In the pattern of the UPSC exam, you have to write around 20-25 questions with each answer demanding 200-250 words for the nine papers of the IAS Mains exam. In the three hours you get for each paper, it is no mean feat to draft and frame answers for the questions and be able to finish it.
You need to take care of the presentation while ensuring that there aren’t any filler sentences that diverge from the topic at hand. Each answer requires a format in that it should have an introduction, body, conclusion, subheadings, etc.
The quality of the answers matters a lot as it is for one of the most prestigious posts that the candidate is appearing. Thus, practice is important. This article will tell you how to go about your daily answer writing practise for UPSC 2021.
When to Start Mains Answer Writing Practice?
Answer writing is a game of both what and how. You must first know what to write and then see how to write. Therefore, you cannot start to answer questions till you have not covered a fair amount of the syllabus. If you start it too early, you won’t know what to write and then you will end up doing research work on the question, wasting precious time.
First read course material, preferably revise it too and then start answer writing. Say, you start answering writing 6 months into your preparation and write 1-2 answers per day for the next 6 months, then you will end up practicing 180-360 questions, i.e. 9-18 Papers!
How to Start Answer Writing Practice for UPSC Mains?
Before the Prelims exam, practice 1-2 questions per day at home.
Very next day of Prelims, join a test series or download freely available tests online.
Therefore, the test series has to be joined only after Prelims.
One test series, including 10 tests, is enough.
Test series with sectional + comprehensive tests in one module is the best one.
Answers should be relevant, correct, crisp, neat, adhere to the word limit and coherent.
In the Optional Subject Paper, aspirants are expected to have a deep understanding of the concepts as this is the ‘chosen’ specialist field, and the answers should reflect that understanding.
But in the GS papers, the aspirants should have a good understanding of the concepts (not necessarily deep) which he/ she can present multi-dimensionally.
Generally, main questions contain certain key terms called ‘directional words’ in them which are a clue to figuring out how they are to be answered.
Why Answer Writing is Important?
It is just as important to learn how to write good answers in the IAS mains exam as it is to study the subject material. This is because, at the end of the day, it is what you have written in the answer booklet that matters, not what you have read, studied, or practised.
You are graded solely on the basis of what the examiner reads in the form of your answers, and the countless hours you spent studying are irrelevant to him. As a result, it goes without saying that the art of writing appropriate and expected responses from candidates is crucial. Take a look at a few pointers that candidates should keep in mind when writing UPSC mains exam answers.
Important Tips for Mains Answer Writing
It is important to take a multi-dimensional approach to answer writing in the IAS mains exam. You should approach the answer from 360 degrees and start writing.
Always use keywords to highlight important and score points in your answers. Try to underline the keywords.
Don’t forget to substantiate what you claim in your answers. This will give legitimacy to your answers, not to mention, make you look well-read to the examiner.
Your answers should be written in neat and legible handwriting. Give headings and subheadings wherever necessary. Also, have tables and figures if it will augment the quality of your answers.
Always write in simple and error-free language. Your writing should be clear, complete, and concise.
Depending on your comfort level and what you are used to, write in points or in paragraphs.
Adhere to the word count specified by the UPSC.
This is the most important tip anyone can give. Practice writing a lot of answers in all the subjects as part of your IAS Mains Preparation.
A Few Recommended Books for Daily Answer Writing Practice
Ethics Answer Writing.
Disha Solved Papers.
Arihant Solved Answers.
Vishal Solved Answers.
151 Essays by Arihant Publications.
7 Years UPSC IAS/ IPS Mains Essay Year-wise Solved Papers (2013 – 2019) by Disha Publications.
151 Essays for IAS/ PCS & other Competitive Exams 3rd Edition by Disha Publications.
Select Essays For Civil Services Examination by Drishti Publications.
Essay ( Nibandh) for UPSC Civil Services Exam/ सिविल सेवा परीक्षा के लिए निबंध by Rajkamal Prakashan/ Akshar.
Nibandh Manjusha | Civil Seva/ Rajya Seva Ki Mukhya Pariksha Hetu by McGraw-Hill.
Things to Keep in Mind While Answer Writing
One should impress the examiner and give the impression that it was written by a future leader.
Your responses should be illustrative, precise, neat, clear, and beautiful, and they should also answer the question directly.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the examiner for the general studies papers expects different types of answers than for the optional papers.
GS Papers and Optionals
Because this is the ‘chosen’ specialist field, aspirants are expected to have a deep understanding of the concepts in the optionals, and their answers should reflect that understanding. Here you will find information on the best UPSC optionals.
However, aspirants for the GS papers should have a good understanding of the concepts (not necessarily deep) that they can present in a multi-dimensional manner. That is, a question from the field of international relations, for example, should be answered in that field, but it will help if the aspirant can extrapolate it to areas such as social issues, polity and governance, internal security, and so on.
Do’s and Don’ts
Before you consider an answer, make sure you understand the question completely and correctly. In the Mains examination, questions will include directives such as ‘discuss/ critically discuss,’ and you should be able to understand exactly what that directive is asking you to do.
For a better understanding of what the examiner expects from you in the answer, consult the accompanying table on various directives and their meanings. This is also the most basic, but crucial, a skill you should have for effective answer writing.
Before committing anything to paper, create a basic mental framework for the answer. This is a vital skill that you must cultivate on a war footing. It should be the case that as soon as you have read and comprehended a question, you begin forming the structure for the answer in your mind.
It gets easier with practice, and if necessary, jot down (with a pencil) whatever comes to mind as and when it comes to mind. The last point is significant because we have a tendency to forget or be unable to recall information from memory at the last minute (or while writing), which can have a significant impact on the quality of our response.
It’s critical that you learn how to coerce an answer from yourself. This is not a difficult task to complete. Consider it this way: You are a serious aspirant who has put in a lot of effort to prepare for the Mains examination and as a result, you have a lot of information, facts, and ideas.
If time were not an issue, you could spend as much time as you wanted thinking about each and every sentence you write, but you don’t have that luxury.
Don’t let your imagination dwindle and don’t overthink it. UPSC expects you to have a thorough understanding of a topic and to be able to express that understanding clearly. As a result, one should avoid thinking, ideas, or arguments that aren’t absolutely necessary for writing a specific answer.
Overthinking and philosophising can cause confusion, so it should be avoided when writing Mains answers. Furthermore, this can save you time and effort, which you can put to better use by answering other questions.
Give complete answers: In the IAS mains exam, it’s critical to take a multi-dimensional approach to answer questions. Start writing after taking a 360-degree approach to the answer.
Always use keywords to emphasise importance and score points in your responses. Make an effort to highlight the keywords.
Substantiate your answers: Don’t forget to back up your claims with evidence. This will give the credibility of your answer, as well as make you appear well-read to the examiner. Some questions will require you to ‘substantiate’ your answers.
It is not enough to merely write out answers and prepare for the IAS exam. You should also get your answers evaluated by teachers, seniors, or mentors. Only this way you can analyze your shortcomings and correct yourself.
Another major advantage of answer writing practice is that you will be able to learn more by writing. Writing helps in internalizing what you have read. This assumes greater significance when you have to read a huge syllabus. Also, writing helps in organizing your thoughts. You will learn to write what is asked and not what you know.