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Essay, by its very character is highly subjective and everyone’s approach is dictated by their experiences, take on the subject, subject matter, etc. Getting guidance for the essay paper is like trying to train your brain into thinking a particular way regarding a every subject- that’s not only difficult but antithetical to your creativity. The CSE Essay paper has varied over the years- from papers that forced us to take a stand to papers that want us to elaborate on our perspective on very wide ranging philosophical topics. The shift in approach seems to indicate that UPSC wants us to dictate the course of our essay to determine what our opinions are and how well we can articulate it.
An essay is only as good as its diversity and matter to justify those varied points. Hence, always select those topics that you feel can be elaborated in more ways than one. The other natural advantage is that you have more material to cite and support your argument.
Determine what your conclusion is before you begin. For eg, in an essay where you’re called to take a stand determine what conclusions you will draw and work towards that end goal throughout the essay. This gives your essay direction and clarity.
Read the topics multiple times and try to think of it in multiple ways. Consider the topic of “Lending a hand to someone is better than giving a dole”, It could be elaborated as to how subsidies may not go a long way in improving the lot of the impoverished or how developed countries can aid the developing countries better by giving them advanced technology rather than simple giving out funds. A single line of the essay can convey multiple meanings.
Clarity in an essay cannot be stressed on enough. Most aspirants have great command over language or a great deal of data on the essay topic but they’re unable to articulate in a manner that seems organized and sorted. The easiest way to deal with that is to plan out the essay using a flowchart before you begin the essay itself. You could write the order of your points, examples that go along with it. That way you know exactly how much time and space to devote to which topic and the form that the essay would take.
The other contentious issue regarding the essay paper is how to begin and end the essay. The oft repeated procedure is to begin and essay with a quote. I personally don’t think it is necessary to do so. The purpose of the quote is to encapsulate your articulation in a few words. Therefore, it you don’t have a suitable enough quote there is no need to worry. But it is true that an essay that begins well and ends beautifully has it’s own charm. I would advise all of you to focus on these two parts. I know of people, who begin the essay with a couplet, poem, question, etc, in other words, begin it in a manner that would set them apart from the other essays automatically. This approach comes with a warning- don’t use the above simply with the objective of having ticked a checkbox against use of quotes/phrases. They must be used if they organically elaborate your point or are relevant to the essay topic.
I have tried to keep by suggestions as non-generic as possible. The above points are something I hold very dear while planning and writing an essay. Consider the above points as supplementary to your own understanding of how to approach the essay paper BECAUSE I truly believe the Civil Services is a test of how well we understand our strengths and how we work to capitalize on those strengths to be successful. Identify those and you’re set. Good luck to all the aspirants☺
Nivya Shetty has scored Rank 274 in the Civil Services Examinations 2015 and 137 marks in the essay paper
Max. Intake: 10
Total Number of Tests: 10