How to Start Answer Writing for UPSC and other PCS exams

Answer writing for UPSC & other PCS exams  is the most important and crucial factor which can make or break your result. The amount of knowledge that you have matters, but what matters more is how well you can Convert that knowledge into good answers. People who are giving 5–6 th attempt have much more knowledge than what I could have, but are unable to properly do answer writing. Writing good answers does not come in a day. Its a long drawn out process, but one that is definitely rewarding in the exams.

How to Start Answer Writing for UPSC:

  • Understanding the Question: It is crucial to understand what the question is asking before starting to write the answer. Read the question carefully, identify keywords and the directive words such as ‘explain’, ‘analyse’, ‘discuss’, ‘evaluate’, etc. This will help you understand the context of the question and the expected format of the answer.
  • Planning the Answer: Always create a brief outline of your answer in your mind or on the paper before you start writing. This should include the introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Introduction: Start your answer with a brief introduction about the topic asked in the question. This could be a definition, an explanation, a quote or a general statement that directly relates to the question.
  • Body of the Answer: This is where you answer the main part of the question. It should be structured and systematic, following a logical flow of ideas. Use headings or bullet points if needed. Include relevant facts, figures, diagrams, maps, examples, case studies, etc., to substantiate your arguments.
  • Conclusion: Wrap up your answer with a balanced and objective conclusion. It should summarise your main arguments and ideally offer a way forward or a solution if the question demands.
  • Practice Regularly: Answer writing is a skill and it improves with regular practice. Begin with writing one or two answers a day and gradually increase the number. Regularly review your answers, take feedback, and work on improving your weak areas.

Evaluation Parameters for Judging an Answer:

  1. Understanding of the Question: This is the first and one of the most critical parameters. The evaluator assesses whether the candidate has correctly understood the question’s demand and answered accordingly.
  2. Content: The answer should cover all the major aspects of the question. It should be accurate, relevant and up-to-date. Facts, figures and examples used should be correct and pertinent to the question.
  3. Structure and Presentation: The answer should be well-structured and systematically presented. It should follow a logical flow of ideas. The introduction, body and conclusion should be clearly demarcated. Use of headings, sub-headings, bullet points, diagrams, maps, etc., enhance the presentation.
  4. Analytical and Critical Thinking: For higher marks, mere presentation of facts is not sufficient. The answer should reflect analytical and critical thinking. It should offer different perspectives, interlinkages, cause-effect relationships, pros and cons, etc.
  5. Language and Expression: The language should be simple, clear and grammatically correct. The ideas should be expressed in a coherent and concise manner. The word limit should be adhered to.
  6. Innovation and Creativity: Use of innovative examples, case studies, diagrams, flowcharts, etc., can fetch extra marks. However, they should be relevant and enhance the understanding of the answer.
  7. Word limit:
    1. For 125 words: ~150 words permissible
    2. For 200 words: ~240 words permissible

(Thus, a leeway of 10-15% can be taken in Answer writing for UPSC)

Different Directives in questions:

Directive Meaning Approach with example
Evaluate To determine the value or worth of something, often by making a judgment or calculation. “Evaluate the impact of the Green Revolution in India” – Here, you are required to assess the outcomes of the Green Revolution, both positive (increased agricultural productivity, self-sufficiency in food grains) and negative (increased dependency on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, ecological imbalance).
Analyse To break down a concept or problem into simpler parts to gain a better understanding. “Analyse the reasons for the success of Green Revolution in India” – In this case, you will break down the components that contributed to the Green Revolution’s success, such as the introduction of high-yielding varieties, increased use of fertilizers and irrigation methods.
Discuss To talk or write about a topic in detail, considering different ideas and opinions. “Discuss the role of Green Revolution in India’s food security” – For this, you need to detail out how Green Revolution affected India’s food security, considering both the positive and negative aspects, along with different viewpoints.
Critically Analyse To examine in detail, with the intention of questioning or challenging the argument or assumptions. “Critically analyse the environmental implications of the Green Revolution in India” – This requires a detailed analysis of the environmental impacts of the Green Revolution, scrutinizing both the advantages (improved agricultural productivity) and disadvantages (soil degradation, water pollution, biodiversity loss).
Comment To give an opinion or reaction. This involves both description and offering your views. “Comment on the socio-economic effects of the Green Revolution in India” – Here, you need to present the socio-economic changes brought about by the Green Revolution and also provide your viewpoint on these changes.
Elucidate To clarify or explain something in detail. “Elucidate on the technological advancements brought about by the Green Revolution in India” – This involves a detailed explanation of the different technological advancements during the Green Revolution, like high-yielding varieties, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, etc. and how they impacted Indian agriculture.

Answer Writing for UPSC : Tips/General Suggestions

  • Highlight/underline the key words.
  • Should not start the 125/250 words with point, but with an introduction.
  • Starting with a quote can be explored in 250-word questions, but is not always practical.
  • Way forward/conclusion with your opinion can be written.
  • Exact dates should be avoided as they are difficult to recall.
  • Many questions are factual in nature so don’t try to make it analytical as in UPSC.
  • Can draw diagrams/ flowcharts: in fact, it is a must in geography.
  • Marks are deducted for crossing word limit or wrong facts.
  • Definition of concepts should be memorized i.e., don’t try to make it there in the examination hall.
  • Do not write theories or thinkers name except if mentioned in syllabus.
  • Try to complete the paper. Don’t skip questions.
  • Mark all the questions first that you know first and attempt them in the first instance.

Hemant Bhatt
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