Essay and Answer Writing

What is the purpose of the Essay Paper in Civil Services

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.
                                                                                                       -E. L. Doctorow
One of the most important things when you are planning to write an essay is to know the purpose of the essay paper itself. That means you must know what the qualities are that the essay paper seeks to assess in the aspiring civil servants. Without the knowledge of the purpose, you can’t achieve your goal.
You must have written essays or articles earlier in school or college or for a newspaper or a magazine. So you can understand that the most important quality of a writer is to know the purpose of writing and to develop the skill to understand the mind of the readers for whom he is writing. For example,
·If you writing an essay on a blog or a Quora like website, you often write to have more likes and page views.
·If you are writing an essay in school or college, you wish to impress the examiner with your writing skill and knowledge and get maximum marks.
·If you are writing an essay for a scholarly journal, you must undertake extensive studies and research to get the approval of the reviewer about the quality and content of your work.
In the same way, when you are writing an essay for a job (like in the Civil Services Examination), you must aim to impress the examiner that you are most suitable for the job.
Qualities of a Civil Servant
In order to write good essays, you must develop the ability to write in different ways depending on the purpose. Hence, our answers and essays in the Civil Services (Mains) Examinations must establish that we possess the qualities required in a good civil servant.
The qualities of a good civil servant are as following.
1: Knowledge
A civil servant is an administrator who must have the knowledge of his job since he has to follow the rules and law in letter and spirit. If you don’t have knowledge, you can’t take the right decision in the government. Hence, a civil services aspirant must have the right and accurate knowledge of the various subject domain that are dealt with by the civil servants.
The UPSC does not prescribe any specific text book for any subject and expects the aspirants to have the ability of learn from various sources. Since the syllabus and amplitude of the essay paper is virtually infinite, a civil services aspirant can’t possess complete knowledge of all the topics. However, he is expected to know something about everything as he may have to deal with any department in the Central or State Governments. The most important thing is that the candidate must not possess false knowledge. George Bernard Shaw said wisely, “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance”.
Hence, you must choose a topic of essay about which you have the right knowledge. Don’t write anything from guesswork. Don’t incorporate data, quotations or statements unless you are sure about them. If you have shortage of the material, it is better to elaborate on what you know rather than to write something which may be factually incorrect.
2: Integrity
The greatest quality of civil servants is to possess integrity and honesty. They must be driven by idealism to serve the nation rather than joining the civil service to enjoy power, perks and privileges. For example, the following essays were asked in 2018, which would help the examiner test the attitude of the aspirant towards integrity and ethical values of the aspirant.
·Customary morality cannot be a guide to modern life
·A people that values its privileges above its principles loses both
·Reality does not conform to the ideal, but confirms it
The examiner tests your integrity through such essays. It is prudent to be idealistic while writing essays on such topics.
3: Foundational Values of Civil Services
A civil servant is a public servant appointed to serve the citizens of the country, who are the real rulers in a democracy like India. Civil servants must not have the attitude of a ruler or a master who treats ordinary citizens like subjects. Instead they should have the attitude of a servant who is serving the citizens as a duty. Civil servants must possess the following foundational values.
1.    Integrity,
2.    Impartiality,
3.    Political Neutrality,
4.    Objectivity,
5.    Dedication to public service,
6.    Empathy,
7.    Tolerance and
8.    Compassion towards the weaker sections.
The essay written by the candidates must reflect these values in them. For example, you must not show any bias towards a particular political ideology in your essay. You must demonstrate that you are joining the Civil Services to serve the society and not for any selfish motive like power, perks, prestige, etc. You must have love and compassion towards the weak and helpless sections of the society as you have to serve them most.
4: Loyalty towards the Constitution
A civil servant must be loyal to the Constitution and must strive to maintain constitutional sanctity by following the core values of the Constitution of India. The Preamble to the Constitution states,
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
You must, therefore, show due regard to the Constitutional values of secularism, socialism, democracy, justice, equality, liberty and fraternity to prove yourself as a good civil servant. If your essay hints that you possess the values that are contrary to these fundamental values, you may be deemed to be unsuitable for the job.
5: Clarity of Thought
Civil servants are is the decision makers as they have to solve the real life problems of their country rather than merely discussing about the merits or demerits of any decision. Every decision in real life has pros and cons and one must weigh them appropriately to take the most practicable decision in the given situation. Hence, a civil servant must have the ability to understand the complex issues of public life and provide workable solutions of the same.
Clear writing is not possible without clear thoughts. If your thoughts are not clear, you would not be able to take right decisions quickly as a civil servant. Hence, even in the controversial situations, you must learn to take a stand in favour of the nation and in the public interest.
You must ensure that there is no confusion or ambiguity in your answers. Even if you are giving diverse points of view, your conclusion must be clear and unambiguous providing clear solution of the problem with justifiable reasons.
6: Writing Skill
Civil servants must have good writing skill because they have to take decisions through the written orders. Their orders are used by public as a legal document for various purposes. If civil servants can’t write well or their writing is full of spelling and/or grammatical mistakes, it would spoil the reputation of not only the individual officer, but the government as a whole.
Hence, your answer should be free from errors and you must lace your writing with beautiful quotes and metaphors to make it interesting.
7: Presentation
The presentation of a written answer or essay is like packaging of a product. It draws the attention of the examiner and creates the best impression.
In order to ensure that the examiner reads your answer fully, your writing must be clear and legible. You must use appropriate quotations to justify your point of view and also to make your essay more interesting. The anecdotes from the life of great leaders and thinkers embellish your write up and draw the attention of examiner towards your writing. If required, you must also provide the data to make your answer more fact based and convincing. Sometimes, figures and diagrams can present complex ideas in the simplest manner which can be understood and appreciated by the reader.
You can improve your presentation only by knowledge and by practice. The more you practice, the better becomes the flow of your ideas and lesser are the mistakes in your writing. A well-written essay is assurance of additional marks as it makes the examiner read your essay with great interest and award you marks more liberally.
What is the purpose of the Essay Paper in Civil Services

Source: “Mastering Essay & Answer Writing for UPSC Civil Services IAS/ IPS & State PSC Main Exam” by Dr Awdhesh Singh, available at

Related Articles
• Management of Indian border disputes – a complex task? [2018]
• The PPP model of development [2012]
• “To test a man’s character, give him power”
• “Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere” [2018]
• GDP along with GNH as the indices for measuring progress
• The relevance of Gandhi in modern times [2012]
• Hyper Globalism: a threat to human prosperity?
• Business Process Outsourcing in India: a booming phenomenon? [2007]
• Covid-19 and the BioMedical Waste crisis
• Non-Performing Assets in the banking sector: causes and solutions
Recent Articles
• Q14. The Challenges of An NGO
• Q13. Protest Against An MNC
• Q11. The Difficulty of A Destitute Woman
• Q10. Rehabilitation of Adivasis
• Q9. Discharging Toxic Waste in River
• Q8. The Morality of State Bureaucracy
• Q7. Management of Anger
• Q1(b). Impartiality and Non-partisanship
• Q6. Undesirable Values Prevalent in India
• Q5. Law and Ethics for Civilized Social Existence