UPSC Mains: How to Write Answers for Literature Optionals?

Literature of languages is one of the optional subjects that candidates can take in the UPSC civil services mains exam. However, not many take up literature as their optional subject and opt for ‘safer’ and ‘scoring’ choices such as public administration and geography. But for language lovers, literature is an excellent choice. It is interesting, less strenuous and can even be scoring. This article gives you important tips to embellish your answers for the literature papers in the IAS mains.

Tips to write answers for literature optional papers:

  • Consistency: There should be consistency across the answers. Your writing style, handwriting and font should not vary. Uniformity ensures visual beauty.
  • Neatness: Even if you cannot totally avoid any scratching or cuts, keep them to the absolute minimum.
  • Handwriting: Ensure you have a neat and legible handwriting. It is possible to improve it even at this age if you think you don’t have a ‘good’ handwriting. With the right effort and practice, you can develop a good handwriting. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good handwriting in exams. The last thing an examiner wants is to strain his/her eyes to read your answers. You might have written a perfect answer, but it would be pointless if it cannot be read. Get tips to improve handwriting here.
  • References: Make relevant references to writers, thinkers, philosophers and poets in your answers in the language papers. This shows your erudition in the language and is also an effective way to put your points across on the paper.
  • Language no barrier: You can also make references to writers and poets cutting across languages. For instance, in the English paper, you can quote translations of famous writers of Hindi, Tamil, Sanskrit, etc. It should be relevant and beautiful.
  • Creativity: If you can, do create your own pieces of poetry and verses. In a language paper, it greatly embellishes your answers not to mention impresses the examiner. But remember, what you write should be impactful and deep.
  • Originality: Be original in your answers. Do not copy-paste ideas and opinions.
  • Don’t waste words: Don’t write for the heck of it. Write only apt words and not just to fill in the word count. Know how to substitute phrases for words. For this, you must develop a broad vocabulary. Conciseness over verbosity.
  • Answer the question: You must know what to include and what not in the answers. You must answer the question, i.e., write what is asked and not whatever you know.
  • Word limit: It is recommended that you stick to the word count and adhere to the maximum word limit and not the minimum. Too short answers might imply a paucity of ideas.
  • Terminology: You should use a few technical terminologies from the languages like ‘simile’, ‘alliteration’ in English and ‘alankara’ in Hindi/Sanskrit, etc. This shows your technical grasp as well. But don’t overdo it.

Always think before you write. This will ensure your answers are structured and all-encompassing. Additionally, it also minimises cuts and scratches in your answer booklet.

Also See | Pros and Cons of taking Literature Optionals in UPSC Mains Exam

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6 Comments

  1. Hello Sir/Ma’am,
    Good Morning,

    I have done bachelor degree in Animation, so what optional should I choose which relate me from my background.

    Tnx.

    1. Hi Dhruv
      Since there is no such Optional Subject as ‘Animation’ in the list of 48 Optional Subjects for UPSC, you can choose a subject which might interests you. You can take on subjects like Sociology, Public Administration, Geography etc. as these subjects don’t need too much specialization. You can get an idea about the best optional subject from the linked article.

  2. Hlo, sir/mam

    I have done masters in botany. Is botany a good optional for upsc? should i take it as my optional subject?

    thnks.

    1. Hi Neha
      If you have scored well in your Master’s and Botany holds your interests, then you can take that as your optional subject. You can check the Botany Optional syllabus for the reference and see for yourself if you already have covered that in your graduation.

  3. Hello Sir/ Mam,

    Can I take zoology as my optional?
    Some people are saying it is a tough one.
    Is that true?

    1. You can go for any subject that is in your interest. Check its previous year question papers. If you are comfortable answering those, you surely should choose it.

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