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Gautam Vivekanandan, AIR-211 CSE-22 Essay Strategy (149 Marks)

Gautam Vivekanandan

Hi everyone,

This is the Topper Journey & Strategy post from the Batch of 2023 and it pertains to essay writing.

Till date of writing this post i.e. 01-06-2023, I have gathered and analyzed 154 mark sheets of CSE-22 selected candidates and Gautam has scored the highest marks i.e. 149.

Few pertinent pointers from the analysis to ponder upon:

  • Average essay score is 115.
  • Only 8 out of 154 have scored > 140 Marks.
  • 24 have scored between 131-140.
  • 27 have scored between 121-130.
  • 36 have scored between 111-120.
  • 30 have scored between 101-110.
  • And the rest i.e. 29 have scored 100 or less marks including 8 scores of less than 90!!!

Thus, you can see that there is a huge variation in essay scores in CSE-22 and out of all subjects, essay turned out to be a ‘king maker’. This is the reason I bring to you Gautam’s Essay Strategy as under in his own words.


Hello fellow aspirants. My name is Gautam Vivekanandan. I live in Valsad, Gujarat and I hold a B. Tech degree in Electronics & Communication engineering. I secured AIR 211 in UPSC CSE 2022, and this was my first attempt. During college, I had joined weekend batch of Chahal Academy in Gujarat. That was my first exposure to the UPSC CSE preparation. However, I was occupied with college activities and so could not focus on preparation. Thereafter, I worked in TCS for 6 months (till April 2021). From May 2021 I started my full-fledged UPSC preparation. I joined Vision IAS foundation course in Delhi for GS preparation. My optional subject is English Literature for which I took classes from Prof Radhakrishnan (Kerala) – he was my mentor and guide for both optional subject as well as essay.

You may contact Gautam on his Telegram ChannelInstagram Profile and his Mail:


The term ‘essay’ is derived from the French word ‘essai’ which means to ‘try’ or ‘attempt’. Paper 1 in the UPSC CSE-Mains is the Essay paper. Personally, I am a big fan of this paper for two reasons. One is that there is no fixed syllabus here and we have the freedom to express ourselves, and two – this paper in a way reflects the personality we have.

My Strategy

1) Went through the essay topics of last 25 years (available online) and found out which topics were asked more than once (e.g.: Agriculture, Education, Technology, Terrorism &c.)

2) For topics that were repeated and for some other important topics such as – Health, Poverty, Women empowerment &c., I prepared short 3–4-page notes. These notes inter alia included.

  • What, why, How, When? (Apply each question to the topic)
  • Important quotes
  • Initiatives/Schemes in India & the world
  • Solutions (Way Forward)

3) There are templates that can be used for writing essays such as – Problem, Challenges & Solution approach or Dimensions approach (social, political, economic etc). I used them when required but they were not my only option. It is my personal opinion that essays should be free flowing and creative. Repetitive use of any set template may make your essay boring and it will also not allow your brain to be more creative.

4) Some pre-requisites for a good essay, according to me, include the following:

  • Adequate & relevant content
  • Good arguments + equally good examples/data (relevant)
  • Quality of being on point always
  • Smooth flow (should not feel like paragraphs are mechanically placed together)
  • Covering various dimensions (horizontally & vertically)
  • Good introduction & conclusion – Introduction is where you can make a first good impression & conclusion is where you can make a lasting impression.

5) I had looked for quotes or lines from some famous poems which could in general be applied to various topics and could be used in introduction or conclusion. e.g. – Road not taken, Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening, If &c.

6) Had gone through some well-known philosophies such as feminism, universalism, Socialism, Humanism &c. The knowledge of these can help you decode philosophical essay topics.

7) For philosophical essays, I tried to interpret the topic right at the onset and thereafter my attempt was to justify my interpretation using various arguments and examples.

Why do I think I secured 149 in essay paper

1) The topics I selected were unique (This criterion however does not give a candidate any significant edge is what I believe)

  • Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world
  • A smile is the chosen vehicle for all ambiguities

2) I tried to write as many relevant & diverse examples as possible. For e.g., in the 1st essay, I wrote about both foreign and Indian poets such as – Wordsworth, Auden’s theory of agape and eros, our very own Kabir and his ‘dohas’ which had social overtones. Tried to quote a few of their lines too.

3) Right at the onset I mentioned my interpretation of the topic. Thereafter, my attempt was to expand the same and cover as many dimensions as possible.

4) Did not stick to any template for essay. I personally believe that essays should be free flowing.

5) Tried to start and end on a high. Quote or anecdotes etc.

A thumb rule that I followed- Whatever one has experienced or gone through in life, whatever one has read or heard, all of that could be utilized in an essay (however it is extremely important that your points are relevant). It’s the only paper where there is no fixed syllabus. It is where you can express yourself. Use that opportunity to the fullest.

You may contact Gautam on his Telegram ChannelInstagram Profile and his Mail:

Important Note: The reason why I selected those topics was because I was extremely comfortable in them. Not because I thought that they would be less chosen (As I have mentioned earlier, unique topics does not equal good marks). This is an important point of difference. Whatever you feel you are comfortable with and can write with conviction, go for that. You need to have both good points as well as good examples. I was very fortunate that there were these two topics where I could easily write with conviction and with appropriate examples.

Disclaimer – This is a personalized opinion-based post and not a flawless strategy that can be endorsed. No one can guarantee that any fixed approach will work for scoring good marks in essay. You can use this as a framework to try and understand the requirements of the essay paper.

Feel free to reach out to me regarding any queries with respect to UPSC CSE preparation. You can join my Telegram channel where I will be sharing my detailed strategy and plan along with my notes.

Best wishes to all.


Gautam Vivekanandan

Read more: Government’s Plan: Free Hostel Facility in Delhi for OBC Aspirants Aiming to Clear UPSC Exams

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