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Mains Answer Writing Strategy for UPSC CSE

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  • Published
    14th Dec, 2023

Getting into the IAS or Civil service is a dream seen by millions but living the same dream is privilege of few. Why? Is it that tough to crack the exam? What does it takes to qualify or get into “LBSNAA”-the lifetime romance of tryst with destiny!

The Civil Service Exam is conducted in three phases: Prelims, Mains (Subjective) and Interview. But the most daunting phase or stage comes next- The Main Examination!!

Why it’s most challenging stage?

Aspirants generally prepare according to the syllabus of both pre and mains but it has been noticed after talking to many qualified or candidates who could not clear the exam despite having all the required clarity over concept and practice is that, the lack of proper skill for Answer Writing in main examination.

We all prepare our subjects with due diligence. We practice a lot through test series and mocks and keep writing answers. But why still most of the aspirant fails to deliver what is being expected by UPSC? Why despite so much of practice we still face shortcomings and challenges to score god marks in Main examination?

The answer for the same lies in the fact that most of us do the answer writing practice because people say that it is must! Seniors suggest some coaching’s for test series and we tend to get into the herd. This herd mentality hurts the most when you are not able to clear the Main stage. You question yourself and your capabilities.  However there is no need to question yourself but your strategy and efforts you put into practice.

Situation On a normal mains day examination:

General Studies- All papers of GS I, II, III and IV is conducted within two days i.e. two papers each day respectively.

Optional- Though with a gap of 3 days but two papers of 500 marks is also conducted on the same day.

Now, for an aspirant just imagine his/her situation and mental framework. It challenges one core to give ones best performance of life in a situation like this. An aspirant prepares for whole year for this day. What multiplied the challenge is the nature of papers of GS. All GS papers have almost all subjects and topics which one has read during preparation days. Of the 20 questions, each having different nature and demand coupled with different directives like discuss, analyze, elaborate or evaluate.

Besides the performance pressure the candidates also faces the situation of uncertainty w.r.t his ability to express himself on the answer sheet. It doesn’t matter how well you covered each topic of syllabus, you will not succeed unless you write answers according to the demand, nature and directive of the question. Your whole year, time, resources and self is at risk when you are writing the answers. This is true even for the optional because as per candidates, the marks in your optional decide your selection and in particular your rank or cadre in the final list. That’s why the main examination is called the most challenging stage of IAS examination.

Challenges in answer writing

As one can feel the pressure and challenges discussed above during mains examination, it is prudent to discuss some of the daunting challenges an aspirant faces while writing an answer.

While we do lot of practice through tests and get into practice of what to write but we tend to ignore the most important part of HOW to Write? Here comes the importance of Answer Writing SKILL. This deals systematically with how to write in a graduated manner through focusing on core pillars of CLARITY< EXPRESSION< DEPTH<STRUCTURE

Importance of Skills in Answer Writing

In UPSC main examination you are supposed to write 20 answers (in one GS paper) of different marks and nature and demand. Further as mentioned by UPSC in its syllabus, there shall be proper clarity in your answers, answer shall be precise and expressed effectively in a structured manner. Time and Word limit further makes the situation complex by limiting the scope for any adventure and 11th hour intervention. Thus one need to have a proper plan and structure ready with him before getting into the process.

Even as an administrator you are not supposed to be knowing all but you are supposed to have that X factor in you through which you will be able to give a reasoned and logical answer to each and every question been asked. Further this X factor is enhanced if you have the requisite skills for answer writing. This skill will help you to not only complete the paper on time but there will also be a sense of completion w.r.t. quality of answers.


Clarity, simply put denotes one clarity over demand and nature of question. It also involves the understanding of the key directives for basing the answer. It shall have the clarity over dimensions which has to be there in your answers (multiple dimensions).

Expressions mean how you express or communicate your ideas, points (ingredient of answer) or content. Articulation and presentation are an important aspect of Expression. Based on your personal experiences, all will agree that once they start to write an answer, they either face difficulty in putting the thoughts together or communicating the same way as they feel. Expression are important because it’s not you but it’s your answer sheet which is presenting your views, thoughts in front of examiner. Similarly the paper of Essay evaluate the personality of an individual.

Depth-In UPSC mains answers, depth refers to the thorough exploration and detailed analysis of a given topic. It's not merely about presenting information but delving into the intricacies, nuances, and underlying factors. It shows a deep understanding of the subject matter. It goes beyond surface-level knowledge and indicates a comprehensive grasp of the topic.

Deeper analysis involves critical thinking. It requires you to go beyond the obvious and critically evaluate various aspects, which is a key competency the UPSC seeks in candidates.

STRUCTURE- in the UPSC mains examination, the importance of structure in your answers cannot be overstated. A well-structured answer not only enhances readability but also helps in presenting your thoughts coherently. Examiners go through a large number of scripts. If your answer is well-organized, it becomes easier for the examiner to navigate through your points. This can contribute to a more favourable impression.

It demonstrates that you have a comprehensive understanding of the topic. Structure helps in maintaining a logical flow of information. Each paragraph or section should naturally lead to the next, creating a coherent and well-connected narrative.

Understanding the void and difficulties of Aspirants, GS Score, an IAS preparation institution came up with the new program called “SAMARTH” with the sole focus of inculcating the ANSWER WRTING SKILLS and enhancing the potential of aspirants thus fulfilling their dreams of being an assets to nation.


A comprehensive solution for aspirants seeking to overcome key challenges in answer writing. Balancing depth and brevity, synthesizing diverse information, efficient time management, and maintaining clarity are crucial skills addressed by the course. (Click for Course Detail)

  • Programme designed to build strong foundation for effective answer writing within 3 months.
  • Gradual Improvement through systematically structured Steps.
  • Programme will navigate through 3 Stages: UNDERSTAND, PRACTICE and PERFORM.
  • Skill-building sessions for understanding basics of Answer writing.
  • Theme based Practice through 200+ questions meticulously selected questions in UPSC simulated Tests.
  • Performance tests to attain confidence to perform in examination.
  • Personalised feedback and Mentorship for gradual and effective improvement.

Seeing your name in the final list and getting into All India service like IAS/IPS gives you immense pleasure and satisfaction which can’t be expressed by words but which can only be felt by having the right guidance and strategy especially in answer writing skill development.

Verifying, please be patient.

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