Essay Paper STRATEGY

Some of you might have wondered why some competitive examinations or academic entrance tests have an Essay Paper as mandatory one.

The simple reason is that just as from a painting you could tell about the vision of the artist, similarly a piece of writing can tell the reader about the thought process of the writer.

 

The same painting or a set of lines could mean differently to two people just as the same glass of water is half full or half empty to two different types of people. Any organization, be it private or government wants employees who can carry forward their vision with zeal and positive connotation. Hence, writing being a window to one’s thought process, tells how a person thinks, or argues, or keeps forward own points or substantiates his/her viewpoint.

 

In the Civil Services Exam also, there is an Essay Paper of 250 marks, which is equivalent to the General Studies Paper. Despite the significant reason it carries behind, it does not get due attention from the aspirants. Some think they can write a brilliant in the final exam without practice here, whereas some experienced ones think that having been well-read in the GS Papers, they are capable enough to write a good essay in the exam. Both the kinds are faulty at their calculations and fatal too.

 

Even some toppers have acknowledged this wrong mindset being the cause of low scores in their earlier unsuccessful attempts.

 

This post is to address this topic in a phased and elaborate manner-

 

  • UPSC’s Idea
  • Sources to prepare from
  • Language Analytics
  • Do’s and Don’ts
  • Essay Development
  • Time Allotment
  • Selection Approach to attempt topics
  • Possible Introduction Styles
  • Tools for Core Content
  • Transitioning Aspect
  • Substantiating Arguments
  • Concluding the Essay
  • Out-of-any-Category Tips

  • UPSC’s Idea

 

“Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will be expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay, to arrange their ideas in an orderly fashion, and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.”

 

Those who think that Essay and GS answers carry similar sense and content could be used exchangeably, then they should know that what distinguishes Essay paper from the other GS papers is that marks in GS papers are explicitly for that type of related content, but Essay paper is kept just not to see the content but the language, coherence and the way arguments are lined up to explain one’s viewpoint.

The ideas cannot be put up here randomly but have to be arranged in an orderly fashion as UPSC says along with least spelling or grammatical errors.

  • Sources to prepare from

 

Most of the content will obviously come from your GS Preparation. The rest probable sources could be-

 

  • Specific Magazines: Magazines like Yojana/EPW/Economic Survey have specific issues on certain topics. You can read to extract relevant points of positives and criticisms of government schemes as well to develop your opinion.

For instance, Special editions on tribal issues, education, public health can give you the latest statistics and major developments in this field to substantiate your points while writing answers.

 

  • Non-fiction: Along with imparting knowledge, these help you to develop a matured thought process, good figures of speech, art of argumentation, powerful rhetoric and unique content, etc.

For instance, Why Nations Fail, will tell you the significance of innovation, political and economic freedoms in propelling a nation forward.

 

This does not come as a suggestion that you should start reading non-fiction for each of the topics that coincides with your Syllabus just to score well in Essay, but trying to read them occasionally in free time may reap examples in the long run as well.

 

  • Building your repository: Try to collect good stories, examples, quotes, real-life incidents you read in newspapers or books or magazines or some random articles for they can form well as your anecdotes, references, closures for arguments or your essays.

You can also deliberately work out some quotes of eminent persons on major themes to enrich your essays.

  • Language Analytics

 

  • The most important point that should be kept while writing an essay is that the language of the essay must be simple, clear and with as little jargon as possible.

 

  • And even if you want to use some complex definitional terms or some references, do not leave it without explaining or defining it in a sentence, just before using it.

 

  • Sometimes aspirants feel confident about good marks after mentioning some excellent references or specific terms, but what they tend to forget is that the references you are using must be clear in a layman language to the examiner as well, because when it is not clear, the examiner would not be kind for any reason to give you even one single extra mark.

 

  • Try to convey your points in short, powerful and clear sentences because it is also indicative of clear thinking, a trait every reader looks for while reading a piece of writing.

 

  • For length of the sentences, you may follow a simple rule suggested by a topper that ‘If you run out of your breath while reading a sentence, then probably you will have to break it into two.’

 

  • When it comes to vocabulary, you don’t need to pressurize yourself to work out and memorize complex words for writing a good essay. But keep an eye out for occasional use of a powerful word or a good phrase because that carries the write-up an edge above, when used.

 

  • The second aspect that comes to the vocabulary part is that mugging up numerous words may not be that effective in leaving a mark on your brain in such a way that you are able to incorporate them while you write.

 

  • Instead if you keep your reading base alive and enriched by reading some non-fiction write-ups, English Newspapers or relevant Magazines, you will come across some unknown phrases or words that will leave a mark on you.

Note them down somewhere, find the meaning and understand the context of use. This will help in long-term retention.

You may take the help of a dictionary app on your phone as well.

 

  • Remember Building vocabulary is a slow process like a good biryani being cooked, but with consistency in the process, you get a rich blend of spices, aroma and taste.

  • Do’s & Don’ts

 

  • Do remember that here you are being tested for your Value System, your capacity to Argue, your Personality and not your knowledge pool.

 

  • Do remember that there is no definite answer or a right or wrong side, if you can argue coherently.

 

  • Both the essays carry equal marks so do make a note for investing equal time to both of them and not disproportionate distribution to your first or favourite topic.

 

  • Do not give a shallow argument.

 

  • Do not fret upon the fact that you have to give a lengthy explanation to your argument. If you are able to wrap your argument in a concise manner, it’s in fact better. Quality and not quantity drives scores here.

 

  • Do not unnecessarily focus on one point or dimension because your essay has to be multi-dimensional in an expansive sense.

 

  • Do not get carried away while writing about a topic you feel strongly about because you have to ensure that you write what is asked and not what you feel like. Try to stick to the topic and if needed, read the question in the midst of writing to ensure that you have not leapt away from the topic.

 

  • Do not attempt abstract philosophical topics, if you are not comfortable about writing them. Remember that the choice of topic has nothing to do with your marks so think wisely before selecting an unpopular topic. In fact be doubly sure of the meaning you comprehend and what is asked is in sync.

 

  • Do not be absolutely free in giving your personal opinions when it comes to taking a stand on a topic. It is advisable to avoid extreme or unpopular opinions because it is a UPSC Essay.

 

  • Do not take sides based on your fandom for a specific thinker or philosopher. While writing an essay for UPSC, present both positives and negatives and end the essay on a balanced note.

  • Essay Development

 

  1. Time allotment

 

  • 80 minute for each essay
    • 60 minute for writing (8-9 pages for each essay)
    • 20 minute for thinking
  • First 10 minute to choose the topic
  • Last 10 minute to revise

 

  1. Selection/Approach to attempt Topics

 

  • It is wiser to choose a topic that has the possibility of multiple dimensions. Although these topics also have possibilities of being chosen by many candidates, choosing a non mainstream topic as an alternative to it, has equal chances of backfiring. In this case, a little lesser score is welcome than blundering in a non-mainstream topic.

 

  • After choosing the topic, the second most important activity comes in line is the Brainstorming about the topic, which should involve listing down the keywords, phrases, facts that come to your mind related to the topic.

 

  • The next good plan can be to frame some 5-6 questions that should be answered about the topic in your essay.

 

  • Further step should be to link those ideas to those answers to the questions and build a coherence.

 

  • The next few minutes should be focused on recalling some specific and relevant quotes, examples, data points, philosophers, leaders.

 

  1. Possible Introduction Styles

 

  • A real-life Anecdote
  • A fictitious Incident or Story
  • A relevant Quote
  • A thesis that briefs outline of your argument
  • Background of any historical perspective of the issue
  • A simple definition of the words in the question (not recommended much in essay hence, last resort)

 

GS Answers are advised to be inclusive of this definitional approach when it is to introduce your answers but in Essay they seem to lack that human element and warmth and appear rather stale.

 

  1. Tools for Core Content

 

The styles that can be used to spin our essay around the given topic, depends on the nature of the topic and goes as follows-

 

  • Problem & Solution Approach– Historical evolution, concept, benefits, problems, solutions

 

  • Stakeholder Approach- Individual, Family, Community, Society, National, Humanity or Global.

 

  • Dimensional Approach- Social (Education, Health, Women, Children, other vulnerable groups), Political, Philosophical, Environmental, Economic, Cultural (Beliefs, Attitude, Values and Ethics), Linguistic/Local, International, Humanistic Historical, Governance, Administration.

 

  • Temporal Approach– Past, Present and Future

 

  • Sectoral Approach- Media, Science & tech, Business, Sports, Religion, Politics, Administration, etc.

 

  • Question Approach- Use of rhetorical questions to build structure of the essay.

 

  • Use of Diagrams is not much advisable or must not be encouraged because this is the test of your language, argument building and writing skills.

 

  1. Transitioning Aspect

 

The transitions from one Para to another plays a role in building the coherence of your essay. It can be done in 3 ways-

 

  • Through a link sentence at the end of a para, indicating what is coming next.

 

  • Instead of a link sentence, a question can also be added at the end of a para so that the reader’s attention smoothly shifts to the next part of the module of your essay.

 

  • The third method could be simply adding a word or phrase before beginning the para that is about to shift to another aspect.

 

  1. Substantiating Arguments

 

The main body of your essay should have an argument or an idea Which can be substantiated through an example, statistics, data-facts, or any recommendation of an authentic committee or report, expert opinions, constitutional provisions, etc.

 

  1. Concluding the Essay

 

The conclusion should be the best of your piece and can consist of types below-

 

  • Suggestive
  • Reiterating your core argument
  • Representing Positive Note/Aspect
  • Quoting some useful terms like Reform-Perform-Transform or Building a new India from sources like the Prime Minister’s Speech.
  • Rhetoric, lofty expressions, constitutional ideals, some sanskrit shlokas or references or extracts.
  • Can also use Parallelism, if you can

 

Note: If you have written about a fictitious character in your introduction, then it is always advisable to end it with a reference to the same character because it imparts completeness.

  • Out-of-Any-Category Tips

 

  • Choose a topic in which you can argue in a reasonable and balanced manner
  • Place your Arguments coherently.
  • Find the spirit of the topic carefully to avoid any blunders
  • Try to give an antithesis angle of the topic too. Do not assume the topic to be right in itself.
  • Avoid using avoidable short forms.
  • Be a little innovative with your subheadings. For instance, World Peace: Towards Managing Conflict & Building Harmony
  • The introductory hook, background or thesis should sound positive.
  • Bring some originality to your writing and give your balanced opinion.

 

There may be many more ways other than mentioned in this article, but remember to adopt a risk-free approach and stick to the conventional wisdom rather than failing miserably by experimenting. It ends up costing you not just an attempt but much more than that!

 

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