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Essay Writing Upsc Mrunal Dusanis

  1. Candidate profile
  2. Education
  3. Introduction
  4. Electronic Vs Paper material
  5. Tempo and style
  6. Prelims (CSAT) General studies
  7. Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude
  8. Prelim accuracy
  9. Mains: Compulsory language paper
  10. Mains: Essay
  11. General Studies (Mains) paper 1
  12. General studies (Mains) paper 2
  13. General studies (Mains) Paper 3
  14. General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude
  15. Ethics Case studies in Mains-2013
  16. Mains answer-writing?
  17. Geography Optional Subject
  18. Before the interview
  19. During the interview
  20. CSE-2013 Marksheet
  21. Career Backup
  22. Insecurity about profile
  23. Wisdom
  24. Credit: Friends/family
  25. Bogus Marketing Propaganda

Candidate profile

Name:Shweta Chauhan
Rank in CSE-2013573
Roll No.099610
Total attempts in CSE 1
Optional SubjectGeography
Medium chosen for Mains answersEnglish
Schooling mediumEnglish
College mediumEnglish
Home townGhaziabad
Other examsCleared IB ACIO Exe of 2013. Training yet to start.
Coaching, if any
  • GS from Raus
  • Geography by Sharad Mani Thakur, Raus
  • Vajiram mock interviews


% in class 1096%
% in class 1294%
Schooling (Medium)English
Graduation course and %Bsc(H) Physics 86%
Name of college, city, passing out yearHindu college passed in 2013
Post-graduationNot done
Any other professional coursesNo
Hobbies & Extra curricularVisiting old age home, Travelling, Listening music


Q. Tell us something about yourself, your family, when and why did you enter in this field of competitive exams?

My father is in Army and he has been a great motivation for me. The always fighting spirit and dare to dream are the qualities I was brought up with.My mother have supported me on every stage. My younger brother is doing MBBS and youngest is preparing for IIT.

Electronic Vs Paper material

Electronic material is of great help and necessary for preparation.But there is a limit to that and should restrict to few important sites like, PIB,

and sites of important ministeries. For newspaper I religiously followed The Hindu, for magazine Yojana, Kurushetra and EPW. Revise from same source rather than getting burdened down with lot of material.

Tempo and style

On an average I studied for 8 hours but regularly.To keep the momentum enjoy the process rather than thinking it as burden.

To fight the mood swings I would take break , follow my hobbies and think why am I in the process and its my choice.

          Prelims (CSAT) General studies

Make polity and economy your strong point they are most reliable. Focus more on environmental issues.

History AncientNCERT
History MedievalNCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)Bipin Chandra-Indian  struggle for independence
Culture societyNCERT , NIOS
Polity (theory + current)DD Basu, The Hindu, EPW
Economy (theory + current)Mishra and Puri, EPW, The Hindu
Science (theory + current)not prepared
Environment (theory + current)NCERT of geography class 11 and 12, The Hindu, Down to Earth website
geography physicalGC Leong
geography IndiaNCERT
geography worldNCERT
other national/international current affairsIDSA, The Hindu
Schemes, Policy & Filler StuffIndia year book

Prelims (CSAT) Aptitude

Topicstrategy / booklist
MathsR S Agarwal
reasoningR S Agarwal
comprehensionLast year paper
Decision MakingLast year paper

Q. Any observation / comments / tips about GS Aptitude 2013 paper.

Prelim accuracy

Q1. Did you attend any ‘mock tests’? do you think they’re necessary for success?

No..I dont think anyone can match UPSC standards. Look through last years question papers.

Q2. Approximate no. of attempted answers vs. correct answers. in CSAT-2013

attempted Q.correct (Expected)

Q3. Your score in prelim (when UPSC uploads it please mail me your score)
Ans. CSAT prelims: GS 96+ Aptitude 164.18

Mains: Compulsory language paper

Compulsory language paperYour preparation strategy / booklist?
English paperdid not prepare
your regional languageHindi did not prepare

Q2.other observations / tips / comments on the length / difficulty level of compulsory language papers in CSE-2013

Consider them as other question paper and write with same enthusiasm otherwise its easy.

Mains: Essay

Q1. How did you prepare for the essay paper?

Did not prepare separately but would suggest others to write regularly. The was the mistake I will not repeat again.

Q2. Which among the following essay did you write? What key points did you include in it?

I wrote on the science-panacea topic. I divided the essay such that the benefits of science can be told in every sector like agriculture, industry, defence ,development , disaster management , space, medicine , human resource dev etc.What India have done in each field , ho it have proved beneficial, what is not yet done and what can be done more ith special focus on innovation and science with human face.

General Studies (Mains) paper 1

TopicHow did you prepare?
culturespectrum, NIOS
Indian historyNCERT
world historyNCERT
post-independence IndiaBipin chandra Indian struggle for independence
Indian societyNCERT
role of women, poverty etcNCERT,Yojana,Planning    commission
globalization on Indian societyThe Hindu
communalism, regionalism,, NCERT
world geo physicalNCERT
factors for industrial
earthquake tsunami etcDown to Earth
impact on flora-faunaDown to Earth

General studies (Mains) paper 2

Indian Constitution, devolution, dispute redressal etcDD Basu
comparing Constitution with worldVajiram notes
parliament, state Legislatures, executive-judiciaryDD Basu
ministries departments, various bodies: Constitutional, statutory. etc.India year book
pressure group, informal asso.NCERT
Representation of people’s actInternet
welfare schemes, bodiesPIB, Yojana
social sector, health, edu, HRDPIB, Yojana
governance, transparency,accountability,role of civil serviceMinistry of personnel
India & neighbors, bilateral/global grouping, effect of foreign country policiesDSA, The Hindu,
intl.bodies- structure mandateInternet
diasporaMinistry of overseas affairs

General studies (Mains) Paper 3

Indian economy, resource mobilizatioPlanning  Commission
inclusive growthPlanning  Commission
budgetingMinistry of finance, Yojana
major crops, irrigationNCERT geography
agro produce – storage, marketingMinistry of food processing
e-technology for famersplanning Commission
farm subsidies, MSP12 FYP
PDS, buffer, food securityMinistry of food processing
technology missionDIETY
animal rearing economicsplanning Commission
food processingMinistry of food processing
land reformsplanning Commission
liberalizationplanning Commission
investment modelsFYP
science-tech day to day lifeThe Hindu,
Indian achievements in sci-techDept of science and tech. ,
awareness in IT, space, biotech, nano, IPRDept of science and tech. , Mrunal .org, The Hindu
environmental impact assessmentDown to earth
Disaster ManagementNDMA
non state actors, internal security, role of media, social networkingvajiram notes, 2nd ARC report
cyber securityNational policy on cyber security
money laundering ,border Managementvajiram notes
security agencies- structure mandateMHA

General Studies 4: Ethics, Integrity, aptitude

ethics and interface, family, society, emotional intelligence,…. and all the hathodaa topicsvajiram notes
moral thinkers of India and world How many did you prepare?Not prepared
ethics in, accountability, laws, rules etc2nd ARC Reports
corporate governanceVajiram notes
probity in governance, work culture2nd ARC Reports
citizen charter, ethics code, work culture etc.2nd ARC Reports
challenges of corruption2nd ARC Reports
case studies on above topicsvajiram

Ethics Case studies in Mains-2013

Q. Narrate one incident in your life when you were faced with such crisis of conscience and how you resolved the same.

I wrote a simple incidence when I was in a dilemma to tell the truth about my brother’s caught cheating in a class to my parents or not. I thought of not telling initially but later I have to because i thought this may seem good for the present time for my brother but in the long term it may prove fatal, so I decided to tell and resolved my dilemma and my voice of conscience worked for me.

caseyour approach/ keypoints
1: RTI: To hide or not to hide Hiding information is against PIO integity to his service which not only make him guilty throughout his life as he is honest but also degrade the very basis of RTI, he should be ready for the cosequences and reveal the truth.
2: Engineer: Bogus flyover vs deadline Public safety cannot be compromised,I need to first look deep into the matter whether my apprehensions are correct if they proved right then the lacunae need to be addressed even if I have to convince seniors.
3: Child Labourers in Sivakasi The units having child labourers first need be given warning that this is against law and strict action can be taken against them. The  family of children need to be counselled and whatever help under govt scheme can be provided should be given with regular inspection in the units and taking strict action for non compliance.
4: Nepotism in Job recruitment  Favouring a candidate for funds is against college good. Funds if are sanctioned will be recieved with time but cheating with candidates will not only provide the college with unworthy student but also deprive the worthy student of studies which will be great loss for the society.
5: Leaking information There need to be level playing field for the good of public. Information cannot be leaked on any terms.

Mains answer-writing?

Q1. How was your experience with the ‘fixed space’ answer sheet?

Sufficient space.

Q2. Did you write answers in bullet points or in paragraphs?

Started with paragraph writing but have to switch to bullet form because of time limit.

Q3. In GS papers, Since UPSC came with those 100 and 200 words questions. What was your approach in the exam?

I did not try the question with no idea but tried to answer as much possible rather giving perfection to few questions.

Q4. How many marks worth questions did you skip/couldn’t finish in the GS papers?  

Almost 100 marks

Q5. Did you use highlighters / sketchpens in your answers?


Q6. Did you draw any diagram in any paper? (e.g. in GS1 Geography)


Q7. If yes, Did you draw diagrams with pencil or pen?


Q8. Did you use ruler to draw the lines in diagram? Or did you just make it by hand?

by hand

Q9. You wrote the answer in blue pen or black pen?

blue pen.

(Mrunal – since readers keep mailing such queries, therefore I’m asking the topper to clear all the air haha.)

Geography Optional Subject

Q1. First the essential book/resource list and strategy.

My optional was Geography much of its preparation can be done easily with GS. Book included

  1. NCERTs
  2. GC Leong
  3. Savinder Singh
  4. Majid Hussain
  5. DR Khullar

Q2. How much of internet-research / current affairs is necessary for this optional? OR can one simply rely on the books and be done with this subject?

You need to have definite knowledge about the basics and apply that knowledge in current affairs. Like i read full ICAR report on Indian agriculture. Then the questions political geo was on the basis of current news. Also to make the answers more appealing one should give current example especially in subject like geo to take the edge.

Q3. How many months did it take to finish the core optional syllabus?

About 2 months and then revision by writing last years questions.

Q4. How many days/ weeks before the exam, you started answer writing practice?

I summarised imp The Hindu editioral by myself which gave me confidence to write.

Q5. Do you maintain self-notes for revision of optional? In which format- electronic or paper?

I made self need as revision is must and can be done if something is limited  and compiled. I believe if something goes once under my hand it goes to my mind too.

Q6. Your observation about the difficultly level of 2013 mains vs previous papers. And what precautions / rectifications are necessary in the future strategy for given optional subject?

Geography first paper have become unpredictable. From which physical geography the questions come I am unable to understand. It can be harder but should atleast have some basis or limit.

Q7.How much did you skip OR couldn’t answer properly, in the optional paper?

optional paperCouldn’t finish __ mark. + comments on any weird questions
Paper I Very hard I had no idea about 60 marks paper and have to make up many other answer. Questions were literally Greek to me and some them I could even find on internet.
paper II Easy, could attempt whole paper easily.

Q8. Would you advice any interested party (new player) to pick this optional? Nowadays wind seems to be flowing towards sociology and political science. Some senior players advice new players not to pick Public Administration OR Geography given the bad scaling and odd questions. What’s your take on this?

Geography first paper was really very hard but was covered up by second. The thing about geo is that it is easily covered under GS plus this time in GS 1 we had the typical geo questions. Do not think about any scaling down or other things choose the subject you enjoy. Geography is really interesting subject.

Before the interview

Q1. How did you prepare for the interview? Particularly college graduation subjects related questions?

Read Physics Ncerts and its current topics, balanced view on current events, Geography basics, and mock interview in Raus IAS.

Q2. Did you attend any mock interviews by coaching classes? how were they similar / different than official

interview? do you believe it is necessary to attend mock interviews?

I took mock interviews in Raus Ias Study circle. Nothing can match UPSC but they were quite helpful and if one is going for first time then it is good to attend few mocks.

Q3. What attire did you pick up?

A light coloured cotton saree. I would suggest female candidates to wear saree as it gives a beautiful look and confidence.

Q4. Where did you stay for the interview? (Hotel / friend’s home …) and what books/material did you bring for the ‘revision before interview’?

No need of revision material. I directly went from my home.

During the interview

Q1. Who was the chairman of you interview board?

Mr. Amar Pratap Singh

Q2. How long was the interview?

Approx 30 min

Q3. Why do you want to join civil service?

It has always been my dream to become an IAS officer which is not yet fullfilled so will try again harder.

Q4. Please narrate your entire interview- what questions did they ask and what did you reply?

why did you take geo as optional?

I took Geography because it is very much related to my graduation subject Physics.Then it helped me for the preparation of GS and knowledge of geography of an area will help me during the service.

Why do visit you old age home?( My hobby)

I developed visiting old age home my hobby when I went on school visit to a old age home.There, I realised the peace and happiness I get talking to old people cannot be get anywhere. The satisfaction of bringing smile on their faces and getting their blessings are precious part of my life.

What are the problems old age people face?

The most important problem they face is loniliness and worthlessness. This with decline in their physical and economical condition make their life miserable.

What do you want to improve there?

The most important problem they face is thier health issues which should be improved by more geriatic services. There is also need for more recreational activities for them in old age home. It would be better that they do not require to stay in old age home which can be done by making them economically independent and may be by making law stringnent that their children should not abandon them.

Govt old age homes are better or private?

Govt. old age home provide the services free so the facilities are less as compared to private.

Why no. of old age home are increasing?

Globalisation and urbanisation have lead to lot of migration and the fabric of joint family which was the basis for Indian culture of love and respect is breaking. This has lead to independent and individiualistic nature thus lonely parents and development of old age home.

Are they good?

They have become a necessity . They are required but should not become basis for chidren to shirk their responsibility.

What is India’s stand on climate change?

India believe in common but differentiated responsibility. The nature of our future depends on the future of our nature( I made smile everyone here) so we do believe that we too have responsibilty in mitigating climate change but as can be seen by recent reports the developled countries have already contributed much in accumulation of green house gases so they have more responsibilty.

Do you support India’s stand or western countries?

I would support Indian stand as we also want that level of development and because of environmental constraint we suffer. We need to protect environment but in international arena we need put ourself for technological and financial help.

If you have a subordinate who irritates you by sharpening pencil after every minute and that too he gets up throw it every time. What will you do?

I would provide him the new pencil which need not to be sharpened,  provide him the dustbin closer and tell him that his activity irritates me.

What about suspending him?

His activity do not affect the work he does, its only about my irration so I cannot suspend him.

What about providing him a helper?

I cannot hire two persons for same work.

Do you know any IAS officer?

Yes sir, Director of Ghaziabad development authority.

What were the qualities you liked about him?

The qualities I coul observe were his down to earth nature, politeness, humbleness, and the ability to handle 20 people with ease with no panic and biasness.

Do you look upto him as role model ?

Yes sir, He have been a great District Magistrate of Ghaziabad with crime rate lowering down in his tenure.

Do you want be one like him?

I will try my level best.

Do Christian missionary propagation a violation of human rights?(I studied in ICSE school)?

Everyone is allowed to profess his religion, in thier propagation they should not force anyone but if one benefits as I too have seen many examples in my school where the workers there who were converted were living better life because of conversion then it cannot be said wrong.

Is the new form of appraisal of civil servants good?

Sorry sir, I dont have much idea.

GK questions

  1. which is the longest river in south America?
  2. Why it is named so?
  1. What is Phalin?
  1. Why Tropical cyclones are named differently?
  2. What is the difference between Tropical cyclone, Storm surge and Hurricane?
  3. Questions about high jump and long jump  (my sports interest).
  1. Can you file RTI online?
  1. What is India’s record in high jump?
  2. Your’s?
  3. What are different forms of high jump?

(I made them literally laugh here)

“You are quite a mature person in small age”.Smiled and said Thank you

Q5. Was your interview on the expected lines of what you had prepared or did they ask you totally unexpected questions? Was it a stress interview? If yes, how did you handle it? 

Interview was not at all stressed. Board was very cordial and I made them smile in whole interview. It was on expected lines around my biodata.

CSE-2013 Marksheet

CSAT prelims: GS 96+ Aptitude 164.18

Geography Paper 1066
Geography Paper 2121
Written Total629
Final total783

Career Backup

Q1. If you were not selected, what was your career backup plan?

I would have continued Msc in Physics.

Q2. when were you going to “execute” that backup plan?

Never thought about it..

Insecurity about profile

One cannot change his profile so the need is to prepare considering yourself the best and be confident about yourself.


Q. Through this journey and success, what have your learned? What is the wisdom of life and competition?

I think the process transformed me from a child to a matured person. Learning have become a continuous process and the qualities like patience and empathy are now inbuilt.

Q. What is your message to the future aspirants?

Enjoy the process and keep the patience nothing is impossible. You are here because of your choice so keep that in mind and give your 100%.

Credit: Friends/family

My parents have been a great support and motivator to believe in my dreams. My brothers always helped me with studies and supported emotionally. I remember a incident when my father took a great pain to make me meet Director of Ghaziabad development authority an IAS officer. Interestingly, I was asked direct question in Interview “Have you ever met an IAS officer”.

This proves the dedication and wish of a father.

Bogus Marketing Propaganda

Q. You are well aware for the sacred rule of conducting toppers’ interview- the last question must be about self-marketing. So, Did you use for your preparation and if yes, how did it help you? And you can even reply “No”. I’ll publish your answer without tempering/editing it.

I thank you for your great work. Frankly, I have read each and every article of Mrunal. I would suggest aspirants that there then net for preparation on

Mrunal: Thank you Ms. Shweta for sharing your journey and experience with us. Best wishes for the service allocation, keep in touch.

  1. Think for Thirty Minutes
  2. What *NOT* to write in an Essay?
  3. Provokative Essays
  4. Don’t get Personal (Cong.vs BJP)
  5. Quoting the Famous Quotes
  6. Padding with Fodder Material
  7. Suggested Reading
  8. Reading Books as a Hobby
  9. Related articles

This is what I learned from my seniors and toppers.
There are plenty of articles on internet on how to prepare the essay (=read
editorials daily etc.) I’m writing one about how to ‘actually’ write it inside
the exam hall.
In the Essay paper, they give you 4-5 essays and you’ve to
write only one. Time limit -3 hours, Max-marks=200.

In a 2 marker question, UPSC specifically mentions that answer it in 20 words. So with that logic, you’re expected to write an essay containing around 2000 words for the 200 marks.

Tip#1: Think for 30-45 minutes

before you start the Essay writing
Take this example.
They asked an essay on Gandhi, I start writing it. I write something like

Gandhi was born in Porbandar &
then He went to England…africa..come back…freedom struggle..Gandhi-Irwin..2nd
round table….partition…etc.

After 1 hour of writing, I realize that I forgot mention about Champaran’s Indigo Struggle when Gandhi got actively involved in Indian Freedom struggle for the first time! Now I can’t add it. Because there is no space in initial pages. However I can still try to add it in the conclusion like

…in 1947 Gandhi won the fight he started with Champaran…”

But when Examiner doesn’t find the mention of Champaran in the initial pages, then he gets an impression you forgot it = less marks. Hence everything has to be written in its place.

That’s why you must…..

Think for 30-45 minutes before you start the Essay writing

You’ve 3 hours to write the essay. Don’t immediately start

  • 1st try to recall everything that you can remember / want to say about the
  • Take a pencil and write them all (in very brief) on the end of the answer
  • See if there is any chance of adding some diagram or table in it?
Do you remember any?
  1. any famous quotes?
  2. Current events
  3. People
  4. Historical events
  5. Laws / Administrative polices related to it
*Related to that topic, What are the
  1. Positive
  2. Negative sides
  3. obstacles
  4. Reforms you suggest?

Once you’re done adding everything
that you can think about, regarding the essay- then give those topics, order of
The order is very important, just like in wedding
parties you start with Soup…dal-roti and…Ice cream in the end.
The order
should be

  1. Introduction
  2. Background / History related
  3. Main concept / theory / what the subject is about
  4. Current scenario related to it.
  5. Good sides
  6. Negative sides / obstacles
  7. Suggested reforms
  8. Conclusion

everything has to be written in its place.
Gandhi’s Champaran must come in the beginning not in the end.


Tip#2:What not to write in essay

1. Autocracy is better than democracy. (know that it’s the democracy that’s allowing you to criticize it) so you should never justify certain solution to India’s problems.
2. Excessive criticism of Govt. / administration (I mean the frontline and The Hindu’s stand)
3. Seeing negative sides with out suggesting reforms in

Tip#3: Provocative Essays

Sometimes the essay topics are given in such a way, that you want to agree all the way. E.g.

  1. Panchayati raj is wastage of tax payer’s money. (yes it seems so, just like NREGA but when you’re writing an Essay you need to maintain some balance)
  2. Poor people are their own enemies.

In such cases – just because he gave you statement doesn’t mean you’ve to sing in his tune throughout the paper.DO NOT forget to show the other side of the mirror.
Its Easier to criticize a non working things than to fix it. (Remember this all time during essay.)
Donot give filmy solutions to real life problems. (Munna Bhai MBBS / Slum Dog Millioner.)

Tip#4: Donot get personal

  • Don’t go naming individual politicians – their achievement / scandals (Kalmadi, Raja,Amar Singh etc.)
  • (except in the foreign policy related essay, where you’ve to analyse from entire Nehru’s Panchsheel era to Vajpayee’s Lahore Bus visit and current affairs.) our Foreign policy has changed with every prime minister so their names need to be mentioned.
  • Never write essay talking like “Congress did this and BJP did that.” It’s the trait of a common man, not of a future officer.
  • Give a balanced answer With out getting into hero-worship or mud slinging
  • If criticizing Govenrment in the essay alone was going to make you IAS officer, then every journalist of Aaj Tak would be an IAS officer.
  • An officer’s trait is to remain ‘anonymous’, ‘faceless’ and neutral- meaning your essay should look like it has been written by a graduate.

Same applies for

1. Religion / culture/ language-literature (in philosophical essays)
2. States (in polity / federalism / Development)
I’m not saying you should transform into a sterile person writing the essay with out having any personal view/ opinion or righteous anger but, you mustn’t become too much passionate about certain things.
I’m saying all this because you can never be sure about what will be the political / ideological / religious / regional alignment of the examiner.
This suggestion also applies while dealing with Public Administration (optional subject).

Tip#5: Quotes

1. Don’t make mistakes in writing who said what. E.g. you quote Abraham Lincon’s sentence and write George Washington said it. nothing will make you look more stupid in the eyes of the examiner than that.

2.Quote Exactly as it was said. Mao said “Power flows from the barrel of a gun” so you should not write it as

 “barrel of the gun contains power”
“muzzle of the gun flows the power”

You must quote the quote verbatim. If you’re not sure then don’t quote it.

Tip#6: Padding & Deviating from the subject

Even in the worst case, you’re supposed to write 1200-1500 words for a 250 marks essay.
Padding means, you don’t know the exact answer so you just beat around the bushes and write the garbage stuff to fill up the pages, while this tactic does work in the school and college exams but don’t try it in the essay paper.
Don’t write too many proverbs / quotes/ (invented) case studies/examples per page. It makes the examiner think that you’ve no input of your own so you’re just filling up the pages.

Donot pick up the subject where your idea or thought content is very low.

  • Ex. you picked up “Do we need nuclear power” – So you start with how thermal power-stations create pollution, there is huge demand and low supply of electricity, nuke power is cheap, and
    then the dangers such as Japanese Tsunami etc.
  • After 4 pages, your thoughts and ideas are exhausted-you’ve nothing more to say and assuming that you write 100 words per page, you realise that only 400 words won’t get you any marks ! now you can’t scratch those pages and write a new essay on new topic, you’ve wasted enough time on this one.
  • So you decide to continue with this nuke-power essay and start rewriting the same stuff you already stated in different ways and then you’ll deviate from the main topic- like nuke power is unsafe as we saw in Japan
    so we need to switch to renewable energy source like Sun, Wind and Water -> then 4 pages on advantages of renewable energy as if this is an essay on “the benefits of Non-renewable energy” and not on nuke power, you write about the pro-cons of hydro-electricity like dams and displacement of people.
  • Then you realise omg, displacement of people also applies while making nuke-powerplants like in Maharashtra! so you come back to the topic -half page written but still you’ve not filled up enough pages so you start talking about to land-acquisition policy and start writing the pro-cons..another half page on it. Then you think “oh i must talk something about the Indo-US nuke deal” so you go on talking about how we haven’t signed the CTBT and yet N.S.G gave us clearance and China-Pakistan couldn’t stop it so we are a global power now and we deserve a permanent seat in UNSC! This kind of padding goes on until time is up.
  • You’ve messed up the whole thing, you totally deviated from the subject. Your essay doesn’t have any flow of thoughts or proper rhythm. The seasoned examiners immediatly sniff out this padding and they don’t give much marks for it, your expected score for this kind of garbage writing is less than 50/200, means even with decent score in all other papers, your chances of getting interview call is close to zero. You’ve jeopardised your chances
    of selection in IAS, you’ve digged your own grave. That’s why 
  1. take great care in picking up the subject
  2. first 30-40 minutes for thorough thinking.
  3. stick to the subject

Same applies while dealing with the big 60 marker question in GS and optional papers. (not 30 minutes of thinking but atleast 5-7 minutes!)

Suggested Reading

Essay is not something that can be learned reading one book or reading for 1 month.
It’s a continuous and long process takes some diverse reading before you’ve enough content to write something decent and something big enough to fill 20 pages to fetch 100+ marks.

  1. Editorials of english newspapers ( but don’t get swayed about by either leftist
    or capitalist stuff preched by both sides)
  2. Magazines like Frontline,
    yojana, Kurukshetra. (it gives you the fodder material: statistical data to quote like how many % illiterate and so on but again don’t use too much statistical data for padding and most importantly don’t ‘invent’ your own case studies and
  3. Watch English news channel – discussions / debates.
  4. See the old question papers and try to make an outline of each and every Essay asked so far.

Reading Books as a Hobby

To increase your idea and ‘fodder-material’ for brain storming, you can read some books outside studies, related to Indian culture, democracy and Development, just for time-pass for example

Me and my ruined essay

In 2009’s mains attempt, I got only 20/200 marks in the Essay. It was about ‘are we a soft state?’. I wrote it only from the foriegn policy and law-n-order point of view, without seeing the cultural -historical contexts. It was a monotonous essay without any spark. Moral of the story: do try to see different angles of the subject and give a thorough thought before you start writing.
Some veterans are in opinion that you should pick up the essay on technical subject, example space-technology, advances in medical science, how IT has changed lives and so on. Because only a few people attempt them, and due to technical nature, your ideas are unlikely to be in conflict with the examiner so you’ll get more marks.
But then again you need enough ‘content’ to write 1500+ words else the padding route=digging your own grave. And there are enough toppers who wrote the non-technical essay and still got in the top-merit list so as usual for every generalisation made about UPSC, you’ll find a counter example!

Predicting Essays for 2011 Mains paper

  • As usual coaching classes try to anticipate which essays will be asked, and UPSC makes sure they are not asked. So be prepared for
  • everything- don’t just rely on selected hot-topics like Lokpal and Civil society.
  • In old times, it was quite predictable, see the papers from 1997 to 2006: almost every year there is an essay on polity-judiciary, one on women
  • empowerment, one on Science-tech, one on democracy and governance. But nowadays UPSC is rapidly breaking the trends.
  • Lets look @ the 2010 paper. People predicted: there will be some essay on games, due to CWG or Asiad or even on corruption and good Governance given CWG and 2G scams. But there was nothing.
  • I’m putting the comparative list of essays asked in last two years (2009 and 2010). Make your own judgement and prediction and prepare accordingly.

Vulnerable groups of society (India vs. Bharat Debate)

  • Should a moratorium be imposed on all fresh mining in tribal areas of the country? (2010) (can be classified as current affairs due to Mines regulation bill)
  • Are our traditional handicrafts doomed to a slow death? (2009)
  • From traditional Indian philanthropy to the Gates-Buffet model-a natural progression or a paradigm shift?-2010
  • The focus of health care is increasingly getting skewed towards the ‘haves’ of our society-2009

International relations

  • Preparedness of our society for India’s global leadership role. 2010
  • Are we a soft state? 2009
  • Good Fences make good neighbors. 2009

One more bad news: in 1997 to 2006 era, UPSC gave 6 subjects and you had to write one essay, in 2009: five options and in 2010 : only 4 options.