Tips for Writing Better Answers in UPSC IAS Mains 2021

UPSC: UPSC IAS Mains exams are descriptive in nature and answer writing is one of the toughest aspects of the Mains exam. In this article, we have a shared strategy for writing better answers in UPSC IAS Mains 2021. 

Created On: Feb 4, 2021 10:56 IST
Tips for Writing Better Answers in UPSC IAS Mai1s 2020
Tips for Writing Better Answers in UPSC IAS Mai1s 2020

UPSC: Writing a good answer in UPSC Main Exam is as important as preparing for the exams. The main aim of any candidate appearing in the Mains exam is to present their knowledge and learning in the most accurate and effective way. While attempting a question in any of the 9 Mains paper, it is important for the candidate to understand the demand of the questions. Some questions ask you to “discuss” or “analyze” while others end with “examine” or “critically examine”. It is important for the candidate to understand the keywords in the questions and frame their answer within the word limit. In this article, we have discussed a proven and effective strategy for writing good answers in UPSC IAS Mains 2021. 

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Tips for Writing Good Answers in UPSC IAS Mains 2021

➨ Understanding the Question: UPSC often gives many directives in questions and each question demands a precise answer. Some of the frequently used directives are, ‘Examine’, ‘Comment’, ‘Analyze’, ‘ ‘Evaluate’, ‘Discuss’, ‘Critically Examine’, Critically Comment’, ‘Critically Analyze’ and ‘Assess’. Let’s understand the meaning of each directive in detail:

• Analyze and Critically Analyze

Analyze is a broader term than ‘Examine’. When you are asked to analyze, you have to examine each part of the problem mentioned in the question. 

Critically Analyze: You need to conclude with a fair judgment, after analyzing the nature of each component and the interrelationship between the situations given.

• Discuss

This is an all-encompassing directive where the candidate has to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned. All the details need to examined and reasons for both for and against arguments need to be included in the answer.

• Comment and Critically Comment

Typically, a 'comment' is accompanied by a statement made or taken from a famous book by some famous personality. You have to choose key points when asked to comment and give your 'opinion' on them based on facts or claims resulting from your broad reading.

Critically commenting is also forming an opinion on key points, but you have to make a rational judgment in the end.

• Examine and Critically Examine

When you are asked to examine, you have to investigate the subject more closely, get into specifics, and figure out the causes or consequences, if any.

When ‘critically’ is suffixed or prefixed to a directive, you need to look at the pros and cons of something and give a fair judgment.

• Evaluate

When you are asked to decide, you have to pass a sound judgment based on facts on the reality of the given argument in the question or the subject. You've got to determine the value of the argument in question. 

• Elucidate

To elucidate is to make something clear that was formerly confusing. To bring clarity, cite evidence, examples, facts, etc.

➨ Develop a Mental Framework: It's very crucial to outline the answer in your head. The very moment you read the question and understand it, set your mind on the structure and framework of your answer. In this way, you can easily write the answer without wasting precious time in the exam hall.  When you recall facts and thoughts, jot them down with a pencil, if possible, so that you can erase them later.

➨ Stick to Word-Limit: UPSC gives strict instructions on the word limit to be followed for each question. Hence, it is necessary that one should not slip into thoughts, ideas, or arguments that are not necessary for writing a particular answer.

Universal Vocabulary: To develop a coherent answer writing style, discard the use of complex language. Use words that have a chance of being universally understood.

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How to frame a good answer? 

It is very important to attempt each answer in a structured manner. The three main stages of developing a good answer are Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. Let’s discuss each of them in detail. 

• Introduction: The beginning paragraph of any answer is known as Introduction. An introduction should be informative as well as should introduce the topic of the desired answer. Use 10%-155 of the total word limit to complete your introduction.

• Body: Divide the main body of the answer as needed into paragraphs or bullets. There should only be one point in each paragraph or bullet (unless it is appropriate to do otherwise). The most relevant points that you remember should go first. 

If you are asked to discuss both positive and negative aspects of a question, in one paragraph you can either list all the positives and then list the negatives, or in each paragraph, you can go for a positive-negative mix.

• Conclusion: The conclusion should be a balanced product of the whole answer leaving a positive effect on the examiner. Also, avoid ending your answer with a rhetorical response and try to bring forward a suggestion or a way forward instead. This indicates an optimistic bent of mind and a desire to pursue solutions.

The only good way to score well in descriptive papers is to frame structured answers. The art of answer writing can only be mastered with relentless practice. At the beginning of practice, you are always welcome to open-book practice. This will help you to recall the points more easily. Eventually, you will develop the ability to frame answers. It is to be noted that the exam has a limited time frame, hence, while practicing time limits should also be treated as an important factor. Try to finish up every answer within 7-8 minutes at home to increase your speed.

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