IAS Gyan


How to Write a Good Essay in UPSC Mains

22nd June, 2024 Mains

How to Write a Good Essay in UPSC Mains

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Services Examination is one of the most challenging and competitive exams in India. The Mains examination is the second stage of the exam, and it consists of a descriptive type paper that tests the candidate's writing skills. The essay paper is one of the most important components of the Mains examination, and it carries a significant weightage in the overall evaluation.

Writing a good essay in the UPSC Mains examination is a critical skill that can significantly impact your overall score. The Essay Paper (Paper I) is worth 250 marks, and a well-crafted essay can make a substantial difference in your final rank.

Understanding the UPSC Essay Paper

  • The UPSC Essay Paper consists of two sections, each containing four topics. Candidates must choose one topic from each section and write two essays, each ranging between 1000 to 1200 words. The topics cover a broad spectrum, including philosophical, socio-economic, political, and cultural issues.

Importance of the Essay Paper

  • High Scoring Potential: The essay paper offers a significant opportunity to score high marks if written effectively.
  • Reflects Analytical Ability: It tests your ability to think critically and present your thoughts coherently.
  • Influences Overall Rank: A well-written essay can significantly boost your overall score, affecting your rank and service allocation.

Steps to Write a Good Essay

  1. Understanding the Topic

Before you start writing, ensure you thoroughly understand the topic. Misinterpreting the topic can lead to irrelevant content, costing you valuable marks.

  • Analyze the Keywords: Break down the topic into its key components.
  • Identify the Scope: Determine what aspects of the topic need to be addressed.
  • Brainstorm: Jot down all possible ideas, arguments, and perspectives related to the topic.
  1. Structuring the Essay

A well-structured essay is easier to read and understand. It should have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

  • Introduction: Introduce the topic, provide background information, and state your thesis or main argument.
  • Body: Develop your arguments, present evidence, and explore different perspectives. Organize the body into paragraphs, each focusing on a single idea.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the main points, restate your thesis in light of the arguments presented, and provide a closing thought or call to action.
  1. Writing the Introduction

The introduction sets the tone for your essay. It should be engaging and provide a clear direction for the reader.

  • Hook: Start with an interesting fact, quote, anecdote, or question to grab the reader's attention.
  • Background Information: Provide context to help the reader understand the topic better.
  • Thesis Statement: Clearly state your main argument or the central idea of your essay.
  1. Developing the Body

The body is where you present your arguments and evidence. Each paragraph should focus on a single point and be logically connected to the next.

  • Topic Sentence: Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the main idea.
  • Evidence and Examples: Support your arguments with facts, statistics, examples, and quotes from credible sources.
  • Analysis: Explain how the evidence supports your argument and relate it back to the thesis.
  • Transition: Use transitional phrases to ensure a smooth flow between paragraphs.
  1. Crafting the Conclusion

The conclusion should bring closure to your essay while reinforcing your main points.

  • Restate the Thesis: Reiterate your thesis in light of the arguments you have made.
  • Summarize Key Points: Briefly summarize the main points discussed in the body.
  • Closing Thought: End with a thought-provoking statement, a call to action, or a forward-looking perspective.
  1. Maintaining Clarity and Coherence

A good essay is clear and coherent, making it easy for the reader to follow your arguments.

  • Simple Language: Use simple and precise language to convey your ideas.
  • Logical Flow: Ensure your ideas are logically connected and build upon each other.
  • Avoid Jargon: Avoid using jargon or overly complex vocabulary that might confuse the reader.
  • Consistent Tone: Maintain a consistent tone throughout the essay, whether formal or informal.
  1. Revising and Proofreading

Revising and proofreading are crucial steps in the writing process. They help you refine your essay and eliminate errors.

  • Check for Clarity: Ensure your arguments are clear and well-articulated.
  • Grammar and Spelling: Correct any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors.
  • Consistency: Ensure consistency in formatting, tense, and tone.
  • Feedback: If possible, get feedback from peers or mentors and incorporate their suggestions.

Practical Tips for Writing a Good Essay

  1. Practice Regularly

Regular practice is key to improving your essay writing skills. Write essays on various topics to build your confidence and proficiency.

  • Timed Practice: Practice writing essays within the stipulated time to simulate exam conditions.
  • Diverse Topics: Write on a range of topics, including abstract, philosophical, socio-economic, and current affairs.
  1. Read Widely

Reading extensively enhances your knowledge base and exposes you to different writing styles.

  • Newspapers and Magazines: Regularly read newspapers like The Hindu, Indian Express, and magazines like Yojana and Kurukshetra.
  • Books and Journals: Read books and journals on diverse subjects to deepen your understanding and gain new perspectives.
  1. Develop Analytical Skills

Good essays are characterized by strong analytical and critical thinking skills.

  • Critical Thinking: Analyze issues from multiple perspectives and develop well-reasoned arguments.
  • Debate and Discussion: Engage in debates and discussions to sharpen your analytical skills and articulate your thoughts better.
  1. Enhance Writing Skills

Improving your writing skills is essential for crafting compelling essays.

  • Writing Workshops: Attend writing workshops or take online courses to improve your writing skills.
  • Peer Review: Exchange essays with peers for constructive feedback and suggestions.
  • Writing Prompts: Use writing prompts to stimulate your creativity and practice different writing styles.
  1. Stay Updated

Staying updated with current affairs is crucial for writing relevant and informed essays.

  • Current Affairs Notes: Maintain notes on important current affairs topics, categorizing them by themes.
  • Analysis and Opinion: Read analysis and opinion pieces to understand various viewpoints and form your own informed opinions.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Deviating from the Topic
  • Stick to the topic and avoid going off on tangents. Ensure all your arguments are relevant to the central theme of the essay.
  1. Lack of Structure
  • An essay without a clear structure is difficult to follow. Always plan your essay and stick to the structure of introduction, body, and conclusion.
  1. Overloading with Information
  • While it's important to provide evidence, avoid overloading your essay with too much information. Focus on key points and explain them thoroughly.
  1. Using Complex Vocabulary
  • Using complex vocabulary can make your essay difficult to read. Prioritize clarity and simplicity in your language.
  1. Ignoring Grammar and Spelling
  • Grammar and spelling mistakes can undermine the quality of your essay. Always proofread your work to eliminate errors.

Sample Essay Outline

Topic: "The Role of Education in Shaping India's Future"


  • Hook: Quote by Nelson Mandela: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
  • Background Information: Brief overview of the current education system in India.
  • Thesis Statement: Education is pivotal in shaping India's future by driving economic growth, fostering social equity, and promoting democratic values.


Paragraph 1: Economic Growth

  • Topic Sentence: Education drives economic growth and development.
  • Evidence: Statistics on the correlation between literacy rates and GDP growth.
  • Analysis: How a skilled and educated workforce contributes to productivity and innovation.

Paragraph 2: Social Equity

  • Topic Sentence: Education promotes social equity and reduces disparities.
  • Evidence: Case studies of successful education initiatives in rural and marginalized communities.
  • Analysis: The role of education in breaking the cycle of poverty and empowering individuals.

Paragraph 3: Democratic Values

  • Topic Sentence: Education fosters democratic values and civic responsibility.
  • Evidence: Examples of education curricula promoting critical thinking and civic awareness.
  • Analysis: The impact of an educated populace on democratic participation and governance.


  • Restate Thesis: Reaffirm the importance of education in shaping India's future.
  • Summarize Key Points: Recap the main arguments presented in the body.
  • Closing Thought: Emphasize the need for continued investment and reform in the education sector to achieve a prosperous and equitable India.

Writing a good essay for the UPSC Mains requires careful planning, structured writing, and thorough revision. By understanding the topic, structuring your essay effectively, and maintaining clarity and coherence, you can craft compelling essays that stand out. Regular practice, wide reading, and staying updated with current affairs are essential for developing strong essay writing skills. Avoid common mistakes and strive for simplicity and precision in your writing. With these strategies and tips, you can enhance your essay writing abilities and boost your chances of success in the UPSC Mains examination.