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Success Mantra CSE Mains 2014

Hemant Kumar Publishers: Paramhans Reading Solutions


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Writing Essay
My strategy and Experience
By: Mr. Hemant Kumar, 2013 batch IRS Officer
Marks Obtained- 160/250
Success Mantra CSE Mains 2014
Hemant Kumar Publishers: Paramhans Reading Solutions
C/o Paramhans Library,
260, 3
rd
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Delhi-09
9810846006; 8010140387
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About the Author:
Mr. Hemant Kumar is a 2013 batch IRS Officer and an Electrical
and Communication Engineer from NSIT, Delhi(Formerly Delhi Institute of
Technology). He also holds MBA(Finance) from FMS, Delhi University. During
his long stint at C-DOT, Delhi, he started feeling that his life is not just about
earning high end financial packages rather its about living it in a well
meaningful way. He pulled up his socks in 2010 and started parting his
valuable time among various commitments (Job, Family and of course CSE
Preparation). After putting 3 rigorous years into the preparation, he cleared
CSE in 2013. At this stature, he feels the difference between have and have
nots in the field of CSE preparation. So he has decided to share his learning
experiences with all the aspirants. We wish him and all the CSE aspirants a
very good luck for this attempt as well as for all the upcoming endeavors of
life.
All the Best Folks !!
Kapil Sikka
Founder,
Paramhans Reading Solutions
Success Mantra CSE Mains 2014
Hemant Kumar Publishers: Paramhans Reading Solutions
C/o Paramhans Library,
260, 3
rd
Floor, Parmanand Colony,
Delhi-09
9810846006; 8010140387
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Essay writing forms an important part of many examinations conducted by
UPSC. Civil Services Examination is no different. It is meant to be a subjective
assessment of one's personality, one's reasoning and one's line of thinking. I
believe Essay writing is both an art as well as a science. Before further
discussing Essay Writing, let me first raise the most basic question.
What is expected out of an essay?
Essay is not just a disgorgement of information and facts nor is it a medium
to express our attitudes and prejudices through half-baked opinions. One
purpose of an essay could be to test and assess the writing skills of the
candidates. Yet equally and even more important purposes that an essay
serves are to give an insight into:
one's thinking
one's ability to respond critically and personally to a problem or issue
one's acumen to select and use information to support an argument
and
to present this argument in a structured and impressive way.
Essay, to put it succinctly, is considered to be a reflection of one's
personality.
What UPSC expects is neither a factual or informative essay nor a highly
opinionated one. What is needed is a balanced presentation of ideas related to
the given topic substantiated by sound facts and reasoning. At the same time,
it should also be kept in mind that innovativeness, creativity and novelty (in
presenting and structuring essay) within the limits of reasonableness is
Success Mantra CSE Mains 2014
Hemant Kumar Publishers: Paramhans Reading Solutions
C/o Paramhans Library,
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rd
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Delhi-09
9810846006; 8010140387
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always rewarded.
This year the topic I chose to write the essay on was Is the Colonial
mentality hindering India's Success?
I started off with a fictitious story of atrocities done on two tribals by the
strongmen of their area in connivance with the Police authorities about 2
decades back and how they are still trying to pick up their lives long after
those atrocities were committed. Even the whole Criminal Justice System
seemed to have failed in dispensing justice to them and the Civil
Administration had failed miserably in restoring their lives and livelihoods.
Though fictitious but the story I cited was in resonance with the many
incidents of caste/class dominance and evil nexus between various powerful
lobbies.
After citing this small story, I moved on to explain the biases, prejudices and
power structures that are still part of the Administrative structure of our
country more so at the lower and middle levels where the poor and the
powerless are more often than not at the receiving end of it all.
Then I moved further to a more broader level where I elucidated the
dominance of Colonial Mentality in the psyche of a common citizen by citing
examples across polity, administration, economics (as Mr. Raghuram Rajan
also stated in his address as WEF) and across different levels of the society.
Following are some of the points that I would like to mention as my
learnings/take-aways from the essay that I wrote
1. I did answer the question unequivocally through my essay - Yes,
Success Mantra CSE Mains 2014
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Colonial Mentality is hindering India's success
2. I paid due attention to illustrating what I understood by each and every
word of the topic i.e. I did explain Colonial Mentality and how did I
evaluate Success in the essay.
3. I took a practical position by admitting the negatives associated by
Colonial Mentality and its presence in modern India. But at the same,
whenever I took I critical stand it was solely based on sound evidence
and arguments not just opinions or emotional arguments.
4. Even though I was critical at places, I maintained a positive attitude
and tone throughout. I was optimistic and hopeful of the future and
suggested ways of getting over the impediments which are hindering
our progress and success.
5. I did not use the story just in the introduction but rather weaved it
throughout the entire essay. I connected back to my story in between
my arguments and again connected back at the fag end in the
conclusion. I gave the direction to the story and finally pointed to the
ray of light that still existed at the end of the dark tunnel.
6. I focused on a limited number of points only about 5 or 6 in the
entire essay.
7. I took around 50-60 mins to detail out the structure, framework and
broad flow of the essay. Also I left around 10 mins towards the end to
revise the essay. So I could write only about 1100-1200 words. It
reaffirms that quality matters not the quantity.
8. After the examination, most people anticipated that I must have written
on the topic Science and technology is the panacea for the growth and
security of the nation given my background as a working Research
Engineer and an MBA post-grad. However I took an unconventional
Success Mantra CSE Mains 2014
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C/o Paramhans Library,
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topic since it appealed to me and I was confident that I would be able to
manage it. And the gamble paid off. However I would like to state here
that this is not a golden rule to choose a topic different from your area
of expertise. But if you are ready to take the risk, this strategy may
yield good dividends.
9. And finally there is not a single proven and uniform formula for
everybody to use. Yes, there could be some set of DOs and DON'Ts and
certain advices but finally one has to work out one's own formula based
on understanding of one's strengths and weaknesses.
In the following writeup, I have tried to mention the strategies, techniques and
principles that I found useful when I prepared for and wrote essay in the 2013
Civil Services Examination. Application of these principles helped me score
160 marks in the essay paper.
Preparation for the Essay paper
Now comes the point of how to prepare oneself for essay. Frankly speaking, I
did not devote much of my time towards essay preparation since I knew that
my GS knowledge, my reading habits and a decent command over English
would let me stand in a good stead in the Essay paper.
However I did spent time to structure and draw outlines of certain essays
which appeared in the last 3 years' papers. We all suffer from information
overload and in an outright attempt to sway the examiner with our knowledge
and intellectual prowess, we tend to disgorge everything we know even if it is
only remotely linked to the asked theme. In this process we not just deviate
from the core theme of the essay and write a number of irrelevant things and
waste our precious time during the examination but also end up pestering the
Success Mantra CSE Mains 2014
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C/o Paramhans Library,
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examiner.
Thus I realized that more than the content it is the structure, organization
and closeness of the content to the asked theme that is important.
However when I look back at my essay preparation strategy I do feel the
following readings helped
Regular reading of newspapers - The Hindu, Hindustan Times and Mint
Selective reading of EPW articles
Selective reading of frontline articles
Then material from various coaching institutes is available which can just be
glanced over while looking for something unconventional, interesting and
unique. End to end reading of such material would only prove to be a waste of
time. So be selective and glean through the material for other than usual
information.
Before delving further into the specifics, it is equally important to keep certain
qualities of a good essay in mind. A knowledge of these points helped me a lot
when I was structuring and organizing my essay and was looking for relevant
information closer to the theme that would make the essay a good one.
These 11 qualities act as a filter, to filter out grain from the chaff.
11 qualities of a Good Essay
1. Relevance
At every point in the essay, relevance to the given topic needs to be
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maintained. All key points and their supporting arguments should lend
corroborative support to the main argument without deviating in
relevance from the core issue at hand.
2. Completeness
An essay should be muti-faceted and should present a holistic and
multi-dimensional view of the given topic. The reader of the essay
should feel the completeness of the arguments that have been made in
the essay.
3. Cohesive
The arguments or main points of the essay should not be haphazard or
randomly arranged. They should all stick together to the central theme
and give a coherence, direction and purpose to the essay.
4. Sustained
The essay should be well paragraphed i.e. logically arranged in
paragraphs. Sub-headings are generally not prescribed in an essay but
there should be a sustained focus on the central theme through well
drafted paragraphs.
5. Well-organized
Ideally, an essay should have the following three parts:
Introduction : provides an insight into what follows.
Body : organize points/ideas, arrange sub-arguments.
Conclusion : should have a sense of closure and leave something
in the mind of reader to think about.
6. Concise
What the examiner desires is a well thought out stream of arguments
Success Mantra CSE Mains 2014
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Delhi-09
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systematically arranged and rationally substantiated. The arguments
should be brief and concise and write only relevant things in the essay.
7. Sign posted
Unless there are suggestive and appropriate sign-posts at the relevant
places, there is a danger of getting lost. Thus try to use connectors to
connect a paragraph with its preceding and succeeding paragraphs.
8. Specific
Be specific to the extent possible while extending arguments in an
essay. Vagueness, arbitrariness and ambiguity are disliked by the
reader. While quoting specific data or general statement, understand
the relevance and appropriateness of the context. Take the pain to
explain and connect the quote or statement to the main argument.
Always put the quotes in inverted commas. Mis-quoting can be
disastrous.
While quoting quotes in regional languages, write its English essence
after it, like done by Finance Minister Chidambram in his budget
speeches while quoting Thiruvalluvar.
9. Analytical/Critical thinking
Independent opinions based on sound facts and analysis and critical
unbiased analyses are always appreciated by the examiner.
10. Explanatory
The arguments, though concise and relevant, should serve to explain
their core point to the reader.
11. Fluently paced
Finally, the reader should not feel bored and disillusioned while reading
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the essay. The arguments should be so arranged and spaced out that
the reader should get the thrill out of reading the essay as if he is
reading some detective novel. The essay should strive to maintain an
urge in him to finish reading the whole piece with heightened interest
and in one go.
I would now stress on two important sections of the essay which are I
consider as the most important :
The Introduction
The Conclusion.
A well written and insightful introduction would lead the reader into reading
the essay with much interest and heightened curiosity whereas an apt
conclusion would leave a savoury taste in his mouth which would lead to good
scores in the Essay paper.
Introduction
Some of the important characteristics that make an introduction appealing
are
- Its relevance to the given topic.
- It should be interesting and captivating.
- It should suggestive of the direction of the central theme of the essay.
- If possible, it should give a hint regarding the conclusion.
There could be different ways to write an introduction. I explored the web,
read a few articles, read a few essays and finally zeroed on the following
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suitable ways of starting an essay.
1. Starting with a General Statement
A General Statement followed by specific statements is very common
way of starting essay. I would say more than 70-75% candidates start
their essay in this manner.
2. Start with a Quote
However the Quote should be relevant and should be used in a proper
context. Around 20-25% candidates use this method to write the
introduction of an essay.
3. Starting with an anecdote
Anecdote is short story it may be fictitious as well. But it should be
relevant, moving and interesting. This is a novel way of starting essay. I
used a fictitious but real life resembling story to start my essay this
year.
4. Conversational Introduction
Another way to start an essay could be through a conversation, a
predicament or by raising a question. Thereafter this conversation could
be carried further by explaining it or extending it further in between the
arguments.
5. Writing the conclusion itself in the introduction is another unique
way
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For example if one is to write on 'Globalization & Indian culture', then
introduction could start by saying 'Globalization has corrupted my
culture.' And in this context arguments could be extended further in the
essay.
6. Asking Rhetorical Questions
'Are we Indians really hypocrites?'. This could be an interesting but
difficult way to start an essay.
Conclusion of the Essay is one another extremely important area which
should be given appropriate attention. Afterall it is only towards the end that
the examiner would be giving marks to the essay.
A conclusion should not just give 'a closure' to the essay but should also
impart a 'sense of closure' to the essay. That is one should close the
discussion without closing it off totally.
A sense of closure could be ensured by supporting conclusion with a quote
which amplifies the argument or by giving wider implications for the
argument.
Arguments should not be repeated in conclusion and the tone should not be
apologetic. Rather one should demonstrate decisiveness in conclusion, be
assertive and positive.
Following are some of the important points that are generally rewarded in a
conclusion. Conclusion should
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1. show that you have answered the main theme
2. show wider implications of your subject
3. leave something in the mind of reader to think about
4. NOT be a mere repetition of the introduction
5. NOT be a two line statement as if there is nothing else to write
6. NOT introduce a fresh argument
Following are the various strategies that could be used for writing a
conclusion
1. Echoing the introduction eg. If started with a story connect back to it
2. Directing the reader (into a direction)
3. Looking into the future (beneficial for all of us in the future)
4. Posing questions
When I was preparing for the essay, I was told about the following 6 Ps that
are crucial for a good essay. And in addition to the above specified 11
characteristics of a good essay the following 6 Ps equally serve as lampposts
for writing a good essay.
1. Presentation
Neatness & Clarity straightaway appeal to the reader and can help you
maximize score with the same quality of content. Margins, legibility,
handwriting, indenting are all essential elements of presentation.
2. Proper selection of subject
It is generally suggested that one should select a topic that is different
from one's area of expertise/background. But this may not be the
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golden rule always.
The golden rule is that one should understand the context in which the
theme of the essay has been set. In essay essay topic, there is a broad
theme that is essentially present and needs to be understood and
addressed.
3. Planning
Planning is an important part of essay writing. Planning involves
structuring, arranging, writing
and revising. It is generally suggested that the last 4 pages of the
answer sheet may be used for drafting and structuring the essay.
4. Proportion
Dividing one's time between the Introduction, Main Paragraphs and
Conclusion is equally important. Generally prescribed times are : 1/6
th
of the time to structure, 3/4
th
to write and 1/12
th
for revising the essay.
5. Perspicuity
Clarity of expression and uninterrupted and logical flow of thoughts in
paragraphs are another requirements of a good essay.
6. Persuasiveness
The tone of the essay should be assertive and generally positive. Though
one can be objectively critical at times but positivity and optimism
should ooze out from the essay.
Finally I would like to sum it up.
Introduction to the essay should be insightful. It should directly relate to the
given topic. Content should be rich, coherent and should all point towards the
desired theme. Conclusion should again be insightful. All the points in the
essay should contribute towards one single theme. Paragraphs should be in
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continuity. While detailing out the points in the content, expand the topic and
identify the underlying issue. Reach to a more broader level without
compromising on the overall focus of the essay.
Essay length could be about 1200 -1500 words. Each paragraph may contain
8-9 sentences. Introduction/conclusion could take 1-2 paragraphs each. Take
the first 15 minutes to understand the topic and the last 15 minutes for
revising.