How to improve English for UPSC exam?

Most candidates taking the UPSC civil services have English as their medium of the written exam as well as the personality test. However, not all of them claim to be comfortable in the language. It is one thing to be able to talk informally in English and quite another to be able to write well in the language. And, being able to talk formally in an interview setting without breaking a sweat is a different ballgame altogether.

It is true that the UPSC exam is not a test of the English language. But, you will all agree that it does help if one is at ease with the language. In the UPSC mains written exam, it is important to put your point across in the best possible manner. In this regard, having decent English can do wonders for you. Finally, in the UPSC interview, imagine if you have to search for words in your head while answering the question. Despite being knowledgeable, you might cut a sorry figure. To portray a confident person sure of himself/herself, being able to speak without hiccups is essential. This is where good English can help you.

Tips to improve English for UPSC exam

‘Reading maketh a full man’

The above quote by British statesman Sir Francis Bacon says it all. In order to develop a good language, you must first inculcate the habit of reading a lot. Of course, you will have to do a whole lot of reading when you are preparing for the IAS exam, but when you read, make sure you are absorbing the essence of the language as much as the content. Write down new words and idioms, and look up their meaning and usage.

This will help you improve your vocabulary as well. Apart from that, practise using these new words and phrases in your answer writing practice, as well as when you talk to others. Of immense help in this regard are ‘The Hindu’ newspaper, government documents/schemes (where you get a lot of technical/legal words), standard novels, poetry and even your textbooks.

To accelerate your learning, you can write 20 new words daily. You would get at least 100 words every week!

Write letters to the editor

This is a sure-shot method to improve your written language. Write one letter to the editor every day. This will serve the twin purpose of giving vent to your opinions on important issues and also improve your English. When your letters appear in the newspaper, they will mostly be edited. This will help you in assessing your weaknesses.

Speak to your friends in English

This will help you improve your comfort level in the language and will be of immense help in the UPSC interview. It might be awkward in the beginning if you are used to conversing in your native tongue but your English conversational skills will improve only if you make a beginning. By the time you take the personality test, you will speak English with aplomb!

Watch English news, movies, etc.

During your break time, when you watch TV, make sure you watch English programmes. This will familiarise you with the nuances of the language and also give you some expressions which can embellish your spoken language.

Start a blog

You can also start a blog. This will serve many purposes. First of all, you can have ample answer writing practice and also have valuable feedback from others. Secondly, this will give you more opinions on issues relevant to the UPSC exam. Thirdly, your language will improve manifold. When you write and publish, make sure you check the grammar. You can also use synonyms for common words and have variety in your writing. Check for synonyms in the word doc or any other website.

Google dictionary

When you read using kindle or any other app, you can activate Google Dictionary and get the meaning of an unknown word instantly.

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