Question Types in UPSC Civil Services (IAS) Mains Exam

There are nine subjective types of papers in the UPSC Mains examination. The types of questions asked in the civil services mains examination are discussed in this article. IAS Exam aspirants should know these question types in UPSC Mains and how to attempt such questions.

The UPSC Mains Exam 2020 took place from 8th January 2021 onwards. The commission is yet to release the schedule of Mains exam of UPSC 2021.  The commission releases (IAS) Mains Timetable on the official website. Given below is the UPSC 2020 Civil Services Mains Timetable.

Date/Day Forenoon Session 9.00 A.M. to 12.00 Noon Afternoon Session 2.00 P.M. to 5.00 P.M
8th January 2021 Paper‐I Essay No Paper
9th January 2021 Paper‐II General Studies‐I Paper-III General Studies-II
10th January 2021 Paper‐IV General Studies‐III Paper‐V General Studies‐IV
16th January 2021 Paper-A Indian Language
{Assamese/Bengali/Bodo/Dogri/ Gujarati/Hindi/Kannada/Kashmiri/ Konkani/Maithili/Malayalam/Manipuri/ Marathi/Nepali/Oriya/Punjabi/Sanskrit/ Santhali/Sindhi (Devanagari/Arabic Script)/Tamil/Telugu/Urdu}
  Paper-B English
17th January 2021 Paper‐VI Optional Paper‐I {Agriculture/Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science/Anthropology/ Botany/Chemistry/Civil Engineering/ Commerce & Accountancy/Economics/ Electrical Engineering/Geography/ Geology/History/Law/Management/ Mathematics/Mechanical Engineering/ Medical Science/Philosophy/Physics/ Political Science & International Relations/Psychology/Public Administration/Sociology/Statistics/ Zoology/Literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese/Bengali/Bodo/Dogri/ Gujarati/Hindi/Kannada/Kashmiri/ Konkani/Maithili/Malayalam/Manipuri/M arathi/Nepali/Oriya/Punjabi/Sanskrit/San thali/Sindhi /Tamil/Telugu/Urdu/English} Paper‐VII Optional Paper‐II {Agriculture/Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science/Anthropology/ Botany/Chemistry/Civil Engineering/ Commerce & Accountancy/Economics/ Electrical Engineering/Geography/ Geology/History/Law/Management/ Mathematics/Mechanical Engineering/ Medical Science/Philosophy/Physics/ Political Science & International Relations/Psychology/Public Administration/Sociology/Statistics/ Zoology/Literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese/Bengali/Bodo/Dogri/ Gujarati/Hindi/Kannada/Kashmiri/ Konkani/Maithili/Malayalam/Manipuri/Mara thi/Nepali/Oriya/Punjabi/Sanskrit/ Santhali/Sindhi /Tamil/Telugu/Urdu/English}

Question Types in UPSC IAS Mains

Here, we bring the types of questions asked in the UPSC Mains Exam to the aspirants preparing for the mains, which they should be aware and ready to answer accordingly in the actual exam.
Below listed are the types of questions and a few tips on how to attempt each type of question in the UPSC Mains Exam.

Question Types’ How to attempt the questions?
Analyse

E.g. Evaluate the economic and strategic dimensions of India’s Look East Policy in the context of the post-Cold War International Scenario.

This type of question requires a detailed analysis, pros and cons and supported by facts.

Here, candidates’ need not present their views.

Critically Examine

E.g. “In the Indian governance system, the role of non-state actors has been only marginal.” Critically examine this statement.

This type of question requires suggestions and reforms and reasons for the recommended reforms along the analyzing, merits and demerits supported with facts. (similar to discussion type)
Discuss

E.g. Major cities of India are becoming more vulnerable to flood conditions. Discuss. (UPSC 2016-17 GS Paper I)

In this type of question, the answer should have both the pros and cons or should be a kind of discussion writing for and against the keyword, in general, a debate or argument kind backed up with facts and finally with a conclusion.
Elucidate

E.g. Early Buddhist Stupa-art, while depicting folk motifs and narratives successfully expounds Buddhist ideals. Elucidate.

Here, they are required to make the question clear or explain or elaborate in detail. Candidates’ views on the matter are not required in this type of questions.
Comment/Express your views

E.g. South China Sea has assumed great geopolitical significance in the presence context. Comment.

This type of questions requires candidates’ unique perspective. Right or wrong does not matter; what matters in answering this type of question is candidates clear views supported with relevant facts.

Tips to Follow in UPSC Mains

Here are some quick tips to follow while answering questions in the UPSC Mains Exam.

  • Look for the keyword in the question, a question will have at least 2-3 keywords. Centring that keyword, construct your answer according to the need of the question.
  • Write five points about the keyword
  • Explain each point in three dimensions i.e.
    • Socio-economic-political-geographical point of view
    • For, against, and conclusion
    • What/why/how
  • Finally, to back up their answers with facts and add diagrams wherever required.

These are the major question types asked in the UPSC Mains Exam and a few crucial answer writing tactics one need to know and follow respectively to see their name in the final merit list.

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