 250 Marks (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society)
Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues
The Freedom Struggle - its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.
Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawing of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.
Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
Role of women and women's organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
Effects of globalization on Indian society
Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.
Salient features of world's physical geography.
Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India)
Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
General Studies -II: 250 Marks (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)
Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
Parliament and State Legislatures - structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
Salient features of the Representation of People's Act.
Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.
Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
Role of civil services in a democracy.
India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.
Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
General Studies -III 250 Marks (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers
Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
Land reforms in India.
Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
Disaster and disaster management.
Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention
Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism
Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate
General Studies -IV 250 Marks (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)
This paper will include questions to test the candidates' attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society. Questions may utilise the case study approach to determine these aspects. The following broad areas will be covered.
Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships.
Human Values - lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.
Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.
Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service , integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker-sections.
Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance.
Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world.
Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance; accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance; ethical issues in international relations and funding; corporate governance.
Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information, Codes of Ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen's
Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption.
Case Studies on above issues.
Optional Subject - Paper I -250 Marks
Optional Subject - Paper II -250 Marks
Candidates may choose any ONE optional subject from amongst the list of subjects given below.
Candidate can give preference of the language in which they may like to be interviewed. UPSC will make arrangement for the translators.
Marks obtained by the candidates for all papers EXCEPT PAPER A & B will be counted for merit ranking. However, the Commission will have the discretion to fix qualifying marks in any or all papers of the examination. Aspirants can log on to UPSC's official website (www.upsc.gov.in) to see the detailed notification.
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