5 Essential Steps: How to Write an Essay in UPSC Mains

how to write an essay in upsc mains

Writing an essay in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Mains examination can be a daunting task for many aspiring civil servants.

The essay paper carries a weightage of 250 marks and requires a high level of language proficiency, analytical thinking and writing skills. The essay is also one of the few opportunities for candidates to showcase their knowledge and views on a wide range of topics and make a lasting impression on the examiners.

In this blog, we will provide you with steps and strategies on how to write an essay in UPSC Mains exam.

Whether you are a first-time aspirant or an experienced candidate, you will find useful insights to help you approach the essay paper with confidence and write an essay that stands out. So, let’s get started!

UPSC CSE Mains Essay Writing Exam Pattern

  1. The paper comes under the UPSC CSE Mains exam in which two essays must be written within 3 hours, each within a 1000-1200 word limit.
  2. Each carries 125 marks, so the total is 250 marks.
  3. The paper is divided into two sections, each carrying a choice of 4 essays. The aspirant has to choose only one from each section.
  4. UPSC CSE Syllabus clearly instructs aspirants to keep their thoughts close to the subject and arrange their ideas accordingly. It further states that credit will be given for effective essays and coherent expression’.

Also Read: How To Complete UPSC Mains Paper in 3 Hours? – A Clear-Cut Guide

What is a Good Score in Essay Writing Paper in UPSC Mains?

The essay paper counts for up to 250 marks. A score above 50% could be considered good. 125 is the perfect example.

A score of around 110-125 is considered average.

For an exceptional essay, you might score a perfect mark in the range of 150-160.

Structure of an Essay in UPSC Mains

How to structure an essay for the UPSC exam is the first and foremost thing that should be learnt while taking into consideration how to write an essay in UPSC Mains.

The traditional way of UPSC CSE Mains essay writing is to break it into paragraphs with pointers in simple language. This technique is still working in structuring an informative and well-written essay for UPSC Mains.

A body paragraph is of utmost importance besides the introduction and conclusion part. The body paragraph contains important facts, figures, data, and information along with several relevant quotes.

Here are some points regarding the structuring of an essay in the form of an introduction, body, and conclusion that will help you in writing a well-balanced essay.

  1. The introduction part is the most important of all. Your introduction creates a first impression on the examiner. Your essay should always have a good starting and a conclusion.
  2. Body paragraphs are equally important parts of the essay that can be supportive, critical, or narrative. However, it is advised to have a mature thought process in all forms and to not take any side or get emotional in writing a certain opinion.
  3. Essays, along with facts and language skill also demands your opinion that should be written in a well-balanced way. The narrative part should be written by starting with an argument along with different facts.
  4. Further, a supportive paragraph is necessary to contain positive facts/ideas. Talking of a critical paragraph, it is advised to place it in the last part with the exact expression. However, it depends on your will. You can also open with a critical part.
  5. The conclusion is also crucial as it can bring you additional marks if done properly. Your concluding statement reveals a lot about you, as balancing every statement after a lot of critical evaluation and facts is a form of art.

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5 Essential Steps: How to Write a Well-Structured Essay in UPSC Mains

Remember the mnemonic provided here that will help you to keep the important pointers in mind on how to write an essay in UPSC Mains.

Stick to the TIPCR formulae always. If you write with this structure, along with filling in a good amount of content, you are definitely going to score well in this paper.

1. T- Time Limit

Time management is very important for UPSC CSE Main essay writing. You get 3 hours to write two essays in the exam which means you have 1 hour and 30 minutes for each essay.

It is a fact that any aspirant needs 45 minutes to 1 hour to write one essay. Another 10 minutes is required for the revision of one essay.

Before all this, you need at least 20-30 minutes to brainstorm, jot down some points, and make an outline. Dividing the time and sticking to it is the only key to scoring good marks.

2. I- Introduction

A good start of the introduction always arises the interest in the examiner. The examiner’s judgment and how they are going to take your whole piece depends on your starting.

If you start well, you must also end in an impressive manner. A good introduction can be a brief explanation of the given topic and you can make it effective by adding some quotes, a critical narrative, or your own narrative.

3. P- Paragraphs and Pointers

Paragraphs and pointers provide a smooth flow to your essay which not only looks like a structured essay but also feels like a more informative but less hectic to read a piece of writing.

Paragraphs in small chunks or pointers like short paragraphs provide an establishment that leads towards a conclusion.

Examiners are habitual of reading something in an ordered way, especially in Mains essay writing section.

4. C- Conclusion

Finishing on a good or smooth note is as important as starting on a good note. A smooth and positive conclusion with a clear explanation will help you in scoring good marks.

There should be a ‘Cyclic-return’ approach in your essay. The introduction should end with a question or discussion and in the conclusion, you can again come to that question to conclude it with a positive statement or anecdote.

5. R- Revision

To revise or read your whole piece in the entirety is as important as writing it. Keep a check on grammatical mistakes, and some missing points, or make sure your answer looks clean and tidy.

These things can be done only when you revise your answer. Add/omit some words as per your demands but should not be overdone.

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Strategy for Essay Writing in UPSC Mains Exam

Just like the UPSC CSE your essay writing also needs planning. There are broadly three steps to writing a structured essay defining what the essay is going to talk about i.e. the central idea, brainstorming, and making a blueprint of it.

Mains essay writing demands a well-structured format from your side as it is one of the most prestigious and tough examinations in India.

1. The Central Idea is the Key

“Innovation is the key determinant of economic growth and social welfare”

This is basically a thesis statement of an essay question of UPSC CSE Mains 2016. In this statement, the central idea is ‘innovation’.

Here, the aspirant is supposed to bring out a dimension of innovation that directly or indirectly affects economic growth and social welfare. Aspirants are supposed to write that statement of facts only which supports the central idea or those statements that supplement the overall idea.

2. Brainstorming for a Better Idea

Brainstorming is one of the most powerful tools in the examination phase. Brainstorming leads to developing new ideas quickly or listing those ideas that align with your knowledge of the given topic.

There is no specific rule or technique for brainstorming, instead, you can jot down points on a paper that are necessary for your Mains essay writing.

3. Making a Blueprint

Making a blueprint or outlining your essay means deciding what to write in the introduction, body, and conclusion parts. What ideas to represent in which section, which quotes are relevant to the given thesis, etc.

Before the actual writing, it is very important to see it in its entirety. It helps you to see the big picture. The blueprint also helps you in finding the right conclusion to wrap up your essay.

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Essential Elements of Essays in UPSC Mains

The Super 3

  1. Social element
  2. Political element
  3. Economical element

These three points should be considered while writing an essay. These three elements give a proper shape to an essay or any piece of the thesis.

Writing a formal one always demands dimensions and these three dimensions will always support your arguments concerning various areas of society. It enhances the effectiveness and creates a proper report-like structure along with your narratives to form well-balanced and good writing in your Mains essay writing.

The Supportive 3

  1. Constitutional
  2. Legal
  3. Technological

These three additional dimensions also enhance the quality of your writing. You can use various technological perspectives, constitutional facts, remedies, laws, and legal terms to support the thesis in your Mains essay writing.

Personal Comments and Opinions

Your opinions matter a lot. UPSC CSE Mains essay writing demands a subjective approach to writing. It is very important to express your personal opinion on the issue or the given statement.

However, it should be kept in mind that your personal opinions should not be too biased in nature. Neutral and well-balanced writing is always appreciated by the UPSC.

Additional Reading: 3 Ways to Build a Revision Strategy for UPSC – A Must

Reference Books for Essay Writing in UPSC Mains

You may seek help from books that will assist you with Essay Writing for UPSC Civil Services Exam. 

  1. Essays for Civil Services and Other Competitive Examinations by Pulkit Khare.
  2. Essay Paper For Civil Services Main Examination by Pavneet Singh and Sonali Bansal
  3. Selected Contemporary Essays by Saumitra Mohan (MHE)
  4. My Experiment With Truth by M.K. Gandhi
  5. J.L. Nehru Getting India Back on Track by Ratan Tata

In addition to the above-mebtioned books, you make take help of English newspapers such as The Hindu and the newspaper editorial section to expand your vocabulary.

Staying updated with the current affairs is also necessary. Take a look at the Best Current Affairs Magazine For UPSC to keep yourself informed about the latest events happening around the world.


Practice is the key to success. Focus on reading, the art of argumentation, and correct sequence to achieve good scores in essays. Remember there is no such thing as a perfect essay, just arrange the ideas in an orderly fashion and keep writing.

Essays in the UPSC Mains exam must be written with the help of facts and figures along with data, like statistics from a government report or any data from a major research paper that supports a writer’s perspective on a given topic.

Conversational form, the use of first-person references, and getting emotional with the audience are not allowed in a formal structure.

The points made by the candidate need to be neutral, supported by logical facts and not someone’s biased personal opinions. A certain degree of straightforwardness should be there while writing a formal exam, especially for an exam like UPSC CSE.

The tips mentioned above revolve around how to write an essay in UPSC Mains. These will help improve your writing skills and build a better essay structure.

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FAQs on How to Write an Essay in UPSC Mains Exam

What is the format of an essay in UPSC Mains?

The format of an essay in UPSC Mains is as follows: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. The introduction should state the main idea of the essay and the body should elaborate on it with examples and arguments. The conclusion should summarize the key points made in the essay. The word limit for an essay in UPSC Mains is usually around 250-300 words.

How to choose a topic for an essay in UPSC Mains?

Choose a topic that you are well-versed in and have a strong opinion on. It is advisable to choose a topic that is relevant to current events and has social and political significance. This will help you present a well-researched and thought-out argument in your essay.

How to write the introduction of an essay in UPSC Mains?

The introduction of an essay in UPSC Mains should be concise and clear. Start with a hook that grabs the reader’s attention, state the main idea of the essay, and provide a thesis statement. The thesis statement should provide a clear direction for the rest of the essay.

How to write the body of an essay in UPSC Mains?

The body of an essay in UPSC Mains should elaborate on the main idea presented in the introduction. Divide the body into paragraphs and make sure each paragraph has a clear focus and supports the thesis statement. Use examples, facts, and statistics to make your arguments more persuasive.

How to write the conclusion of an essay in UPSC Mains?

The conclusion of an essay in UPSC Mains should summarize the key points made in the essay and restate the thesis statement. End with a final thought or a call to action that provides closure to the essay. Make sure the conclusion is not repetitive and adds value to the essay.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing an essay in UPSC Mains?

Some common mistakes to avoid when writing an essay in UPSC Mains include: poor structure, unclear arguments, repetitive information, grammatical errors, and using informal language. Make sure to proofread your essay before submitting to avoid these mistakes.

How to improve one’s essay writing skills for UPSC Mains?

To improve your essay writing skills for UPSC Mains, you can practice writing essays on a regular basis, read newspapers and articles to stay updated on current events, improve your vocabulary, and seek feedback from peers and teachers.

Additionally, reading sample essays and learning from the writing style of experienced writers can also help improve your skills.

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