Essay Answer Writing book for UPSC by Awdhesh Singh

Mastering Essay & Answer Writing for UPSC Civil Services

By Awdhesh Singh​​

For IAS/ IPS & State PSC Main Exams | 2nd Edition | Prelims & Mains | CSE | State Administrative Exams Paperback – 1 January 2022

The second Edition of the Bestselling Book Mastering Essay & Answer Writing for UPSC Civil Services IAS/ IPS & State PSC Main Exam, authored by Dr. Awdhesh Singh, has been thoroughly updated and enlarged. The book contains the decades of experience of Civil Services with the expertise of the author. It prepares you to write best ANSWERS and ESSAYS in the IAS/ PCS Mains examination.

This new Edition now contains 27 Chapters with the addition of 13 New Chapters. This edition also provides Mains Preparation Strategy & Resources.

Reviews From Amazon

Top Notch Book to Enhance Your Essay Writing Skill

Excellent Book by Awdhesh Sir i bought both his Essay and Ethics Book both are wonderful just like his answers on Quora simple yet elegant. Holistic Coverage of Dimensions needed in an Essay and Answer Writing.

Uthkarsh shetty

The Gem for Essay Writing

Superb book. From reading the first few pages, I am confident I can improve a lot in my weakest area – essay writing. Thank you

Ronesh Angom

The book is really worth buying for UPSC descriptive writing

The book is really worth buying especially for the beginners who want to master the art of descriptive writing. It provides with wise tips and effective guidance particularly for UPSC descriptive writing and in general for all types.

Ankit Gupta

Guide for essay writing

It will present a picture of essay writing in ur mind that would make the essay a cup of tea…

Amit Awana

The best from Awdhesh sir

The book is well designed and has easy steps which obviously will need a lot of practice. Awdhesh sir has put in it what he does the best and that reflects. If you need a guide while assessing your own essays, a book like this could help you understand the need parameters.

Rahul Lal

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Methodology to Write Essays

“A word after a word after a word is power.” – Margaret Atwood

Essay writing is a creative endeavour, and every writer has his/her writing style. However, the method of writing also depends on the topics of the essay. If you choose the proper method of writing, your essay can stand out. Sometimes, we can also combine two or more methods to write better essays.  

An essay aims to describe an event, person, place, idea or present a coherent argument to prove the thesis. An essay tries to persuade the reader that the viewpoint of the writer is credible. We can achieve this goal in different ways.  

This chapter shall discuss the different methods you can adopt for writing essays.

1. Dialectic Method                            

Dialectic is a method of reasoning where we put together opposing views to find a new point of view, to explain the topic more comprehensively. The classical version of dialectic is attributed to Plato. In his books, Plato presented a back-and-forth dialogue or debate between Socrates and another person (interlocutor).  In the discussion between opposing ideas, Socrates’ interlocutors change or refine their views in response to Socrates’ challenges and adopt a more sophisticated view.  In this process, Socrates often demolished the long-held popular beliefs hitherto accepted to be true by the masses. 

This modern version of dialectic is attributed to the 19th Century German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. He arrived at the truth by stating a thesis, developing a contradictory antithesis, and combining and resolving them into a coherent synthesis by investigation and reasoning.

A thesis is a statement or a theory which the author wishes to prove. The opposite idea is called ‘antithesis’. An antithesis helps present the opposite point of view and establish its inaccuracy and limitations. While giving the antithesis, you act as a devil’s advocate. Finally, you resolve the contradiction by offering a synthesis that analyses all sides and shows a method to reconcile them. The essays would look stale and boring if you only discuss the thesis and fail to contrast it by emphasizing the antithesis.  

In the essay’s body, you must discuss the pros and cons of a decision or a policy and present all sides of the story. You may also incorporate suitable examples and counter-example to give a complete picture. Your arguments must be clear, forceful, presented with credible evidence from a reliable source, and justified by logic.

Sometimes, you can start the argument by presenting the ‘antithesis’ by highlighting the negative aspect of a policy or decision and its impact on the citizens. You can then submit the positive side forcefully and prove your thesis. 

Example:  Digital economy: A leveller or a source of economic inequality (CSE 2016)

In this essay, you have to first form the thesis statement. For example, you can take the stand that the digital economy is a leveller and develop the thesis statement as-

Digitisation is initially adopted by the prosperous population of the society, leading to unemployment among the lower and middle-class people that increases inequality. However, once the masses gradually adopt the technology, it creates more job opportunities and provides a level playing field to people of all sections of society.   

While writing the essay, you may first start with antithesis and establish how digitisation is causing inequality due to unequal access to the internet. You can also explain how digitisation is reducing jobs and increasing unemployment. After that, you can strongly argue that information technology gives everyone a level playing field since the location becomes immaterial in the digital world. Finally, you can discuss the drastic reduction of the cost of equipment like smart phones and broadband, which has made online learning and services accessible to ordinary people. You may also present some recent examples from India and around the world to support your thesis. You can then conclude that digitization benefits ordinary people and reduces inequality. 

Of course, you can also prove the opposite view as well. However, it is advisable to take a progressive view since we can’t avoid digitization in the modern world. In either case, you must present both sides of the argument but put up more potent ideas and pieces of evidence to support your thesis.  

It may be an excellent strategy to avoid an unequivocal stand on this issue. Instead, you must create a synthesis by highlighting the current problems responsible for the digital world’s economic inequality. After that, you can provide suggestions to overcome these limitations and make digitisation, which is inevitable in the modern world, a leveller rather than becoming a source of economic inequality. 

While presenting the arguments, always keep in mind the foundational values and the attributes of ideal civil servants , as discussed in the earlier chapters. As an impartial person, you must balance all the sides. Similarly, as a rational person, your logic must be consistent, and your evidence must be reliable. 

The dialectic method can be employed to write essays on philosophical topics and argumentative types of essays. We shall learn more about using this methodology while discussing essay writing for philosophical issues.

2. Compare and Contrast

Some essays require a comparison of two entities, which are distinct yet interconnected. We can imagine these two entities like man and woman, day and night, happiness and suffering, love and hatred, which look opposed to each other superficially, but are part of the whole in reality. You can’t have one without the other. So instead of being opposites, they are interdependent and complementary to each other. Instead of contradicting, they complete each other. 

Consider the essay topic, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”, a famous quote by Albert Einstein explaining science and religion’s interdependence. In this topic, one has to compare science and religion and discuss how they are similar and how they differ. In such essays, you may have one paragraph on the positives and one on the negatives of both science and religion, resulting in at least four paragraphs in the body. 

Then, after highlighting the dissimilarities, you can show their common purpose, i.e., improving the quality of human well-being. In this way, we can create a synthesis and prove the thesis statement.

 It is also essential to link the paragraphs well to smooth the transition from one paragraph to another. More on this concept is discussed later in another chapter.

The following essays can be written using the ‘compare and contrast’ technique:

  • Science and Mysticism: Are they compatible?
  • ‘Globalisation’ versus ‘Nationalism’
  • Crisis faced in India: moral or economic? (CSE 2015)

3. Cause and effect

A famous saying is ‘there is no smoke without fire’, which means everything happens due to a cause. Even rumours are not without any reason. We must find out the relationship between cause and effect. For example, if you are scoring top marks in your class, it may be due to your hard work in your studies. If you stop studying, your performance will fall. 

The ‘cause’ represents the event that happens first, leading to the later event called the ‘effect’. However, the two things must be logically connected. For example, if you watched a cricket match on the TV and cheered for your national team, which won the game, you can’t claim your cheering for the match as the cause of their victory. However, the player’s training, the coach, financial incentive and even the cheering up of the auditorium spectators may be the causes of success to some extent. 

The cause-effect essays can be of two types

  1. Effect Focus: Here, we focus on one or more effect which results from a cause.
  2. Cause Focus: Here, we focus on one or more causes that may lead to a particular effect.

There are often multiple causes and multiple effects for something happening. However, we must focus on either cause or effect to maintain objectivity and precision.  Moreover, the relationship between cause and effect is often not linear but cyclic. For example, corruption leads to poverty, and poverty leads to corruption. Hence, a developing country is trapped in a vicious cycle of “poverty-corruption-poverty”. In the same way, happiness leads to success, and success leads to happiness. Hence, “happiness-success-happiness” is a virtuous cycle since happiness and success feed each other for the betterment of each other.

Some examples of cause and effect essays are,

  • Food security for sustainable national development (CSE 2005)
  • Need brings greed, if greed increases, it spoils breed. (CSE 2016)
  • Innovation is the key determinant of economic growth and social welfare. (CSE 2016)
  • Biased media is a real threat to Indian democracy. (CSE 2019)
  • There can be no social justice without economic prosperity, but economic prosperity without social justice is meaningless (CSE 2020)

When you identify a cause-effect topic, you can focus more on the cause or effect. After that, you must make a list of causes and effects. For example, in the essay, ‘Innovation is the key determinant of economic growth and social welfare’, the following brainstorming questions arise: 

Effect Focus

  • How innovation causes economic growth?
  • How innovation causes social welfare?

Cause Focus

  • What are the causes of innovation (or lack of it)? 
  • How can we make society more innovative? 

We can give examples of countries like India, which lack innovation due to which the economic growth and social welfare are affected. But, on the other hand, we can also provide examples of more innovative countries like America or Germany, which has led to economic development and social welfare.  After that, we can give suggestions to improve innovation in our country and explain how innovation can cause economic growth, leading to social welfare, which can further improve innovation. Thus we can create a virtuous cycle of innovation-development-social-welfare-innovation.

4. Problem and solution

A civil servant’s primary job is to solve the nation’s problems. The problem and solution type of essays test these abilities of the candidates. First, you must display a deep understanding of the problems and then provide workable solutions. 

  • Crisis faced in India – moral or economic. (CSE 2015)
  • Urbanisation and its hazards (CSE 2008)
  • Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers in India. (CSE 2017)
  • Are our traditional handicrafts doomed to a slow death? (CSE 2009)
  • Customary morality cannot be a guide to modem life. (CSE 2018)

In these essays, we have to explain the problem in detail and provide solutions. For example, in the essay ‘Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers in India’, we must first identify the problems associated with India in the farming sector. After that, we can discuss the steps taken by the government to solve these problems. We can then discuss the limitations of the government measures and suggest solutions to solve the problem by offering suggestions to increase the farmers’ income.

While providing solutions, we must remember that the farming problems are complex and challenging; otherwise, the government would have already solved them. Moreover, most of us don’t understand the issue deeper. Accordingly, suggesting solutions based on our superficial understanding can’t impress the examiner. Therefore, we must use the suggestions or recommendations of some expert group or committee in our essays as much as we can. We can, however, add a few more suggestions of our own, which are practical and workable.

5. Extended definition

In an extended definition essay, you have to analyze a given term in various contexts and provide broader meanings. An extended definition essay allows you to write in a more general way, including opposition to the mundane definitions of the term and casting doubt on them.

Examples of some essays that fall in this category are as follows, 

  • Judicial activism. (CSE 1997)
  • The composite culture of India. (CSE 1998)
  • National identity and patriotism (CSE 2008)
  • ‘Globalization’ vs. ‘nationalism’ (CSE 2009)
  • Culture is what we are, civilization is what we have (CSE 2020)

In these essays, you can introduce the various definitions of the terms and present your thesis. You can also explain their meaning and significance in modern times. In the body part, you can discuss each term’s pros and cons, threats and opportunities, weak and strong points of the terms. Some of the best ways to extend the definition of the term are:

  • Word’s etymology or historical roots
  • Describe sensory characteristics (how it looks, feels, sounds, tastes, smells)
  • Identify its parts
  • Indicate how it is used 
  • Explain what it is not
  • Provide an example
  • Explain similarities or differences between this term and other words or things

Finally, summarise your discussion and end your essay taking a balanced view with an optimistic note and establish your thesis.

For example, when you write an essay on ‘judicial activism’, define the term in multiple ways. The body can highlight the recent judicial activism incidents, some of which have been good for the nation and some not so good and show the judicial reach. Instead of either taking a position in favour of judicial activism or against it, we may take a reconciliatory approach and suggest a way to uphold the dignity of all constitutional institutions. We must emphasise the need for mutual respect of all institutions without compromising the need for checks and balances as provided in the constitution.

6. Temporal Focus

Temporal focus is characteristic thought about the past, present, and future. Thus, we must go through the evolutionary cycle from the past to its current status and then present a vision and road map for the future by offering a solution.

We can write many essays using this technique. A few examples of essays that can be written using this method are as follows.   

  • Innovation is the key determinant of economic growth and social welfare (CSE 2016)
  • Has the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) lost its relevance in a multi-polar world? (CSE 2017) 
  • Customary morality cannot be a guide to modern life (CSE 2018)
  • Biased media is a real threat to Indian democracy (CSE 2019)

For all the above topics, you can discuss their evolution, state their present problems, provide solutions, and give a vision for the future. In the first essay, for example, you can talk about how innovations like fire, metals, farming, etc have transformed the human civilization and have led to the development of nations; or, can discuss the modern world where innovation has led to the development of human civilization. You can then discuss the present status of innovation in India and propose steps to promote innovation. In the same way, you can discuss the evolution of media, or morality, its issues in the present and your solution to tackling the problems in the present with a vision to create a better future.

7. Social Segmentation

Man is a social animal and can’t live in isolation. Individuals are connected in the world just as cells of the body are associated with other cells. Hence, what happens to an individual affects the world and what happens to the world affects the individuals. You can deal with essays on social topics is by showing the implication of action on various segments of society. 

We can divide human society into the following social segments:

  • Individual
  • Family
  • Society
  • Country
  • World

We as individuals get numerous benefits from our family, society, country and the world. We are brought up by our parents and protected by the community and the nation. We also get an education, job, and social security due to the government of our country. We also benefit from the innovation, guidance, and knowledge of experts, leaders, and philosophers worldwide. However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. We have also to fulfil our obligations towards our family members, society, country and the world to get these benefits. We can incorporate all these aspects into our essay.

A few topics where we can use this method of writing essays are as follows:

  • The Indian society at the crossroads. (CSE 1994)
  • Mass media and cultural invasion. (CSE 1999)
  • Neglect of primary health care and education in India are reasons for its backwardness. (CSE 2019)
  • Discipline means success, anarchy means ruin (CSE 2008)

For example, when we write an essay on the topic ‘Discipline means success, anarchy means ruin’, we can discuss discipline at the various levels and the importance of discipline for different segments. Therefore, this essay hinges on the keywords like discipline, success, anarchy, and ruin. We can then discuss how each issue is concerned at the individual, family, society, nation, and the world level.

8. Sectoral- Segmentation 

One of the best ways to write an essay is to discuss the different dimensions of an issue. While social segmentation is at a physical level, sectoral segmentation is at the conceptual level.  In today’s complex world, we can’t solve a problem unless we tackle all areas simultaneously. Moreover, any action taken by the government or an individual has implications for various sectors. 

The different sectors of an issue are:

  • Social
  • Political
  • Economic
  • Legal
  • Historical
  • Environmental

Some examples for such essays are as follows.

  • Privatization of higher education in India
  • Water disputes between states in federal India
  • Is the Colonial Mentality hindering India’s success?
  • The challenges of corruption in India

For example, in this essay, ‘The challenges of corruption in India’, we can analyze the various dimensions.

  • Social: Indian society accepts corruption and does not condemn corrupt people. Often the honest people are ridiculed. Social awareness can thus help reduce corruption.
  • Political: Contesting in an election is extremely expensive, and honest people can’t afford it. Politicians have to take money from unscrupulous business people, and then they are obliged to provide illegal benefits and protection to them. We can make strict laws to reduce election expenses and provide state funding to political parties to reduce dependence on the money acquired through unscrupulous sources.
  • Economic: Poverty leads to corruption, and corruption is responsible for poverty. Developed countries usually have lesser corruption while the developing countries have greater corruption. Therefore, we must explain how corruption is hampering growth and prosperity and why we should fight it with great vigour.
  • Legal: The laws against corruption in India are complex and have many loopholes. It takes decades for the judiciary to punish a person charged with corruption. The corruption in police and judiciary leads to the acquittal of the guilty. Further, the job security in the government makes it difficult for the government to sack corrupt employees quickly. So we have to make stringent laws to deal with corruption.

Thus, to write an essay on corruption, you can discuss various sectors and then put forth the improvement needed in each sector to reduce corruption in India.

9: Debatable Type

There are a few topics on which a nation may have broad consensus. For example, almost everyone would support strict punishment for corruption, murder or rape. However, there is no consensus on specific issues because of the clash of interests between the people. These issues are controversial because a significant number of people are either in favour or against the case. Moreover, these issues are often emotional, and people take their position based on their convictions and conveniences.

In controversial issues, even experts don’t agree, as the pros and cons of the subject appear to be equally strong. So, for example, you can find similarly strong arguments to support or oppose the government’s reservation policy or positive discrimination.

 In the same way, many contemporary issues like demonetization, electoral bonds, GST, CAA, NRC or Abolition of Article 370, Farm Laws are controversial. In all such matters, many people have an opinion in favour of or against these issues, and there is little chance of one side convincing the other side to change their views.

Some examples of such types of essays are.

  • Cooperative Federalism: Myth or Reality (CSE 2016)
  • Reservation, politics and empowerment. (CSE 1999)
  • Is sting operation an invasion of privacy? (CSE 2014)
  • Can capitalism bring inclusive growth? (CSE 2015)
  • Is the growing level of competition good for the youth? (CSE 2014)

While writing answers on controversial topics like reservation, it is better to avoid taking a clear cut stand on the issue. You must not stand contrary to the government’s policy as you aspire to join the civil services. At the same time, you must also not show excessive praise for the government policy to display your blind faith in the government’s decision when you are well aware that many people are against the policy. Instead, you must present a balanced view highlighting both sides and be diplomatic. Finally, you must provide suggestions to plug the loopholes and accommodate opposing viewpoints.

One way to write such an essay is first to introduce the historical perspective of the issue and then discuss the pros and cons. Finally, you must provide your point of view in the concluding paragraphs. It is important to remember that as a civil services aspirant, you must support the government policies, support constitutional values and be sympathetic to the people’s aspirations. 

Thus, in controversial essays dealing with national policy, the essay’s conclusion is already ‘fixed’, i.e. supporting the government policy. However, it would help derive your conclusion on the strength of evidence and reason rather than emotion. One strategy is to present equally solid arguments for the thesis and antithesis, which would justify you not taking a stand on the issue at hand. Hence, the debate ends up with a tie or a draw. You can now resolve the deadlock by suggesting appropriate measures to plug the present policy’s loopholes and make it acceptable to all sections of society.

10. Discussion Type

In some essays, we discuss the topic from various perspectives. In these essays, we discuss specific issues with different points of view.  We don’t have to reach a conclusion or prove a point. Some examples of discussion type essays are as follows:

  • The composite culture of India (CSE 1998)
  • Why should we be proud of being Indians? (CSE 2000)
  • Justice must reach the poor (CSE 2005)
  • Dreams which should not let India sleep. (CSE 2015)

In writing such essays, we must think like an anchor of a TV show where experts from different walks of life participate. Each one of them is giving his own opinions on the issues. Some are supporting while others are opposing the issue.  

For example, consider the topic for discussion: “Why should we be proud of being Indians?. In the panel, one participant may highlight the achievements of India and Indians and thus try to convince them that we must be proud of being Indian. However, the next panellist may highlight our failures and argue that we must be ashamed of being Indian. Finally, there can be another participant who may provide suggestions to improve the conditions of India so that we can overcome our weaknesses and become a strong and developed country.   

A good anchor starts the discussion by posing questions like “who?”, “what?”, “where?”, “when?”, “why?” and “how?”, and ask the participants to share their thoughts. However, he maintains neutrality during the discussion and ensures that every participant shares his thoughts. He must record the points and finally summarise the key attributes. Ultimately, the conversation winds up with concrete suggestions and on an optimistic note.  A good discussion aims to understand an issue from various perspectives and generate ideas to solve a complex problem. 

Experiment with different methods

In this chapter, we discussed the different methods to write essays. First, you must carefully read the topic of the essay and then decide which methodology would suit the theme the best. Then, you can write the same essay using different methods while practising to find out your style and the suitable method. You will gradually learn to trust your intuition and pick the best method to write the essay.

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