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UPSC Mains 2023 | Expert Talk: How to ace Answer Writing, tells Ayussh Sanghi

With UPSC CSE Mains 2023 round the corner, the dilemmas around answer writing resurface. Whether you are appearing for Mains this year or preparing for next year, Mains answer writing is an unavoidable part of your UPSC journey that you cannot leave for the eleventh hour.

Manas Srivastava talks to Ayussh Sanghi on this challenging area of UPSC preparation where he also takes up queries raised by aspirants in the UPSC Essentials LIVE, every Wednesday at 8 PM.

How to begin with answer writing practice?

What’s a thumb rule for time-word limit challenge?

Introduction and conclusion, vocabulary and expressions, directive words — what to keep in mind?

What are the Dos and Don’ts for this year’s Mains?

And more…

About our Expert

Ayussh Sanghi is an educator and a mentor for UPSC aspirants. With an experience of more than a decade, he has guided many aspirants in the past with his expertise in Economy and Mains answer writing.

Manas: Before focusing on the aspirants appearing for Mains 2023, let us talk about a general fear of answer writing. Many UPSC aspirants, beginners or experienced candidates, hesitate to write answers in the starting phase. How should they begin UPSC Mains answer writing practice?

Ayussh Sanghi: Aspirants should not wait for the syllabus to be over. They should take a topic-wise approach and practice writing on whatever they have studied. They can take cues from previous toppers’ answer scripts and follow their styles if they find them convincing. One important advice to students will be to focus not on perfection, but on practice.

They are important skills and require continuous and rigorous practice. Focus on both.

Manas: Having stressed answer writing practice from the very start, what are the basics that aspirants should keep in mind while writing a good answer?

Ayussh Sanghi: Most aspirants think that answer writing means to make notes on a particular topic. That is not the case. For starters, here are three essentials to keep in mind while writing a good answer:

1. Read the question carefully. Answer what is asked for, and know the thresholds. Do not write beyond the scope of the question.

2. Address the basics asked, and try to map it to the syllabus in your mind.


3. Have a 360-degree approach for the major pointers wherever necessary.

These besides time and word limit, which goes without saying.

Manas: Aspirants will appear for Mains 2023 in a few days from now. The question papers may have questions that are unfamiliar to them. Whether to leave or attempt such questions?

Ayussh Sanghi: This dilemma occurs to every aspirant especially when they are under pressure in an examination hall with limited time. But remember this is a competitive examination where every question and every mark counts. Many aspirants qualify or get disqualified by just 0.5- 1 mark. Therefore, ensure to write something in every answer.

Let me give you the simplest key to such unfamiliar questions: know the syllabus by heart and ask yourself which part of the syllabus is the question from. Then, relate the question to pointers from your notes. Remember, ‘something about everything’ is the mantra for you for such unpredictable questions. And yes, no matter how well-prepared you are, unfamiliarity is not new to this unpredictable form of examination.

Manas: A little earlier you mentioned time and word limit. Aspirants are always worried about how to overcome the time and word limit challenge for Mains questions.

Ayussh Sanghi: Speed and Content, as I said above, are essential skills that aspirants should master. I suggest a simple thumb rule to my students which I will share with UPSC Essentials’ readers:

I hope this will help.

Manas: There are a few general queries by UPSC Essential readers that I would like you to give your input on. They range from introduction-conclusion, vocabulary-expression, directive words, etc.


Aspirants’ queries Ayussh Sanghi’s tips
1. On introduction and conclusion Introduction:Base it on demand of the questions.Focus on developing a foundation for the next logical thing in your answer.Conclusion:Summarise what you have written in the body without repetition. You may give a way forward.
2. On importance of expression, vocabulary and flow in answer writing Individually, nothing. Together, everything.

You can’t develop a flow if there’s no expression. You can’t present expression if you don’t have vocab. You can’t do anything with vocab if there’s no flow. Keep it simple, but not immature.

3. On bullets-paragraphs dilemma Depends on the demand of the question. It works differently for different candidates. With practice and looking at your evaluated answers you will be able to figure out what works best for you. But remember, introduction and conclusion in answers are a must. Experiment with other tools in the body of your answer.
4. On directive words Directive, as the word suggests, gives direction to your answer. Sure shot way to lose the marks is to answer for ‘elaborate’ when you are asked to ‘elucidate’. Prepare a separate 1-2 page note of all directive words and read those daily to get accustomed to their use.

Manas: Final Dos and Don’ts that you want to share for the aspirants who are going to appear for UPSC CSE Main 2023.

Ayussh Sanghi: Here are a few suggestions–

Do revise your notes thoroughly: Before the exam, make sure to revise your notes, especially the key points, current affairs, and important concepts. This will help reinforce your knowledge and boost your confidence.

Do manage time wisely: Allocate a specific amount of time to each question and stick to it. Don’t spend too long on a single question. Move on if you get stuck and come back to it later if time allows.

Do stay updated on current affairs: Stay updated on current events and their relevance to your subjects. Incorporate recent developments into your answers to demonstrate your awareness.

Do use relevant examples: Support your answers with real-life examples, case studies, and data wherever applicable. These adds depth to your response and shows your practical understanding.

Don’t neglect presentation: Presentation matters! Write neatly, underline headings, and use bullet points to make your answers more readable. A well-structured answer can earn you more marks.

Don’t cram at the last minute: Avoid last-minute cramming as it can increase stress and hinder your performance. Stick to your study schedule and trust in your preparation.

Don’t overwrite or underwrite: Find a balance in your answers. Don’t write excessively long essays or too short answers. Stick to the word limit specified and convey your points concisely.

Don’t panic over tough questions: On encountering a challenging question- stay calm, read it carefully, and attempt it to the best of your abilities. Don’t let a single tough question demotivate you.

Don’t ignore health and well-being: Your physical and mental health is crucial. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, and take short breaks during the exam to stay focused and energized.

In conclusion, success in the UPSC Mains Exam requires a combination of knowledge, strategy, and composure.Believe in your preparation, and give it your best shot!

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