Main examination special - (Topic 3) General Studies and essay:
In the previous topics, we saw the first three papers of General Studies. Now, let us first look at the fourth paper of General Studies. The contents of this paper are slightly different from the other papers. Rather than testing us with questions where we memorise facts and figures, this paper tests us with questions that test the honest responses from our hearts and our principles. This is because about 50 percent of the questions are case studies. Therefore our honesty, ethics, integrity, attitudes, etc., are fully assessed in this paper.
Determinants of ethics, results of ethical conduct, probity in public and private life, life lessons and principles of important leaders, reformers, administrators, etc., can be asked. Role of education, family and society in shaping ethics, morality, impartiality, emotional intelligence, etc., are important topics. Similarly, ethical administration, challenges to it in private and public service, related laws, basics of public service, corruption, problems caused by corruption, right to information and other citizen-centric acts are important.
Explain how ethics contributes to social and human well-being. (UPSC 2016, 10 marks)
What do you understand by the terms ‘governance’, ‘good governance’ and ‘ethical governance’? (UPSC 2016, 10 marks)
Suppose you are an officer in-charge of implementing a social service scheme to provide support to old and destitute women. An old and illiterate woman comes to you to avail the benefits of the scheme. However, she has no documents to show that she fulfills the eligibility criteria. But after meeting her and listening to her you feel that she certainly needs support. Your enquirers also show that she is really destitute and living in a pitiable condition. You are in a dilemma as to what to do. Putting her under the scheme without necessary documents would clearly be violation of rules. But denying her the support would be cruel and inhuman. a) Can you think of a rational way to resolve this dilemma? b) Give your reasons for it. (20 marks UPSC 2016)
Next we are going to look into Essay paper. For a total of 250 marks, we need to write on two topics of 125 marks each. The question paper will be divided into two parts of four topics each. From each part, we need to choose one topic and write on it. The choice of topic is very important. Because, we are going to write only two answers for the entire paper. This means that without clearly understanding a topic if we make a choice, and divert from the question and write, we stand to straightaway lose up to fifty percent (150) of total marks! Therefore it is essential to read all the topics many times and then choose one from each part. “This question looks really tough, nobody is going to attempt it, I have a fair idea about it, I will choose it and show who I am” - without having such a mindset of “showing who you are,” it is best to not worry about what others may be doing, and focus on the topic for which we have an excellent understanding, and then write on it clearly.
Sample topics / questions
Destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms. (UPSC 2017)
Social media is inherently a selfish medium. (UPSC 2017)
Education, economy, democracy, patriotism, development of the nation, various social issues, administration, media, environment, ethics, science and technology, and such topics which we have already seen for General Studies, can be made into brief notes to help essay writing.
5 super tips to score well in essay!
It is absolutely essential to stick to the word limit prescribed for the essay questions. Usually 1000-1200 words will be given as the limit (for 125 marks) and keeping this in mind, if word limit is not prescribed or marks are changed, you can answer the questions.
If you write an essay of 1200 marks, make sure your answer is divided into 12-15 subheadings. Decide these subheadings beforehand and then start answering the questions.
Proverbs and sayings / quotes etc have to be sprinkled in your answers as needed. If you answer by relating to current affairs, it will make your essay even stronger.
In any topic you write, it is important to look into its advantages and disadvantages. These need to be brought out in the essay. But, make sure you do not use too many “negative” statements. Positive yet balanced essays will score high.
Even if a topic that comes in essay is one which we have studied well in a book, instead of writing the same things as stated in the book, if you use your own terms and frame the essay, it will surely give good results. Rather than essays that come from books, the essays that come from heart are greater! And score better!
We will meet in next topic.