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Developing answer writing practise for UPSC Mains

Developing answer writing practise for UPSC Mains

Answer writing practice is the most important part of preparations for the UPSC Mains. It is very less concerned with your command over the language. Instead, it is more about how much you present, within how much time and in what manner i, e representation of answer is the soul of the answer along with the content. Rest are just not required. Most often, it is not accorded the due importance and the due diligence it deserves.

Let us see as to the reasons why (these may resonate with a few readers):

  • Lack of confidence in answer-writing.
  • Surety in one’s answer-writing skills.
  • Waiting for the prelims to get over.
  • Emphasis on extensive reading rather than answer-writing.
  • Lack of time due to job or any other reason.

Notwithstanding any of the above reasons/excuses, answer writing is a skill one has to hone to compete in this examination, let alone succeed. There is no alternative (TINA factor). This is because it does not matter what you know, what matters is what you can produce in the exam settings in the given time period. This skill gets tested question after question, paper after paper. It is relentless.

Therefore, one has to develop the skill not just physically but also mentally. That is, how to switch one’s flow of thought from one question to another, one topic to another and yet remain consistent and relevant. There is hardly any time to conjure up the best answers. Pertinent answers have to keep flowing that answer the question adequately.

 How to go about practicing answer-writing:

1st stage

  • It is best to start from where you are and with what you know. (This is assuming at least reading of basic text books has been done)
  • The best part about this examination is that it is a leveler. One who has been writing answers for a while has no huge advantage over someone who has started recently. One can always catch up by pursuing it diligently.
  • Initially, websites like Insightsonindia can be accessed for daily questions. Try to take yourself out of your comfort zone by attempting questions you have little idea about.
  • Revisit those answers after reading further about the topic. Try and analyze yourself where the answer could have been improved given the paucity of time and limited information about the topic.

2nd stage

  • Join a test series for better time-management, simulation of exam environment and external feedback.
  • Keep these 2 criteria in mind: a) quality of questions asked and b)quality of feedback, as they’d be instrumental in your preparation for the Mains.
  • Now one’s answer-writing practice can be further subdivided into 2 parts: a) Focus on time-management and b) Focus on answer quality and structure.
  • Both the efforts can be mutually exclusive in the beginning. Slowly but surely they must converge.
  • Remember, keep your answer-writing practice focused and result-oriented. There must be marked improvement in performance over time.
  • Do not write too many random tests as this leads to weariness, ennui and each paper does not get the importance that it deserves.

Now let us subdivide broadly the sections of MAINS Exam:


  • Essay pays rich dividends if one learns the nuances and sticks close to the topic asked.
  • One must practice writing essays even if one has fair idea about topics. Once a week will suffice.
  • The point is to deliberate at length over a given topic, be it a topical or a philosophical one. Practice will lead to opening up of various dimensions within a topic hitherto neglected.
  • For better results, compare notes with Toppers of previous years who have shared online.

General Studies

  • Focus more on the full-length tests rather than sectional tests.
  • For GS1, 2 and 3, it is better to prepare the relevant topics before appearing in a test. But prepare no further than required. Do not waste time on extensive reading.
  • Start having a broad general understanding on topics and writing with what you know. Focus more on the structure of the answer.
  • For GS 4, it is better to write as much as possible as it is not a test of knowledge rather one’s aptitude and decision-making.
  • Take external feedback to improve upon and also check the answers of previous year toppers.


  • Here extensive preparation is required. One cannot write without adequate information, citations, arguments, scholarly views et al.
  • Thorough understanding of topics is more important here.
  • Time-management is also crucial here as the demands vary from General Studies. Answers have to be more nuanced.
  • Previous questions must be referred to here, extensively, as well as model answers from any reputed coaching institute available in the bookshops.
  • Quality trumps over quantity here as one is expected to have expert-level analysis.

chiseled and crafted by G.Rajput sir


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