(Tips) Essay Writing Tips & Suggested Reading

The essay paper (200 marks) in the civil services main examination is crucial in determining the final outcome/ selection and ranking. It is decisive because there is no specialization in an essay and so no aspirant can claim expertise, unlike optional subjects.                     

Essay paper does not have a source of definitive information as in the case of general studies or optional subjects. This constitutes a challenge. It is vital to understand that an essay is a reflection of the personality - ideas, views, analysis, assessments and inferences, values, attitude, aptitude, orientation and communication (written) abilities, all the attributes that are wanted by UPSC in an aspirant. General trend is that essay paper will contain 6 topics out of which one topic to be chosen. There is no syllabus for essay. Anything under sun can be asked. But, if we analyse previous year paper, it is conspicuous to find some root topics. For example, there is at least one question on women empowerment every year. So, the topic ‘Women Empowerment’ is a root topic.


1. Women Empowerment
2. Indian Culture
3. Democracy, judiciary and related topics
4. Education
5. Current Events based

Suggested Reading:

a) Yojana issues
b) Frontline cover stories
c) “The Hindu” Sunday Magazines
d) Articles of Employment News
e) UN Reports

Groundwork Preparation:

The duration of the essay paper is 3 hours and the word limit is not mentioned. It is generally said that 1500-2000 words should make a good essay. This can comfortably be written even with a moderate pace in 2 to 2 ½ hours. So the first 30- 45 minutes can be spent for the groundwork preparation. First is the selection of the proper essay topic. Out of the 6 topics, one topic would generally be related to philosophical issue, unless one is confident it is better to opt it out. Like wise one can eliminate topics with which one is not comfortable. Some topics, most of the aspirants cannot maintain a balance throughout the essay so better opt them also out. Finally select the topic that you think can do justice. The answer booklet of the main examination consists of 24 single pages. The last 3-4 pages can be used for rough work. If you are sure that you can complete the main booklet, then ask for one additional at the beginning of the exam and use it for rough work. In these pages prepare outline for the essay by asking questions yourselves. It is also called as brainstorming.

Suppose take a topic for example: “Terrorism and global peace (CSE-2005)”

The questions can be -
1. What is terrorism, it’s aims, methodology and its origin?
2. How it is affecting global peace?
3. What are different ways/types of terrorism and how each one is a threat to global peace?
4. What are the causes for terrorism to flourish?
5. How the global peace can be maintained (remedy and a global approach in fighting terrorism because of its spread to all countries)?
6. What is the relevance of terrorism to India and affect on Indians way of living?
7. What should be the conclusion? Ex. Terrorism is affecting global peace and it is a fact.

So the solution is to make it disappear. Whatever form it may be, it should be condemned because it involves  loss of precious lives and living of many. On these lines many more questions can be evolved. The next step is question yourself regarding the topic and scribble whatever comes to your mind without any order in just words, not sentences. After this part is over write the conclusion part in detail in the rough area.


1. Good introduction and good conclusion are must.
2. There shall be link between paragraphs.
3. Clarity of expression is very important. Use simple English to express your point clearly. You need not use flowery language. Simple logical presentation is sufficient.
4. Practise is essential for getting a good score.
5. Try to give a good introduction. It should guide the examiner to what you intend to convey in the essay. The conclusion should be good and satisfy the examiner. Always conclude on a positive note.
6. The main focus should be on giving a good analysis of the topic.
7. Do not divert into areas, which are irrelevant to the topic.
8. Make sure that you have sufficient understanding and material to write, before chosing the topic.

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