Your writing-skills for the UPSC can improve drastically. But only if you understand that the UPSC exam demands a very particular style of writing.
Imagine you are a top official in the government of India and must make a difficult decision about a sensitive policy matter. For instance, you must propose if the government should introduce stricter norms on local industry to curb air pollution in metro cities, even if it leads to unrest and unemployment.
Something concrete needs to be done. The concerned file is put up to you and it is now your turn to convince your superiors of the future course of action, by writing a short file noting on the file. Remember that you will be writing with your hands on a public document. And it will be read and scrutinized by many people-including the top decision makers.
What kind of writing will you use in this situation?
Your writing skills for the UPSC exam are as good as your ability to explain complex matters in few and clear terms. You must not only have knowledge of various topics but the ability to convey it in clear and precise language which can be understood by anyone.
That is the type of writing which the UPSC is looking for.
This is an essential requirement for being a generalist civil servant (IAS, IPS etc.) in India which is why it is tested so extensively in the UPSC exam esp. in the Essay paper. It is also the reason the word limit of 100-200 words in Mains answer-writing corresponds exactly to the typical word-length of a file noting.
Improve your writing-skill with this aim and half your battle is won.
But how exactly to do so?
Follow the 15 steps listed below.
1. Understand not just the rules but the mindset of the examination. The perfect candidate can answer all questions perfectly. The perfect candidate does not exist. Figure out how to get as close the perfect candidate as possible. But with the least amount of effort and time. Do this by reverse-engineering previous year question papers and strategize to become the type of aspirant which the exam tends to prefer.
2. Dive deep into Essay and Answer writing. Learn exactly what the UPSC wants and how to deliver with precision on exam-day. The Essay paper is the golden egg in the basket of Mains exam. But only if you know how to crack it open. Dig out the brilliant Essay-writer from inside you.
3. Don’t choose the easiest essay topic. Or the one which you know most about. Look for the one which will result in the best possible essay while considering your unique insights, previous knowledge, and writing-style. Find the perfect essay topic for you by using the DECESION MATRIX tool.
4. Be a great student. But an equally good exam-taker. Every examination contains traps which work by penalizing and filtering candidates such that the exam-taker (examinee) with the fewest mistakes wins. Anticipate, analyze, and pre-empt the unique traps which are embedded in the UPSC exam.
5. Break apart questions and essay topics mentally by using the Deconstruction technique. Every Essay topic or question in GS is about 2 or 3 things. Find out these two things and brainstorm about them separately. List out what you know about each individually. Then ask about the relationship between them as expressed in the language of the topic. Your essay should address this relationship, it’s problems and ways to make it better. Use the 4Q method and Structured Brainstorming to generate more than 20 keywords and points.
6. Do Intelligent Rough Work (IRW) and Schematization. Before you begin writing your final essay, think about the topic not just mentally but with pen and paper. But in a practical format which yields actual points and examples for your essay-answer. To do this, schematize the topic by representing it in terms of its main building blocks. Like a neat math equation.
7. Write impactful introductions by getting good at argument-building and withholding your initial judgement about the Essay topic. Don’t choose a side before analyzing the issue and don’t declare your opinion in the introduction itself. Find out the deeper issues and probe the complexity in the relationship. Make sure to cover all the dimensions of the topic. Then explore these one by one in your Essay.
8. While writing the body of your essay, weave your arguments into a compelling narrative by using the ESSELGO (Essay Generation Algorithm) technique. Take the examiner through a logical but story-like progression where one argument builds on top of the other. Paint scenarios of optimism if the relationship is resolved peacefully and of gloom, if it is not.
9. Add the Indian perspective where feasible and enrich your arguments by using the BGInS method. Touch upon the impact of the issue on women, vulnerable sections and the environment. Display empathy and an ethical sensitivity while conveying your arguments.
10. Insert facts, examples and argument-enhancers throughout your arguments. Build credibility by quoting only authoritative sources using the FACT-SHEETS compiled specifically for this purpose. Instead of memorizing facts and data, just go through the Fact-sheet infographics and use the visual cues to learn the most versatile factoids.
11. Do not give idealistic or impractical suggestions. Present strikingly practical and powerful ideas to resolve the issue. Follow P.L.I.T.E to obtain a list of innovative solutions which can seamlessly be fitted into your essay.
12. Use the SCoReF method to conclude with impact. But make sure your conclusion flows organically from your arguments. Bring the examiners attention back to the bigger picture. Display a mature appreciation of the Essay topic and share something insightful which emerges from your discussions.
13. Transcribe your points and examples into neatly structured sentences and paragraphs. Connect these together with appropriate connecting words to enhance continuity and ease of reading.
14. Do not attempt to write entire essays from the beginning. Writing different parts of an essay require different skills. Develop these by practicing introductions, arguments, and conclusions separately.
15. Revision is not just about correcting mistake. Use it to enhance your score with SmartReview and Strategic spacing to squeeze out the last bit of score from the examiner.
All the 15 steps mentioned above have been detailed, analyzed and explained along with solved examples in my book, The Ultimate Cheatbook of Essay and Answer-writing which is designed to pull your OWN writing potential from inside you in the most brutally efficient and practical way possible.
I have embedded the Cheat-codes, exam-hacks and techniques which I personally used in this exam with success. These have been combined with my experience of working in the Government and a very thorough analysis of the UPSC Exam over the years. My ambition for writing the book is to prepare you so thoroughly that Essay and Answer-writing becomes your biggest strength instead of your weakness.
I hope that you find tremendous value from the contents of the book as I did when I was in your shoes as an aspirant.
Here is a complete solved Essay topic from 2020 Mains exam using the techniques and methods from this book-
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Despite the book, you may find the following answers helpful in preparing Essay and Answer-writing for the UPSC exam:
I hope this has been helpful.
Take care, stay healthy and all the best for your preparation!