One cannot stress enough the importance of answer writing practise for UPSC mains. The UPSC analyses your quick thought process, analytical skills, understanding of various subjects and grasping power of the questions asked. It won’t be wrong to say that your writing skills will be put to the ultimate test with 7 subjective papers that carry 250 marks each, with 3 hours allotted to every paper.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve religiously read and re-read your books if you cannot produce them on paper. Practising answer writing is not limited to a week or two. It is a continuous part of your study plan that you must follow with determination and dedication. Continue reading this article to receive tips for UPSC answer writing practice.
Tips for Answer Writing Practice for UPSC
Solve Previous Year Question Papers
Solving previous year papers is the first step for success in the IAS exams. Students are recommended to solve these papers to understand the pattern of the UPSC exams and what are the different types of questions asked in the exam. These papers also contain the solution, hence you can understand how to write an ideal answer. You should try to answer these questions in the same manner as you would in the final exams.
Write Approximately 15 Words per Mark
In the case of a 250 mark question paper that must be attempted in 3 hours, understand that you are expected to write approximately 4000 words. UPSC mains exam is both about the quality and quantity of your answers. Do not waste energy rewriting and paraphrasing the same points. Write approximately 15 words per mark.
So, your target should be,200 words per 8 min approximately for a 12 mark question
- 200 words and 8 minutes approximately for a 12 mark question
- 150 words and 6 minutes approximately for a 10 mark question
Get to the Point Rather than Beating around the Bush
There is no need to waste crucial time in writing unnecessary introductions. If you are still keen on writing one, keep it short and minimally vague.
Let us take an example:
Question: What are the different sectors in the Indian economy?
Answer: The Indian economy can be classified into the following sectors…
Just as above, start with the answer right away without trying to build an introduction to the Indian economy.
The more Pointers You Add, the Better
You must try to write approx. 20 points for every answer. This might seem difficult as you’ll have to spend a good chunk of your precious time recalling the things you’ve learnt about.
Expert tip: Try to imagine a real-life scenario and relate your answer to it, instead of investing time in recalling what you’ve read. Your common sense and logic must precede recall.
Learn to Link and Interlink to other Questions
While you must answer directly to your question, it is also beneficial to link points that are relevant to the questions asked.
Let’s take an example:
Question: What are the different sectors in the Indian economy?
Under this question, although you must directly start with the types of economy, you should also be able to link crucial features regarding your points to the question.
Answer: The Indian economy can be classified into the following sectors: the Primary Sector, Secondary sector and Tertiary sector. After you have explained in detail the definitions and types of the sectors, you must also add in their contribution to the economy’s GDP, and the reason why a respective share is a certain percentage. The limitations, reasons for limitations and suggestions are also great points to be linked here.
Try to Keep it Simple
The UPSC does not care for the ornamentation of your answers. What they expect to read is applied concepts and understanding written down as a precise comprehension in basic vocabulary. Always use relevant and layman terms concerning questions asked. You must make sure that relevant keywords are appropriately used. For example, in the previous question regarding sectors of the economy, the relevant keywords would be goods and services.
Don’t Mess up the Numeric Data
Yes, guys! If you cannot recall a particular number or statistic, it is alright. Do not fret over it. The right data can boost your chances at scoring high, but do not attempt that at the cost of unclear knowledge. If you’re clear with your concepts in your answer, that will do just fine. Let’s take the previous example of Sectors of Economy. It is alright if you cannot recall the numeric value of employment in different sectors. Just stating that the Services sector provides maximum employment will suffice. When giving data, also provide implications of the data given.
Example: 48% of Indians depend on agriculture. Further validating this value with its causes and effects is crucial.
Adding Quotes to Your Answer Benefits in Your Scoring
Make use of the quotes you jotted down in your notes while studying. A relevant quote by an authority in relevance to the question asked will add weightage to your answer.
You Should Keep Your Handwriting Neat and Clean
Remind yourself of what your teachers told you in school: please write in a neat and readable handwriting. We know that you have a time-frame to stick to, and the tension of the examination hall paired with the need to recall just makes it harder. This is why you must practice every day to write within the set time we mentioned in point 1, in clear, neat and presentable handwriting.
Add Diagrams to Your Answers
Adding diagrams to your answers will always help if you don’t have a lot of points to write. Make diagrams only if the question demands it. For example, it is not necessary to draw pie-diagrams showcasing the GDP share of different sectors. Just highlight them in your words.
Write in Points over Paragraphs
Writing in points makes your answer more presentable, clear and readable for the examiner. If your answer demands paragraphs, make sure to split them into small paragraphs of 4-5 lines each.
Try to Target Every Part of the Question
You must answer all the different parts of the question, whether asked implicitly or explicitly. Don’t forget to answer any part of the question, it can also lead to your marks getting deducted.
Question: what is the current state of the different sectors in the Indian economy?
Question: What are the different sectors in the Indian economy? Why is there a huge divide between their output and contribution in the present day?
Try to Target Longer Hours of Practice
While practising, do not target only a handful of questions. Instead, write for a whole section. This will help you adapt yourself to the final day’s continuous writing process. You can start by writing continuously for an hour and move it up to 4. This daily answer writing practice is crucial otherwise your hand and brain will give up on you in the UPSC examination hall.
Don’t Leave Any Questions
There is negative marking while answering the questions in the mains. Hence it is recommended that you attempt each question asked in the exam. It is fine to not know the answer. You should try to answer this question with your logic.
Don’t Scan the Question Paper
You must try to finish half the paper within the first 90 minutes. To save time, avoid looking through the entire paper in the beginning. Just start with the first question, and tackle the remaining sequentially.
Some more Tips to Keep in Mind
- You must use appropriate headings and jot them down as they come into your mind.
- Do not forget to keep a check on time.
- Do not waste time on questions you aren’t sure about. Start with those you can answer easily.
- Sometimes it is alright to use indefinite terms. You can use words like almost, most likely, probably, etc. but in a limited quantity.
- When it comes to answering writing practice for the IAS mains, we highly suggest you subscribe to a good coaching institute’s (online/offline) mock test series. This will help you test your writing skills, and also offer the advantage of your answers being reviewed and remedied by an expert.
Hopefully, this article has given you a clear idea of how to write answers in this UPSC mains exam. Use these tips for daily answer writing practice for UPSC. For more such tips you can visit the UPSC Pathshala website.
UPSC Pathshala also offers regular test series in which the students can enrol to harness their skills. Students can check out all the courses as well available on the website. They offer personal mentors which guide the aspirants in their UPSC preparation according to their strength and weakness.