Answer Writing Tips to Score High in UPSC Main Exam

“Always be a poet, even in prose.”    –   Charles Baudelaire, French poet

Lakhs of civil services aspirants take the IAS exam every year. On clearing the prelims, they take the mains which involve writing descriptive answers. Nearly all of the serious candidates have similar knowledge levels. Then why is it that some get better scores than others in the UPSC mains? What sets their answers apart from the clutter? Yes, you need a certain degree of knowledge and language to be able to express your thoughts in words. But what are the techniques you should employ to differentiate your answers from your competitors’? Read on for more.

One thing to keep in mind is that the examiner would have checked scores of answer sheets on a single day and if you want your answers to grab his attention, you must do something a tad different. You must make your answers beautiful and interesting. It shouldn’t be a ‘job’ for the examiner to finish. You can actually make him enjoy reading your answers. This way, you will definitely score higher marks. Some tips are discussed below by taking a sample question of UPSC exam General Studies Paper I as an example.

  • Holistic view

Your answers should be well-rounded. It should encompass all major touch points related to the question. Don’t have a narrow view on issues. Take the following question in the Essay Paper.

“Character of an institution is reflected in its leader.”

Start with an introduction to institution and leader. Then, you should talk about examples from the past like Emperor Ashoka and how he preached his theory of non-violence and peace through various institutions. Also, give examples from the Mughal period, and compare and contrast it to the ancient period. You should talk about leaders from the freedom movement and explain their leadership styles and the institutions they were founded or were associated with. Finally, you can give an apt quote and conclude your answer.

  • Short & Simple

Keep your answers simple and to the point. Do not fill in the answer sheet just to reach the prescribed word limit. Write in a crisp, clear and simple language.


  • Presentation

Divide your answers into headings and subheadings. Don’t write at a stretch. They make the examiner’s job tedious. Use bullet points wherever possible.


  • Keywords

Learn to take keywords from the question and use them in your answers. Underline important points.


  • Facts & figures

Always substantiate your answers with relevant facts and figures. This shows your grip on the subject. It also helps you justify the points written in your answers.



  • Catchy introduction

Make sure that the introduction to the answer and the conclusion are catchy. It gives the examiner a break from the regular answers and motivates him to dole out a few extra marks.


  • Diagrams/charts/Flowcharts

Draw diagrams and charts wherever required.


  • Relate to current affairs

This is a sure-shot way to impress the examiner. Relate your answers to the latest news and events. Give your balanced insight on them.


  • Keep it interesting

Make sure that the content you write is interesting! This only comes with a lot of reading and writing practice. One should try to generate ideas and present the information in an unconventional manner.


  • Neat and legible

A good handwriting and presentation help score better marks. Try to develop a neat and understandable handwriting. Avoid scratches and ink blotches. 


  • Practice

Last but not the least, practice! Everything can be achieved if you take the trouble to practice. Remember the saying, ‘There is no glory in practice, but without practice, there is no glory.’


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