The UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE) is divided into various phases. The first phase is the Preliminary examination, which is a screening test. The Prelims exam comprises two papers, i.e. GS 1 and GS 2. Both the papers contain multiple-choice questions and have negative markings. The second phase is the Main examination, which is of a descriptive type. It consists of English, Indian languages, GS 1, GS 2, GS 3, GS 4, essay and optional paper. Candidates who pass the Main exam qualify for the Personality Test or Interview.
All the GS papers are important, but scoring high marks in essay and optional papers is imperative to improve the overall scores. Aspirants who are preparing for the CSE should devote sufficient time to prepare for the essay exam. Candidates can also join the UPSC test series to prepare well for the essay paper.
Important Tips for CSE Essay Exam
The essay is a scoring exam if candidates prepare well and devote enough to improve their content and writing skills. Aspirants who are preparing for the essay paper should keep the following points in mind while preparing:
- Understand the nature of questions and exam pattern
It is important to understand the kind of questions asked in the exam. The UPSC may ask questions on a range of topics like science and technology, philosophical ideas, environment, education, women empowerment etc. Therefore, candidates should have enough knowledge about these topics to write a good essay for the exam. They can go through the previous years’ question papers to get an idea of the exam pattern and make a list of important essay topics and questions.
- Know the content
Civil Services is a highly competitive exam; therefore, it is very important to ensure that candidates have a good understanding of the content. They should develop the habit of reading newspapers, books, magazines etc., to increase their range of knowledge and understanding. Aspirants should meticulously collect information like quotes, anecdotes, examples, court judgements, quotes and statistics for the essay paper. They can write down all the important information and short notes in a notebook, exclusively for essays.
- Improve your writing skills and speed
Knowing the content is not enough to write a good essay. Candidates should know how to express their thoughts in a well-organised and coherent manner on the answer sheet. In order to write a good essay, candidates need to practise writing essays and work on their weaknesses. They should make rough essay drafts for important topics that may come in handy for the exam.
- Structure of the essay
Candidates should know how to structure their essays. A good introduction and conclusion are a must for a good essay. The main body of the essay should have good subheadings, important keywords, facts etc. A candidate should be able to use relevant examples to substantiate their arguments. General information about the topic may not fetch high marks; therefore, candidates should use names of important schemes, programmes, initiatives and statistics in their essays. This not only improves the quality of the content but also makes it stand out.
While writing an essay, candidates should focus on both the positives and negatives of a topic rather than just emphasising only one aspect of the issue. Aspirants should bring out different dimensions of an issue, which will help them in writing a well-rounded essay.
- Practise and attempt mock tests
Attempting mock tests is imperative to improve one’s writing skills. Candidates should practise writing essays in order to increase their writing skills and speed. Without enough writing practice, it may be difficult to write a full-fledged and coherent essay in the limited time allotted for the exam. Candidates should ensure that they attempt enough mock tests in order to write well-organised essays. They should get their answer papers evaluated and analyse their mistakes and weaknesses.
- Learn to manage your time well
Candidates should be able to manage their time well in the examination hall. They should be well aware of the exam pattern and should choose a topic that is their strength. General information about the topic may not be sufficient to write a good essay.
During the exam, they should give enough time to all the essays rather than spending too much time on a particular topic that may not help them eventually. Aspirants should ensure that they attempt all the questions given in the question paper.
Candidates who are preparing for the Civil Services Exams should give equal importance to all the papers. The essay and optional papers play a vital role in increasing the marks of the candidates in the UPSC exams. Therefore, aspirants should choose an optional subject that interests them and is scoring, and give importance to the essay paper as well.
The UPSC CSE is an exam that demands a lot of hard work, patience and consistency. Therefore, aspirants should ensure that they put in immense effort from the beginning and prepare well for the exam.