The essay paper having two sections A and B with four topics each (the candidates have to select a topic from each section and write on it for 1,000-2,000 words with a time duration of three hours) for total marks of 250 (125x2) in the civil services main examination is crucial in determining the final outcome, selection and ranking.
It is critical because it is a compulsory paper and its score is incorporated in computing the total. It is decisive because there is no specialisation in an essay and so no aspirant cannot claim expertise, unlike optional subjects.
Finally, an essay is a paper, which does not have a reservoir of definitive information as in the case of general studies. All this constitutes a challenge. It is vital to understand that an essay is a reflection of the personality -- ideas, views, analysis, assessments and inferences, values, attitude, aptitude, orientation and communication (written) abilities, all the attributes that are wanted by UPSC in an aspirant.
An essay is considered a complete composition. The essentials of essay writing would be the format (framework, structure), information (content, substance), language (expression, presentation), and logic (analysis and information).
The conventional design of looking at essay writing in terms of the introduction, body and conclusion is only the format. Although, this is fundamental to essay writing, the concept of an essay is quite intricate. An essay is expected to be a topical text that is self-explanatory and comprehensive, concise, composite and unambiguous, informative and logical.
For every effective composition one should ideally begin with clarifying the purpose of the composition to oneself. This is true about all written and spoken communication. It's best that this principle be applied to essay writing. Although, the question cues that are recommended at this point may appear archaic, they are useful and often overlooked. At every critical juncture, while writing a topical text all applicable queries must be asked to oneself about the issue in question, e.g. who, what, where, when, why, how?
These questions would obtain answers that would make the text organised and accurate and also ensure that no aspect has been omitted. Proficiency in applying this principle, i.e. the appropriate choice of questions, will come with extensive practise, periodic evaluation and critical analysis.
The format comprises:
The introduction is the opening part of the essay and should be confined to a paragraph, especially since, unlike a book, the introduction of an essay is not captioned. The introductory paragraph is expected to introduce the topic, and wherever necessary, explain the central theme or idea, basic or core concepts, and definitional criteria. The introduction should arouse interest and generate curiosity in the mind of the reader, be it an examiner.
The main text of an essay, after the introductory part is over, essentially is a systematic organisation of information based on a consistent methodology. It deals with the topic and related issues to be addressed, the correlation of facts, figures, ideas, views, concepts; an in-depth, systematic, coherent analysis based on the topic leading to logical inferences; as well as making (if it is required) plausible projections and providing with (if necessary) viable solutions. The text of the composition must develop, support and explain the main ideas stated in your introduction or thesis paragraph.
As the text draws close to the conclusion, the essay should have reached the stage of 'critical mass', a sort of a climax. The conclusion, a summary, should express the essence of the essay. It should not contain any fresh evidence, facts or figures.