Essay Writing for UPSC – Syllabus, Books, How to Write Essay in UPSC?

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Essay Writing for UPSC: Candidates preparing for the 2023 Civil Services exam must be well versed in Essay Writing for UPSC as it is an important paper in the Mains exam. In the UPSC essay paper, 2 essays have to be written in 3 hours of time. Each essay carries 125 marks in total, which makes this paper worth 250 marks. The word limit for each essay is 1000 to 1200 words. To score well in this paper, aspirants must know all instructions and guidelines for essay writing UPSC as prescribed by the Commission.

Aspirants tend to take Essay writing for UPSC lightly but do not realize that if the paper is prepared well, one can score wonders in it. In the article, we will cover all aspects of how to write an Essay in UPSC, keywords to focus upon, format, best books, and how to improve the art of UPSC Essay writing.

Essay Writing for UPSC

Essay Writing 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, one from each of the two sections. The Essay writing for UPSC has to be completed within 1000 – 1200 words. There are two sections – Section A and Section B, each of which has four topics out of which candidates have to choose only 1 from each section.

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 UPSC Essay Paper are clear and expect the aspirants to keep their thoughts close 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.

UPSC Essay Paper Highlights Information
Number of Essays to be Written 2
Maximum Time allotted 3 hours
Word Count 1000-1200 each
Marks 250 marks total; 125 each

How to Write Essay in UPSC?

The Essay Paper in UPSC is one of the most scored papers, among the seven papers that are considered for merit. If one practices the Essays topics for UPSC well, they can make quite an impact with their marks. In the IAS Exam, the Essay Paper is concerned with the formal essay type. The formal 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. 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 UPSC Essay Writing has a certain degree of seriousness attached to them.

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 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 Essay writing 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 IAS 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 topic has 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.

How to Improve Marks in UPSC Essay Writing?

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 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 getting 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 Syllabus

The syllabus for UPSC Essay Writing covers some common topics from the economy, current affairs, technology, philosophy, etc. The UPSC essay syllabus is very vast to cover, hence candidates should focus more on practicing the art of essay writing for UPSC than remembering facts and figures about specific topics. Some of the areas which can be practiced for Essay paper in UPSC Mains are as follows:

Education System in India Cashless Economy
Women Empowerment Essay for UPSC Fundamental Rights of India
Fundamental Duties Swachh Bharat Abhiyan Essay
Cyber Security Indian Foreign Policy
Communalism and Secularism Budget and Economic Survey

Essay Writing Practice for UPSC

To practice Essay Writing for UPSC Mains 2023 exam, candidates must go through the questions asked in the last few years’ essay papers which can be downloaded from the links below. It contains lots of questions on essay writing which can be used to practice answer-writing skills.

Year UPSC Essay Previous Year Papers
2022 Download PDF
2021 Download PDF
2020 Download PDF
2019 Download PDF
2018 Download PDF
2017 Download PDF
2016 Download PDF

Essay for UPSC: Keywords 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 analyzing or analyzing, 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 explain the cause-effect correlation, by giving evidence and examples.

Essay Book for UPSC

While it takes time to learn concepts for UPSC Prelims and Mains, the UPSC Essay Paper can be aced with sufficient practice of the trending 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 books for Essay writing for UPSC provide the aspirants with an idea of how to approach the essay. Some of the popular books 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
Other UPSC Articles:
IAS Interview UPSC Answer Writing
IPS Full Form Indian Foreign Service
IPS Eligibility How to Prepare for UPSC without Coaching?
Environment and Ecology UPSC Notes Political Science Books for UPSC
10 Tips to Clear UPSC IAS Prelims Exam UPSC Medical Test
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