IAS MAINS: HOW TO WRITE GOOD ANSWERS TO GET GOOD MARKS By Swapnil Wankhade IAS officer at Govt of India

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Every candidate appearing in civil services exam always has doubt about whether he will be able to write good answers or not! Many do not appear in UPSC exam because they think that they cannot write good answers.

There are few myths about answer writing
1. SHOULD WRITING SKILL BE GOOD TO FETCH GOOD MARKS IN MAINS?
ans- No, because in UPSC you don’t need to write flowery language. It should be very specific and to the point. Beating around bush will not help in this exam.

2. IS IT TRUE THAT WRITING ANSWERS ONLY IN ENGLISH MEDIUM CAN FETCH GOOD MARKS?
ans- absolutely not because many with regional language like Hindi, Marathi, Tamil Telugu candidates not just clear this exam every year, but get higher ranks in the merit list.

3.HANDWRITING SHOULD BE GOOD TO GET GOOD MARKS?
ans- UPSC mentions that handwriting should be legible and not necessary very good one.

SO WHAT IS IMPORTANT IN WRITING?
The civil services main exam focuses on testing the candidate’s analytical power on various levels. The time limit for the essay paper is 3 hrs with word limit, and for the optional paper, there are questions with specific word limit like 250 words in optional subjects and 200 words in general studies. The candidate then has to prepare himself to answer all types of questions. The most important thing to be kept in mind is the time constraint. Therefore it becomes necessary to answer these questions quickly and effectively and in minimum words.

WHETHER TO ADOPT THE ‘PARAGRAPH’ STYLE OR THE ‘POINT’ STYLE OF ANSWERING QUESTIONS?
Though there is no set rule, it is wise to adopt a style depending on the question asked. If the question says to discuss, analyze or critically examine, it would be better to answer the question the paragraph format. On the other hand, if the question asks you to list the advantages or give reasons for/ against etc. I would prefer to write answers mostly in point format because through it I can manage time effectively and can write important points. However few answers need paragraph writing then such questions must be written in para form.
STYLE OF ANSWERING QUESTIONS:
For this it is very important to understand the question first. Depending on what the question is, whether one is asked to “discuss”, “elucidate”, “explain”,”critically Appreciate” or “give reasons for and against”, the answer should be written accordingly because it is only through the examinee’s style of answering questions that one can assess his or her originality of thought and analytical abilities. The question should be read properly, in fact the question paper should be read thoroughly in the first three to five minutes of the exam and then one should decide on the questions which are to be answered first. Time should also be given to frame the answer so that there is no confusion later on.
A good way to write effective answers is to do precise writing of the answers. Our answers should present the facts and concepts in an interesting way and should never be read like a passage from a book. It is best to use simple English and avoid flowery and decorative language which takes our attention away from the original facts and our opinions about a given topic. Making a practice of writing out answers is especially useful in managing the time limit set for the exam and to write the best possible answer in the allotted time It not only improves one’s style of expression, but also one gets used to the time and word limits.
HOW TO WRITE A GOOD ANSWER:
It is just not enough to know all the facts and information but the most important thing to be kept in mind is to write an answer which has a clear and a logical frame, which presents information in a clear and concise manner, which does not contain any irrelevant or piling up of information, which is interesting and able to hold one’s attention.
So the next logical step is to know how to write a good answer. The first step is to prepare the framework where one can list all ideas, thoughts and facts and write them down. It is important to adopt an answering style which is natural, original and to the point. Emphasis should be given to the kind of language used, one which is simple and clear without unnecessary use of nouns and verbs. Use of archaic and fancy words or language should be avoided at all costs.

HOW TO MAKE THE ANSWER PRECISE AND EFFECTIVE?
In my first attempt my mains score was low. However after that, there was a drastic improvement in my mains marks. I made few changes in answer writing and preparation strategies which helped me fetch good marks in mains. Here I am listing out some of those important points
FORMAT- I wrote most of the answers in point-wise format; however few answers I wrote in paragraph format. Candidate should adopt point-wise or paragraph format according to the question asked.

SIDE HEADINGS : it helps examiner to know what is written in that point or paragraph. This increases focus of the examiner on important point which you want to convey.
In my first attempt, my answer was just a flow of paragraphs. I realized the importance of side headings for an answer after that attempt. I included side headings in almost all the answers after that. For example see how I have written this article.

INTRODUCTION: Take the key words of the question and explain them. That becomes the introduction. Eg: An introduction for a quesion on Cooperative Federalism would mean explaining cooperative federalism in the introduction.

CONCLUSION: conclusion of answer is required for GS Paper-1,2 and 3 of GS. It is very much essential in paper-2 and paper-3. One can use heading as “Way Forward ” or “Future ahead” as the last side heading for some of the answers.
I generally wrote wording of the question in futuristic format. For eaxample “why crop insurance not successful in India”?
Write conclusion here which includes how crop insurance can be made a successful in India and how it will change India’s agriculture in future.

DIMENSIONS- try to include various dimensions in every answer – for example if question is on problems of slums in India then write all the dimensions like health, sanitation, education, living space, social, economic ( poverty ), links with village, family issues, population control etc.

DIAGRAMS: Draw diagrams wherever required. Especially for India and World Maps for geography or International Relations.

FLOW CHARTS: flow charts can clarify your points and have a role to play along with side headings. Toppers who got good marks in GS papers drew flowcharts for GS questions

PRACTICE- every day write at least 2 to 3 questions at your home. You can get the questions from site like insightsonindia.com which will help you to look at the answers are various candidates.

COMPLETING PAPER-One should try to attempt as many questions as you can in the GS. Unless you are absolutely clueless and can’t make an intelligent guess about what’s asked, you should not leave questions.

SCANNING OF PAPER- Please go through the question paper in first 2-3 minutes and select the questions you are good at (around 10) and attempt them first. Only then go for the other questions on which you’ll have little idea where you have to guess. In the first attempt, I started attempting questions from the beginning without going through the whole question paper and I realized I was left with all the well-known and easy International Relations Questions in the last minute to which I couldn’t do enough justice. If you’re not able to finish paper in time, you’ll have to improve speed through writing more and more questions at home or appearing in tests and practicing with time limits.
Although above mentioned points are easy to understand and accept but difficult to implement. It is only through daily practice and conscious efforts one can adopt these strategies. Once you master this you will find that writing mains answer and clearing this exam is not at all that difficult. Wish you all the best.


Source: xaam.in

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  • Rachna

    Thanks 🙂