“Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.”
– Francis Bacon, influential English author
The UPSC civil services main exams involve nine papers that are descriptive in nature. Answers have to be written as essays, in paragraphs and in points depending on the type of question asked. Studying for the civil services encompasses practicing writing answers as well. You may be well-versed with the content in your head. You may even be able to talk about any subject under the sun. But does your hand shiver when you try penning down answers? This is because writing involves a technique. And it is not enough to merely write whatever comes to your mind. You should be able to express your answers clearly and in a manner that will fetch you maximum marks.
For more info on writing optimal answers read Decoding the directive words to crack UPSC Civil Services Main Examination
Points to remember while answering questions:
Answer the question
Read the question a few times to understand what is asked. For instance, look at the following question that was asked in the GS paper I of 2015 UPSC mains.
‘How different would have been the achievement of Indian independence without Mahatma Gandhi? Discuss.’
The question expects you to write not just the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi to the independence movement, but also the existence of alternate narratives of the freedom movement expounding Marxist and other subaltern studies.
Points versus paragraphs
Many UPSC aspirants face a dilemma while deciding whether to write answers in points or paragraphs. This should be decided by the question. It is best to follow a mixed approach. Explain in paragraphs wherever needed and write in bullet points where for example, you are listing out the advantages and disadvantages of some topic.
Word count is generally to give you an idea about how much to elaborate. It need not be an exact match. However, it should neither fall too short nor exceed by much for you could lose marks for it. Still, remember if you don’t know the answer do not write words just to fill up the required word count. You cannot fool the examiners. Nothing irritates them more than bluff.
Structure and presentation
Your answers become more readable if you present them in a neat and structured manner. Wherever possible, have an introduction and a conclusion. Do not make grammatical and spelling mistakes. Avoid flowery language. Make your answers crisp and tight. Write clear and meaningful sentences. Avoid jargon. Try to be non-judgmental while writing your answers since you don’t know the examiner’s personal opinions.
Last but not in the least important is that you have a decent handwriting. You may have the best answers but they are worthless if the examiner can’t read them. So cultivate a good, legible handwriting if you don’t have one already.