The Essay Writing Paper for UPSC CSE 2021 is indicative of the fact that the exam is not merely about factual knowledge, but much beyond it. This year’s paper seems to analyze the box and critical thinking of the aspirants.
Essay writing paper for Upsc Cse mains 2021 took especially those aspirants by surprise who went in with a preconceived notion of the traditional paper. This was where aspirants could use their usual ammunition where they were taught how to feed data points in different ways.
As a lot of our students aptly summed up the analysis of the essay paper in the comment sections of the discussion video (link here) that there is only one word needed to describe the nature of this paper ‘philosophical’. However, the key thing required for writing on these topics was generic/real-life treatment and not core philosophical interpretations.
Essay Writing Paper, UPSC CSE 2021
Write two essays, choosing one topic from each of the following Sections A and B, in about 1000-1200 words each:
- The process of self-discovery has now been technologically outsourced.
- Your perception of me is a reflection of you; my reaction to you is an awareness of me.
- The philosophy of witlessness is utopian, while materialism is a chimera.
- The real is rational and the rational is real.
- The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
- What is research, but a blind date with knowledge!
- History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as a farce.
- There are better practices to best practices.
Essay Writing Paper UPSC 2021 Detailed Analysis
Here is a list of our humble observations in an attempt to understand the nature of the paper.
- All the 8 questions were abstract topics.
- It was a logical culmination of the process which UPSC has lately followed for deep interpretation and introspection.
- Now the essay paper is no longer an extension of GS. It must be prepared for differently.
- Essays are now a reflection of one’s personality as the topics demand one to think critically.
- It is quality over quantity that matters now. In simple words, 800-900 words are more than enough if dimensions are well thought out and are substantiated with good case studies.
Scale of Difficulty
Moving forward, below is a deconstruction of the Essay Paper section wise and topic wise:
Essay Paper UPSC 2021: Section Wise Analysis:
Clear thematic categorization of sections A and B
The two sections of the paper were categorized to cover two aspects of philosophical discourses –
- Section A listed a set of topics with the theme of self-reflective tone, where the subject ponders upon the impact of technology on one’s consciousness, the process of constructed realities of the mind, a critique of both asceticism and hedonism, and the relationship of ideas with the reality of the world.
- Section B turned the subject of philosophical thinking from the human to the society, as if the society is reflecting upon itself – the topics covered the themes of the role of the mother in determining human destiny, the playfulness and creativity of research and knowledge, the famous quotation by Hegel and Marx about history repeating itself and a gentle mention of better practices and best practices.
Essay Paper UPSC 2021: Topic Wise Analysis:
Topics were borrowed from standard academic references. They were drafted by people with a sincere command over the subject of philosophy, as they were not merely quotations, but sentences with layers of complexity which even students of philosophy optional may have found hard to unpack without effort.
Meaning and Approach to ESSAY Paper TOPICS 2021:
Topic 1: The process of self-discovery has now been technologically outsourced.
- Difficult topic because a particular/specific interpretation was required.
- Not a general moral critique of technology. Seems general critique of our process of self-discovery.
- Examples/case studies are important for this kind of essay where the use of technology solves our problems but takes us away from self-realization.
- To put it in simple terms, sometimes the problems that we face as humans are not supposed to be immediately solved as we usually do by employing technology.
- The role of AI and Artificial Intelligence, Tech-based consultants, Thought processes, and Biotech could be discussed as part of current affairs and GS reading for this topic.
Topic 2: Your perception of me is a reflection of you; my reaction to you is awareness of me
- This is perhaps the trickiest topic in the whole paper as two different dimensions of epistemology (subjective and objective) were fused into one essay.
- Most topics in section A talk about self-knowledge but this one is not about achieving self-knowledge but elaborating upon an already achieved self-knowledge.
- The fundamental value which can be discussed in this essay is humility, the need to introspect about one’s self, and the merits of exercising restraint.
Topic 3: Philosophy of witlessness is utopian, while materialism is a chimera
- In this topic there are two propositions- asceticism and hedonism and both open themselves for a critical analysis.
- This is one topic that has an underlying critical tone.
- The topic is more about sustainable development, a balance between growth and development which requires proper GS and current affairs base to add illustrations.
Topic 4: The real is rational and rational is real
- This is a quotation by Hegel, who was a philosopher in the tradition of German idealism. German idealism insisted on the proposition that the material world is the reflection of the world of ideas. It implies that if you can think of something as true it probably must exist in reality.
- The main thrust of this essay is to emphasize intuition, theoretical powers of the mind, the power of big ideas, the ability to think big, even if “big ideas” might look “unreasonable and unrealistic”
- Word of caution: The term rational should not lead a student to interpret it as an essay in which scientific thinking has to be promoted and religious/spiritual thinking has to be criticized.
- The point that Hegel was trying to make was that even the idea of God/spirituality also comes from rational thinking.
Topic 5: The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
- This one is the easiest of all the topics this year.
- It hints at the power of the role of a mother/caregiver to shape society.
- This is one of the least abstract and more sociological topics of the exam and therefore the data on women’s rights, and women’s empowerment can be made relevant in this essay.
Topic 6: What is research, but a blind date with knowledge!
- The clear interpretation of the essay is that there is always an element of risk, adventure, imagination, and open-mindedness in research.
- In simple words, research must be taken for the pleasure of discovering truth and any form of knowledge that follows from research must be appreciated.
- This topic also encourages an open and rational mindset in any research and study with the ability not to be influenced by biases and prejudice.
- Data points like nations with the best research institutes and Universities eventually are also the more prosperous and just.
Topic 7: History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as a farce.
- It is a famous Marxist quotation brought into current relevance by some contemporary events like the impact of the pandemic, conflicts, and environmental problems on the economy and society.
- The key interpretation of the topic is that if something unjust, wrong, or indemnifying happens to us once, then we can interpret it as a tragedy, where no one can be blamed for a tragedy. However, if it happens repeatedly then an evil motivation must be involved.
- Repeated mismanagement during successive COVID waves is a classic example of this.
- Care should be taken by those candidates who identified it correctly as a quote by Marx as that does not mean that the essay is about Marx or Communism vs. Capitalism or a history-based topic alone.
- Climate change, Afghan crises, the Middle East, Mismanagement during the pandemic, and Religious conflicts and riots can be directly mentioned as illustrations based on current affairs and GS readings.
Topic 8: There are better practices to best practices.
- The clear-cut interpretation of this topic is that we cannot be convinced of having achieved the best practices ever and we always can improve ourselves endlessly.
- This also implies that we must follow an action-oriented philosophy and not wait for perfection to arrive at our ideas.
- Examples from cultural practices, social practices, political practices, and economic practices can be cited from a wide range, which is one essay where examples can be thought of easily if the interpretation is correct.
- The core value of this essay can be summed up as the pursuit of excellence and not of perfection.
Implications- Essay For UPSC:
Many aspirants appearing in mains do not practice Essay writing as much as they should. One must avoid such a blunder. Being a paper largely dominated by abstract topics, it is indicative of the fact that it is one of the critical ways of checking the interpersonal skills of the candidates and how they can present case studies and interpret them in the examination.
Therefore, the following parameters should be kept in mind while preparing for Essays:
- Comprehension of the topics: There should be a clear understanding of the essay topics asked in previous years. Next comes the segregation of topics into abstract and topical essays.
- Creative writing skills
- Coherent and cohesive ideas
- Time management
- Current affairs should be read diligently as these help in generating good illustrations.
- Certain themes around women, education, morality, technology, etc., should be well prepared
- The regular practice of writing 10-12 pages should be the norm.
- The target should be to score above 140 marks.
The Road Ahead- Essay Writing For UPSC:
- This year the UPSC has gone all out to emphasize that the routine delivery of facts learned from studying General Studies cannot be mindlessly reproduced in the essay paper.
- The students must develop an ability to appreciate abstraction of thought and use the data points carefully to suit the given context.
- The UPSC has indicated with this paper that an inability to comprehend or express complex thoughts in simple terms cannot be an excuse for not being comfortable with the Essay paper, where ALL the topics are of such a nature there is no alternative to learning to cultivate some reading and writing skills.
- The interesting part is that developing these basic skills is not difficult at all and we are sometimes just late in overcoming such fears due to a lack of proper guidance.
- Further, there has to be a different approach while attempting such a paper as these topics are beyond general studies and require an awakened mind to deconstruct such topics.
- One must understand that UPSC always surprises everyone with the kind of questions they ask.
How Edukemy’s Essay Writing Program Can Help?
- Edukemy’s Essay Program includes sessions where we pay special attention to the techniques of interpreting the topics of the essay correctly and expressing our thoughts clearly and simply with appropriate vocabulary.
- Abstract essays form an essential part of Edukemy’s module course on Essay writing which focuses on cultivating the habit of thinking in abstraction and multi-layered approaches of using facts and data points to suit the philosophical themes.
- Edukemy stands out in curating a list of reading material (Famous Book Summaries/Excerpts and Philosophies of Famous Personalities) which we publish and regularly update along with our essay programs. There is additional material where quotes, examples, and case studies are provided for important essay themes.
- Edukemy’s Essay Test Series can help you in developing a regular practice routine and improve your writing style through detailed and personalized feedback.