Hello everyone! My name is Manuj Jindal and I have secured AIR 53 in CSE 2016. The Achilles’ heel in my success to CSE 2015 was the essay component. Despite having been writing for almost a decade on a daily basis (I write my diary), I made some critical mistakes that cost me a spot higher up in the ranks in 2015. Perhaps, it was a blessing in disguise, but it was quite a painful blessing! The real question most of you must be thinking about is, how did I recognize this problem and tackle it? How did I improve my score so drastically? Well, here are my two cents on it.
The initial step was to recognize that I failed to get good marks because of my own follies. First, I realized that I did not practice enough for the essay component. I barely wrote 3-4 essays during the 2015 attempt. I ignored this critical part of the exam and took it for granted. I imagined, to my own peril, that since I had been writing for so long, I would be able to handle the essays well. For many of us it works, however there are also many (trust me, MANY), who fall because of this complacency, just like I did.
Also, please realise the fact that essay can fetch up to 160 out of 250 marks, which is 64% marks! I got 1053/2075 as my final score, which is 50.75%. The topper got 1120/2075 which is 54%. Clearly, essay has a central place in our preparation for UPSC as it can literally make or break your rank.
Second, I simply did not write a good enough essay in 2015. Initially I did not believe so. After the mark sheet of main exam was out, I spent countless nights thinking what had I done wrong to get a score of 90?! Was it a mistake at UPSC’s end? My father even told me to file an RTI and all that.
In a matter of a few days I recollected about 20-30% of my essay, or at least how I had gone about it. I also re-read my older essays (although I had written only two or three of them). It was clear to me by this time that the marks I got were not random. They were based in some sort of reality, some basic mistakes I made and also due to lack of good guidance and practice.
Immediately after the marks were out I started looking for Essay test series available in the market. This was the first important step – make a mindset to write a lot of essays and get all of them evaluated by the right people. These people can be your friends, siblings, parents, teachers and successful candidates from past years as well. I wrote a total of 46 essays in the course of my journey for CSE 2016, and it definitely paid off.
So how to write UPSC essays?
Follow the pattern [this is an argumentation technique that is well accepted for conventional academic writing across various universities]:
2. Thesis statement [the main argument of your essay]
3. Mini-thesis statements to support the main argument
4 Antithesis, if needed
Example: Topic: “Impacts of Globalisation on Indian Culture” – see my analysis attached
This above formulation helped me to get my structure and line of thinking intact. I was not someone who had command over language. I also understood that UPSC does not focus on language/vocab skills when awarding marks in these essays. They are looking for clarity, structure and diversity of thought process. A conventional essay would, on average, fetch you more marks than an unconventional/creative one for sure.
Heading/Subheadings –> for me, these worked as they provided a well-defined structure to my essay. Use them as you wish but do not think that essay means no headings. UPSC wants you to write like a bureaucrat, not an academic. Also, feel free to use extremely relevant diagrams/flowcharts. I did not do so, but they are acceptable in UPSC. If you want to play on the safe side, just go with the headings and not diagrams.
I also followed a video lecture offered free on courser on writing academic papers and essays, which basically talks in detail about the above structure I have provided you.
The link is here [not sure if it’s still offered but providing the link nonetheless]: https://www.coursera.org/learn/getting-started-with-essay-writing/home
Test Series I took:
1. PunditView – now UPSCMENTORS
3. GS Score
4. +wrote some Insights essays which helped and other old papers of UPSC also
Excellent! Highly professional, affordable, timely checking, detailed feedback that actually picks on the strengths and weaknesses of the essay and really good, UPSC type topics. I think, at the moment, PunditView is the best in the market by a long shot as far as essay test series is concerned. They devote a good chunk of time to really make one think and work on one’s essay. Hats off to your wonderful initiative guys! [thanks so much Dhanashree! J]
Teachers with years of valuable experience check copies here. Lukmaan’s Ansari sir knows what is needed in an essay and he communicates that superbly in his comments. He consistently evaluated my essay and provided me critical feedback and helped me develop an intuitive sense on essays. Thank you sir.
I will also make a video on essay writing soon for a more in-depth analysis of my technique. I will post that as well on a new blog soon.
Apart from this guidance by mentors, I attribute a large part of my success to my dear brother Anuj Jindal, who has selflessly guided me in essays and other subjects. Also, my dear friend Vipul Khanna, who is one of the most gregarious, creative and objective persons I have ever met. In addition, Rahul Dhote sir (rank 209, CSE 2016), who is an inspiration in himself and kind of my Hindi medium copy J. My teachers and parents obviously are the ones to whom any words of gratitude cannot suffice.
For those who want to contact me with questions, please reach out at [email protected] anytime.