What are the aids to writing an answer in UPSC Mains?

What-are-the-aids-to-writing-an-answer-in-UPSC-Mains -1

Answer by Nitish Suri:

Sharing my experience. Hope it helps some of you.

Mains is the most important stage in the examination process. Scores in mains will determine more or less whether you are in or out. So, it becomes very important to minutely focus on each aspect of writing the answers both in optional and GS.

What makes a good answer?

1. Relevance to the question asked  – You need to write an answer to the exact question that is asked. Take a minute to analyse what the question demands. Often, we just see a few words in the questions and without understanding it, we start writing. This should be avoided. So, read the question carefully first and if required underline the important word/sentence.

2. Flow of the answer – Once you understand the question, prepare a framework of the answer in your mind with all important points you wish to include so that once you start writing you don't forget them.

3. Content – Usually any answer should have the following –

Introduction/Background -> Main points answering the question 
-> Explaining your points/opinion -> Conclusion -> Suggestions( if required)

Few points to note here

  • Don't criticise any government policy without any valid example or reason. In short, don't make sweeping statements without any reasoning.
  • Introduction should be ready in your mind while you are reading the question. It should give the context to the whole answer. Practice introduction for the common topics. Don't stretch it. It should give an impression that you understand the topic.
  • Main answer should include direct points answering the question and not vague ones. Include examples to illustrate your points. include any any recent news that is relevant to the question and explain your point.
  • You need to write your answer in a way that the examiner finds refreshing and different. He would have checked so many answer sheets  by the time he checks yours and if you write something different, you stand out and gain extra marks. Examples, correlating current affairs in ur answers give you an extra edge. The answer shouldn't be monotonous.
  • Conclusion should be short. End it with a positive note for the future.
  • If you have space and time, add any suggestion at the end if the answer demands. That ends the answer with your input or views even if they are not explicitly asked.

On writing skills –

Keep in mind that your answer is your sales pitch to the examiner. You are selling your answer to him. It needs that extra packaging to attract examiner and how do you do it?

  • Write in simple language. Yes, this exam is not going to check how good you are at vocabulary. Don't include flashy words to impress examiner. The essence of the answer should not be lost in the complexity of the words.
  • Avoid using slangs in your answers – Words like actually, basically, in a way  etc. 
  • Brevity is the key. Avoid writing in passive sentences.
  • Make your handwriting legible and it isn't important to have the best handwriting but examiner should be able to read it through without much stress..
  • Underline important points( Use different colours)
  • Make use of diagrams, flowcharts, mind maps ( if the answer demands)
  • Make optimum use of the space provided for answering.  Practice writing answers in a limited space.
  • Practice answer writing regularly. Get it evaluated. Understand it yourself and see if you would like such answer if you were an examiner. Improve on content, flow and overall presentation.
  • Any abbreviation, if its not included in the question or isn't very common must be expanded for the benefit of examiner.

Also, get clarity on the type of questions asked. Each paper( especially GS) will have different type of questions. The questions that are asked in mains can be broadly divided into the following –

1. Direct Questions – Based on facts ( Especially Geography and History Questions)
2. Indirect questions (Ex. Discuss the impact/rationale behind xyz policy decision, Analyse the factors etc. )
3. Opinion based questions ( Ex. Some Statement will be given and you will be asked to discuss or evaluate it. Mostly in Polity, Economy, IR)

Each type of question needs to be approached differently.While direct questions don't need too much focus on introduction and conclusion, others do need to have good start and end. Any opinion based answer should reflect your positive mindset even if it is critical of things. The optimism in your answers leaves a positive note with the examiner. 

My 2 cents. All the best!

What are the aids to writing an answer in UPSC Mains?


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