UPSC IAS ESSAY STRATEGY, and MOTIVATION by Ms Gazal Bharadwaj – Rank 40: Marks Jumped from 74 in CSE 2013 to 147 in CSE 2015

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UPSC IAS Essay Strategy by Ms Gazal Bharadwaj (Rank 40) – One of the Highest Marks – 147  in Essay Paper (CSE – 2015)

Why I write this post today is because essay writing has always been of interest to me, however in UPSC this was one paper which was ruining me during my last 2 attempts as I scored only 74 (mains 2013) and 104 (mains 2014), each time missing the cutoff very closely (I scored 147 in 2015).  This would happen despite my being satisfied with my performance in essay paper and despite my writing inclinations (which you would observe on my blog 🙂 I would be severely disheartened, because I had always loved writing and blogging and was not able to take it that essay paper was screwing things up! Definitely something was going wrong and needed an amend of strategy.

I began with noting down my approach in UPSC essay paper during the low scoring attempts:

  1. My essays were spontaneous. i.e reading the options and picking one and taking twenty minutes to plan and structure
  2. My focus was more on thought process, on depth rather than width.
  3. My handwriting was fine. Also my essays would be well divided into a catchy introduction, body and conclusion. I would underline and use headings.

I realized there was not problem in structuring, rather in content.  My content involved a spontaneous integration of whatever knowledge I had gathered during my preparation and revision before mains.


This time I decided to change my approach and take essay paper as one whole 250 marks paper which can let you in the list, or throw you out of it. During last two months before mains, I compiled certain themes of recent and general relevance dealing with economic, social, political and international arena and began to jot down various aspects relating to them. For eg-

  1. Inequality, capitalism ( Prepared just a week before mains as I came across Thomas Piketty’s discussion on capitalism and democracy, wherein he said that India should have more public investment in education, health and infrastructure if it wants to bring down inequality and that every strong capitalist society in the world and every successful historical experience of capitalist development did include a very strong collective effort to invest in public education, public infrastructure, access to health.
  2. Technology related (Internet of things, robots replacing people in Japan etc issues in news)
  3. Civil society and ngo’s related (Nobel prize to Tunisian civil society group, Quartet and so much of controversy related to ngo’s and FCRA  in India)
  4. Tolerance and progress related (Returning of literary awards, RBI Governor’s speech on Tolerance)
  5. Terrorism (Due to ISIS)
  6. Education related everything (because a new education policy was being drafted, a theme also linked to a poetry book I was working on to publish, so MHRD document titled “New Education Policy”, inviting comments from various stakeholders had been properly researched my me.)


Now, I did not write proper essays on any of these topics. But, I researched everything linked to them in advance and different kind of questions that can be asked related to these. It’s here that Insights essay questions and Insights daily debate compilation helped me a lot. This is because various sources were mentioned to form a base on. And different perspectives of fellow students would help to analyse various nuances of a topic. For example:


-Are classrooms irrelevant to learning?

-Is growing level of competition good for children?

I clubbed this with newspaper articles on Higher education institutes and autonomy, IIM and IIT controversy and with the MHRD document titled “New Education Policy”

2. Privacy vs transparency

Clubbed it with aadhar related issues, SC verdicts, Right to privacy as FR etc

3. Progress and growth in nation and tolerance

4. Role of ngos in governance

5. Terrorism related


I was delighted to see two of my favourite topics in the exam-


  1. Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make a man more clever devil.
  2. Technology cannot replace manpower.



  • I already had the structure and content clear in my mind. That saved my twenty minutes of planning the essay on the spot. And so I took just five mins to plan, and could give whole 125 minutes to both my essays.
  • I already had stirring introductions for both themes. Eg- In essay one I luckily knew whose statement it actually was. So I started my started my essays like:

ESSAY 1: The anti war and anti imperialist BERTRAND RUSSEL, who was sent to prison during the first world war for what was called his pacificm had once remarked rightly:

“If men were rational in their conduct, intelligence would be enough to make the world a paradise. But humans are actuated by passions which distort their view… that is why the heart is as important as the head…. When the kindly impulses of the heart are absent, science only makes man more cleverly diabolic”

ESSAY2: ” The reason I love technology is not the technology itself, although that is exciting. The reason I love technology is because of what it makes possible.”

Yes. It is us humans whose ideas and endeavour has made all technology possible. And technology is only as valuable as the purpose towards which it is put. Technology is only as valuable as the dedication, the passion, the commitment and the excitement of the people who choose to work with it. If we know that the difference between a successful application of technology and a failed application of technology is the people who choose to use it and their commitment, we will understand that technology cannot ever replace manpower, rather enhance it. But history shows us how machines took away employment from millions of people who made handicrafts and put them into what economists call ‘technological unemployment’. Movements like Luddism are a testimony to this phenomenon. And today with the rise of robotics, internet of things and artificial intelligence, the threat can be all the more real. So then what?

The answer lies in the  dynamic of partnership between people who understand what technology can do and people who have the passion and commitment and understanding of what purposes technology should be pointed towards. So whether it needs to replace manpower in an ageing country like Japan or aid manpower in a labour surplus India is for us to decide.

  • If you notice, I made my stand very clear, right at the beginning of the essay. Your essay first para must contain a jist of what you wish to argue in the rest of your words. You may start with a quote, a verse or a story. But take a stand, and defend it for the rest of your essay.
  • I divided the body into many parts:


a) historical perspective:


  • ESSAY 1: What’s the purpose of education since it evolved as a concept? To create a whole individual, in harmony with all learning he/she has acquired. But what is our modern education system leading to- student suicides in India, Patna cheating case, shooting sprees in America :
  • ESSAY 2:  in the early days, only the elites were educated. Manuscripts were so valuable that monasteries and libraries actually secured them with chains. A century later, schools were much more widespread and books were printed in dozens of languages. So what happened? the printing press was invented, but that alone didn’t make the difference. The technology was necessary but not sufficient. It was only when an entrepreneurial group of printers linked up with a group of scholars and these scholars translated the original Latin into dozens of different languages, only then did learning become widespread. (Had read the example somewhere)

In other words, it was only when the people who had the newest technology joined forces with the educators who could help make use of the technology did the Renaissance achieve its true potential.

b) Present times economy: examples to cite how banking and financial education being cleverly misused by atm frauds, satyam scandal, saradha chit funds, sahara etc in the first essay. And example of agriculture, industry and service sectors in second essay. Eg. How some jobs are under threat, while others are getting born, but technological unemployment can be tackled if we understand the shift and skill our population accordingly.


c) Present times society:  similar approach with recent examples. Quoted developments in E-commerce, ranging from the creation of electronic market places to new logistics networks and payments systems. Today, a consumer in a small town can have the same choice of clothing fashions that anyone from the large metros enjoy, simply because the Internet has brought all the shops in India to her doorstep. And while her local shop no longer can sell shoddy apparel, it now focuses on the perishable items she needs in a hurry, even while sub-contracting to provide the last leg of the logistic network that reaches her. (quoted somewhere by RBI governor). So its about partnership between technology and manpower rather than one replacing another

d) Political and Ethical aspects

e) Way forward which included what is being done and what must be done: policies and programmes and their failings and suggestions


  • Reiterated my stand in conclusion and ended on a positive note.: That the state shud take responsibility and evolve a proper public education strategy and put more money there. Quoted Thomas Piketty here (used the capitalism stuff in education essay)

I have tried to narrate my change of strategy here because what I learnt from the whole experience was that essay paper is not about being a writer or having writing instincts. Its about hardwork and prior preparation and integration of all your preparation. I attach a sample on how I prepared notes on essay this year, if it helps   (although I believe we all have our own different ways of integrating information and analysing it):

Note: these are only notes, not a full fledged essay

Terrorism and Humanity – How to Deal with Terrorism and its Threats?

“One day they struck together two wild stones. Fire, they invented. Or discovered it may be.

Then, one day, they called it sacred.

Today, they know fire. A chemical reaction producing smoke, and warming up the globe.

Whether with firearms, which kids in our cities play with.

or those by militants and armies,in a Mosul or Tikrit.

Paradoxically. On this warming up globe, in this world on fire, raging red.

We’re all getting colder, with indifference or hatred.

And I shiver again, another cold night,

on this warming up globe,

and with every sound of the gun….”

(I planned to begin any essay on terror, ISIS etc quoting a verse I wrote long back on my blog, and ending with the same verse)

As I imagine myself, as a young girl or a boy, recently taken hostage somewhere in Iraq, the above words repeat  in my mind, every single night. Already seperated from my family, I fear if I would be killed, made a sex slave or put into a training camp. I lament that Terrorism is an anti-thesis of Humanity, to be precise. Yet it is we humans who have invented it. And I cry, that despite knowing this for decades, we are not doing enough to deal with it, either as individuals or nations.

To think of a definition, terrorism is a pre-mediated, politically or ideologically motivated violence perpetrated against non- combatant targets, usually intended to influence an audience by creation of fear. And although there is no legally binding criminal law definition of terrorism in the international community, we must be wary of equating it with Islamism or jihadism while ignoring non-Islamic organizations or individuals.

The international community’s concerted efforts to evolve a global counter-terrorism strategy notwithstanding, the global terror network is becoming more threatening and menacing. The enemy is no longer unseen or hidden. Al-Qaeda began to physically control territory in Yemen some years ago. Al-Shabab has registered spectacular successes in Somalia. Boko Haram is taking over towns in northern Nigeria, and the IS is holding territory in Iraq and Syria that is equivalent in size to the land area of the United Kingdom. This represents a paradigm shift. Terrorists continue to receive funding and are able to mount ever more complex operations. The fusion of ultra-extremist ideology, continued public support and funding in parts of West Asia explain, to some extent, the rise of the IS.


To deal with terrorism first we need to understand its roots and its causes of origin. Terrorists use the diverse theories for their benefit and mould it according to their wishes.

USING RELIGION ONLY AS A GARB– Religion which is used by terrorists is nothing but a garb to hide its true ideals and seek legitimacy for immoral acts which otherwise have no sanction an any religion.

  1. Terrorism and violent extremism find breeding grounds either in weak and fragile states or in societies where freedom of expression is suppressed and civil liberties are seriously circumscribed. Chronic underdevelopment, deprivation of basic human rights and restrictions on freedom of speech make terrorism and violence particularly attractive for the young unemployed.
  • The other major cause of its strengthening is interference of other nations into a country. In the garb of introducing democracy they acted to create fissures into the society of already established nations to promote their own interests. This process is going on from the starting of 20th century whether it is Sykes-Picot agreement or creation of Israel or wars waged by Western nations in Middle-East countries from time to time.
  • How to interfere?-It is widely accepted that the use of force, whether authorised and legitimate or without legality, has unintended consequences.
  • Equally, arming rebels is a bad idea. There are no “good” or “bad” rebels. All rebels are not only capable of turning, but in fact do turn, “rogue” The disturbing thing is that these nations have not learnt from their experience and still try to distinguish between good terrorism and bad terrorism.

Terrorism has received a major boost from such policy-induced and ill-conceived decisions by the international community. Military action in Iraq in 2003, the arming of rebels in Libya and Syria by the West and some of the Gulf states stand out.

3. DISCONTENT AND ITS CHANNELISATION IN DESTRUCTIVE DIRECTIONS BY MASSIVE PROPAGANDA: Extremist and terrorist organisations flourish because they have been able to channelize human discontent and grievances to injustice towards destructive directions of perpetuating the same injustice on innocent people, with the aim of unleashing terror and revenge.


These terror outfits  fight against legitimate govts because they want to capture the power and resources of the state and rule not as per democratic ideals, but what they perceive to be right. What is disturbing however is when educated people too get brainwashed by their ideologies, and join them rendering their whole education process futile. EG. Wasim completed B.Tech in Hyderabad in 2011 and flew to London to pursue M.S. programme and also secured the degree from Greenwich University. Its important thus to examine what attracts these educated people to these destructive and inhuman ideologies:

 (1) Massive propaganda machinery of terror organisations including both cash and technologies

 (2) It is the disenchantment and perceived feeling of exclusion in these educated people which is exploited by these organisations. Eg. Even educated women from developed Europe were found joining the isis because of inherent problems in the western model of secularism which leads to disconnect of their minorities from their elected govts.

 (3) Sometimes, economic hardships and prolonged unemployment leads to frustration building in educated youth and they turn towards radicalism, which gives them a perceived respect on the battlefield which they were denied by a dignified job, as seen in Afghanistan.

 (4) At times legitimate govts may become sectarian eg. Narrow Assad n al Maliki regimes which alienated large section o Sunnis from public posts exasperated matters

 (5) Due to social media and active campaigning of these extreme groups, these people are exposed to these ideas at very vulnerable ages and the tragedy is there is no similar counter ideological campaign either online or offline to provide them an alternative narrative and they fall prey to these ideas.

 (6) Finally it is a thirst for unchallenged power and prestige which anarchy and a perceived notion of following one’s faith gives them leads educational youth towards such organisations.


  • Lack rationality: Such educated people lack rationality to distinguish logically between right and wrong.
  • Ends and means: They fail to realize that use of violence will never lead to a just society as Gandhi Ji often said that “Noble Goals can be achieved only through Noble Means”.
  • No respect for equality of all humans: They also fail to realize the essence of values of brotherhood and equality that all people are same. Thus, a cause which is achieved by killing by innocent people can never bring justice to another group/community.
  • They lack emotional intelligence to regulate their negative emotions and act without weighing the consequences of their actions on themselves , their families and the people they kill.
  • They also lack tolerance, and become blind to adhering to their faith or communal interests, even to the extent of disparaging those of other innocent civilians whom they maim and kill, in their fit of insanity. They lack compassion for mankind at large. In fact, this is the worst thing abour terror and extremist ideologies. Under their influence, as people try to extinguish the life of others, in the process slowly and quietly, their own inner light blows out.


Recently there have been unprecedented rise in the terrorist activities in the world. Middle-east and African countries have been worst affected, Terrorist organizations such as ISIS, BOKO-HARAM, AL-QAEDA etc. are doing things which are not only retrospective but also anti-evolution.

  1. BOKO-HARAM which literally means Western Education is bad started with cultural propaganda and it’s now inflicting grave crimes on humanity, eg. thousands of Girls from Schools have been abducted and they are converted and made to work and act like a slave for the fighting terrorists.  Similarly What ISIS is doing is in front of whole humanity they are openly beheading, butchering, enslaving humans wherever they can.
  2. They justify killing of other religious groups, minorities ,and they inflict disproportionatepunishment such as death for Apostasy, stoning for adultery , chopping limbs for burglary etc. these are against the modern way of life style and system of Punishments. Eg. Recent revelation about the working of ISIS by absconding members of the group suggests that how Women and even males are treated very badly in the intra-group setup.
  3. These Ideologies works on the anti-diversity principles, it doesn’t recognizes the basic tenets of Natural justice even Rt. To life, leave other things.


  1. HOW ANTI TERROR OPERATIONS MAY THEMSELVES BECOME A REASON Sometimes the anti-terrorist operations are itself blamed with the anti-humanity acts eg. Zarb-e-abz by Pakistani govt. where citizens also gets vindicated and govt. kept silence and calling it as ‘collateral damage’. similarly, anti-naxal operations have often given rise to many controversial happenings one among them was SALWA-JUDUM
  3. NO UNITY OF EFFORT EITHER WITHIN GOVTS OR AMONGST GOVTS– In both cases information travels only vertically with very little horizontal coordination. Secondly, the first hurdle in achieving any unity of effort is that govts have different definitions and most of them do not consider terrorism as a threat until they fall victim to it.

state sponsored terrorism should be condemned internationally and in the harshest possible words and no country should give tacit support to terrorists in order to achieve its myopic goal, a prerequisite for the Humanity to survive at large.

  1. CHANGING NATURE OF TERRORIST FINANCING Terrorists now depend on unknown sympathisers or crime. Terrorists also double up or infiltrate respected charities. They use informal systems like hawala networks or intra organisation transfers like charity sending money to its branches.


Rooting out of terrorism completely is the only solution to tackle the menace of terrorism.

  1. ERODING THEIR BASE AND DISCREDITING THEIR IDEAS: First step should be erosion of its base among mis-directed people who are used by it to serve the purpose of elite in terrorist organisation. It can be done by dissemination of modern values and solving their economic, social and political grievances. Success in fighting terrorism hinges on discrediting their ideas, and not in jailing or killing of few terrorists.
  2. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE GOOD OR BAD TERRORISM Second step should be to stop delineating so called “good” terrorism and “bad” terrorism. All funding to any organisation should be stopped. Otherwise strengthening of one group will lead to its movement from “good” to “bad” category.
  3. DEMOCRACY CAN NOT BE ‘IMPOSED’ Days after United States forces had brushed aside President Saddam Hussein’s forces in concentrated attacks, in 2003, President George Bush is said to have proclaimed- “Iraqi democracy will succeed and that success will send forth news, from Damascus to Tehran, that freedom can be the fate of every nation.” Faced with reports of large-scale looting that followed the fall of Baghdad on April 12 that year, his ideological mentor and Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was dismissive: “freedom’s untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes ….” Therefore, interference of other nations should be checked. Achievement of democracy should be based on the movement of people and not on the forceful imposition of other nations.
  4. FOCUS ON HITHERTO NEGLECTED DOMAINS LIKE MARITIME AND CYBER TERRORISM Fourth, in this fight against terrorism all nation need to cooperate with each other and diplomacy based on equality of nations should be the mode of providing solution to the differences between nations. They must get together to devise strategies to deal with hitherto neglected cyber terrorism and maritime terrorism, which are extremely dangerous. Eg. 2/3rds of the high seas being beyond the jurisdiction of any state can be attractive targets. May lead to explosions of oil tankers, or detonating a radiological device on containerships at ports or at choke points which can deliver a crippling blow to global trading.
  5. CURB TERRORIST FINANCING– UNSC Resolution 1373 in 2001 obligated all states to prevent financing of terrorism, followed by G7 expanding the writ of its FATF to cover terrorist finances
  1. COORDINATED PLANNING FOR EFFECTIVE CONSEQUENCE MANAGEMENT Within nations, planners must focus on effective and efficient consequence management to deal with the aftermath of terrorist strikes. Eg. We may contrast the 2005 london subway bombing as an excellent example of calm and quick restoration of citizen’s confidence vs the 2008 mumbai attacks as an example of confused and uncoordinated consequence management.

The menace of terrorism should be handled as soon as possible otherwise it will bring destruction to humanity and world-peace.


It is said that sometimes questions are more powerful than answers. Indeed, humanity is faced with this very powerful question. Let this young girl or boy captured somewhere in Iraq, I talked about in the beginning, put it to us. For he/she still hopes, we as humans, the most powerful species on earth would do something about it-

“And as I shiver again, another cold night,

on this warming up globe,

and with every sound of the gun…

Mother, I think of, the fire

You once lit up on my forehead, one evening

when you drew up on it, the sun.

Which fire lives forever,

and which perishes with this globe and me.

Is for mankind to see.

So, You want which one?”

If you have indeed reached this far of the long saga, i hope this experience becomes of any use to you. There is a saying which I always remembered and which fits so well in my essay paper experience-

“Failure is the universe’s way of telling you to either try harder, or try something else. Nothing more. Nothing less.”


If you are not yet bored of this already long saga, you can reach me at


Regarding queries, please post here only and I’ll answer as it will benefit others too.


I wish you all the best for your journey.


  • Sanya

    Sir i would like to know from where can we learn such phrases n verses for the introduction.
    And how often one should practice writing articles ?

    • you can collect such quotes while preparing for ethics paper and optional, from books n internet. compile weneva u read any so u can use in future.
      Depends. I did not write any full fledged essay, jus compiled sum notes on some topics i found important. may vary from person to person.

      • Sanya

        Also can give me leads as to from ehat sources you prepared ethics , social issues and governance topics?

      • Kishor Patil

        This well built essay is the benchmark for me. Wish to write a good one like this someday.Thank you for giving us such wonderful insights. All your poems have a Marquezian touch.

        • Thank you so much.:)

          • Kishor Patil

            Ma’m some people warn not to use complex vocabulary and ‘flowery’ language while writing essay or answers. To what extent is this true Ma’m?

            • yes that is true. The simpler u write, the better it is. but content must be strong and interlinkages mus be explored with as many egs as u can give

              • Kishor Patil

                Ma’m I can somehow manage with the rest of the essay or answer but faulter when it comes to introduction part. Ma’m what makes a good introduction in essays as well as answers? In what way should we approach the introduction part?

  • i got 133 this time and presumed, it would be rare that any one guide me to improve. i was all wrong…my big eyes are on stalks.
    i dived into the ocean of expectations to improve even without reading the full article.
    i am fully convinced why my marks should not be more than what i got after seeing the hardwork and wonderful strategy shared by Miss Bhardwaj!!!
    Thanks from deep of my hearts! —this time i followed strategy shared here!!!

  • sai

    Really it is very inspirative to love writing

  • thank you for such a wondrful enlightening essay stategy.


    These essays are incredibly written and the content is so strong too. But, Is it really possible to write such essays in the exam in limited time period ? These essays are damn strong.

    • 1

    • As i mentioned in the post, I did not write proper essays, just compiled some material and tried to form a structure theme-wise on what i thot to be important. The most structured plan was for terrorism related essay, so i shared that one online. its not a proper essay, just points which i wud hav explored had anything related to it come in the ppr.
      But doing this before helps as during exam u already hav sufficient strong content with egs
      best wishes.

  • Lucky Kuchu Verma

    beautifully crafted …I must say wow..just a meticulous planning and hardwork you have put in..I have scored 141 in essay but I put my marks luck by chance…I never took this paper seriously as I knew I could write on any topic, but I am convinced now after reading your text, I t require hardwork as needed for other papers..Had I put in little bit more efforts to increase my score to 142 , I would have been in….Thanks for sharing such an awesome strategy.I will copy paste…
    Thanks madam…best of luck for future endeavours..

    • you r welcome. And best wishes. Don;t worry about the one mark. work on adding two zeroes after it!

  • Navneet Sinha

    thank you for such an enlightening strategy…beautifully written !!! hats off to your hard work..!! take a bow mam…^^^^^!! 🙂

  • Jon Snow

    Very helpful article, Thank you!!
    I was bit sceptical of using headings but this time i will try to include it in answers..

    Can you please share some of the headings you used in your essay to get an idea?

    • eg: technology and manpower
      Introduced without heading
      2. a historical analysis
      3. the present technological revolution – can it ‘replace’ manpower: explained with eg. how it can in agri , manufacturing, services sectors(educ, health, e-comm): how n wen it can
      4. The Indian case study: replacement or collaboration?: where it shud replace eg. manual scavengers n child labour; where it shud not wg. labour intensive manufacturing.
      5. The technology manpower collaboration: economy, society, polity, security, disaster mgt with egs and ethical aspects involved.
      6. Is the govt embracing this collaboration: egs from make in india, skill india and digital india etc
      concluded without heading

      best wishes

  • Allitrochades

    You really put in so much effort for the Essay, Please do tell something for ethics paper too.

    • well thats another long saga. will try to share sumthing, weneva i find time.
      best wishes

  • AaNchaL

    tooo gud….one of my favourite posts on insights 🙂
    Thanks a lot ma’am…we all know how much important essay paper is…your strategy is really gud will definitely try to work this way …much thanks :))

  • Haatu

    If you Could share your Essay’s some where,wud reap fruits for us and provide more insight

    • As i mentioned in the post, I did not write proper essays, just compiled some material and tried to form a structure theme-wise on what i thot to be important. The most structured plan was for terrorism related essay, so i shared that one online. its not a proper essay, just points which i wud hav explored had anything related to it come in the ppr.

      best wishes.

  • sankar

    thanks for your guidance

  • Eklavya

    I just loved this article, your writing style bound me to read full article with interest and joy…
    I just wish that I would be able to use such attractive words in my essay…
    Congrats & thanks Ma’am…

    • As i said in the post, its not about attractive words or flowy writing instincts, but content. work on content and approaching it from various angles.
      best wishes

      • Eklavya

        Thank you 🙂

  • Himanshu nn

    thanks a lot for such a meticulous strategy….i visited your blog and found that you truly have a craving for writing………btw what was your optional?….best of luck for your future endevours…..thanks again

  • Present2016

    Now this is the strategy.. thanx a lot


    Thank you very much 🙂

  • Day is mine

    Hi Gazal! This is really helpful. Thanks.

    Do you see any further scope of improvements in your approach? Anything that you think could have fetched you more marks?

    • there is always a scope of improvement. many egs and approaches flooded my mind as soon as i came out of the exam hall. there is never an end to it 😀

      • Day is mine



  • Sai Manohar

    Here you have written in points format .Is it ok to write like that in essay.

    • If you hav read carefully, I have mentioned it is not an essay, rather my compilation of notes to demonstrate how u can approach a theme from various angles, hence in points.

      I did not write proper essays, just compiled some material and tried to form a structure theme-wise on what i thot to be important. The most structured plan was for terrorism related essay, so i shared that one online. its not a proper essay, just points which i wud hav explored had anything related to it come in the ppr.

      When u write a proper essay, write in para form of course.

      best wishes

  • SKB

    Thank you for such detail and minute strategy…

  • Prash

    Dear mam, thanx for sharing…really u have put a lot of efforts and research..I got 134 this time and was satisfied but after seeing ur post I realised that a lot has to be done …
    thanx and regards

    • Hey, it all differs from person to person. If anything from my strategy helped though, pleasure.

  • Malinowski

    Thanks a lot …

  • phoenix

    Thank you very much…

  • Keshav Singh

    U wrote the actual essy in bulletes and points ?or this was just a note (on terrorism )!

    • If you hav read carefully, I have mentioned it is not an essay, rather my compilation of notes to demonstrate how u can approach a theme from various angles, hence in points.
      I did not write proper essays, just compiled some material and tried to form a structure theme-wise on what i thot to be important. The most structured plan was for terrorism related essay, so i shared that one online. its not a proper essay, just points which i wud hav explored had anything related to it come in the ppr.

      When u write a proper essay, write in para form of course.
      best wishes

      • Keshav Singh

        sir i am from a very humble background .. it gives me goosebumps, just by imagining that i am talking to an IAS. thanks for such clear and elaborated reply.. i was a bit confused as some seniors are talking about using flowchart and all,
        in easy.

  • manoj gupta

    I bow you.Helpful and mesmerizing at thr same time.

    • Thank you.

      • phoenix

        Your way of approaching essay is very good…. If possible upload some more essays on ur blog..

  • Bikashfree

    again a very helpful post ma’am.. after reading your post i had few queries:
    1. Is it okay to use heading and sub heading in the essay?
    2. although we mostly write in paragraph, can we sometimes take the liberty to write in bullet form?
    3. In addition to collecting relevant points and topics, how important is writing practice in essay for me who is not any kind of writer?ff (i checked your blog… there were some good stuff there)

    • Thank you Bikash.
      1. Yes. It does not matter whether u use headings or not. I used them as i find it easy to highlight the different angles from which i hav analysed the essay question.
      2. i would suggest write the essay in para and not points. It gives a mature impression.
      3. as i mentioned in my post essay paper is never about artistic writing, using poetry etc. had that been the case i wud not hav got 74 and 104 in previous attempts. Its about content and interlinkages. its about from how many angles can u analyse an issue.” In the terrorism eg. I hav tried to analyse it from various angles: how n why it began, why is it bad? why we r not able to tackle it? what mus be done? social, economic and ethical aspects etc. that is imp. As regards the poem, since i had one, i thought if terror related sum essay comes, i’ll use it to start n end the essay. its jus one o the ways o doin it.
      whats imp. is in introduction, u take a stand and defend it for the rest o the essay, analysing economic, social, political, tech, and ethical aspects with past n current egs.
      Although it depends from person to person, u can start compiling stuff and aim covering two themes monthly. and practice writing n them
      best wishes

      • Aj

        Is there any other source you have referred to specifically for essay other than links given by insights?

        • For essay, i relied on online resources- pib, newspaper editorials, idsa, down to earth etc apart from insights

  • Narendra Modi

    Thanks for the detailed strategy Ma’am. 🙂
    You prepared for the essay after the Prelims or before that ?
    Ma’am have you joined any coaching or test series for your preparation ? You stayed in Delhi or somewhere else ? If in Delhi then kindly tell the place please. Or Delhi is your hometown ?

    • I began around october.
      Last year I joined lukmaan ias test series. But this year i did not join any as i was not in delhi. I referred to insights main test series questions though which are freely availible on the site.
      best wishes.

      • Narendra Modi

        Another doubt. You got success after repeated failure in your previous attempts. So what kept you going after all these. Were you doubtful of your success in mains this time ? I feel so scared that I will never be able to cross Prelims after two failed attempts. Is there any way to come out of these fear and apprehensions ?

        • 2. On whether i was doubtful of my sucess, well last attempt i was sure of my success but when it didn’t turn out as expected, this time I had kept a backup plan unlike the previous times. I sat for xlri and tiss, and tiss hrm got converted. So, if i had not cleared, life would have been different for some time.

          3. As regards being scared, I understand. I used to listen to this song whenever I felt scared:

          (You will find the warmth when you surrender
          Smile into the fear and let it play
          You wanna run away, run away and you’ll say that it can’t be so
          You wanna look away, look away but you stay cause’ it’s all so close
          You can’t hide forever from the thunder
          Look into the storm and feel the rain
          When you stand uṗ and hold out your hand
          In the face of what I don’t understand
          My reason to be brave
          Go on, go on)

          4. If there any way to come out of these fear and apprehensions, yes. keep believing in yourself. Here you are your best judge. So compete with yourself and aim becoming better each day. practice previous years upsc questions and analyse them. Here’s something i’ll share

          1. What keeps us going is us.
          Best wishes.

          • Narendra Modi

            Thank you Ma’am, I will surely implement all the things you have suggested. Thanks for giving your precious time for answering my immature doubts 🙂
            There is only one issue, the link you have provided of your blog is not working; the article or post has been removed may be. Kindly help!!!

  • sumeet kumar

    the strategy you have provided is for advanced stage to improve further.
    please provide some steps for approaching essay paper from scratch. so that we can come upto the level at which the above provided strategy can be implemented.
    Thank you.

    • start compiling material about a topic, arrange it in themes- economic, social, political, tech and ethical aspects and use egs.
      best wishes

  • lohi

    Thank you very much for your essay strategy.
    It shows a new way of approach for us.

  • Heisenberg

    Thank you for writing such detailed article.
    You seem to be well read person , would you share your novel list, those which were helpful in preparation(GS and essay ), and also websites, if you referred any, which publishes good articles..

    • Ponyo

      @soliloquies:disqus Please share your reading list as requested by @disqus_orHj1b214v:disqus, it will help everyone. 🙂

      or Do you have Goodreads profile :), if yes please share that as well.

    • For essay, i relied on online resources- pib, newspaper editorials, idsa, down to earth articles etc
      For gs, I’ll share a booklist soon.
      best wishes.

      • Heisenberg

        No I was asking apart from standard books , what all you read.

        • Well, I am not into much of fiction reading. I like to read history related stuff, light philosophy, poetry, short stories. Don’t really hav a list o books like goodreads ppl have. 🙂

          • SRT

            1st of all hearty congratulations to u & wishing u the best for ur future.Ma’m,it would be very helpful if u share how u prepared for ethics paper & handled its questions.

  • megha

    Hello mam.. Its a beautiful essay … But i have a question that if one is not blessed with such imaginative thoughts like composing a poem n all.. Then how shud one deal with it in simple n lucid language?

    • Megha if u read my post carefully, the whole thing i wanted to explain was this: essay paper is never about artistic writing, using poetry etc. had that been the case i wud not hav got 74 and 104 in previous attempts. Its about content and interlinkages. its about from how many angles can u analyse an issue”
      In the terrorism eg. I hav tried to analyse it from various angles: how n why it began, why is it bad? why we r not able to tackle it? what mus be done? social, economic and ethical aspects etc. that is imp. As regards the poem, since i had one, i thought if terror related sum essay comes, i’ll use it to start n end the essay. its jus one o the ways o doin it.
      whats imp. is in introduction, u take a stand and defend it for the rest o the essay, analysing economic, social, political, tech, and ethical aspects with past n current egs.
      best wishes.

      • megha

        Thank u so much mam.. Its ur humbleness that u r replying n solving everyones queries… 🙂

    • Karthik K

      good question !!

  • rajan

    Congratulations ma’am, @soliloquies:disqus
    Do you have the compilations of your essays that you wrote in a soft copy format ? In case you do, could you kindly share them ? We’ll be indebted

    • thank you.
      As i mentioned in the post, I did not write proper essays, just compiled some material and tried to form a structure theme-wise on what i thot to be important. The most structured plan was for terrorism related essay, so i shared that one online. its not a proper essay, just points which i wud hav explored had anything related to it come in the ppr.
      best wishes.

      • rajan

        Thanks a lot ma’m.
        Could you please allow me to send you an essay for review, sometimes later ?

        • yes u can mail. will reply wen i get time.

          • rajan

            Thanks a lot ma’am. I am posting it here itself as I am not aware of your email adress

            Long ago, yet not so long ago, in the village of Rampur lived 3 friends. One day, the three had to participate in an archery competition, in which there was to be 1 and only 1 winner. Mohan was the most agile of the three, and had a knack for archery. However, so sure was he of his success, that he did not participate in the build up to the event. Shyam was the steadiest of the three, the one who practiced the most. But, he was risk averse and took time to shoot. On the other hand, we had Ram, the one who was steady and quick; steady in practice and quick in decision making. The challenge was held and Ram won. Some were surprised, but not the aged wise men, who had the experience to know that in the end, the Steadiest AND the Quickest win any race

            But, what exactly is so special about quickness and steadiness? Didn’t we all read the old fable involving the hare and the tortoise, the story with its morale, “Slow and Steady Wins the Race” ? So, was the story wrong? Or, have the times changed? To answer such questions, let us explore why being steady and quick are important separately. Then, we’ll move forward and try to integrate the 2 concepts and show how one is incomplete without the other

            Why is being steady absolutely crucial ?

            Being steady ensures that we give our best at all times. It checks against any complacency. The hare in the age old fable slept midway, miscalculated the opponent’s position and getting over confident lost a certain victory. In addition, being steady is equally important in the buildup to the race. One, who has practiced more has a greater probability of winning. It creates a base, a platform from which the final battle can be waged.

            Lets walk through time to understand more of it.

            The freedom struggle gives a very good example. Gandhiji, the father of the nation, started the Satyagraha at Champaran in 1917. Then after, he took years to build upon the movement, brick by brick, steadily. Mass movements were held. People from all castes and communities were mobilized. In particular, Gandhiji was careful never to engage too fast. So much so, that he suspended the Non Cooperation Movement after the Chauri Chara incident, where a violent mob burnt a police station. He realized that by being too fast, the movement would easily crumble under the weight of the powerful British. Being steady was more important than being fast, too fast. No wonder, Gandhiji was vindicated when India won the freedom at the midnight of 15th August, when the world slept and India awoke to life and freedom.

            Moving to the late 1960s, we see a time of economic and agriculture chaos. Wars and successive droughts had put India into misery and food production was insufficient to feed a growing country. Initially, quick fixes were taken like devaluating currency and taking food loans from other nations. But the moves failed to have a longer impact. Only later, when the government chose a more holistic and a steadier approach in the form of a Green Revolution, that we managed to become self-sufficient. Today, we can safely thank the steady approach chosen, that we are even managing to export food to deficient countries

            The late 1980s gave us a child wonder in the form of the batting legend, Sachin Tendulkar. He was a boy, who would practice 13 hours a day, before he became an overnight success. The fame was supreme and could be overwhelming. Yet, the boy kept on practicing, working harder, pursuing a Modest yet Steady approach. It was this that allowed him to become, what many say, as the greatest of all time. Meanwhile, countless other child prodigies have fallen prey to limelight, who chose to relish than being steady.

            Those years also had an important change in the Economic and the International dimension. This was the rise of China. Before 1990s, China had the largest population of poor in the world. But, a Steady approach to wake up the sleeping dragon was taken by their government. The policy was repeated, modified and relentlessly worked upon year after year. The result was overwhelming. Over the next thirty years, China grew at a pace never seen in the world before. More importantly, it was the steadiness of the policies that enabled it to continue for full 3 decades

            In the meantime, our policies were more of quick fixing nature. Policies that had greater electoral dividends were prioritized over long term investments. And that is one reason why we fell short of China

            So, does that mean that being steady is the only requirement? Was the hare and tortoise story true in its earnest? Is being quick, unrewarding ?

            To be honest, it isn’t. Being quick is extremely crucial, more so in the fast moving globalized world, a world where speed matters. Being steady helps to be battle ready, but on the battle day, speed counts as long as one is not complacent. Imagine yourself in a quiz competition. Both you and your competitor have been steady in the preparation as well as in answering the initial questions. But, who wins the final trophy will be decided on the basis of who clicks the buzzer quickest. Sped, quite literally, is the determining factor here

            Steadiness helps to winnow out the non-serious and the ones who think too highly of themselves. But, there still remains a major chunk who remain to be ranked. Here comes, the utility of being quick to separate the best from the better.

            On a national level, both India and her rivals, over the years, have been steady in their defence expenditures. The wave of the battle will now be principally decided on which side can act fast, can click the red button of missiles more quickly. In fact, it has been argued that, one reason why we couldn’t ‘punish’ the culprit nation after the Parliament Attacks in 2001 was because we couldn’t mobilise the troops on the border quickly. And when we eventually did, the moment was lost. The speed left us languishing.

            So, was the tortoise and hare story wrong then? It wasn’t. However, a hare sleeping in the middle of a race is more of an aberration rather than the norm. In the real world, we are more likely to have one who won’t do so and sleep only after the fight. And, to challenge that, we need to gear ourselves us and be steady as well as quick

            As an administrator, this integration translates in to quickness in decision making and a steadiness to do it over and over again. Also, it requires to have a telescopic outlook that takes care over future impacts of decision. More importantly, being steady implies consistent policies rather than the mad “ March Rush” to withdraw the lying funds in a haste. But, none of this can succed if the administrators are not quick enough and utilise the moment .

            No wonder, Lord Krishna, says to Arjun “ Karmanye Vaadhikaraste, Maa Faleshu Kadachan” , or to focus on actions and be steady instead of waiting idly for results. At the same time, the “Saarthi” or the chariot driver in the form of Lord Krishna took the onus on himself that the Chariot could be quickly driven in and out of danger

  • Naveen Shekhar

    Really informative….
    As an aside best wishes for your wonderful career !

  • aamir

    My brother (arshad- rank 316), got 149 in essay and earlier he got just 50.☺

    • So m not the only one who scored from extremely low to good marks, and that is a good feeling:)

      • Michael

        thank you so much for your strategy.. i feel motivated… mam will you please guide me how to remember quotes..?

        • Thank you. well, note them down n try to remember:)

      • aamir

        You are inspirational and your approach is phenomenal. Loved reading your post to the end ?.

  • Sanjana Kumari

    @soliloquies:disqus I’m grateful for this thoughtful gesture of yours. Can you please point out some themes that one should prepare consciously on-for CSE 2017-adding on to the ones you have already mentioned in the post?

    Thank you

    • Thank you. keep a track of recent socio- economic and political events and keep adding them to general themes of the syllabus like education, gender, health, governance etc
      Best wishes

  • FinalAttempt

    Congratulations Ma’am ..
    just a query. Can you please tell about intro part,
    1– in Intro should we tell the strategy what we are going to share in essay and then move forward ?
    2– If i start with a short story then i need to explain in 2nd para about essay, and how do i connect the story with essay ?

    Last week i wrote a essay on Insights, if you get time then please try to review/share your views so that i can make my further strategy for essay.
    here is the link

    Thanks 🙂

    • yes its better to start with a stand. introduction shud convince the reader about why he/she shud read ur essay seriously ahead. so, it shud link the story/quote u start your essay with the question asked. eg. i tried to link the verse with experience of a victim of terror to highlight the question ie how terrorism affects humanity. similarly u can connect a story or quote with the question.
      k. will check it out.

      • FinalAttempt

        Thank you Ma’am..

  • Michael

    thank you so much for the detailed guidance ma’m… can you please guide us for GS strategy and books you read.. also how to prepare for pre? PRE is scaring me a lot ..

  • Dr Jaikal

    Is 115 marks in eassy to be considered as very poor…

    • no. they are good. but, can be improved to get an edge.
      poor is below 110

  • Avtar

    The way you have explained each points to the granular level establishes emphatically your ability to score so hugely .. Cheers for your success !!

  • y.abhishek reddy

    Sir, your strategy was very motivational and inspiring. I just have a few doubts. Is it necessary and possible to remember famous quotes, since we dont know before hand, on what topic we would be asked an essay about, and hence isn’t it difficult to remember so many quotes? And please suggest any tips on improving vocabulary since I am not well versed in writing poetry and good vocabulary like you, are there chances of me scoring good marks in essay if I just practice writing?

    • 1. its not about a good vocabulary or lucid english. as i said before essay is about content and structuring. it has nothing to do with writing poetry or having a good vocab.
      2. make sure u read editorials of important newspapers. it will enhance both your integrative ability and will make u aware of some keywords to be used in essays n answers.
      3. if u can remember quotes, well n good. a quote is however not a mandatory way o starting an essay.
      best wishes.

      • y.abhishek reddy

        Thanks a lot sir! Certain articles from the Hindu paper are quite complicated regarding vocabulary and require thorough background knowledge, especially from that of international affairs and that too written in professional language. Is it good to leave them or search their meanings and read them sir?

        • at least read editorials. will help in gs papers and essay

  • Angoor Khadbade

    thank you

  • when i felt demotivated, i read this post.


    @@soliloquies:disqus will it be possible for u ti review few essays of mine

  • Prabhat Srivastava

    Congratulations ma’am ! I just wanted to ask that will it be appropriate to underline few things and use black pen for highlighting significant facts ?

  • Strategic Voice

    thank you

  • Sarvendra

    Hello Ma’am
    First of all thank you very much for such a article. After reading this article and comments I came to know that I have done several mistakes while writing essays. I am posting it here hope you will review one day. I also have query that
    1. Can we quote personal experience in essays?

    Ignorance is bliss
    One day as a matter of routine I picked up phone to call one of my best friend working as a CAG auditor in Chennai, we talked on several issues, one of the issue was our “career” that what to do further in our career. My friend expressed his desire to do L.L.B. as he positively asserted that one who knows laws in this country is the person who suffers the least. His words hit me hard as I was a Sub-inspector in a law enforcement agency posted in Delhi, it was beneficial for my career to do L.L.B. In my office several of my colleagues have done L.L.B. form Delhi University.
    The very next day when it was almost 6 o’ clock in the evening, my office was about to close and people were leaving one followed by another, I also cleaned my desk and went towards cabin of my immediate senior with whom I used to travel in the evening. As I came from Patiala house court and closely watched the working of judges and lawyers that day I asked my senior remembering the words of my friend that I should do L.L.B. and doing graduation in law make you aware all of the provisions of law and there is least chance that you will suffer. (I wanted to know his opinion and guidance as he has done L.L.B. from Delhi University) He replied while driving car, “But knowing law also make you weak.” His words again shocked me I wanted him to clarify further. He said “if you don’t know any provision of law you may simply bypass it and you will not have a feeling of regret or sin but if know the law that you will feel fear to bypass it, being a law enforcement officer your conscience will also not allow you to surpass the law, this is the way knowing law makes you weak.” In short I must say he was willing to say “Ignorance is Bliss”
    But how can ignorance be bliss? As a human society we have been evolved from many centuries. Today what we are just because of continuous strife towards excellence by our forefathers. Had they not tried to know new things, we would have been living in traditional societies today. Fever and other diseases like small pox, chicken pox etc. which have been win over by medical science today would have been continued as epidemics. In today’s internet enabled world we are been informed by all necessary information right at the finger tip by our smart phones. As a result we have been successful in saving mankind from natural disasters, epidemics. Science and technology inventions contributed in making life easier. As a result humans have evolved from savage life style to present day life style. Even the tribes living today in forest continued to be survived in harsh environment of forest is just because of their traditional knowledge. Not only humans but also animals have been well aware of knowledge about their prey. How to prey, where to prey, how to camouflage, how to survive drought, hostile environment. All this is happen just because of their knowledge not because of ignorance.
    But these science and technology inventions made human life stressful also. Now days, nobody has a time to spent with nature. People also planned their vacations and they are knitted by their hectic schedules. Life has become so busy and stressful. When we steal some moment from this hectic schedule and observe a “little child.” He has no appointments, no hurries, no worries, he do not know anything what I have to do today, tomorrow or yesterday, he has no commitment, no assignments, he possess only one thing that is “happiness.” We can say that for a little child “Ignorance is Bliss.”
    If we talk about human nature, people in today’s world are not happy because of what they have in fact they are sad because what their neighbor have but they have not. This weakness of human nature making humans venerable to tension, stress, unhappiness. Sole reason of such kind of human nature is “Knowledge.” Knowledge of commodities, utilitarianism, feeling of completion. What if they do not know about such things, if they are living in far reach areas in forest, in mountains, if they are completely cut-off from outside world, simply they will not know any such commodities like air-conditioner, Refrigerator, and television etc. they will be happy in what they possess. For such people we can also say that “Ignorance is Bliss.”
    For a person in his 50’s who is suffering from critical illness and he do not have facility to get it diagnose, he will remain happy with his rest of life by remaining ignorant to the fatal disease which he is suffering from and one day he will succumb to his disease say in late 60’s . But what if he has facility to diagnose the disease in his 50’s and he continued to live fighting the disease with bitter dose of medicines and continuous mental trauma. Though he may be able to survive till his 70’s but ultimately he will succumb to his disease. In this case what is beneficial to him, his Ignorance or knowledge? I think his ignorance.
    But ignorance is bliss for the little child only up to that time till he has caring parents, similarly it is bliss to a complacent person till he is averse to pleasure achieved by such commodities. For a person suffering from critical illness it is his view towards life that decides what is beneficial to him, Ignorance or Knowledge. But at larger extent we see we have been successful to evolve because of our Knowledge not because of our Ignorance. Humans are known for their Brain, Brain is for knowledge not for Ignorance. In our day to day life, it is our Knowledge which makes our life easy not our ignorance. So it is difficult to me to believe that “Ignorance is Bliss.”