Understanding Essay Writing in the UPSC Civil Services Exam

The reasons for including Essay writing  in Civil services examination is to check whether the aspirant can write reports, as a Bureaucrat  has to write a lot of reports. Essay carries a huge proportion in the overall exam scheme. Basic calculation about the contribution to the score in UPSC says that essay can fetch up to 160 out of 250 marks, which is 64% marks as compared to GS where the score remains around  420 to 450 which accounts to 44% . Hence essay can give a boost to the rank. Fundamental mistakes are made in the structure, idea and content. Here are set of questions that can help understand the know- how related to essay writing.

What is essay writing for CSE?

  • The Essay Paper is one of the nine papers in the UPSC civil services mains exam.
  • In this paper, you will have to write two essays each with a word count of 1000 – 1200. One topic can be selected from a choice of four topics.
  • The Essay Paper is for a total of 250 marks with one essay for 125 marks.

As an Engineer, Law,Medical  etc., graduate  .Can  I write well even if I have never written essays ?                

  • To write well one has to read more and this process of reading and writing has to be practiced more which is the mantra for success.
  • Practice must be accompanied by continuous analysis of errors and shortcomings     in every essay.
  • UPSC is not looking for a literary piece of writing. They are interested in the clarity of thought, simplicity of presentation and a well-groomed structure.

How to use various techniques to improve writing for the Essay module of UPSC?

Firstly, for preparing and writing an Essay  the process could be summed up as follows:

Time to be allotted  to each part:

  • For Choosing a topic:5-7minutes.
  • Brainstorming and writing rough arguments:20 minutes
  • Thesis:10minutes
  • A rough draft:10 minutes each
  • Writing:50-55 minutes each
  • Revision:5-7 minutes each,10 minutes total.

Total Time taken:180 minutes

This way it adds to confidence and consistency, developing your own practices and techniques .

How to write UPSC essays?

Follow the pattern. This is well  accepted for conventional academic writing across the university curriculum.

  • Introduction
  • Thesis statement :The main argument of the essay
  • Mini-thesis statements to support the main argument
  • Antithesis,if needed
  • Conclusion

The Process of Writing Essay for UPSC:

1.How to  Choose aTopic?

  • UPSC provides 4 topics in each section.
  • The essay topic can be philosophical in nature or it can be just looking for a simple analysis of a particular topic of economic,technological or of social importance.
  • The key is to get a very clear understanding of the topic.  You will naturally choose  a topic that you have  the maximum content on,But that can  lead to  missing  the crux of the essay.So spend time on understanding each topic and picking the one where you have the best clarity.
  • To get this clarity use word such as why,how,analyze,compare,evaluate,argue, etc.to reframe your essay topic in a way UPSC is trying to ask.
  • Think In PESTEL dimensions.


  1. How to come up with effective Brainstorming?
  • Start by writing various            examples keywords,quotes,studies, random lines including constitutional ,judicial,international and  ethical statements ,include quotes ,observations,examples,organisations,NGO’s movements,national level figures giving solid force to the argument that comes to your mind,after having decided a particular topic.
  • You can also form categories such as

(1)       Intro

(2)       Body

(3)       Conclusion

And write a rough work when brainstorming under these categories.

  • You can use the last 4 pages provided by UPSC to write these in a way of rough work
  • Evidence/Examples to support your view and  arguments in essay. Evidence that focuses on our ability  to think  is classified as


Rational Appeals



Emotional Appeals



Ethical Appeals

·         facts

·         case      studies

·         statistics

·         experiments

·         logical reasoning

·         analogies

·         anecdotes







expert testimony

reliable   sources



3.What is the Structure for an Essay?          

  • Divide your essay in roughly 8 parts of 125words each. One for introduction,one for conclusion,            and rest 6 for the body of the essay.
  • Use Heading/Subheadings :They provide well-defined structure to the essay.
  • Introduction: It begins with the   general  and broader description and moves toward

The specific,as the sides of the triangle narrow down toward a point(like a funnel). A writer uses

The introduction to show how the specific question addressed in the essay relates to

A greater issue or field.    This introduction should end with a thesis statement that  provide  the claim.

Benefits of funnel:

  • It has a flow from a broader to specific introduction.
  • Mind will have the understanding of the intention of the essay.


  • The body of the essay is, of course, where the writer must offer substantial, interesting, compelling ideas that supports, illustrates, exemplifies or expands the thesis of the essay.


  • Your conclusion should neither be a summary nor a mere restatement of your thesis.
  • Instead, it must go beyond the thesis to reach a judgment, to discuss your       findings and their implications, or to offer solutions.
  • The conclusion amplifies the force of the points          we have made  in the previous section .

Techniques of conclusion:

  • Restate the thesis and reach beyond it with a recommendation,an evaluation,a prediction or a question.
  • Close with an effective directive or solution keeping in mind that the whole essence must be conclusive.

 Conclusion are of different types:

  • either it connects the story again as provided in the introduction
  • combination of the summary and way forward.
  • Way forward /directives.
  1. Thesis
  • Topics by UPSC does not provide you with an  obvious thesis, you should first  think of

Possible question(s) that can be  used while  answering  the problem presented in the essay’s assignment. That can lead you toward collecting relevant information and ultimately formulating a worthwhile thesis.

What is a thesis?

  • States what your position on an issue is
  • usually must appear at the end of the introduction in a short essay
  • should be clearly stated and contain emphatic language like should,ought,must

It is recommended that you follow certain steps while writing the essay paper.

  • What not to select: A sensitive or controversial topic like say, feminism, criticisim of the government/administration . A topic about which you are too passionate or feel strongly about. In this case, you may tend to get excited and fail to write a balanced essay.
  • Once you’ve selected your topic, you should not start writing straight away. It is prudent to think for some time and collect your thoughts related to the historical facts and events in the beginning. Realizing towards the end that you have forgotten to mention a crucial detail in the historical part, would be too late to add it in the space crunch.
  • While writing, you must adhere to a good structure.
  • Don’t just present problems. Give possible reforms/solutions also.
  • Underline:Headings and important keywords.
  • Use capital letters to showcase important  ideas  or words you want the examiner to read.
  • At least give 1day /week to essay writing pratise while learning from mistake and analyse for improvement.


  1. Why is Revising necessary?
  • Use some time for revision, for underlining, Looking  out for  general grammatical mistakes, misspellings that you can  be caught  in one  quick revision.
  • give yourself the freedom to adapt and change your outline in the process of writing the rough part.
  • Don’t wait till you have finished the syllabus and have gathered   enough content. This provides  enough time to build the foundations.
  1. What are the basic Sources that can be referred?
  • Magazines like Frontline, Yojana, Kurukshetra and ARC reports,discussions and debates: They mention the way an essay must be written, as they are written by academicians and civil servants . It tells us the way how we must form the argumentation.
  • You can’t write well without reading well. Hence while reading try to focus on how a writer in The Hindu has written. It should not be an emotional kind of argument rather have an objective in its argument.
  • Can include constitutionality by including Supreme Court and High Court inferences ,United Nation body’s statements and reports , speeches of President and Vice President of India, World bank chief, UN chief  and the statistical data they accompany etc., as they contain innovation Framework for the society ,they bring objectivity in the essay. They  include the sources, format and the evaluation.
  • For reference essay writing refer to a BA student curriculum of writing.The content has the simplicity ,of what the essay should be like .
  • See the old question papers and try to make an outline of each and every Essay asked so far.


The writing must not deviate from what the topic demands. Any example, quote, anecdote or reference must be on topic or related closely to it.


The aspirant must plan ahead. A structure and content must be brainstormed before in a rough way before actually writing it down.


The ideas and argument must contain a flow. A haphazard essay must be avoided.


The expression of ideas in the essay must be as precise as possible. There should be clarity of thought and brevity of expression. This is what the evaluator seeks.


Instead of using flowery language one must convey a point and a meaning in each sentence.


The paragraphs as a whole must portray a clear and well thought expression related to the theme of the essay.

Best Wishes

Officers IAS Academy – Best IAS Academy in Chennai.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>