Essay is a low-hanging fruit in UPSC mains, that is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because those who have natural gift of storytelling, polished through some basic work will shine and when they become toppers the crowd assumes it’s not a big deal, the last-minute work will make just lime him/her. Unfortunately, natural effortless writing or persuasive writing is not a gift that every one is blessed with.
Bad thing because, most of us are not blessed with the gift of storytelling, we have to work hard, really hard to make things even look on par with UPSC level, whatever that is. This post is for the second group.
Chess is a beautiful game, and it can be summed up as “The winner of the game is the player who makes the next to last mistake.”
One mistake is all it takes for us to lose that game, adapting that to UPSC essay paper, the one who makes fewer mistakes gets more score, as there is no such thing as perfect essay, it’s a relative thing, your essay should be least irritating and your job is done.
The common mistakes
- Relevancy: Not sticking to the topic.
- Contextualization: Not expressing the examples or dimension as per the essence of the topics.
- Not using proper examples and data.
- Interpretation of the topic in narrow sense
- Focusing on one keyword than essence of the topic.
- Very casual and generic discussion [ no depth or substantiation]
- Informal language
- Too many strike overs
- Flowcharts and Diagrams [FFS not a GS answer]
- Writing only issues [No solutions]
- Getting Emotional [a bit too emotional]
- Not Practising for 3 hours
- Not brainstorming before writing the essay
- Lengthy paragraphs without space and breaks between paragraphs.
- Haphazard structure
- Writing in bullet points
- And all the evils of not having content + confidence
- Not having any quotes or keyword at disposal
All the above are just some of the most common mistakes and each and every mistake is an opportunity for the evaluator to reduce your marks, more mistakes fewer marks, so
- lack of gifted writing + more mistakes = mediocre or subpar scores.
- Lack of gifted writing + cardinal sins [ wrong interpretation] etc. = disastrous scores.
- Gifted writing + More mistakes or unforgivable mistakes [ wrong interpretation] etc. = disastrous scores.
You get the idea right …
What is the best course of action.
Lack of good writing skill is not a prerequisite to be an IAS, you can reduce the impact through lot of writing practice.
- Do the basic stuff [avoid all/ as many mistakes mentioned above], even average content with context and relevancy will still push you to 125-135 scores.
- Write a full-length essay before the mains. [3 Hours]
- Do some basic work like
- Brainstorming various topics. [themes from PYQ]
- Collect at least 2 quotes per theme.
- Feel free to use GS 1-4 Knowledge [not so obvious in application]
- Read a few toppers copies for presentation and idea’s sake.
- Don’t give a damn about grammar and spelling mistakes that much, unless it’s terrible, or obvious, here and there is not even a reason for you to be worried about.