6 Answer Writing Mistakes

6 Answer Writing Mistakes

That you need to avoid during Mains.

During our 2021 Mains Test series we found that there are some common patterns that aspirants repeat which impact their Mains performance negatively.

1. Poor Content

Support your points with examples, data, quotes.

Example: Look at this answer from Anudeep Durishetty

He supports his argument for why India is a political democracy with exact provisions.

Improving your content is a process, it won’t happen overnight.

Read -> Understand -> Organise -> Note -> Read

Repeat this & you will improve your content in time. No shortcuts here. Keep in mind that till you don’t build your content, you're won't clear UPSC CSE.

2. Lack of Writing Practice

You may have great content, but writing well is a separate skill. If you don't practice it, it won't magically happen on exam day.

Remember, writing is a big chunk of your job as an IAS/IPS officer. You will be writing/editing plans, memos, orders, and notes. Learn to write well.

TIP: Write the same answer multiple times to understand what is possible.

1st try: default mode

2nd try: improve structure

3rd try: add more data

4th try: add more diagrams

Iterate and learn.

3. Add More Perspectives

UPSC tests breadth, not depth.

Q: Discuss strategic dimensions to Indo-US relations.

A: A. Don't just talk about the military angle (defence relations, Quad, N-deal). Add points about economic, diplomatic, and ideological angles too.

MEDICS is a great framework that you can use in most IR related questions.

4. Answer the Question Asked

By far the most common & serious issue. In exam rush, people dump any data they have wrt the key words of the Q. This will get you below average marks at best.

Understand the question asked, then arrange information to suit it's demands.


Q. There is a growing divergence in the relationship between poverty and hunger in India. The shrinking of social expenditure by the government is forcing the poor to spend more on non-food essential items squeezing their food-budget. Elucidate.

(Mains 2021)

Model structure

Intro - stats about poverty/hunger/social spend.

H1 - Growing divergence: How?

H2 -  Govt social spend & spending by poor: what are the interlinks?

H3 - Way forward from this issue.

Most people miss H1. Don't miss H1, it's a part of the question.

5. Lack of Structure

Write the most important points first.

How do you decide which is most important point during the exam? You don't. You do that when you're making your notes.

Clarify your thoughts before the exam, not during.

6. Lack of Introspection


Think about how you can improve your answers. It won't happen by itself.

Think about how to:

  • Organise information
  • Add data
  • Add diagrams
  • Cut words without losing meaning

Anudeep Durishetty's answer copies are a great source of examples for this.

Sample plan for Mains 2022

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