Following are the topics on which our followers have written (and writing essays) every Sunday to hone their essay writing skills. The topics are chosen based on UPSC previous year topics. Writing one essay on each Sunday will help you get better marks in this paper.
2013 Essay Challenges
2014 Essay Challenges
ESSAY STRATEGY by Topper – Rank 25 CSE 2015
ESSAY STRATEGY by Topper – Rank 40 CSE 2015
WEEKLY UPSC IAS ESSAY WRITING CHALLENGES – 2018
- March 11, 2018: A friend to everybody is a friend to nobody
- March 04, 2018: Capitalism can not Bring Inclusive Growth
- February 25, 2018: The unprecedented advance of technologies facilitate individual empowerment but at the cost of Institutions and Democratic societies
- February 18, 2018: Threats being Faced by Liberal Democratic Systems are both Dangerous and Permanent
- February 11, 2018: For India, Stigmatised Capitalism is Better than Crony Socialism
- February 04, 2018: Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics.
- January 28, 2018: Politics of Identity is the Politics of the Weak
- January 21, 2018: Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime
- January 14, 2018: Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding
- January 07, 2018: The Root Cause of Agrarian Distress in India – Failure of Policies or Failure of Governance?
WEEKLY UPSC IAS ESSAY WRITING CHALLENGES – 2017
- December 31, 2017: Impact of the new economic measures on fiscal ties between the union and states in India
- December 24, 2017: Fulfilment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth
- December 17, 2017: Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.
- December 10, 2017: Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers in India
- December 03, 2017: Destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms
- November 19, 2017: Has the Non- Alignment Movement(NAM) lost its relevance in a multipolar world
- November 12, 2017: Social media is inherently a selfish medium.
- November 04, 2017: We may brave human laws but cannot resist natural laws
- October 29, 2017: Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
- October 22, 2017: Harith Diwali, Swasth Diwali : What measures are needed to deal with Festivity and Air Pollution?
- October 15, 2017: Biggest Threat to Humanity – Moral Crisis or Climate Change?
- October 08, 2017: The monsoon is a defining aspect of India’s nationhood
- October 01, 2017: India’s Infrastructure Story – Why is India not able to Build like China?
- September 24, 2017: Impact of Digital Technologies on Globalisation
- September 17, 2017: Urbanisation and Solid Waste Management in India – Challenges and Opportunities
- September 10,2017: Gender Equality and Peace: Are They Connected?
- September 03, 2017: Recent Natural Disasters – What do they Reveal about Humanity?
- August 27, 2017: Godmen – A Threat to Indian Society and Culture
- August 20, 2017: Corruption in India: Neither Systemic Reforms nor Surgical Strikes would End it
- August 13,2017: Interrelationship between Gender Equality and Sustainable Development
- August 06, 2017: Utility and relevance of Parliament in our polity
- July 30, 2017: Caste System – Source of India’s Eternal Inequality?
- July 23, 2017: Indian Democracy, Media and Public Opinion – Does Public Opinion Matter in Policymaking?
- July 16, 2017: Poverty and Environment – Their Interrelationship is the Key to Sustainable World
- July 09, 2017: Soft Power is India’s Strength, not its Weakness
- July 02, 2017: Technology and Jobs – Is Technology a Curse?
- June 25, 2017: Democracy’s Relevance in the Face of New Global Threats
- June 18, 2017: Federalism in India – Competitive or Cooperative?
- June 11, 2017: Peace, Environment and Development: Are these Interrelated?
- June 04, 2017: Role of Technology in Development – Is Technology Helping or Hindering Development?
- May 28, 2017: Poverty is a State of Mind
- May 21, 2017: Does India Need Superpower Status?
- May 14, 2017: India’s Achilles Heel – Lack of Ambition or Lack of Leadership in Achieving Greatness?
- May 07, 2017: Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.
- April 29, 2017: The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation
- April 23, 2017: To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom
- April 16, 2017: One-Party-Dominant System – Is it Good for India?
- April 09, 2017: Should Youth in India Consider Politics as Career?
- April 02, 2017: Can World Save Succeeding Generations from the Scourge of War?
- March 26, 2017: Low, stagnating female labour-force participation in India: An anomaly or an outcome of economic reforms?
- March 19, 2017: When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw
- March 12, 2017: The marks humans leave are too often scars
- March 05, 2017: Environmental Challenges and Geopolitics: How to save our Environment?
- February 27, 2017: Radical Solutions are Needed to Address Today’s Radical Problems
- February 19, 2017: India’s Importance in the Post-truth World
- February 12, 2017: The Role of Politics in Development
- February 05, 2017: Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored
- January 29, 2017: Building Walls and Banning Refugees – Does this Help Humanity?
- January 22, 2017: Digital economy: A leveller or a source of economic inequality
- January 15, 2017: Cyberspace and internet: Blessing or curse to the human civilization in the long run
- January 08, 2017: Water disputes between states in federal India
- January 01, 2017: Need brings greed, if greed increases it spoils breed
WEEKLY UPSC IAS ESSAY WRITING CHALLENGES – 2016
- (December 25, 2016) – Cooperative federalism: Myth or reality
- (December 18, 2016) – Innovation is the key determinant of economic growth and social welfare
- (December 11, 2016) – Near jobless growth in India: An anomaly or an outcome of economic reforms
- (December 04, 2016) – If development is not engendered, it is endangered
- (November 27, 2016) – Social media is better at breaking things than at making things
- (November 20, 2016) – Deglobalization is good for the world
- (November 12, 2016) – Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others
- (November 06, 2016) – It is not inequality which is the real misfortune, it is dependence
- (October 30, 2016) – Reducing Poverty while also Conserving Nature is an Impossible Task
- (October 23, 2016) – Poverty can be eliminated by putting science at the heart of development
- (October 16, 2016) – People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people
- (October 09, 2016) – Better Access is Key to Inclusive Cities
- (October 02, 2016) – The weaker sections of Indian society – Are their Rights and Access to Justice Getting Better?
- (September 25, 2016) – Imagination is more important than intelligence
- (September 18, 2016) – Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life
- (September 11, 2016) – Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance
- (September 04, 2016) – It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it
- (August 28, 2016) – If one can Address Moral Crisis, many of World’s Problems can be Solved
- (August 21, 2016) – Overdependence on Technology will Advance Human Development
- (August 14, 2016) – Geography may remain the same ; history need not
- (August 07, 2016) – Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom
- (July 31, 2016) – To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all
- (July 24, 2016) – True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing
- (July 17, 2016) – We Can Not Fight Terrorism – We have to Live With it
- (July 10, 2016) – A house divided against itself cannot stand
- (July 02, 2016) – When the going gets tough, the tough get going
- (June 26, 2016) – India a Reluctant Participant in the New Global Order?
- (June 19, 2016) – Inclusiveness in India – Still a Dream?
- (June 12, 2016) – No one can make you feel inferior without your consent
- (June 05, 2016) – Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted
- (May 29, 2016) – It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere
- (May 22, 2016) – Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress
- (May 15, 2016) – Fire is a good servant but a bad master
- (May 08, 2016) – The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence
- (May 01, 2016) – Labour Reforms in India and its Role in Economic Development
- (April 24, 2016) – It takes a whole village to raise a child
- (April 17, 2016) – Trust take years to Build, Seconds to Break
- (April 10, 2016) – Cleanliness is next to Godliness
- (April 03, 2016) – Honesty is the Best Policy
- (March 27, 2016) – Before criticizing a man, walk a mile in his shoes
- (March 20, 2016) – Caste System – India’s Enduring Curse
- (March 13, 2016) – Fortune favors the bold
- (March 06, 2016) – Quick but steady wins the race
- (February 28, 2016) – Dreams which should not let India sleep
- (February 21, 2016) – Lending hands to someone is better than giving a dole
- (February 14, 2016) – Technology cannot replace manpower
- (February 7, 2016) – Character of an institution is reflected in its leader
- (January 31, 2016) – Can Capitalism bring Inclusive Growth?
- (January 24, 2016) – Crisis Faced in India – Moral or Economic?
- (January 17, 2016) – Too many cooks spoil the broth
- (January 10, 2016) – The Best Things in Life are Free
- (January 3, 2016) – Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
WEEKLY ESSAY WRITING CHALLENGES – 2015
- 27 December 2015
- 20 December 2015
- 13 December 2015
- 06 December 2015
- 28 November 2015
- 21 November 2015
- 15 November 2015
- 08 November 2015
- 01 November 2015
- 25 October 2015
- 18 October 2015
- 11 October 2015
- 04 October 2015
- 27 September 2015
- 20 September 2015
- 13 September 2015
- 06 September 2015
- 31 August 2015
- 30 August 2015
- 23 August 2015
- 16 August 2015
- 09 August 2015
- 01 August 2015
- 26 July 2015
- 19 July 2015
- 12 July 2015
- 05 July 2015
- 28 June 2015
- 21 June 2015
- 14 June 2015
- 07 June 2015
- 31 May 2015
- 24 May 2015
- 17 May 2015
- 10 May 2015
- 03 May 2015
- 26 April 2015
- 19 April 2015
- 12 April 2015
- 05 April 2015
- 29 March 2015
- 22 March 2015
- 15 March 2015
- 01 March 2015
- 22 February 2015
- 15 February 2015
- 08 February 2015
- 01 February 2015
- 25 January 2015
- 18 January 2015
- 11 January 2015
- 04 January 2015
- Think for Thirty Minutes
- What *NOT* to write in an Essay?
- Provokative Essays
- Don’t get Personal (Cong.vs BJP)
- Quoting the Famous Quotes
- Padding with Fodder Material
- Suggested Reading
- Reading Books as a Hobby
- Related articles
This is what I learned from my seniors and toppers.
There are plenty of articles on internet on how to prepare the essay (=read
editorials daily etc.) I’m writing one about how to ‘actually’ write it inside
the exam hall.
In the Essay paper, they give you 4-5 essays and you’ve to
write only one. Time limit -3 hours, Max-marks=200.
In a 2 marker question, UPSC specifically mentions that answer it in 20 words. So with that logic, you’re expected to write an essay containing around 2000 words for the 200 marks.
Tip#1: Think for 30-45 minutes
before you start the Essay writing
Take this example.
They asked an essay on Gandhi, I start writing it. I write something like
Gandhi was born in Porbandar &
then He went to England…africa..come back…freedom struggle..Gandhi-Irwin..2nd
After 1 hour of writing, I realize that I forgot mention about Champaran’s Indigo Struggle when Gandhi got actively involved in Indian Freedom struggle for the first time! Now I can’t add it. Because there is no space in initial pages. However I can still try to add it in the conclusion like
…in 1947 Gandhi won the fight he started with Champaran…”
But when Examiner doesn’t find the mention of Champaran in the initial pages, then he gets an impression you forgot it = less marks. Hence everything has to be written in its place.
That’s why you must…..
Think for 30-45 minutes before you start the Essay writing
You’ve 3 hours to write the essay. Don’t immediately start
- 1st try to recall everything that you can remember / want to say about the
- Take a pencil and write them all (in very brief) on the end of the answer
- See if there is any chance of adding some diagram or table in it?
|Do you remember any? ||*Related to that topic, What are the |
Once you’re done adding everything
that you can think about, regarding the essay- then give those topics, order of
The order is very important, just like in wedding
parties you start with Soup…dal-roti and…Ice cream in the end.
- Background / History related
- Main concept / theory / what the subject is about
- Current scenario related to it.
- Good sides
- Negative sides / obstacles
- Suggested reforms
everything has to be written in its place.
Gandhi’s Champaran must come in the beginning not in the end.
Now SOME DON’Ts
Tip#2:What not to write in essay
1. Autocracy is better than democracy. (know that it’s the democracy that’s allowing you to criticize it) so you should never justify certain solution to India’s problems.
2. Excessive criticism of Govt. / administration (I mean the frontline and The Hindu’s stand)
3. Seeing negative sides with out suggesting reforms in
Tip#3: Provocative Essays
Sometimes the essay topics are given in such a way, that you want to agree all the way. E.g.
- Panchayati raj is wastage of tax payer’s money. (yes it seems so, just like NREGA but when you’re writing an Essay you need to maintain some balance)
- Poor people are their own enemies.
In such cases – just because he gave you statement doesn’t mean you’ve to sing in his tune throughout the paper.DO NOT forget to show the other side of the mirror.
Its Easier to criticize a non working things than to fix it. (Remember this all time during essay.)
Donot give filmy solutions to real life problems. (Munna Bhai MBBS / Slum Dog Millioner.)
Tip#4: Donot get personal
- Don’t go naming individual politicians – their achievement / scandals (Kalmadi, Raja,Amar Singh etc.)
- (except in the foreign policy related essay, where you’ve to analyse from entire Nehru’s Panchsheel era to Vajpayee’s Lahore Bus visit and current affairs.) our Foreign policy has changed with every prime minister so their names need to be mentioned.
- Never write essay talking like “Congress did this and BJP did that.” It’s the trait of a common man, not of a future officer.
- Give a balanced answer With out getting into hero-worship or mud slinging
- If criticizing Govenrment in the essay alone was going to make you IAS officer, then every journalist of Aaj Tak would be an IAS officer.
- An officer’s trait is to remain ‘anonymous’, ‘faceless’ and neutral- meaning your essay should look like it has been written by a graduate.
Same applies for
1. Religion / culture/ language-literature (in philosophical essays)
2. States (in polity / federalism / Development)
I’m not saying you should transform into a sterile person writing the essay with out having any personal view/ opinion or righteous anger but, you mustn’t become too much passionate about certain things.
I’m saying all this because you can never be sure about what will be the political / ideological / religious / regional alignment of the examiner.
This suggestion also applies while dealing with Public Administration (optional subject).
1. Don’t make mistakes in writing who said what. E.g. you quote Abraham Lincon’s sentence and write George Washington said it. nothing will make you look more stupid in the eyes of the examiner than that.
2.Quote Exactly as it was said. Mao said “Power flows from the barrel of a gun” so you should not write it as
“barrel of the gun contains power”
“muzzle of the gun flows the power”
You must quote the quote verbatim. If you’re not sure then don’t quote it.
Tip#6: Padding & Deviating from the subject
Even in the worst case, you’re supposed to write 1200-1500 words for a 250 marks essay.
Padding means, you don’t know the exact answer so you just beat around the bushes and write the garbage stuff to fill up the pages, while this tactic does work in the school and college exams but don’t try it in the essay paper.
Don’t write too many proverbs / quotes/ (invented) case studies/examples per page. It makes the examiner think that you’ve no input of your own so you’re just filling up the pages.
Donot pick up the subject where your idea or thought content is very low.
- Ex. you picked up “Do we need nuclear power” – So you start with how thermal power-stations create pollution, there is huge demand and low supply of electricity, nuke power is cheap, and
then the dangers such as Japanese Tsunami etc.
- After 4 pages, your thoughts and ideas are exhausted-you’ve nothing more to say and assuming that you write 100 words per page, you realise that only 400 words won’t get you any marks ! now you can’t scratch those pages and write a new essay on new topic, you’ve wasted enough time on this one.
- So you decide to continue with this nuke-power essay and start rewriting the same stuff you already stated in different ways and then you’ll deviate from the main topic- like nuke power is unsafe as we saw in Japan
so we need to switch to renewable energy source like Sun, Wind and Water -> then 4 pages on advantages of renewable energy as if this is an essay on “the benefits of Non-renewable energy” and not on nuke power, you write about the pro-cons of hydro-electricity like dams and displacement of people.
- Then you realise “omg, displacement of people also applies while making nuke-powerplants like in Maharashtra!“ so you come back to the topic -half page written but still you’ve not filled up enough pages so you start talking about to land-acquisition policy and start writing the pro-cons..another half page on it. Then you think “oh i must talk something about the Indo-US nuke deal” so you go on talking about how we haven’t signed the CTBT and yet N.S.G gave us clearance and China-Pakistan couldn’t stop it so we are a global power now and we deserve a permanent seat in UNSC! This kind of padding goes on until time is up.
- You’ve messed up the whole thing, you totally deviated from the subject. Your essay doesn’t have any flow of thoughts or proper rhythm. The seasoned examiners immediatly sniff out this padding and they don’t give much marks for it, your expected score for this kind of garbage writing is less than 50/200, means even with decent score in all other papers, your chances of getting interview call is close to zero. You’ve jeopardised your chances
of selection in IAS, you’ve digged your own grave. That’s why
- take great care in picking up the subject
- first 30-40 minutes for thorough thinking.
- stick to the subject
Same applies while dealing with the big 60 marker question in GS and optional papers. (not 30 minutes of thinking but atleast 5-7 minutes!)
Essay is not something that can be learned reading one book or reading for 1 month.
It’s a continuous and long process takes some diverse reading before you’ve enough content to write something decent and something big enough to fill 20 pages to fetch 100+ marks.
- Editorials of english newspapers ( but don’t get swayed about by either leftist
or capitalist stuff preched by both sides)
- Magazines like Frontline,
yojana, Kurukshetra. (it gives you the fodder material: statistical data to quote like how many % illiterate and so on but again don’t use too much statistical data for padding and most importantly don’t ‘invent’ your own case studies and stat.data)
- Watch English news channel – discussions / debates.
- See the old question papers and try to make an outline of each and every Essay asked so far.
Reading Books as a Hobby
To increase your idea and ‘fodder-material’ for brain storming, you can read some books outside studies, related to Indian culture, democracy and Development, just for time-pass for example
Me and my ruined essay
In 2009’s mains attempt, I got only 20/200 marks in the Essay. It was about ‘are we a soft state?’. I wrote it only from the foriegn policy and law-n-order point of view, without seeing the cultural -historical contexts. It was a monotonous essay without any spark. Moral of the story: do try to see different angles of the subject and give a thorough thought before you start writing.
Some veterans are in opinion that you should pick up the essay on technical subject, example space-technology, advances in medical science, how IT has changed lives and so on. Because only a few people attempt them, and due to technical nature, your ideas are unlikely to be in conflict with the examiner so you’ll get more marks.
But then again you need enough ‘content’ to write 1500+ words else the padding route=digging your own grave. And there are enough toppers who wrote the non-technical essay and still got in the top-merit list so as usual for every generalisation made about UPSC, you’ll find a counter example!
Predicting Essays for 2011 Mains paper
- As usual coaching classes try to anticipate which essays will be asked, and UPSC makes sure they are not asked. So be prepared for
- everything- don’t just rely on selected hot-topics like Lokpal and Civil society.
- In old times, it was quite predictable, see the papers from 1997 to 2006: almost every year there is an essay on polity-judiciary, one on women
- empowerment, one on Science-tech, one on democracy and governance. But nowadays UPSC is rapidly breaking the trends.
- Lets look @ the 2010 paper. People predicted: there will be some essay on games, due to CWG or Asiad or even on corruption and good Governance given CWG and 2G scams. But there was nothing.
- I’m putting the comparative list of essays asked in last two years (2009 and 2010). Make your own judgement and prediction and prepare accordingly.
Vulnerable groups of society (India vs. Bharat Debate)
- Should a moratorium be imposed on all fresh mining in tribal areas of the country? (2010) (can be classified as current affairs due to Mines regulation bill)
- Are our traditional handicrafts doomed to a slow death? (2009)
- From traditional Indian philanthropy to the Gates-Buffet model-a natural progression or a paradigm shift?-2010
- The focus of health care is increasingly getting skewed towards the ‘haves’ of our society-2009
- Preparedness of our society for India’s global leadership role. 2010
- Are we a soft state? 2009
- Good Fences make good neighbors. 2009
One more bad news: in 1997 to 2006 era, UPSC gave 6 subjects and you had to write one essay, in 2009: five options and in 2010 : only 4 options.