Essay Writing for UPSC: Tips to Write Essay in IAS Mains Exam

By Aarna Tiwari|Updated : August 11th, 2022

Essay Writing for UPSC is the most taken-for-granted area in UPSC Exam. The UPSC Essay Paper is one of the nine papers in the UPSC Mains Exam. Aspirants tend to take the Essay for UPSC lightly but do not realize that if the paper is prepared well, one can score wonders in the Essays for UPSC. The Essay Marks in UPSC are for a total of 250 marks, with one essay for 125 marks. One has to write two essays in the CSE Essay Paper for the IAS Exam, with a word count of 1000- 1200 words.

In the article, we will cover all aspects of How to Write Essay in UPSC, Keywords to focus upon, the best books for essay writing in UPSC, and how to improve the art of UPSC Essay writing.

Table of Content

CSE Essay

The UPSC Essay is one of the most important scoring papers for the UPSC Exam. If a candidate prepares for it well, the overall score increases to a great extent. The UPSC Essay carries 250 marks in total, and a candidate has to write two essays, option one from each of the two sections. The Essay for UPSC has to be 1000 - 1200 words. There are two sections - Section A and Section B, each of which has four topics of essays; each UPSC Essay is 125 marks.

After the change in UPSC Syllabus in 2013, one has to write 2 essays in 3 hours on diverse topics, contrary to what was earlier a single essay in 3 hours. The instructions mentioned in the CSE Essay Paper are clear and expect the aspirants to keep their thoughts closely to the subject and arrange their ideas accordingly. The instructions in the UPSC Essay Paper further state that the credit will be given for effective and coherent expression of thoughts only.

CSE Essay Highlights


UPSC Essay to write in IAS Exam


Time allotted to write Essay for UPSC

3 hours

Word Count for CSE Essay

1000-1200 each

Marks for UPSC Essay

250 marks total; 125 each

How to Write Essay in UPSC: Tips to Ace the Essays for UPSC

The Essay Paper in UPSC is one of the most scored papers, among the seven papers that are considered for the UPSC Results. If one practices the Essays for UPSC well, one can make quite an impact with his/her UPSC Marksheet. In the IAS Exam, the Essay Paper is concerned with the formal essay type. The formal UPSC Essay tends to be more impersonal, less emotional and has authority. The UPSC Essays have actual elements in them, like statistics from government data, recent reports, indices, etc. The Essay Writing in UPSC is never in the form of a conversation, nor does it use first-person references. Thus it can be said that the CSE Essays have a certain degree of seriousness attached to it.

To write a scoring Essay for UPSC Mains, one should focus on:

  • Choosing the Right Topic: A conceptual and holistic understanding of the topic an aspirant is attempting is a must. One should always choose a topic where one is comfortable in expressing his/her thoughts, and there are ample thoughts to express on it.
  • Interpret the Essay Topic clearly: As a human tendency, whenever an aspirant sees a familiar topic, they start writing on it immediately, without adequately brainstorming on it. During the UPSC Exam, it is very essential to understand the essence of the question asked.
  • Selecting the Topic: This is the most crucial step in the process of How to Write an Essay for UPSC. One has to choose from the two sets of topics containing four topics. While selecting the topic, make sure you have enough material to write on it.
  • Brainstorming: Once your topic is selected, you should not start writing straight away. Collect your thoughts, streamline them and write them in the space provided at the back of the UPSC Question Paper. Once the thoughts are collected, adhere to a good structure and start writing.
  • Follow the structure of UPSC Essay Writing: The most acceptable method of writing an essay is breaking it up into paragraphs. The structure of the UPSC Essay must follow the pattern of introduction, historical background (if any), main subject or problem, linkage with Current Affairs, positive and negative aspects, and the future reforms needed. The Essay should end with an optimistic way forward conclusion.
  • Have a multidimensional approach: While attempting any topic for the CSE Essay, adhere to the Social, Political, Economic, Cultural, Legal, International, and Humanistic perspectives. This makes the essay holistic and gives the impression that the aspirant is well read.
  • Highlight the essential keywords: Every UPSC Essay Topics have a central idea attached to it. The whole essay should revolve around that. Try using that keyword once in the introduction-body-conclusion paragraph.
  • Structure the Essay well: Information is one thing but how to put that information in a structured and systematic way is very important. Create an outline of the essay, such as following the Past-Present-Future technique.
  • Use easy language and present well: One of the most common misconceptions while writing the Essays for UPSC is that you need to be a champ in English, which is not valid. The Essay Paper in UPSC checks upon your thoughts and critical thinking ability. It is always advised to use short sentences, small paragraphs, and lucid sentences while writing.
  • Add data, quotes, etc.: To fetch brownie points while writing Essays in UPSC, use quotes/sayings by famous personalities, and highlight government schemes and policies.

☛Also Check:- How to Buy Yojana Magazine?

Pointers to Keep in Mind While Writing Essay for UPSC Mains

An essay is an organized collection of ideas, that are written nicely and professionally presented. Developing the skill to write a good UPSC Essay needs preparation, which comes from practicing UPSC Previous Year Question Papers and attempting Mocks.

To score some extra brownie points or have an edge over other candidates, while writing an Essay for UPSC Exam, the following pointers should be kept in mind.

  • Never just present problems or be pessimistic. Try giving or suggesting a possible reform or solution to the issue/problem.
  • Avoid writing utopian solutions.
  • Never resort to name-calling or get personal while writing the essay.
  • Keep in mind that you are appearing for one of the most prestigious services in the nation, so don't have extreme views. Have and apply the Buddha's middle path while writing the Essays for UPSC.
  • Present a balanced picture even if your topic is provocative. Critically analyze the topic with its pros and cons.
  • Never resort to criticizing the government or the administration excessively.

UPSC Essay Topics: Keywords used and their Meaning

While going through the UPSC Essay Question Papers, one can find some of the frequently used words which are mentioned. These words include evaluating, discussing, critically analysing or analysing, examining, explaining, etc.

Let's discuss these keywords in detail:

  • Evaluate: To evaluate is to come to a decision based on the overall analysis of the pros and cons backed by evidence.
  • Analyse: It requires breaking an issue into sub-parts and explaining their correlation and finally concluding it in a summary.
  • Critically evaluate: Critically evaluation requires a person to be able to exercise their sense of reasoning and provide evidence both to support and repudiate a statement and to finally reach a conclusion.
  • Examine: It requires throwing light on the negatives and positives of the topic and coming to a balanced conclusion.
  • Explain: It follows the pattern of How/Why/When and the candidate needs to write accordingly. The answer must have relevant facts and implications.
  • Comment: It is a statement that expresses an opinion or reaction.
  • Discuss: One can find this word mostly in all the UPSC Mains Question Papers, and is one of the trickiest terms. Discuss means discussing various perspectives and presenting a logical argument at the end.
  • Elucidate: It means to means to explain the cause-effect correlation, by giving evidence and examples.

Essay Books for UPSC Exam

While it takes time to learn concepts for UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains, the UPSC Essay Paper can be aced with multiple practices of the UPSC Essay Topics. While writing the Essay Paper for UPSC, one needs to be updated with all the recent happenings, and read the EPW, Yojana or Hindu/The Indian Express editorials to present viewpoints. The Essay Books for UPSC Exam provide the aspirants with an idea of how to approach the essay. Some of the Essay Books for UPSC are:

  • Essay for Civil Services by Pulkit Khare
  • Book of Essays by Kalpana Rajaram
  • Selected Contemporary Essays by Saumitra Mohan
  • Mastering Essay and Answer Writing by Dr Awadesh Singh
  • Select Essays by Drishti Publications


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FAQs on Essay Writing for UPSC

  • Essay Writing for UPSC requires immense practice. To write a good essay for UPSC, one should have a good collection of opening and closing lines, and some generalised material on UPSC Essay Topics like development, women, education, healthcare, internet, technology, science, etc. The material should include quotations, case studies, examples, government initiatives, etc.

  • 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 one of the nine papers in the UPSC Mains. 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.

  • There are different types of essays, but they are often defined into four categories, which includes argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.

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