How to write answer in UPSC Mains exam?

How to write answer in main exam?


There is no compulsive and proportional causal relationship between your hard work and success in the Civil Services Examination. That is, it is not necessary that the candidate who works hard will be successful and the candidate who works less hard will not be successful. Success depends on hard work as well as many other factors, the most important of which is your answer writing style. 

  • The examiner checking the answer-sheet has absolutely no idea about which candidate’s answer-sheet belongs to, how seriously he has studied or his circumstances etc. 
  • The examiner has only one basis for evaluating the candidate and that is the level of answers that the candidate has written in his/her answer sheet. If your answers are effective then the examiner will be compelled to give good marks and if the answers are not strong then no matter how hard you put in, it will not yield any positive result. 
  • The role of preparation in your success or failure is not more than 50%. The remaining 50% is about your performance in the three hours of the exam. How many questions did you answer? In what order, written in dots or making paragraphs, written with or without the help of diagrams, written in clear handwriting or in vague handwriting, whether proper ratio of facts and analysis is kept in the answers or not – all these questions who play at least 50% role in your success or failure. The unfortunate thing is that most of the aspirants often neglect such an important aspect and many of them write their first answer for their post-college life in the main examination itself.
  • The questions asked in UPSC Mains exam are descriptive in nature in which the answers to the questions have to be written in the answer-book in prescribed words (generally 100 to 300 words), so while writing the answers to such questions, it is important to consider the writing style and punctuality. Along with this, special attention is required on time management etc. 
  • The development of writing style and aptitude is possible with constant practice in the right direction, for which the candidates should take care of some important things along with a comprehensive understanding of the subject. 
  • Our aim is to explain that what precautions should be taken by the candidates to develop the answer writing style from the very beginning? 

Different Stages of Answer Writing: 

The entire process of answer writing can be understood by dividing it into four steps given below-
1. Understanding the question and dividing it into several pieces for convenience
2. Outlining the
answer 3. Writing the
answer 4. Presentation of the answer To make attractive 

understanding and fragmenting the question

The very first step in the answer writing process is how accurately the candidate understands the question and defines the various sub-questions hidden in it and their interrelationships. The truth is that more than half of the candidates make serious mistakes in this first stage itself.

  • To understand the question means what does the questioner want us to ask? Sometimes the language of the question is such that we remain in doubt what to write and what to leave? To solve this problem, it is necessary to develop the ability to understand the question.
  • To understand the question properly, attention should be paid to mainly two things-
    1. Which word has been used at the end of the question. 
    2. How many logical parts are present in the statement of question and what is the relation between them all?
  • The words given at the end of the question mean those words which tell what the candidate has to do in relation to the question. Such words include  discuss, analyze, highlight, explain, evaluate, critically evaluate, test, observe, review, criticize, critique, describe/describe and explain/explain  etc.
  • On the basis of these words it is decided that what is the examiner expecting from the candidate in the answer? It is true that many examiners themselves are not always attentive to these words, but the candidates should assume that the examiners evaluate the answer on the basis of these words only. 
  • Keeping this in mind, we have clarified the correct meaning of some important words by dividing them into different sections so that your answer can get a right direction. 

Explain / describe / explain / explain / explain / throw light: 

  • All these words often convey the same meaning.
  • In such questions, the candidate is only expected to express the information related to the question asked in simple language.
  • Questions with description and description have more scope for facts whereas questions with ‘explain’, ‘shed light’ or ‘give explanation’ require writing explaining the topic asked in simple language.

Criticism/Review/Criticism/Examination/Test/Inspection/Properties/Defects Discussion: 

  • All these questions can be put in one section.
  • Such questions expect the candidate to have a deep understanding of the pros and cons of a fact or statement.
  • The word criticism definitely gives a sense that the candidate has to write negative things related to the subject asked in it, but the truth is that the true meaning of criticism is to pay attention to both the merits and demerits. 
  • Broadly speaking, the ratio can be kept that in questions like review/criticism/examination/test/inspection, the ratio of good and bad sides should be kept almost equal, while the ratio of negative aspects in critical questions should be increased somewhat i.e. 70-75%. be done till

Evaluation/Critical Evaluation:

  • Valuation means marking or determining the value of a statement or thing.
  • In such questions, the candidate is expected to underline the current or contemporary importance of the subject asked, also point out its shortcomings and at the end clarify that what is the overall utility of that statement or thing?
  • Whether critically written or not before evaluation, logically both the things should be considered the same. 
  • Any serious process of evaluation can be complete only if the critical aspect is taken care of at its core. 
  • The essence is that in the questions of critical evaluation, the candidate should first state the merits and demerits and finally on the basis of comparison of both of them, it should be clarified that what is the importance of that statement or thing?


  • Mimamsa means to present a subject in a systematic and complete form. 
  • Writing answers to such questions is not difficult. It is enough to write all the possible aspects related to that question together. 
  • The basic requirement is the same in the questions of reasoning. The only difference is that it requires more logical explanation by discussing a statement or fact.


  • Analysis and synthesis are opposite words. Where synthesis means to unite scattered things, whereas analysis means to break down an idea or statement into the simplest parts. 
  • While analyzing a statement, the candidate should base his mind on contexts like what, why, how, when, where, how much.

Logical breakdown of questions:

  • Simply put, logical fragmentation means breaking down a complex sentence into a few simpler sentences and identifying the sub-questions underlying it.  
  • In simple statements, this problem does not come up, but as soon as complex sentence-combination questions are present, difficulties related to their interpretation and meaning begin to appear before the candidate.
  • In such a situation, the candidate should focus mainly on those quantification or intensity words which determine the focus of the question. 
  • For example, if the question is “The National Emergency declared in 1975 is seen as one of the most controversial periods in the history of independent India.” Evaluate.” So in this the phrase ‘one of the most controversial times’ should get the most attention. It is implied that the Emergency has not been the only controversial period in the history of independent India but one of several controversial periods. Simultaneously, it is also implied that in this question the candidate has to not comment on every controversial time but only those few controversial times which are of less intensity as compared to the rest of the controversial time.
  • In this question, the candidate will have to break the given statement into several sub-questions, such as why the 1975 Emergency is considered a very controversial period, which can be considered as the most controversial period in the history of independent India, and What has been the state of emergency of 1975 as compared to the most controversial periods?

outline the answer

  • As part of the second step of the answer-writing process, a brief outline of the answer can be made. 
  • Many candidates avoid using this process and start writing answers directly to save time. If his writing ability is not very mediocre, then assume that it is natural for his answer to be disordered and scattered. It is better that the candidate should write the answer in eight minutes instead of ten minutes, but his answer should be absolutely correct. 
  • Some candidates with very good writing ability have such a high level that they brainstorm the answer as soon as they read the question and start writing the answer straight away. But to acquire this ability is a long and laborious process which cannot be found in every candidate.
  • It is better for the new candidates to spend some time on the outline or ‘synopsis’ before starting the answer.
  • Making an outline means that the points which are in the mind of the candidate related to the answer should be arranged by writing them on a rough paper. It is not necessary that every point should be written, it is also possible that the candidate may prepare the same in some format like sketch. 
  • For example, if the question is “An insurmountable possibility could be turned into reality because of an efficient leadership. Discuss this statement in the context of the integration of Indian princely states.” So its possible outline should be made as follows-
    1. Role :  Comparison of Patel and Bismarck.
    2. Difficult prospects:  Situation of 1947, plan of British, desire of many princely states/kings to remain independent etc.
    3. Efficient Leadership:  Brief description of Patel’s ability and working style.
    4. Conclusion: To  prove the role of Patel more important than that of Bismarck and Garibaldi etc.
  • Initially, the candidates make the outline on this format. Gradually they get used to this process and even just writing a few broken words gets their job done. 
  • Before appearing in the main examination, you should practice the design so much that only a few half-hearted signs in the examination hall can complete the design work.
  • Considering the time pressure in the examination hall, it is natural that the candidate is not able to outline the answer before writing each answer. If you also have such a problem of speed, then it is better that you write the answers of the first 7-8 questions out of 20 on the basis of brief outlines and write the answers to the later questions directly.

write answer

  • A good answer is one that answers the question.  
  • After the question outline is prepared, the candidate should do the actual answer-writing.
  • A good answer has mainly two characteristics –  authenticity and fluency . 
  • Authenticity  means that the answer should contain such solid facts and reasoning which satisfies the actual demand of the question i.e. the examiner should read the answer and feel that the candidate has studied the subject seriously. 
  • Flow  means that there should be such a sequence from the first word of the answer to the last word that the examiner does not have to stop anywhere while reading the answer.
  • In relation to writing a good answer, there are always some questions in the mind of every candidate, which have been tried to solve.

Adherence to word limit: 

  • Often there is a curiosity in the mind of the candidates that they have to write the answer within the given word limit or can a little leeway be taken in it? If yes, how much?
  • Before knowing the answer to this question, it should be understood that it is practically not possible for the Public Service Commission to arrange to count the word count of the answers of each candidate. Therefore, the candidates should first get rid of the pressure that every word of theirs is counted.
  • There is also a truth in this regard that even if the commission does not count the words, but on the basis of their experiences, the examiner, after seeing the answer-book, makes an estimate that the number of words in the answer is approximately. 
  • It is only when the number of words is too much or too few that the examiner’s attention is drawn to it. In such a situation, he has the discretionary power to punish the candidate for this mistake or not? 
  • The essence is that there is no problem in violating the word limit a little, but this violation should not exceed 10-20%.
  • Some candidates are also worried about whether the words ‘is’, ‘was’, ‘should’ etc. are counted or not? Some of them even claim that these are not included in the word limit of the answer. Actually it is an illusion. Word count includes all types of words, whether they are additive words or other words. Yes, of course, the words in parentheses are often not included. Similarly, if a compound language is used, then both the words that come in the compound are often considered as one word because of the hyphen. 

Write in points or in paragraphs? 

  • It is also a common curiosity of most of the candidates whether they should use the dots in answer writing or not? In fact, it is not possible to answer this question with a yes or no. The decision depends on what is the nature of the question?
  • If the nature of the question is such that various facts or points need to be listed in its answer, then of course points should be used in it. But if the nature of the question is purely analytical, then it is necessary to avoid the use of dots. It is better to write such an answer according to the paragraph method.
  • For example, if the question is asked ‘What were the most important five events that happened during the Indian independence movement?’ So points should be used in its answer. After writing a small role, the candidate should go on presenting the facts one by one by making points 1-5 directly.
  • If the question is asked that “While Mahatma Gandhi could not inflict any serious injury on the evils of the caste system, Dr. Ambedkar struck at the core of the caste system. Explain”. There is a clear expectation of this question that the first paragraph of the answer should be written in relation to Mahatma Gandhi and the second paragraph with respect to Dr. Ambedkar and in both the paragraphs only one point needs to be explained. (Obviously the dots or headings do not play a role in such answers. If we use unnecessary dots, we will undoubtedly be at a loss).

Use drawings or not?

  • There is also a dilemma in the mind of the candidates about whether they should use diagrams (like pie diagrams, Venn diagrams, tables, flow-charts) etc. in any answer or not?
  • The answer to this question is that it is often better to avoid this tendency in essay and analytical questions. But if the nature of the question is such that there is a need to show the relationship or classification of different objects etc., then the use of diagrams can also be helpful. 
  • For example, if asked in the Ethics paper, “Distinguish between the concepts of crime and sin. Is it necessary that every crime is a sin and every sin is a crime?” So in answer to this question, Venn diagram should be used to clarify the relation of two concepts. The difference between many complex concepts is not as easily explained through a diagram as it is through written words.
  • The essence is that it is always beneficial to use diagrammatic style where the relationship between different concepts or classification etc. is to be clarified, but such experiments should be avoided in pure analytical questions.

What vocabulary do you use? 

  • The simplicity and ease of language-style should be maintained in writing the answer. It is necessary to be so careful in the selection of words that the dignity of the answer is not compromised.
  • The words of Urdu, Persian tradition can be used in some amount in the essay, but the use of such language should be avoided in the general studies papers. 
  • There are few problems with using English vocabulary. Wherever a complex, technical term comes up for the first time, you should also write the English word in parentheses. You can use Roman script when writing in parentheses. If you use a technical word in English in Devanagari script, there is no need for parentheses. But keep in mind that this feature should be used only for very important words. If English words are used in more than the normal proportion, it can have a negative effect on the mind of the examiner.
  • In the examination, generally give more importance to the vocabulary which is of Sanskrit origin i.e. similar. Such terminology is often considered to be more formal and is considered appropriate by examiners given the discipline of the examination. For example, the formality in saying ‘The Prime Minister is unwell’ is not the same as saying ‘Wazire Azam Sahab’s health is unwell’. Therefore, as far as possible, try to keep your vocabulary simple, easy but similar.

Write role etc or not? 

  • Candidates also have enough doubts on the question whether they should write the role at the beginning of their answer or not? Similarly, there remains doubt about the necessity of conclusion at the end of the answer.
  • Nowadays answers with a word limit of not more than 200-250 words are asked in General Studies and Optional subjects. So, nowadays it is okay to assume that you can start your answer straight away without any formal role.
  • The first one sentence of the answer should be kept in such a way that it satisfies the need of the role. If the question is based on a dispute, then one or two lines of conclusion should also be given, but in general factual questions there is no need for conclusion.
  • For example, if the question is ‘Discuss the comparative contribution of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar in the freedom struggle’, then its brief role and conclusion can be as follows-
  • Role:  If Mahatma Gandhi was leading the mainstream of the Indian freedom struggle, then at the same time Dr. Ambedkar was trying to connect the deprived Dalit and tribal community in the mainstream for centuries. Following are the major points of comparison between these two great leaders-
  • Conclusion: The  essence is that if Mahatma Gandhi’s big role was in freeing India from the British, then Dr. Ambedkar’s role was in freeing us from stereotypes and exploitation.

Making the presentation of the

answer attractive The final aspect of answer writing is how can we make our answer more beautiful and effective? Some of its main formulas are as follows-

  • Don’t forget to underline the most important words and sentences of the answer, but keep in mind that the less you use the underline, the greater its effect. Many students underline almost every line to no avail.
  • The candidate should use two color pens, black and blue. Like he can write the answer with blue pen and can mark important parts with black pen. But keep in mind that it is against the law to use a pen of any color other than these two colors. 
  • The neater your handwriting, the more likely you are to get higher marks. 
  • Good handwriting provides a psychological advantage which ultimately results in a score advantage. If your handwriting is not clean then damage is bound to happen. Therefore, try from now on that the handwriting should be at least such that the examiner does not get tense or headache while reading it.
  • Leave blank space between your words and lines in such a way that your answer sheet looks attractive. Leave a little more gap between two paragraphs than you leave between two lines, so that from a distance it can be understood from where the new paragraph is starting. 
  • Similarly, start each new paragraph with roughly the same scale. On the left, from where the writing space begins, the paragraph should be started by leaving a space of about two words and all the paragraphs should start from the same point. 

time management in exams

In almost all the papers of the main examination, a big problem also comes that how to write the answer of all the questions in three hours? How much time should be given to each question? All questions asked or some left out? etc etc. Some people believe that the division of time in the examination should be equal for each question, but this cannot be considered correct at the psychological level. 

  • The effect of the initial answers is more important and the profit or loss continues depending on that effect till the end. Therefore, comparatively more time should be given to the initial few questions.
  • In the last one hour of the exam, the thinking and writing speed of the candidate has increased in an unprecedented way. So, don’t worry even if the last few questions get comparatively less time.
  • You may not be able to follow this time management strategy completely in the exam and you may be left with many questions at the last minute. For example, suppose the time is only 20 minutes and there are 5 or 6 questions left. Even in such a situation, the effort should be made that no question is left out. Even if you write the important points in all the questions only through flow-charts or diagrams, you are likely to get decent marks. 
  • By reaching the last part of the answer sheet, an opinion has been formed in the mind of the examiner about the candidate and marks are usually being decided on the basis of that opinion. 
  • If you have already formed a good opinion about you, then even after seeing the diagram or just the dots in the last few questions, the examiner will give good marks because he has formed a positive attitude in your favor.  
  • But if you leave some questions completely then he will not be able to give you marks even if you want to because you have not given him a chance to exercise your discretion. 
  • The essence is that one should try not to miss a single question. Yes, the question which the candidate does not even know, he will have to leave it.
  • If you write the answer keeping all the above points in mind, then surely your answer will be the best and you will be able to get good marks, which will increase your chances of success.

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