Looking at the trend in Essay topics over the last 25 years, one can identify 7 broad areas under which most of them would fall, with a little bit of over-lap. They would be the following

  1. Economy and socio-economic development
  2. Democracy and Good Governance
  3. Societal Issues: primarily women-centric ones
  4. Quotations that bring out themes in Ethics
  5. Education
  6. Technology and Development
  7. International Relations and National Security


Under these broad areas, a combination of strategies can be used in identifying probable topics for the up-coming exam

This is best done 1 month before Mains.

Step 1: Looking at 1 year of current affairs material before the Mains exam, identify topics that have had the widest media coverage or the greatest number of editorials written about.

Step 2: Pick these topics and now place them under the 7 broad areas as listed above. Ensure that you pick at least 2 topics falling under each of them.

Step 3:

  1. Prepare an interesting fact-sheet for each of the topics.

For Example, use international indices like Global Hunger Index, Ease of Doing Business, Gender Inequality Index etc.

  1. Understand the context of each of the topics, placing it in a historical continuum.

For example, In the agriculture sector we could say that from 1960s until reforms of 1991, it was an era of high-regulation, but later on one can see increased commercialization and lower market interference, keeping in tune with demands of Globalisation and WTO norms.

  1. Frame your own opinion that balances all the different views that you may have gathered through reading editorials over the year. (Another benefit of note-making)
  2. Find 4–5 striking quotations for each of the broad areas, that can be used in any of the topics under it.

For Example: “Sheelam Param Bhushanam” can be used in any topic under good governance, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” can be used in any topic under international relations/diplomacy.

  1. Connect the dots between the many dimensions of a topic.

For example: GST can be linked to – cooperative federalism (Political), fiscal consolidation (Economic), e-governance (Administrative) etc.

Doing these 5 things will mean sufficient ground work to craft a perfect essay on the day of the exam. The ingredients will be ready and you can dish-out a perfect essay based on the demand.

For an illustration of how to identify probable topics, let’s look at the 2017 Mains Essay Paper.

Section A

  1. Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers in India. (Probable)
  2. Impact of the new economic measures on fiscal ties between the Union and States in India. (Probable)
  3. Destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms. (standard theme)
  4. Has the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) lost its relevance in a multipolar world? (Probable)


Section B

  1. Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.
  2. Fulfilment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth. (standard theme)
  3. We may brave human laws but cannot resist natural laws.
  4. ‘Social media’ is inherently a selfish medium.

The essay topics in 2017 and in every other year are a combination of topics that are both predictable and ones that are not.

To a careful eye that has constantly kept in touch with newspapers and editorials, the Probables could have been easily identified.

Likewise, ‘education’ and ‘women’ are Standard themes that make its way almost every year. For these standard themes one must again try and connect them to all the current events to make it relevant.

For example: women related topics could be connected to Nirbhaya Case, low labour force participation, sexual harassment laws, conviction rates for crime on women, SHGs, Panchayati Raj relates issues etc.

Finally, while trying to identify topics in general, one important cue is to bear in mind that it should be a LARGE THEME.

For Example, in international relations: Non-Aligned Movement, Neighbourhood-first Policy etc. are large themes that spread not specific to relations with any particular country. These are ones that must be of interest in Essay preparation.

Best Wishes!