What are some tips to write a good answer in the UPSC Mains exam?


An answer tests many qualities in the candidates-Administrative qualities, a solution oriented thinking, a learners attitude, not a judgemental attitude, patience, Intellectual abilities and being thorough with the subject.

A good answer therefore is the reflection of the whole of your personality, and requires several components to be taken care of. Administrative qualities mostly tests your attitude for example how do you approach the monsoons calling it as unpredictable, uncertain or having a variability; floods-whether they are hazards or events etc. A solution oriented approach reflects in judging every problem as an opportunity and thus is devoid of any negativity in the expression. A learners attitude makes your language very flexible while a judgemental attitude makes it very rigid and very inflexible. Intellectual abilities reflect how deep a thinking you have invested in your facts and knowledge acquisition.

Answers actually reflect in the type of chemistry one is able to forge with the examiner and this is something that is very intangible.

Your answer is about content and knowledge not information, extent and dimension of your thinking, and balance of disposition, which is well presented.

Your answer begins with your comprehension of the question.

For example, there are different answer directives which requires to be adhered to. For example, there cannot be a same answer to these two questions-Whats your name?, and analyse your name? Both have to be fundamentally different.

Thus the meaning of discussexplaindefineanalysecomment all have to be different and all of them have to be understood and when asked they are the one which are to be clearly differentiated. An answer cannot begin in the same manner to explain as it can begin in discuss and analyse.

Moreover the answers are defined by their constituents that is in response to what is asked? No credit is given to an answer for writing what is not asked, rather it irritates the examiner. If the answer asks causes, effects, impact to be specified, then only causes has to be dealt, and effect or impact written. If the question is about briefly then it has to be brief, If it is has to be indicate then the answer has to be only indicative not explanatory. There are many reasons, why and how the students can deviate. One is their (a) psychology of being nervous, being uncertain, insecure, the second is (b) knowledge unrelated to it, and they write whatever they know, not whatever that is required, and the third (c) is about their inability to balance their perception.

The quality of the answer depends on whether the question is multidimensional or uni dimensional. If a question has causes, impact and suggestions then the explanation of all the three segments become important to achieve balance.

The second component is balance of perception. This works in places like essay, also in places with some subjective components in questions asking you to comment. It can work with questions requiring your views. For example on the working of the present Government, for example on China Pakistan relations.

Effectively, there is nothing positive, nothing negative about answers or writing answers, but everything is objective in the answer writing.

In the end, candidate has to allow the examiner to conclude, and also to take it to a natural conclusion.

While writing an answer, the validity and authentication in the answer is equally important to stamp your authority and control.

How an answer can be validated?

(a) Facts and its sources must be correct, for example, Is it Don Juan Pond that is the saltiest body of water or is it Lake Assal. In writing it therfore one has to mention the degree of salinity as computed by different sources.

(b) While writing answers in polity, articles in polity, has to be taken recourse to. For example, if it is about Bureaucracy, then it has to be strengthened by referring to Article 311, 312.

(c) In answers that require historical citing like Nehru whether on the banks of river Ravi, or Jhelum and in (d) Economy reference to Economic Survey or CMIE needs to be cited. Such type of authentications help you in not being seen incorrect.

Greater use of Maps, diagrams and flow charts.

Use of map is essential for the purpose of simplifying the explanations. However, there are chances that there is misuse of map or sometimes maps are forcibly inserted in the answer despite the fact that it doesn’t serve the purpose. And, it is equally significant that which are the places in the answer where the map can be inserted. It must be noted however that Maps are not only used in Geography. They can be used in S & T in topics of Satellite launching, also in International affairs like South China Sea, Malacca Strait etc.

Having taken care of all the above aspects, the attention now has to towards presentation of the answer.

The most important component of presentation is language and expression.

Language can be simple or technical or even complex. Examples of simple language are to be found in history and sociology, while technical and complex languages are to be used in topics of Zoology, like Mass extinction, and sometimes even philosophy. There are many aspects of languages that are to be taken into account. One is whether the language is having clarity or, is it that there are camouflaged uses. A clear language is what is most significant. The language also must be having high degree of grammatical correctness. Grammatical errors creep in because of wrong practices, being indulgent in habits that perpetuate these wrong mistakes. What these mistakes do is that they destroy the trust you are trying to forge with the examiner and also the raises question marks on the sincerity with which you may have prepared and how you have been brought up in your educational life. All this can make the examiner negative minded.

One part of language is the use of terminologies and words. Terminologies compact your answer while general words expand your answer. Both have their own advantage and disadvantages and their uses has to be dependent on and determined by the strength the candidate possesses.

The presentation of the answer can be either in flow or can be a point wise approach. A flowing language is the most pleasing thing for the examiner, while point wise approach reflects to the examiner that the student is a bit immature, and takes recourse to facts rather than analysis of the facts. However owing to the large number of words that the students are writing in response to many questions, most of the students take recourse to pointwise approach rather than a flowing language approach. Flows can sometimes have larger sentences, and for this purpose the students have to be very very good in their communication. In contrast, pointwise writing has shorter sentences, and allows a candidate to camouflage his mistakes. Point wise writing hides a lot about candidates ability or inability about their demerits, like expression, analytical abilty and also comprehension of the topic.

There is no one way which can be considered to be the best, any strength that the student has, must be flaunted, how is it flaunted and in what manner determines most about the quality of the answer.

Ultimately, its the package, the entire of package, comprising of every component possible its an ensemble, or whole.

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