August 28th, 2019       Civil Services Preparation, UPSC

UPSC CSE Mains is less than a month away. The preparation of all the aspirants who will be giving the mains this time will be under full swing. The aspirants will be trying to accumulate as much knowledge possible on each and every topic mentioned in the syllabus because one never knows how something read, even of minute importance, can come to help in the examination hall…

But is the plethora of knowledge gained sufficient to crack this exam? Or the success in the mains exam demands more?

The answer is YES, success in the mains exam demands more. It has more to do with how one attempts the paper on a particular day than the vast amount of knowledge one has gained during the preparation period.

THE BITTER TRUTH OF THIS EXAM IS THAT A WELL READ ASPIRANT MAY FAIL TO QUALIFY. ON THE OTHER HAND A LESS READ ASPIRANT BUT ONE WHO HAS ARTICULATED AND EXPRESSED HIS KNOWLEDGE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DEMAND OF THE PAPER EXCELS THE EXAM.

To put it in simple words, the mains exam has more to do with how effectively one presents his knowledge rather than just gaining knowledge.

The basic aim of this article is to help aspirants understand and strategize the art of answer writing during the preparation stage as well as in the real exam.

The simple mantra that aspirants need to follow during preparation is: THINK BIG, START SMALL, SCALE FAST

Mantra with respect to mains answer writing:

Think big

This includes identifying and understanding the most important aspects that are going to impact an answer. This includes the three basic things:

1. SPEED

2. CONTENT

3. STRUCTURE

The aim should be to master each and every above mentioned aspect by the time one sits for the real exam.

Start small

  • From the above mentioned aspects identify the weak areas. Pick one of these and gradually start working upon it. Do not think about the other areas for the time being.
  • Gradually move to the other weakness if any and work upon it.

Scale fast

  • Apply the mastery gained over the weak areas in the mock exam and finally in the real exam.

Decoding the Mantra

Understanding the three important aspects

  • Speed: the most important thing in UPSC CSE Mains is completing the paper come hell or high water. Care should be taken to leave not a single question in the paper unattempted.
  • Content: At this stage of the preparation, content should not be one’s weakness. But its importance can be judged from the fact it is the single most important deciding factor for one’s entry into the merit list.
  • Structure: Proper introduction, body and conclusion coupled with facts/ figures/ flowcharts/ maps etc will give one the extra edge of 20 to 25 marks in the GS papers.

It is important to note that in the real examination order of priority should be:

1. Speed

2. Content

3. Structure

Whereas, in the preparation stage, focus should be first on structuring and then speed.  Further it is assumed that by this stage every mains writing aspirant has considerable amount of ‘content’ stored in his brain.

Start small

  • The first priority would be to work on the structuring part (for those having it as a weakness, others can skip to the next weakness).
  • Structuring decoded:
    • Start the introduction with basic definition/ facts/ figures/ comments of government reports or Economic Survey or Niti Aayog documents etc. This should be in paragraph format.
    • Main body: Structure this part in both point and para format. This should cover each and every aspect of the question. Provide both sides of the coin. If one’s opinion is asked same should be answered by writing yes I agree or no I don’t agree.
    • Conclude with way forward/ some quote/ government catchphrase.
  • Whenever one writes an answer he/ she should follow the above format.
  • Do the above for individual questions initially no matter how much time it takes.
  • Gradually start applying it to full tests. Don’t get worried even one takes 4 hours to complete the exam. Priority should be structuring.
  • After gaining mastery on the structuring aspect move to the speed aspect.
  • Here also the same strategy will be repeated. But now one has to write a structured answer in the given time frame.
  • Practice initially for individual questions and then move to full tests.

Scale fast

  • After gaining mastery on each and every aspect, one should focus on writing qualitative structured answers in full length tests within the given time framework.

Points to remember in the real exam:

  • The order of priority should be speed>content>structure.
  • Fixed strategy for each and every paper should be ready beforehand.
  • Fix time for each and every question eg: 7 minutes for 10 markers and 10 minutes for 15 markers.
  • Enrich 1/3rd of the answers in each paper with flowchart/ figures/ map etc.
  • Always give closure to an answer. Do not leave it open ended.
  • Always end an answer on a pragmatic note even if the question asks to critically analyze.
  • Different parts of the answer should be well connected. Structuring should be such that one part of the answer automatically leads to the next part.
  • It is better if one writes average answers to all the questions rather than writing ‘beautiful’ answers to only 8 to 10.
  • Try avoiding use of multiple pens. Use a single colored pen for the entire paper. Use pencil if necessary.
  • Try avoiding many cuttings in an answer.
  • Follow the UPSC instructions such as not writing on the margins, adhering to the word limit etc. remember there have been instances in the past where aspirants have been penalized for the same.

The aspirants have been provided with a clear cut strategy on how to approach answer writing during preparation stage as well as in real exam. They are adviced to devote the remaining month to practice as much answer writing they can in accordance with this strategy. No one is born with these skills but with hard work and perseverance one can master this art. Play to the strengths without forgetting the weaknesses.

REMEMBER:

Robin Sharma Quote

GOOD LUCK!  HAPPY LEARNING!

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