Last updated: 
June 25, 2022

How to Make Your UPSC Mains Answers Stand Out: Powerful Answer-writing Tips for IAS Mains

If you want to stand out in the upcoming UPSC Main Civil Services Examination, here are a few pointers on UPSC answer writing technique that can help.

Post written by

Dr. Abhishek Kumar

A teacher and guide to the students preparing for the UPSC CSE and IFS examination for about two decades. He has helped close to 2000 students secure a rank in these examinations, with 9 of them getting All India Rank 1 and 100+ of them finding a place within the All India Top-10 list.

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Service Main Examination is the key component of the process to select candidates for appointment to the elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and Indian Police Service (IPS), among others. The UPSC conducts three stages of examination - Preliminary, Main and Interview - in order to select the best talent for these coveted services.

The Main Examination is a written test that is conducted in three parts: General Studies (4 papers), Essay and optional subject (2 papers). The General Studies papers test your knowledge of current events, polity, economy, history, international relations, governance, internal security, technology, environment etc., while the optional subject allows you to choose an area of specialisation.

Successfully clearing the UPSC Civil Service Main Examination is no mean feat; only about 15% of the total number of candidates who appear for it every year manage to do so.

Getting a good score in the Main Examination is a challenge even to experienced and well-prepared candidates as one needs to combine great writing and clear understanding of topics. It is no secret that writing skill is one of the key ingredients for a successful UPSC Main Examination attempt.

In this post, I am going to share ten tips to write better answers in the UPSC Main Examination.

1. Content is the king

Answering questions in the UPSC examinations requires sufficient information on the key queries of the question. The first quality of any answer is to provide this information. This can be done by breaking down the question into its key parts and providing a clear response to each part.

To be confident when taking the UPSC Main Exam, you must be familiar with at least 80% syllabus topics. This means that you have a general understanding of the topic, as well as specific knowledge about key terms and concepts. Being conversant with these many topics will allow you to confidently answer most of the questions in the Main Examination.

2. Divide your answer into proper introduction, body and conclusion.

The first step is to divide your answer into proper introduction, body and conclusion. The introduction should introduce the topic and state the structure of the body. The body should provide a detailed answer to the question, while the conclusion should summarise the answer and reiterate the main points.

3. Use accurate and appropriate terminology

It is also important to use accurate and appropriate terminology in order to demonstrate an understanding of the question. The UPSC Main Examination requires a high level of accuracy and precision. Terms that are used in the question must be used correctly in the answer, and vice versa. Using the correct terminology can also help to clearly communicate an idea or argument. In addition, it is important to be aware of the connotations that different terms carry, and to use terms appropriately depending on the context. For instance, using the word ‘terrorist’ is very different from using the word ‘militant’. In short, using accurate and appropriate terminology is an essential part of good writing skills, and can help to convey ideas clearly and effectively. The examiners at the UPSC reward accuracy very highly.

4. Be concise and come straight to the point

Expressing oneself in a concise manner is an important skill for UPSC Mains answer writing. It is often more effective to come straight to the point and avoid beating about the bush. This allows the examiner to quickly understand the essence of your answer. Substance is always rewarded more than beautification, so be sure to focus on your argument rather than trying to make your answer look pretty. In order to practice this skill, try answering practice questions in a concise manner. This will help you get used to communicating your ideas effectively.

5. Structure the answer in alignment with the major queries of the questions

The most important part of UPSC mains answer writing technique is to structure your answers in a way that they align with the major queries of the questions. This will help you stay focused while writing and make sure that you do not miss out on any important points. The sub-parts of your answers must follow the structure of the questions, so that the examiner can easily understand your arguments.

Another key point to remember while structuring your answers is to use keywords from the question in your introduction and conclusion. This will help highlight the connection between your answer and the question and reinforce your arguments.

6. Understand the difference among query-terms such as discuss, analyse, elucidate, comment etc.

Query-terms such as discuss, analyse, elucidate, comment etc. play a very important role in the UPSC Mains answer writing. Each term can vastly change the scope of your answer. Therefore, it is important to understand the difference among these terms.

Discuss means to present and compare different points of view on a topic. Analyse means to break down a topic or text into its parts and examine each one of them. Elucidate means to provide further explanation or definition of a topic. Comment means to express one's balanced opinion on a topic. You should familiarise yourself with the demands of other query-terms too.

7. Always substantiate

Observation, data and argument are the three legs of an answer. A good answer always substantiates the observations, generalisations and arguments with facts and data.

The key to a good answer is to use the right type of evidence for each part of the answer. For example, if you are making a generalisation, use statistical data. If you are giving an example to illustrate your point, use something that you might have read as a part of current affairs.

This will fetch you more marks and increase your chances of clearing the exam.

8. Illustrate mostly

An illustration is a graphical representation of data. It can be in the form of a map, chart, diagram, table or graph. Illustrations always catch the examiner's attention and fetch you better rewards. They make your answer more reader-friendly and also easier to understand.

Illustrations are especially useful when you are discussing complex topics. They help to break down the information into smaller parts, making it easier for the reader to understand. Additionally, illustrations can also add value to your answer by providing additional insights or perspectives.

When choosing an illustration for your answer, make sure that it is relevant to the topic at hand.

9. Simplicity is richly rewarding

The key to clearing the UPSC examination is writing simple and straightforward answers. Complex language confuses the examiner and reduces the value of your answer.

It is therefore important to use simple language when writing answers for the UPSC Mains examination. This will make it easier for the examiner to go through your answers and appreciate their value better.

10. Speed matters

The UPSC Main question papers are lengthy and you need to write really fast in order to finish the paper properly. The key to answering these questions is to practice writing quickly without making mistakes. You also need to develop a technique for managing your time so that you can answer all the questions within the given time frame. One way to do this is to make a schedule and stick to it as closely as possible. You should also try to avoid getting stuck on any one question and move on if you can't answer it immediately. Finally, make sure that you read through the entire question paper before starting to write so that you have a sense of what is expected from you.

It is important to try writing under tight time limitations before the Main Examination. This will help you develop a writing technique that will work best for you.

Finally

We hope that you got some ideas on the effective writing techniques for the UPSC Main Examination.

There's a phrase we all know, "The best way to get started is to just start." It's true for everything in life but especially true for the UPSC Main Examination. So, you must start honing your writing skills as early as possible.

This is your chance to show who you are as an individual and as a future civil servant. The UPSC Main Examination is a long and arduous process, but it's worth it.

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