UPSC ESSAY STRATEGY: How to Write an Essay!

Essay Strategy



In one way or the other your fate with UPSC is decided by the most unpredictable component of the syllabus i.e. the ESSAY. Ask your seniors, your peers or even your teachers and no one can come up with a concrete strategy to prepare for essays. It is ironical that despite being the most flexible component of the UPSC syllabus, it is the essay that spoils your chances. Why? The answer to this question is a mystery. So, if anyone tells you that he/ she knows the right way to write an essay and by right we mean the benchmark set by UPSC, be sure that the person has got a long way to go before he/ she can truly understand UPSC. We say this because of a reason. We have seen aspirants with excellent writing skills scoring 70% in essay in their first attempt while barely managing 35% in their next attempt! It is the other way round also with a number of aspirants.


Now, here we are! After accepting the unpredictable nature of essay evaluation by UPSC, how can we be sure about any strategy? We can’t and in fact we aren’t. But then, we must try until we touch the right chords. Here we give you a strategy to write essays in the most structured, smooth and satisfactory way possible. We don’t guarantee success if you follow our strategy but we can assure you that after going through the subsequent paragraphs of this write up, you will have a lot to work upon and improve. If you keep in mind the following points, you can definitely better your prospects in essay.


So, what is an essay? Or rather why this paper on essays in UPSC? The answer is–  an essay gives you an opportunity to put forward your thoughts in a manner that is not impeded by word limit and time (in the sense that you are given enough words and time to express your knowledge and views). It is asked to check the depth and breadth of your knowledge. And when we say knowledge, it doesn’t mean our conventional understanding of the same. The topics are unknown to us before the exam and we are expected to apply all that we have learnt to produce a logical and intelligent account of what is being asked. That is why, one can’t prepare for essays in the conventional sense.


Now coming to the strategy part, we must say at the outset that you must not treat essay as any other paper of UPSC. In fact, it is the most innovative way to check your level of preparedness of the entire syllabus of UPSC. If you perceive it in this sense, your tendency to limit your imagination by the fictitious boundaries of so called essay paper will vanish and you will be able to think more freely and more innovatively. Shed all your previous notions regarding this paper and start afresh.


The key to writing a satisfactory above average essay is multi-dimensionality. Depth matters but in UPSC breadth is far more important. Keep this fact in mind and approach the essay in a manner that all your wisdom is reflected in the interconnected dots in your essay. Now, what do we mean by this? It simply means the representation of all the dimensions that are related closely to the topic being asked. In doing so, most aspirants keep throwing unnecessary points and that can annoy the examiner. The best thing to do in such a scenario is to write all your thoughts in pointers at the space provided for rough work.


Now, this step is very important. What tools do we have to think about as many dimensions as possible? The answer lies in the syllabus. Luckily, the syllabus of UPSC is so exhaustive and detailed that almost everything under the sun is there in the syllabus. After you are done with your own thoughts and written all the possible points, think about the syllabus now. For this, a prerequisite is that you must have learnt the syllabus by heart. Having said so, let us now understand as to how you can use the syllabus to create points for your essay.


Suppose you have been asked an essay on “Gandhian principles and it’s relevance in contemporary India”. Now, by linking this essay with various components of the syllabus, you can create a number of good points for your essay. We provide you with some examples:


Paper I:

Indian heritage and civilization: Gandhian thoughts on the importance of letting our civilization welcome others while maintaining our identity and uniqueness. This is particularly important in view of the ongoing clash of civilizations.

Women issues: Gandhi’s idea on emancipation and empowerment of women and it’s applicability in modern India.

Communalism and secularism: Gandhian message of communal harmony and tolerance.

Society: Numerous examples of Gandhian views on the importance of charity, role of family, social capital, social norms, cinema etc.

Globalization: Gandhian message of self reliance and it’s synthesis with the idea of global commons/ was Gandhi against globalization?



Paper II:

Constitution and polity: Gandhian idea of a nation state

Local governance: Panchayati Raj as envisaged by Gandhi.

SHGs: Gandhian conception of the idea; the concept of village gramodyog etc

Education: Gandhian model of education that emphasized upon imparting skills

International relations: Gandhian ideals of co-existence, non- violence, non- proliferation etc applied to the current foreign policy paradigm; satyagaraha and non- violence as tools to pursue foreign policy goals.



Paper III:

Inclusive growth: Gandhi’s talisman and it’s remarkable resonance with the very idea of inclusive growth

Economic development: Gandhian idea of self dependent village communities

Industries: Gandhian apprehensions with respect to western model of industrialization

Agriculture and animal rearing: Gandhi’s ideas on organic cultivation, supplementary income through animal rearing etc.

Environment: Gandhian message on cleanliness and sustainability (remember the quote related to man’s need versus man’s greed?), Gandhi’s views on vegetarianism etc



Paper IV:

All Gandhian ideas with respect to revenge, change, forgiveness, happiness, strength etc reflect the essence of this component of the syllabus. We can use all of them wisely to make our points look better and logical.

At this point of time, it is important to mention about current events. Try to relate the topic with the current events. It will add to the personality of your essay. For example in this case, following examples can be included:

Corporate social responsibility: Gandhian idea of trusteeship

Struggle for democracy in various parts of the world: Gandhi’s thoughts on democracy

Crisis in the Parliament: Gandhian idea of true leadership

Now there are some other tools that are always handy in helping you make your essay multi- dimensional. Have a look and think how they can be used in different scenarios:


  • Preamble to the Constitution
  • FRs and DPSPs
  • Millennium Development Goals (Now Sustainable Development Goals)
  • Quotations by eminent personalities
  • Important Supreme Court judgements
  • Concepts of sustainability and environmental ethics etc


Having shown you the importance of knowing the syllabus by heart and keeping oneself updated with the current events, we move forward to the next important phase of essay writing i.e. the structure.


There is no universally accepted format for writing an essay. However, there is a general understanding about how one should approach an essay. Of course, one has to start with an introduction. Introduction can start with a quote, an anecdote or a simple paragraph. Irrespective of the approach, the introduction must give an idea to the reader as to what ensue in the subsequent paras. Introduction should be crisp and interesting. Don’t use cliched sentences in the introduction.


In the next few paragraphs, you are supposed to touch upon the core areas of the essay. Here, the points in the back of your answer sheet will come handy. Prioritize the points in a manner that the essay follows a logical flow of ideas and related points are covered in the same or back to back paras. For example, in the example given above, you can’t start with the Gandhian views and it’s applicability regarding local governance, then hop on to the role of non- violence in international relations and then come back to tolerance towards various civilizations. Similarly, you can’t club the ideas of self dependent villages and communal harmony in the same paragraph. At the outset itself, you must have in mind the flow of your essay.


It is important to note that not all your jotted points need find a mention in the essay. You can trim the points and in fact eliminate the irrelevant ones to make your essay crisp and close to the central argument.


It is also important that you read the topic after all your paragraphs so that you don’t deviate from the central theme.

All the paragraphs must have their own personality. There should be no loose ends. The paragraphs in themselves have to have logical conclusion and if that is not possible, at least the key to the next paragraph. Randomness and unpredictability are the last two things that your essay needs.

Coming on to the conclusion part of the essay, it must be understood that you are not supposed to force yourself in producing an intelligent conclusion. Many a times it is better to let some question remain answered. It is not because it should be so, but because it is not possible to have a satisfactory answer always! Just make sure that your conclusion is balanced and there is some amount of optimism in your views. Don’t predict doomsday in the essay even if you are the most depressed person in this world. UPSC wants to recruit happy and optimistic people. Mind it!


Now the question comes about language. What sort of language should one use- simple or ornamental, straight or flowery? The answer is write the way you have always written your essays. The bottom line is you have to impress the examiner in whichever way possible. If we suggest you to use simple language and you are actually good in writing impressive English, the chances are you will spoil your attempt in trying to become what you are definitely not. It is not possible to change one’s writing style so quickly. Instead one should try to make his/ her style of writing fetch better marks in the essay.


Is it not that a bride wearing all the ornaments and makeup looks stunning but at the same time a lady with a beautiful eye but with no makeup or jewelry looks equally beautiful? The same holds true for language. Believe in your own style and remain confident.


However, we find it prudent to caution you about being superfluous. This can be fatal. Don’t beat around the bush. Your sentences must convey what you have in mind and their length should be commensurate with the message. Don’t use too long a sentence. Be crisp and to the point.

As far as essay is concerned, DO NOT write in points. Once in a blue moon, candidates might have scored good marks by following this approach but that is an exception and not the rule. Respect UPSC and don’t do anything foolish.


Use quotes selectively and wisely. Not using a quote is way better than using it wrongly. You can prepare a list of quotes that can be used in the essays asked by UPSC.

Be creative in your writing. Spend some time in thinking about the ways in which you can improve your presentation. Ask your peers to review your essays and point the glitches. Try to improve upon the content, presentation and approach by keeping in mind the given strategy. We are sure that in 3-4 attempts, your essays will start reflecting your efforts.


We at IASbaba will keep on posting challenging topics for essays. We expect you to attempt them in strict exam conditions.


Share your inputs regarding the strategy and if any of the seniors reading this, kindly share your thoughts & strategy to help future aspirants 🙂


Happy writing


  • Ashish Agrawal

    Thanks.. 🙂

  • dark matter

    waiting from long time…thanku baba

  • akshay kumar

    Wonderful article for newbies like us. Thank you IAS Baba team. Happy Navratra 🙂


    oh baba!!!!!!!! i donno how to thankyou! so far im very afraid to penned down even single essay…


    Thanku so much baba ji .

  • Ashish

    thank you very much 🙂

  • YoYo

    can we draw diagrams and flowcharts in essay?

    • SINDHU

      strictly not!!!!!!!!!!

      • YoYo

        but Ira Singhal told we should…she drew and got 160 marks..

        • SINDHU

          sometimes it works !!!!!!!!!!!! but mostly derailed our work. examiners sometimes feel its irrelevant

          • Nisha Mishra

            Depends , on the essay i think, if it a economic essay , it makes sense to draw diagram , but for philosophical , id ont think it will work as you mentioned

      • Nisha Mishra

        Check out the essay section , few good essays are there

  • satya_b

    thank u baba ji

  • aspirant15

    thank you baba

  • aman

    Babaji please start a essay writing evaluation module.

  • Vini

    Thank you Babaji,, Very nice explanation specially the use of syllabus 🙂

  • SUBHASH tadala

    Usually I used to follow STEPH rule( social,technical, economy, environmental, political and historical views/reasons). But the idea to follow via syllabus is very nice. Looks it is very different…thank you babaji

    • Pra Jo

      thanx for STEPH rule( social,technical, economy, environmental, political and historical views/reasons)……………. any other tech?

      • SUBHASH tadala

        technique??? no i usually have that technique only. But what the techniques babaji written is very nice and infact that is more than sufficient.

      • arun ccek

        mine was SPELTE-Social, Political, Economical, Legal, Technological and Environmental aspects. Got it from a senior in the service. But as subhash said, Baba’s strategy is the best one i have come across. But you can use this SPELTE One, when you are totally clueless i.r.t GS questions, when your opinion is asked on an issue.

    • Nisha Mishra

      Check out the essay section

  • Pavel Das

    Baba ji is there any essay writing test series program?

  • Lucky Kuchu Verma

    Very nice …last year I attempted essays on power with greater responsibility and economic policy vs implementation paralysis .I scored 125..
    What I felt the second topic I could not allot much time as apx 2 hr was spent on first only..Now I realise the reationship with CURRENT EVENT…I should have presented a critical review of last 15 years specifically UPA2 onwards to till date and in conclusion the way forwards of good governance. ..its alwys better to choose and write linking the current global and national issues…gone are the days when historical events and personalities used to be asked and rote memory was a only practice and practice can guarantee you success…rightly said A LITTLE PROGRESS EVERY DAY ADDS UP TO A BIG RESULT..
    IAS BABA is doing a very nobel job and coming up with new plans and strategies to equip us best for Conquest. .

    • markande katju

      Good suggestion

    • Nisha Mishra

      Check out the essay section , good ones are here

  • KK

    Thank u Baba for coming up with this article,

    Team as you have mentioned above, just wanted to share a link which one of my senior had provided, may be, you might have gone through it..

    The link is :

    Yours Sincere


  • stranger

    Comprehended… try to follow it…

  • arun ccek

    “Many a times it is better to let some question remain answered. It is not because it should be so, but because it is not possible to have a satisfactory answer always!”
    it should have been “unanswered”, and not “answered” , i guess.
    Thanks for this nice strategy.

  • sbt57

    @IASbaba-Sir,are you following any strategy before posting any essay topic(like 100 days TLP plan has 8 essay session so they will cover topics related to philosophy,economy,society,environment etc)?
    I’m asking this because I find topic related to philosophical questions tougher.But I don’t want to keep it as my weak area.I want to cover most major topic categories at least once.

  • ashis kar

    This article itself is very structured and organised.Clears our mind and helps us grasp the core message. A very balanced and good strategy.

  • Bhavana H S

    Dear Baba,
    In school we were asked to give catchy one line phrases as headings (different from the question, but relevant to the topic and essay) for our essay and precis summary, can we follow the same rule here also?

  • sejjul vinzuda

    Can we write essay totally on story type.

  • sejjul vinzuda

    Like Technology development & secueity
    Si I start with one girl traveling in Delhi metro.she listening a song on her iPhone.she linking around big building, IT companies, better infrastructure etc. But wait girl is now walking fast to reach at home because it is an 9pm.

    • Bhagat Singh

      sir, this is copied from the youtube essay writing tips by AIR 99 😛

      • sejjul vinzuda

        Yes u r right But very useful for me.’Thank u for replay n read.

  • shankar MK

    Very useful. Please post some essay topics on current issues like superstition, reservation, SDGs etc.

    • Nisha Mishra

      I found it useful check this :-

      Check out the essay section , few good essays are here :-

  • Thank you 🙂

  • Gandhi

    Hi Baba ji, @IASBABA
    topic – Should women be allowed to fight Combat ?
    pls suggest…if the way I have written Introduction is ok or not ?

    It’s all imagination….which I thought….

    PS – line no -8 …Missing ‘not’…..a girl can not be fit as


  • sejjul vinzuda

    Upsc said 2-3 lines in notification about essay what they accept from us. So try to understand that in between the line. If u can’t understand it so how u prepare for it. Baba’s strategy will work but without base u can not build building.
    Remember no one in the world can make u IAS only u yr self can make it. Books skills strategy r need BT only with books skills u can not win upsc. U have to know how to use this skill is important.

  • The Leiter

    Thank you baba…it make some sense and helpful…:)

  • Vivek Singh

    before bringing the topic to, how to write essay for upsc exam, we should learn how to write an essay.
    essay contributes a huge marks on our final score, and as an aspirant we must put our maximum efforts to gain this marks, a good essay starts with brief introduction. body in support of our thoughts and and convincing end for better guidance you may refer this link

  • Alok Tiwari

    can we quote in hindi, while we had chosen english language as medium??

  • Dead_Man

    Good Strategy sir..thank you..

  • Captain America

    Nice work baba.. Going to start my preparation for CSE 2017 under your guidance. Hope to see my name in the final list.

  • amit

    Comprehensive strategy to deal with essays. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Swagatika

    Very good job.

  • Felicity

    Thank you baba ji.

  • Bond

    Thank you sir/madam. 🙂

  • imran

    Dhanyabad GURU ji

  • Che

    Hi guys, I this test series is really brilliant…they give ample time to clarify doubts and give brilliant suggestions

  • nk

    brilliant suggestions!

  • Er Pravin Hanpude

    osm para which change my opinion about essay writing
    thanks a lot.

  • baljit singh

    i appreciate this one
    thank you

  • rohit

    very nice


    The above write up on Essay is quiet elaborative and helpful. In writing Essay or answers of Gs papers the most important thing is a tidy structure and coherence. By whole heartly learning the syllabus & applying the same while writing one can greatly enhance its performance.
    Well write up

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