How to write a mark fetching Essay for IAS Main
What is an Essay?
It is subjective assessment of one's personality, one's reasoning and one's line of thinking. Art & Science. Highest Yield (prepare Essay fro 2 weeks, you can get 130+ marks).
Expectation by Examiner: Essay is not just a disgorgement of information and facet not is it a medium to express our attitudes and prejudices through half-baked opinions. One purpose of an Essay could be to test and assess the writing skills of the candidates.
Yet equally and even more important purpose that an essay serves are to give as insight into:
one's ability to respond critically and personally to a problem or issue
one's acumen to select and use information to support an argument and to present this argument in a structured and impressive way.
Preparation of Essay Paper
Do not devote much time for Essay preparation. GS knowledge + reading habits + a decent command over English (any language you are choosing to write).
Spend time to structure and draw outlines of certain essays which appeared in last 3 years' papers. We all suffer from information overload and in an outright attempt to sway the examiner with our knowledge and intellectual prowess, we tend to disgorge everything we know even if it is only remotely linked to the asked theme. Not only deviate from the core theme of the essay, write a number of irrelevant things, waste out precious time but also end up frustrating the examiner.
MORE THAN THE CONTENT IT IS THE STRUCTURE, ORGANIZATION AND CLOSENESS OF THE CONTENT TO THE ASKED THEME THAT IS IMPORTANT.
Study Material for Essay
Read the The Hindu newspaper daily and bookmark important articles which are fodder worthy and have catchy phrases. Yojana is the ultimate source for writing the best essays. Selective reading of some Frontline articles (if not covered well or skipped reading the Hindu). Essay module of Vajiram and Ravi.
10 Traits of a Great Essay
Relevance: Corroborative support to your main argument.
Completeness: Multi-faced and should present a holistic and multi-dimensional view of the given topic.
Well organised: Ideally, an essay should have the following three parts:
Introduction - provides an insight into what follows.
Body - organize points/ideas, arrange sub-arguments.
Conclusion - should have a sense of closure and leave something in the mind of reader to think about.
Sustained Cohesiveness: Not be haphazard or randomly arranged. They should all stick together to the central theme and a coherence, direction and purpose to the essay.
Concise: Examiner desires a well thought out stream of arguments systematically arranged and rationally substantiated. The arguments should be brief and concise and write only relevant things in the essay.
Sign posted: Unless there are suggestive and appropriate sign-posts at the relevant places, there is a danger of getting lost. Thus try to use connectors to connect a paragraph with its preceding and succeeding paragraphs.
To the extent possible while extending arguments in essay.
Vagueness, arbitrariness and ambiguity: Say Big No!
While quoting specific data or general statement, understand the relevance and appropriateness if the context.
Take the pain to explain and connect quotes or statement to the main argument. Always put the quote in inverted commas.
Misquoting can be disastrous.
Analytical / Critical Thinking: Independent opinions based in sound facts and analysis and critical unbiased analysis are always appreciated by the examiner.
Explanatory: The arguments, though concise and relevant, should serve to explain their core points to the reader.
Fluently paced: Reader should not feel bored and disillusioned, get the thrill like reading a detective novel, maintaining an urge in him to finish reading the whole piece with heightened interest and in one go.
Dealing with Essay Paper in Exam Hall
Take your time and choose your topic in first 5-10 minutes. Ask yourself 5-6 question which explains the central theme in details and write them on last 4-5 pages (Cross them diagonally and mark rough work). Move to writing rough drafts, keywords and key phrases relating to the questions. Now in entire essay just answer these 6 questions and you will always be focussed on the theme of essay without diverting.
A well written and insightful introduction would would lead the reader into reading the essay with much interested and heightened curiosity whereas an apt conclusion would leave a savoury taste in his mouth which lead to good scores in the Essay paper. Some of the important characteristics that make an introduction appealing are:
Its relevance to the topic
It should be interesting and captivating
It should suggestive of the direction of the central theme of the essay
If possible, it should give a hint regarding the conclusion
1. Starting with a General Statement: A general statement followed by specific statement is very common way of starting essay. We would say more than 70-75% candidates start their essay in this manner.
2. Start with a Quote: However the quote should be relevant and should be used in a proper context. Around 20-25% candidates use this method to write the introduction of an essay.
3. Starting with an anecdote: Anecdote is shot story - it may be fictitious as well. But it should be relevant, moving and interesting. This is a novel way of starting essay. I used a fictitious but real life resembling story to start my essay this year.
4. Conversational Introduction: Another way to start an essay could be through a conversation. A prediction or by raiding a question. Thereafter this conversation could be carried further by explaining it or extending it further in between the arguments.
5. Writing the conclusion itself in the introduction is another unique way: For example if one is to write on "Globalization and Indian Culture", then introduction could be start by saying - 'Globalization has corrupted my culture'. And in this context argument could be extended further in the essay.
6. Asking Rhetorical Questions: 'Are we Indians really hypocrites?'. This could be an interesting but difficult way to start an essay.
Conclusion of Essay
Only towards the end: Examiner would be giving marks to the
'a closure' = No, rather impart a 'sense of closure to the essay. Ensured by supporting conclusion with a quote which amplifies the argument or by giving wider implications for the argument. Argument should not be repeated and the tone should not be apologetic. Rather one should demonstrate decisiveness in conclusion, be assertive and positive.
Following are some of the important points are generally rewarded in a conclusion. Conclusion should:
Show that you have answered the main theme
Show wider implications of your subject
Leave something in the mind of reader to think about
Not be a mere repetition of the introduction
Not be a two line statement as if there is nothing else to write
Not introduce a fresh argument
Mnemonic Style Essay
Presentation: Neatness & clarity straightaway appeal to the reader and can help you maximise score with the same quality of content. Margins, legibility, handwriting, indenting are all essential elements of presentation.
Proper selection of subject: Go for scientific, logical and rational topic if in doubt should understand the context and broad theme that needs to be understood and addressed.
Planning: Structuring, arranging, writing and revising. last 4 pages of the answer sheet drafting and structuring the essay.
Proportion: Dividing one's time between the Introduction, Main Paragraphs and Conclusion is equally important. Generally prescribed times are: 1/6th of the time to structure, 3/4th to write and 1/12th for revising the essay.
Perspicuity: Clarity of expression and uninterrupted and logical flow of thoughts in paragraphs are another requirements of a good essay.
Persuasiveness: The tone of he assertive and generally positive. Objectively critical at times but positivity and optimism should ooze out from the essay.
Introduction to the essay should be insightful. It should directly relate to the given topic. Content should be rich, coherent and should all points towards the desired theme. Conclusion should again be insightful. All the points in the essay should contribute towards one single theme. Paragraphs should be in continuity.
While detailing out the points in the content, expand the topic and identify the underlying issue. Reach to a more broader level without compromising on the overall focus of the essay. Essay length could be about 1500-2000 words. Each paragraph may contain 8-9 sentences. Introduction/conclusion could take 1-2 paragraphs each. Take the first 15 minutes to understand the topic and the last 15 minutes for revising.