Strategy for Essay Paper in IAS Mains

What is a Good Strategy for Essay Paper in UPSC GS Mains?

While preparing for UPSC main exam, candidates spend a lot of time handling the 4 GS papers, optional subject. An essay is another such paper. It is of 250 marks. Till 2013 one had to write only 1 essay but after the 2013 syllabus has changed, now one has to write 2 essays in 3 hours from a list of multiple topics with word count 1000-1200. The essay paper is of 250 marks with one essay for 125 marks. 

Here are a few tips and tricks to prepare for the essay paper.

Essay paper can be most rewarding if you follow a strategy. Putting your thoughts and views about the given topic can sometimes be challenging and requires you to constantly update yourself about what is happening around, vocabulary, writing skills. 

While writing an essay three things must be considered which is called ABC of essay writing. A (accuracy), B (buoyancy), C (correctness or clarity). It could be challenging sometimes because while preparing for UPSC you are overloaded with information or have become a warehouse. Now to write an essay requires you to arrange, organize and even come up with innovative ideas to make use of that information without getting diverted from the given topic. And it can be achieved with regular practice, evaluation and learning from mistakes. 

Let us take a quick look at the outlook of an essay! 

Anything presenting your thoughts in a well-structured, organized, readable manner can be termed as an essay. It becomes challenging though when your thoughts must align itself to a given topic. Preparation is required to develop a habit of writing a good essay which is a continuous process before you appear for the exams. Your writing skills will do the trick and will help you to pen down your ideas. Language skills matter the most and it requires patience and perseverance. Whatever language you desire to learn or master, write your essay in that language only which will put your thoughts into words. Remember that the essay paper can compensate for low scores in other papers.

Writing a good essay and scoring high in that paper requires a good strategy. It is advisable that you don’t do the mistake of gathering facts and information on the probable topics at the last hour. Do practice it beforehand and gather information about the topics which will save your time and you are a confident person in the examination hall without a doubt. Sometimes it can be challenging to put your thoughts into words in a structured way that to in a given time limit.

For that, you have to work on improving your writing skills from the beginning. Enhance your vocabulary and develop a passion for reading. Transitional words or phrases should always be used to unify the paragraphs. The whole essay should be linked. There should be continuity and a gradual flow of ideas from one paragraph to another. 

What does it take to structure an essay?

Make reading a habit, especially the current affairs and the editorial page as most of the essay topics are covered from there. While reading books or newspapers pen down the relevant lines or quotes which can later be used in your essay. Follow the structure of an essay with impressive opening and closing lines. Always stick to the topic given, don’t write whatever you have prepared, and instead write what is asked. Give examples, case studies from what you have prepared but made it relevant to the given topic. Real-life examples are self-explanatory and make your essay interesting focus on that instead of writing theories and making it extensive and elaborate. 

 Sometimes theoretical examples can become boring and lengthy. Prepare topics from different prospects be it political, social, historical, environmental, etc. Try writing essays in your preparation time and get them checked by your mentors or teachers. The feedback they give will improve your writing skills. An essay must have an introduction, body, and conclusion which should be aligned to the topic given and follow the word limit. Analyze the topic and think before you start writing. An essay must cover all the aspects of the topic and not just one aspect. 

Let’s take a look at the essay topics of UPSC Mains 2018 question paper

Instructions: Write two essays, choosing one from each of the following Section A and Section B, in about 1000-1200 words.2*125=Total 250 words.


  1. Alternative technologies for a climate change resilient India
  2. A good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge
  3. Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere
  4. Management of Indian border dispute-a complex task


  1. Customary morality cannot be a guide to modern life
  2. The past is a permanent dimension of human consciousness and values
  3. A person who values his privileges above his principles loses both
  4. Reality doesn’t conform to  the ideal but confirms it.

Section-A has topics randomly picked from the current development. Section B is of different genres. Those are more subjective and related to society.

It is your foresightedness that you choose and prepare topics and shape your ideas into a quality essay which will definitely let you sail through the essay paper in UPSC mains.