(Getting Started) How to Score 161 Marks in UPSC Essay by AIR-51 Vikram Grewal

(Getting Started) How to Score 161 Marks in UPSC Essay by AIR-51 Vikram Grewal

Vikram Grewal is a topper in UPSC Civil Services Examination in the year 2018. He is one of the highest rank holders at an all-India rank of 51 as well as a very high scorer in the UPSC Mains Essay paper which he claims is one of the larger contributors in his rank. He is a History graduate from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. Vikram has his eyes set on UPSC from when he was a teenager in school. In 2018, his dream finally came true.

Vikram’s Strategy

Vikram divided his essays into 2 parts 

  • part 1 was content and 
  • part 2 was the presentation. 

He believes both are equally important. He paid more attention to presentation as he believed content is rich for most serious candidates already.


Whenever you come across a topic in your day to day studies, note it down and think for a few minutes what you may write if that were your essay topic. Originality is key. Consider your essay to be a conversation with the examiner and develop that perspective. He did not practice any essay a few weeks preceding the exam so that he could approach the topics with a fresh mindset. Vikram even suggests downloading a Chrome extension that suggests quotes by famous people every time you open a new window to use in your essays.


Vikram believes one of his weak points is his handwriting. Which is why he focused on spacing out his sentences. He wrote 2 paragraphs per page and a total of 20 paragraphs for each topic, which is roughly 1000 to 1200 words. Each paragraph should end on the same page. At least 2 keywords or references must be in each paragraph.

ESSAY STRATEGY BY ESSAY TOPPER: Chandra Mohan Garg, Rank 25, Essay Marks  149, CSE 2015 - INSIGHTSIAS

One Way To Structure Your Essay


The main part is planning in the first 15-20 minutes. He would read the topic, take 15 minutes to think up the content and break it up into 20 points, and then write for an hour to an hour and a half each. Each point was broken down into a paragraph and each paragraph talked of something new. 

Essay Study Kit for UPSC IAS Mains Exam


Approach each topic or title with a fresh perspective. Try to enjoy what you are writing and it will translate into an interesting writeup. Vikram didn’t have a specific strategy in mind for content. He only wrote 5 Essay mock tests to get a decent idea. Assume that the examiner is not well-versed in the topic and write in a generalized manner. Use real-life and popular examples to put your point across. Vikram even used movies as an example. Use information accumulated in your general studies preparation wisely.

Choosing The Right Topic

Know your strengths and your weaknesses. For example, Vikram found interest in Philosophical topics as he found himself able to write using more varied dimensions. Similarly, choose as per your strengths. Make sure you stay true to the topic. Use keywords used in the question itself now and then within the essay to keep your writing grounded.

Message To Aspirants

You will not be able to predict how your essay is scored. So instead of overthinking about it choose a topic that you will enjoy writing. 

Keep an eye on the clock and pen your original thoughts. 

Good luck!


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