Essay preparation for Civil Services Exam can be of two types:-
1. LONG-TERM PREPARATION
2. SHORT-TERM PREPARATION
I will first write about long-term preparation. It can be done by those aspirants who have 1 yr or 2 yr or 3 years in their hands i.e. before Mains exam …
(The Path Less Trodden):-
• These things should be done when you are doing your GRADUATION these days or u have enough time say 10 months at least to go for Extra-Curricular reading :-
• For long-term preparation be regular with any two national newspapers. I would recommend THE HINDU & THE TIMES OF INDIA. The Hindu gives you simple & effective writing style while TOI gives u stylish English & increases your vocabulary. Both are needed to write a good Essay.
• Read 2-3 hours everyday. Specially focus on the Editorials & other Analytical & Critical articles. Say in Hindu focus on Magazine, Book Review, Literary Review, Business Review, Open Page, 2 page OP-ED Page etc & in The Times of India focus on its Editorial Page. Whenever you encounter a DIFFICULT PHRASE, EDIOM, PART OF SPEECH etc just see the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary or Chambers Dictionary & in a Diary note down that word, its meaning, its usage in sentence etc. This MUST be done within 1-2 minutes. Don’t keep it pending.
• Or else one word is lost from your vocabulary. By doing this your VOCABULARY will increase & you will know HOW TO USE THAT WORD IN A DIFFERENT CONTEXT. This is a gradual & continuous process and it will take 12-18 months to make your vocabulary very strong & have command over the language & expressive power.
• In addition to newspapers read as many articles from GOOD MAGAZINES as possible. The following magazines can be referred to.
a. FRONTLINE ( Must )
b. THE ECONOMIC & POLITICAL WEEKLY ( Must )
c. MAINSTREAM (Optional)
d. WORLD FOCUS (Optional)
e. THE ECONOMIST (Optional)
f. TIME or LIFE ( If you have access to a good library)
• I am not saying that you should try to finish all these magazines in one month. But try to read as many HIGH QUALITY ARTICLES as possible. This will increase the RANGE & VARIETY of your thinking & will make you knowledgeable about the happenings around the world & different streams of thought. (For Example: - What is “Stream of Consciousness”? What is “Theatre of Absurd”? What is “Objective Correlative” in T S Eliot’s poems? What is The Revival Movement? Etc)
• Jot down POWERFUL & EFFECTIVE sentences that you come across in a Diary. Any Quotations or Important Sentences said by Intellectuals like Amartya Sen, Manmohan Singh, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Bertrand Russell, Arundhati Roy etc should be noted down.
• Revise your Diary in free time many times so that you can remember these quotations, important words, sentences etc & use them at relevant places in your Essay in Mains Exam.
• Apart from these things read a lot of NOVELS, POEMS, PLAYS, SHORT STORIES etc
• I am giving a list of some of the books that I read. You can pick up some of them …
1. R K NARAYAN’S NOVELS (SWAMI & FRIENDS,THE ENGLISH TEACHER,THE GUIDE,THE DARK ROOM,THE BACHELOR OF ARTS,WAITING FOR MAHATMA,THE PAINTER OF SIGNS etc)
2. WAITING FOR GODOT ----- by SAMUEL BECKETT
3. T S ELIOT ----- SELECTED POEMS
4. THE GOLDEN TREASURY
5. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE ( MACBETH,KING LEAR,TEMPEST … ETC)
6. ENGLISH AUGUST ------ by UPAMANYU CHATTERJEE
7. GEORGE ORWELL ----- THE ANIMAL FARM,1984
8. BERTRAND RUSSELL ----- SCEPTICAL ESSAYS, PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAYS, HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
9. THE DISCOVERY OF INDIA --- JAWAHARLAL NEHRU
10. THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS ---- ARUNDHATI ROY
11. MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN ---- SALMAN RUSHDIE
12. PLAYS OF HAROLD PINTER or at least know about his works.
13. ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE ---- by GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ
14. NOVELS OF CHARLES DICKENS like GREAT EXPECTATIONS, A TALE OF TWO CITIES, HARD TIMES etc
15. Search TOP 100 NOVELS OF ALL TIME in Google & read some 5-10 novels of any author “WHOM YOU LIKE” …
The basic idea is to make yourself “well-read” & with a COMMAND over ENGLISH … For this READ SOME GOOD QUALITY novels or poems mentioned above or after searching Google (For ex. Best 100 Poems of Twentieth Century, Best 100 Plays of All Time etc. )
2. SHORT-TERM PREPARATION:-
• For this you need 4-6 months in hand. Plz read:-
1. The Hindu articles & analysis (At least read some 500-1000 Articles from Hindu & in one FILE keep the best 100-150 Articles & Revise them.)
2. The Times of India Editorials (Sunday Edition. The SUNDAY TIMES & “NOT” the DELHI TIMES!!! )
3. The Oxford Book of Essays edited by John Gross( Read some good Essays) (Selective reading)
4. The Penguin Book of Essays(Read some good Essays) (Selective reading)
5. The Book of Essays by Spectrum & quotations given at the back. Remember 200-300 good Quotations which you can use in any Essay & use them liberally.
6. Oxford Book of Twentieth Century Quotations
7. Oxford or Rupa Book of Quotations
8. Competition Success Review Book of Essays (2 Vols for Juniors & 2 Vols for Seniors). CSR publishes GOOD Essays in Essay Competitions. So you can pick points from them …
9. Read sometimes The Economic Times Editorials (Left hand side only. The 3rd editorial on the left lower corner helps in Essay. Also “The Debate” (for, against & neutral) that comes in Tuesday )
10. Make 2-3 diaries full by QUOTATIONS, DIFFICULT WORDS & their meaning, Who said what etc.
• Try to write in simple, effective & in an expressive manner. Every sentence of your essay must have a FORCE which should shake the examiner …If you have mastery over FLOWERY language, then go for it. Or else write in a simple, straightforward & concise manner.
• I write in a flowery language with LOTS OF QUOTATIONS & difficult words.
Hope this detailed guideline on Essay helps …