In the long and tiring process of Civil Services Exam, most of the students keep themselves engaged in the higher intellectual purposes of studying everything they could get their hands on. In this intellectual caste system of sorts, the lowest pedestal is given to the thing, which fetches the maximum marks in the eventual selection process. I am pretty sure, most of you would not have been able to guess it even now. I am talking about the writing skill!
In the Main Examination, you are supposed to write 9 papers and all of them involve answer writing. Now, it is generally presumed by the aspirants that if you know the content, the writing will follow. There could not have been a bigger misconception about it. It is just like saying that if you have all the ingredients, you can make amazing food! Just like in cooking, in writing also, there is a need of sense of proportion, flow and structure of the answer. Correct usage of it may make an answer look like a good coherent thought, which is exactly what is expected of a civil services aspirant. Let’s have a look at an example.
Q: Black money is not just an economic, but a social menace as well. Critically examine.
Before reading on, please do a small exercise. Try writing an answer to this question in around 250 words. Now, this is a topic everyone must be aware of, as it was all over the news. Just try it! Take a pen and paper and do it before reading further.
At this point, you should check out if you were the person evaluating the answer books, how will you mark both the answers, out of 12.5? In case you give my answer even one mark higher than yours, then, in a course of 1750 marks of Mains, I will core 140 marks more than you! In an exam like UPSC, this difference can propel you from a not selected candidate to a topper.
Having established the importance of writing, let’s understand how challenging it is. In UPSC, the paper is of 180 minutes and you are supposed to write 20 answers of around 250 words. That means you get around 9 minutes to read a question, understand it, frame an answer and write it. 9 minutes! So now, go back to the question and try repeating the same exercise in 9 minutes. You will realize how difficult it is.
The problem and the difficulty must have been well established by now. But surprisingly, most of the aspirants do not spend any considerable amount of time and effort on solving this problem. They try to practice writing 10-15 answers and assume that their preparation has been taken care of. Writing accurate answers is an art which needs to be learnt and nurtured with practice. It might take one even years to reach to a level of perfection in this.
If you are starting to prepare for UPSC, this is the first aspect you need to take care of. Whatever method of preparation you are adopting, make extensive efforts to ensure that your pen and your mind are in sync. Because eventually it is the latter which will take you across the line.
— Atul Jain