How to Improve your UPSC Mains answers

UPSC Mains

A step by step playbook with examples.


Table of contents

Disclaimers

There’s not a lot of space because you only have 150/250 words.

  1. Each question has multiple parts, further reducing your space to deep dive.
  2. UPSC prefers breadth (multiple angles) to depth (analysing particular issues).

With that out of the way, let’s discuss how we can actually demonstrate the depth in our thinking to the examiner in the limited space given.

Priority order

  1. Content answering the Q
  2. Structure of info
  3. Presentation (diagrams / flowcharts)

Content is KING

Rule of thumb: Content before structure and presentation.

Content before structure AND presentation.

You will lose marks if:

  1. You've not answered the Q asked.
  2. The point you're making is unclear.

NO marks for neat hand writing / diagrams / flowcharts when above points are missing.

Example 1

Q17. What are the main socio-economic implications arising out of the development of IT industries in major cities of India? (Mains '21)

Here if you're making a Map of IT cities without addressing the socio-economic implications, you're missing the point.

And you may think that that is obvious, I've seen plenty of answer copies and I can tell you it isn't.

Structure

Structured info makes it easier for the examiner to understand what you want to say.

Just look at the structure of this post. 3 points, each followed by an example. And you knew what the points are in the intro itself.

When you attack the core of a problem, i.e. you answer the question asked directly, you are telling the examiner you have understood what is being asked.

Example 2

Q. “There is a need for simplification of procedure for disqualification of persons found guilty of corrupt practices under the Representation of peoples Act” Comment. (Mains 2020)

In this question, mention Representation of People’s Act (S. 123 if you’re being precise) in the introduction as it deals with corrupt practices. This hints to the examiner that you’re familiar with the act hinting to the depth of your knowledge.

Once you’ve set the tone, now attack the question. The question is about the procedure for disqualification and a good structure of info will be:

  1. Mention the provisions.
  2. Why is there a need for simplification?
  3. Mention 2–3 (or more) potential solutions.

This direct answer shows that you’ve understood the demands of the question and explaining in a simple language would mean you’ve not learnt things by rote but understood them.

Presentation

If you've answered the question asked and structured your answer well, this is the point where you get extra marks for good handwriting (jk).

You can make:

  1. Maps
  2. Flowcharts
  3. Diagrams

But only after you've covered points 1 and 2.

Example 3

Q. Discuss the multi-dimensional implications of uneven distribution of mineral oil in the world. (Mains 2020)

Here, making a world map showing distribution of mineral oil across the world is a GREAT idea.

Conclusion

Don't make vague statements:

  1. IT is important for future growth and hence we need to move sustainably. (Example 1)
  2. RPA update is critical to maintain electoral sanctity. (Example 2)
  3. Mineral Oil is a core component for National Security. (Example 3)

Quote committees / SC judgements / thinkers / new developments to move beyond the scope of the question in the last line.

Think clear, write simple & answer the question asked. And nothing can stop you from scoring well in Mains.


Lists to improve your examples

Best of luck!


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