• On 8th January, 2020 UPSC conducted the Essay paper for the civil services mains examination. Total Marks: 250 marks, Time duration: 3 hours.
  • The essay must be written in the medium authorized in the admission certificate which must be stated clearly on the cover of this question-cum-answer (QCA) booklet in the space provided.
  • No marks will be given for answers written in medium other than authorized one.
  • Word limit, as specified, should be adhered to.
  • Any page or portion of the page left blank, must be struck off clearly.

Total 8 essay topics divided equally in two sections and you’ve to write one essay from each section.


  1. Life is long journey between human being and being humane.
  2. Mindful manifesto is the catalyst to a tranquil self
  3. Ships do not sink because of water around them, ships sink because of water that gets into them
  4. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.


  1. Culture is what we are, civilization is what we have.
  2. There can be no social justice without economic prosperity but economic prosperity without social justice is meaningless.
  3. Patriarchy is the least noticed yet the most significant structure of social inequality.
  4. Technology as the silent factor in international relations.

Analysis of Essay Paper

  • Overall UPSC has thrown no surprises this year. Section A dealt with philosophical/ethical topics while and Section B in general dealt with current socio-economic issues and ongoing debates in the society.
  • Section A consists of philosophical essays. For the past few years, UPSC has been tilting towards abstract kinds of topics like wisdom finds truth, values and humanity etc
    • This year topics were about Mindfulness, simplicity, humanity.
    • The main challenge in these kinds of essays lies in the Theme and Content. They should flow to set a tone and dimension to interpret the topic. 
    • NCERT of political theory should be read by every student, it will at least create a base to answer such questions of mains and pre too. 
    • Questions of political philosophy have been asked in prelims too nowadays.
  • Section B consists of current affairs based essays. This section of Essay paper truly captures the current state of Indian society, Economy and International Relations. 
    • Culture and civilization have been asked about in the past few years. 
    • This year the topic is- Culture is what we are, civilization is what we have.
    • In the 2019 Essay paper, UPSC gave the topic- South Asian societies are woven not around the state, but around their plural cultures and plural identities. 
    • Patriarchy issue is in limelight due to increased violence against women. 
    • Since 2016 UPSC has continuously asked about gender issues
    • The topic -Technology as the silent factor in international relations- has direct relation with the Covid-19 impact on international summits and meetings which shifted to online mode. 
    • Also, UPSC has been often asking about the impact of technology. In the 2019 Essay Paper, the topic was- Rise of Artificial Intelligence: the threat of jobless future or better job opportunities through reskilling and upskilling.
    • Economic prosperity and social justice is a hot socioeconomic issue which often is discussed in the Hindu editorials. This year UPSC asked about- There can be no social justice without economic prosperity but economic prosperity without social justice is meaningless
    • In the 2019 Essay paper, one of the topics was- Neglect of primary health care and education in India are reasons for its backwardness. 

Which essay did you attempt or would have attempted? Share your views and keywords in the comments section!