Though all the papers of the Mains examination are very important, the essay paper deserves a special mention. This is because it is the paper with the highest input-output ratio of the seven papers of Mains examination. It means that by putting relatively lesser efforts as compared to other papers, you can score much higher. This allows students who know how to write a good essay, to devote more time to their GS and optional preparation.

Now, there have been many toppers in the past who have scored 140+ in the essay without any preparation. ( Example: Artika Shukla, Rank 4, 2016). But let’s face the truth, most of us cannot do that. Hence Essay paper also requires special preparation.

This article covers all the aspects of the essay writing, starting from base development to actual writing in the exam.

Phase 1: Base Development

In this phase, we will develop our knowledge base to write for the exam. Now you will get most of your content from your GS preparation, still, it is important that you gather certain material such as quotes, case studies, government schemes and initiatives, facts and figure that you can use in the essay paper. For example: If the topic of the essay is related to women, you can quote Kofi Annan when he said, “Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”. You can also quote Mckinsey report, where it says that India can increase its 2025 gross domestic product (GDP) by 60% simply by enabling women to participate in the economy on par with men. All these things will make your essay shine than other essays. Stating facts will also strengthen your argument. It makes your essay look more professional.

Maintain an Essay notebook and keep on writing topic wise fodder points from study material that you read while preparation. These fodder points may be in form of small para, quotes, facts or any keywords related to the topic. Make sure you keep on revising these entries just to avoid last minute mugging before the exam.

Then the question comes how to prepare for the fodder material. Below are the sources required for base development.

  • Read Newspaper: You might say this is quite obvious but it is not. When reading the newspaper, we have to look for figures, facts, case studies and government initiatives that you can use in the essay. For example, a newspaper article may talk about BHOOMI program of Karnataka government, which is helping in the computerization of Land record. You can use this information is essay related to agriculture, urban development or even in the Indian economy related essay in general.
  • Books: If you sufficient time for mains examination (10-12 months), then you should also read books on India Polity, Economy, and Environment. For example, books by Amartya Sen are loaded with facts and case studies which can be used in almost any essay.
  • Quotes: You should also gather quotes on certain topics such as Gender equality, Education, Science & Tech, Governance etc. You can use 3-4 quotes to further enrich your essay.

Phase 2: Writing practice

This is the most important part of the essay writing. Even if you have weak writing, you can significantly improve your essay score just by practicing an Essay a week. What is even more cool about this is that you can improve your essay writing by giving relatively lesser time. One essay means 1.5 hours per week, which anyone can spare.

The writing part can be further subdivided into several steps:

  1. Selection of Topic:
    • You will have to choose a topic from four given topics in two sections. Do not be in hurry of choosing a topic. Spend at least 5-10 minutes and try to think about which topic can you write a decent essay.
    • Never try to pick a topic under the notion that it is different and the majority are not going to write on this. It is poor a presumption that essay that is not so common topic will fetch you more marks.
    • Select the topic in which you are most comfortable. Don’t think whether the topic is too general. If you have good command, content and confidence on the topic pick it and finalize it.
    • Choose a topic in which you have diversified content. The essay requires multidimensional approach hence content should cover as many areas as possible.
  2. Brainstorming
    • Once you have chosen a topic, try to write all the related points that you can come up about that topic on the last page of the answer sheet. Do not think if it is relevant or not to the essay, just keep of writing in short words/sentences about the topic.
    • Try to think from different angles. For example, if the topic is on Education, think of its history as in how education was given in ancient times, its current situation, facts and figures about Indian education, what are the problems, what are government initiatives, what are various NGOs doing in this regards, what can be done in future. Everything that you have read related to education just write in rough space.
  3. Introduction
    • The start is the most important part of the essay. The introduction should be such that it generates interest in the mind of the examiner. It should give an overview of what you are going to argue in the essay. The examiner should be curious to read what you have written.
    • There are several approaches for introduction:
      • Quotes: This is one of the safest approaches to start an essay. You should have a collection of quotes on topics such Gender equality, sustainable development, etc. You can then begin by writing the relevant quote and then linking it with your essay.
      • Definition: This is another approach where you start by definition the topic. If the topic is “Can capitalism bring inclusive growth”, you can start by writing what do you mean by capitalism and inclusive growth.
      • Story/Scenario: Here you can begin the essay by telling a story, a recent incident or a past incident. For example, if the topic is on Regionalism in India, you can write about the Gorkhaland protest. If the topic is on Farmer suicide, you start with hypothetical scenarios where a farmer committed suicide because of bad crops and high debt. But the story should not be too long. Maximum 70-80 word. This approach is a bit risky. If your story is good, you can be awarded good marks as most of the people start an essay with definitions or quotes. So when the examiner comes across your essay he/she will find something different.
    • After that, you have to define the scope of the topic. You have to write beforehand what all areas you will cover.
    • You should clear your stand at the beginning itself. You should state whether you agree or disagree with the topic. Make up your stand and make it loud and clear in front of the examiner.
    • Thesis Statement: This is the one line answer to the essay topic. For example, if the topic is ‘Science and Technology is a panacea to present day growth and security challenges’. Then your thesis statement can be “With proper government initiatives and support from civil society, Science and Technology can be a panacea.
    • Here I have taken a positive stand you can take a negative stand too if you want.
    • Now you have to spend rest of your time convincing the examiner to your point of you. For that, you need solid arguments backed by examples, facts, figures or case studies.
  4. Conclusion: We will come to the Structure part later on. In the conclusion, you have to summarise all the arguments that you have presented. Do not write any new ideas or arguments in your conclusion. You should always end the conclusion on an optimistic note by giving a future course of action.

Structure of the Essay

We are still in phase 2, however, the structure of the essay is such an important part that it deserves a separate writing space. This will decide your essay score. This where the stuff happens. If the introduction is the trailer, this is the movie. You have generated interest in the examiner with a brilliant trailer (introduction), now he is waiting for the movie. You don’t want to disappoint him.

Your essay should have a rock-solid structure. Your essay should not be like some random paragraphs put together. The essay should move in a linear fashion.

Past → Present → Future

This is a good technique for creating an outline for your essay. In the initial part of your essay, you write about the history of the topic. Say the topic is, ‘Failing state of Science and Technology in India’. In this topic, you can begin by stating the Golden period of science during Gupta era. How scholars like Aryabhata contributed to the development of science. You can then talk about the reasons for the decline of the scientific culture. Giving a brief background provides a base for your essay. You can then proceed to build the ‘Present’ part on it.

In the present part, you can think from the multiple angles, such as:

  • Economy
  • Social
  • Polity
  • Environment
  • Technological
  • Moral
  • Global

You then have to come up with solid arguments for proving each aspect. These should be backed up examples, facts, figure and case studies

If the topic is debatable you have to state both sides. For example, take the topic, ‘Is competition good for youth’. Now as said earlier you have to take stand in the beginning. You might agree with it or not. Once you have taken a stand, you then have to discuss the other side also and then refute it with arguments and examples. Think of yourself as a lawyer in a courtroom. Your stand is competition is bad for youth. But the other person is saying no competition is good because it makes individual aspire for more, which then results in new innovations. You can then counter this by saying that today’s competition instead of making youth aspirational, have made them ‘rote-learners’ which is proving counterproductive for innovation. I hope you are getting the point If the topic is debatable discuss both the sides, but show why your stand is better with the help of examples and arguments.

How to write a paragraph

Paragraphs are the building blocks. Your essay will comprise of paragraphs woven together. All the paragraphs will follow a fixed structure which will make the task of essay writing much easier.

Paragraphs contain three main parts:
  • Topic sentence – contains the main idea of the paragraph. It’s often but not always the first sentence of the paragraph. It helps the reader to understand quickly what the paragraph is going to be about.
  • Supporting sentences – These sentences develop or give details about the topic sentence. They can:
    • expand on the main point
    • offer explanations
    • give examples
    • give additional details.
  • Concluding sentence – which summarises the paragraph or may provide a link to the next paragraph.

Point to be kept in mind when writing paragraphs:

  • Most Important – One paragraph should contain only one idea or argument.
  • Your essay should consist of small paragraphs. Each paragraph should contain 5-6 sentences. Long paragraphs make people lose interest as people tend to read the start and end of paragraphs with relatively more attention.
  • Write small sentences. Do not write sentences that take more than two lines. If that is the case, break them.

Flow of the essay

This is another important part of the essay. You have to maintain flow in the essay. There should an organic linkage between the paragraphs. There shouldn’t be any sudden jumps.

One way of connecting paragraphs is that first line of a para should have some keywords from the last line of the preceding paragraph.


The above is a screenshot from an Indian Express editorial. See how the author has connected the paragraphs with the word ‘weakness’. The flow is natural and is not forced. You can find the use of this technique by most of the big writers.

Another way easy (but less organic) way of connecting paragraphs is with the use of ‘connectors’.


Phase 3: Writing in the Exam

Now you are ready to write the essay in the exam. However, even after all the preparation and writing practice, there are few things that can destroy your performance.

  • Have a good sleep: This is very important. Most of the aspirants tend of study until the very last minute and hence compromising on their sleep. You can still perform well in your prelims with little or no sleep. But for the Essay, you should get full 8 hours sleep. Even 10 hours. Being in a sleep-deprived state will make your head fuzzy thus affecting your ability to the think logically. This can ruin your whole exam even after all the preparation.
  • Allocate equal time to both the essay: This generally happens with students who go into the exam without writing practice. They spend a disproportionate amount of time on their first essay. Writing in good handwriting, thinking of innovative examples and whatnot and before they know two hours have passed. They now they have just one hour for the second essay. Thus they write the second essay in a hurried manner. This brings down their final essay score. Hence we advice giving equal time to both the essay. Even better allocate 10 minutes extra for the second essay. This is because you get tired both physically and mentally by the time you have finished writing your first essay.
  • Keep 5 minutes in last for each essay to review, underline key words, check any grammar/spelling mistakes etc.

Additional Points to be kept in mind when writing essay

  • STICK TO THE TOPIC – This is the most important principle of essay writing. When writing, you should keep reading the essay topic every 10 minutes. Most people get so engaged in writing that they deviate from the core idea, without even realizing it. If there is one thing that you learn from this article, this is the one: STICK TO THE TOPIC
  • The essay should be written from a generalist perspective and not a specialist: For example, if the topic is. “Geography may remain History need not’ and you have history or geography optional you will tend to write more on that subject. You should avoid this pitfall, as the examiner might be a philosophy professor. Your essay should be such that any well-educated person is able to understand it.
  • Include many examples. Specifically pertaining to current events. Try to relate the topic to current events as much as possible. Eg: In the capitalism essay you can write about how PMJDY which is for inclusive growth can be fuelled by Private sector banks or how initiatives like Make In India can provide employment and thus increase the purchasing power of many Indians.
  • A wide range of points should be covered. As discussed, your essay should not be uni-dimensional. You should bring in all the aspects and make your essay comprehensive.
  • Write in simple language: Do not write complicated words, words that you don’t use in your daily life. Also, avoid using technical jargon from your optional subject.
  • You don’t need beautiful handwriting. It should be legible. If your handwriting is bad just write in bigger font.
  • Quality over Quantity: You don’t need to fill all the sheets. Forced writing will irritate the examiner. I wrote 750-800 words of essays and still got 157 marks. Hence you should give priority to your content.
  • If you are having trouble with maintaining flow, you can use sub-headings. Though they make your essay less fluid, still they are acceptable. Many students use them and get good marks.
  • You can use diagrams and flowcharts in the essay, though they should be highly relevant.

Predicting the essay

Many times Essay topics have relevance with the current happenings around us. Bottomline is that even if you predict some 10 topics and prepare them well you can create MIRACLES in essay paper which is deciding factor of whether you are IN or OUT. That content will also help in GS Mains. After the prelims, we will be coming with a list of probable essays so stay tuned.

Essay Fodder Material

Our team has prepared a highly enriched PDF which contains quotes, case studies, government initiatives, facts and figures that can be used in the essay to further your arguments and enrich your essay. This is absolutely free. Just subscribe to our website to receive the material. If you have subscribed and haven’t received the pdf mail us at

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