ESSAY STRATEGY BY ESSAY TOPPER
Chandra Mohan Garg, Rank 25
Essay Marks 149
Essay is the most taken for granted area in civil services preparation. We spend months preparing for GS-1, 2, 3, 4 but hardly any of us give any dedicated time for preparation of essay. It is important to understand that one essay paper is equivalent to almost 1.5 G.S papers in terms or scoring.
In 2014 I went without any preparation and ended up scoring 121 marks. In order to improve my rank I needed to focus on essay as there was a good scope of 30 plus marks. I made a strategy and worked on it, this helped me in scoring 149 in this attempt.
Before I begin, let me do away with few misunderstandings
- You need to be a champ in English ( your grammar, spelling mistakes, poor vocabulary cannot stop you from scoring high)
- Essay does not need preparation. Your GS knowledge can provide fodder but Essay unlike GS answers need lot more.
- You cannot improve so easily in essay. I increased 28 marks in Essay despite the fact that this year essay has been less scoring compared to last year.
Now let me discuss how to approach an essay:
- Choice of topic
Choice of topic should be clearly based on your holistic understanding of the subject matter. So choose a topic with which you are most comfortable. At times we think that the topic is so common that most of the people will choose it, so let me choose some unconventional topic. This is a totally wrong thinking, many people end up scoring poor marks due to this. So fight with your best weapons on.
- Interpretation of the essay topic
Do not be in a hurry to write an essay. Many people see the broader title and start writing the essay without even understanding the theme of the topic.
Eg- With greater power comes greater responsibility [2014 ].Now the moment people see power they somehow relate it to politics and bureaucracy and start building their essay around it, writing all theories, quotes and examples they know related to it. Here the theme of this topic is philosophical which talks of power present in any institutional system (family, religion, community, politics, administration etc), throughout society power is banked from people to a leader so that he can use that power for a common good. So with greater power comes greater responsibility. In this context we need to critically analyse the theme of the essay.
After selection of the topic we need to brainstorm to get fodder material that we can write in the essay. There are various things and various ways to brainstorm.
Key words:- break the topic and look for key words to tinker upon. Example – With greater power comes greater responsibilitywe know power and responsibility are key words. Now you can brainstorm around key words
Past-Present-Future: – Another way to think upon to get points related to the topic.
SPECLIH:-Think from Social, Political, Economic, Cultural, Legal, International, Humanistic perspective. You can make your own acronym and add more dimensions to think from
Now what to brainstorm: You can look for quotes, examples, events, illustrations, case studies, Government initiatives, and facts and figures etc. So anything that can make the essay more informative and interesting.
- Structuring the essay
Information is one thing but how to put that information in a structured and systematic way is very important. So need to focus on few things while structuring your essay
Outline: Create an outline of essay i.e. how will your essay proceed. I feel PAST-PRESENT- FUTURE is a good technique, you can have other ways to decide the flow of the essay as well. E.g.- “Dreams that should not let India sleep”, here I discussed Nehru’s speech of tryst with destiny to explain what those dreams were, Then came on present why that dream is faltering and then talked of future that what are these dreams and how can we fulfil it.
Breakup: Break up your essay properly
Once you have brainstormed the points, created an outline and structured your essay, now you are ready to write the content.
Language & Presentation: Write in simple language. No need of flowery expressions. Keep short sentences and small paragraphs
Explanation of points: Explain through examples or illustrations whatever you are trying to explain. Mention government Initiatives, policies & plans wherever possible. International examples or case study wherever possible.
Focus of essay: Throughout the essay the theme should be reflected and flow should be maintained from beginning to end. Each paragraph should link to the other .Also do not focus only on covering lot of dimensions in the essay. In this race we lose the flow of essay. More than knowledge essay should reflect your vision and ideas.
Introduction: Your Introduction should clearly lay down what the essay will entail, giving a brief idea to the reader. You can always use a story, quote, fact/Information or abstract way to create a context and then build your introduction over it.
Example:- “Is sting operation an Invasion in Privacy”. Here you could begin your Intro with the Tehelka story of Gujarat riots that hit the news and then raise questions was it good or bad and discuss that in the body.
Body: This part is all about analysis. Here three things are Important. 1.) If the topic is debatable you need to discuss both sides. If not then it will be straight-forward. 2.) In any case you will have certain line of arguments to put your case. 3.) Explain each of them through some examples.
Example: “Is sting operation an Invasion in Privacy”. This is debatable topic. So you will have both sides. Yes it in an invasion, No it is not an invasion. To discuss both sides you will have some arguments. Now when you put your arguments substantiate with the example and illustrations.
Conclusion: In conclusion focus on three things 1.) Summarise the topic 2.) Put your concluding stand 3.) Tell a way ahead. Try to end your essay on some positive/visionary note.
- What preparations you can do for the essay
Read: You need to read some good essays and learn how beautifully people put up their arguments. These essay don’t have diversity but depth. So reading some good essays can tell you how to begin an essay, write arguments, and conclude. Most Important is how to create a structure of essay.
Prepare: I don’t think coaching helps here. It has to be you.
- In your daily newspaper reading if you find some good lines or examples then keep noting them. Especially editorials.
- Take up some common/general topics like women, education, healthcare, internet, science (look at last 20 years essay) and prepare some fodder on it. Like quotes, imp case studies, examples, factual info, government initiatives etc.
- Have a repository of good opening and closing lines. You will find this through reading newspapers, good essays of others etc.
Write and evaluate: One should write at least 5-6 essays. When you write try to apply the points I explained above in this article. And most importantly get your essays evaluated by some teachers, selected candidates or sincere friends. This will help in making improvements.
- Time division
There is no hard and fast rule, it is totally your discretion but am telling it as this will be asked. So am sharing what I used to do.
- Topic Selection : 5 minutes
- Brain storming/creating outline/structure of essay : 15 minutes
- Essay Writing : 1hr to 1hr 5 minutes
- Revising Essay: 5 minutes
I have tried to explain to the best of my capabilities. If you still have doubts I have created a page on FB named CSE Preparation, you can post your queries there. Here is the link https://www.facebook.com/chandramohangargpage/
- What I wrote in 2015?
I don’t remember exactly what all I wrote in the essay, but yes I can share a brief where I can tell on what lines I tried to write my essay.
I wrote essays – 1. Education without values makes us a clever Devil and 2. Dreams that should not let India Sleep (writing topic in brief)
Sharing Essay-1 brief layout :
Preparation in Civil Services Examination for the Essay Paper
Normally we don't prepare separately for Essay paper. But this 200 marks is very critical because the range of the marks of tined by the students in this paper varies from 30 to 155, which is very vast and can be very critical for anybody. So, therefore preparation for this paper is very essential but it is a very easy process because out of the 5 essays, we have to answer any one of them. Every year if you see the previous years essay papers one essay is from topics like Environment, one related to the Women Issues, One Essay is related to Science and Ethics and also from Economics, Globalisation & Impacts etc.
So, therefore we can clearly identify the areas where we can very well forecast that what could be essay for this year and prepare on those lines. We can have the latest data, Government's Policies, Initiatives, reports from the World Bank related to these issues, and if we go through these aspects before the day of the examination for essay paper and if you write these issues, definitely our essay will be a qualitative paper.
Adding quotations, real life examples, examples from government, administrative reforms, various data from World Bank reports add quality in essay and fetch more marks. But when you write or attempt the actual paper "Do Attempt the Safest Essay!". For example out of the 5 essays one or two topics may not appear very clear. It is wiser not to attempt the essays like this, because we would not really know that what was the intention of the examiner in giving such a topic. And if we attempt essays in a wrong manner, the examiner can even offered us 10 or 15 marks out of 200, which would be a disaster for us. So, its better not to choose risky topics and always go for safer topics like Education, Environment where you are very clear about meaning of the topics and attempt those essays.
The next important aspect is "Do not repeat anything that you write in the paper". Every paragraph should carry atleast one point, and deal with the point, give some examples then switch over to the next point but never repeat the same point anywhere in essay. Do not take it for granted the examiner would read only half of the essay. Methodologically, they would read whole essay and every repetition that we've made would lead us to negative marks and a negative opinion on us.
Normally, 13 to 15 page essay is fairly good essay and don't write more than that and lesser than that.
Spend the first hour in attempting rough work, writing down with the pencil, the thought framework and in last 15 min of the first hour rearrange those ideas and make it into an essay. And write you fair copy in last two hours.
So, these are some of the issues that would be helpful in writing fairly good essay in your civil services examination.
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