The essay paper (200 marks) in
the civil services main examination is crucial in determining the final outcome/
selection and ranking. It is critical because it is a compulsory paper and its
score is incorporated in computing the total. It is decisive because there is no
specialisation in an essay and so no aspirant can not claim expertise, unlike
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Finally, an essay is a paper, which does not have a reservoir of definitive
information as in the case of general studies. All 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.
An essay is considered a complete composition. The essentials of essay writing
would be the format (framework, structure), information (content,
substance), language (expression, presentation), and logic
(analysis and information).
The conventional design of looking at essay writing in terms of the
introduction, body and conclusion is only the format. Although, this is
fundamental to essay writing, the concept of an essay is quite intricate. An
essay is expected to be a topical text that is self-explanatory and
comprehensive, concise, composite and unambiguous, informative and logical.
For every effective composition one should ideally begin with clarifying the
purpose of the composition to oneself. This is true about all written and spoken
communication. It's best that this principle be applied to essay writing.
Although, the question cues that are recommended at this point may appear
archaic, they are useful and often overlooked. At every critical juncture,
while writing a topical text all applicable queries must be asked to oneself
about the issue in question, e.g. who, what, where, when, why, how? These
questions would obtain answers that would make the text organized and accurate
and also ensure that no aspect has been omitted. Proficiency in applying this
principle, i.e. the appropriate choice of questions, will come with extensive
practice, periodic evaluation and critical analysis.
The format comprises:
An impact-oriented thematic
introduction containing the core conceptual scheme, the defining criteria,
the central idea, etc.
A series of paragraphs
containing arguments based on information, analysis and systematic
An overall impressive
synoptic presentation or an effective conclusion or a final inference.
The introduction is the
opening part of the essay and should be confined to a paragraph, especially
since, unlike a book, the introduction of an essay is not captioned. The
introductory paragraph is expected to introduce the topic, and wherever
necessary, explain the central theme or idea, basic or core concepts, and
definitional criteria. The introduction should arouse interest and generate
curiosity in the mind of the reader, be it an examiner.
The main text of an essay, after the introductory part is over,
essentially is a systematic organisation of information based on a consistent
methodology. It deals with the topic and related issues to be addressed, the
correlation of facts, figures, ideas, views, concepts; an in-depth, systematic,
coherent analysis based on the topic leading to logical inferences; as well as
making (if it is required) plausible projections and providing with (if
necessary) viable solutions. The text of the composition must develop,
support and explain the main ideas stated in your introduction or thesis
As the text draws close to the conclusion, the essay should have reached
the stage of 'critical mass', a sort of a climax. The conclusion, a summary,
should express the essence of the essay. It should not contain any fresh
evidence, facts or figures.