Preliminary test (PT) is qualifying in nature, meaning the marks obtained by you in PT will not be counted for the preparation of merit list. A candidate securing 190 marks out of 200 has little advantage over a candidate securing 111 marks out of 200 in prelims if the cut off for that particular year is 110 out of 200. But the same 89 marks difference in the mains exam can make you sink or sail in the final list.
UPSC assesses your thought process, analytical skills, grasping power and understanding of different subjects and fields through the mains exam. You will be writing 7 subjective papers carrying 250 marks each over a span of 5 days 6 hours per day, so it’s clear that your writing ability will be put to a rigorous test.
If you are one of those aspirants who has read books and articles and has never practiced, you’ll be like a swimmer who has seen best swimming lesson videos online but never touched water. Just like the swimmer you’re bound to drown when put in water=exam. If you’ve done well in Mains, you will make it to the list even if you screw up your interview/personality test by any chance.
HOW TO PRACTICE ANSWER WRITING FOR MAINS?
- How do I begin writing? What should I write?
Reason: Lack of information/points. No idea about topic.
- I get discouraged when I go through my writings as they look no better than a school kid’s.
Reason: You expect your write-up to looks like the ones you’ve read in The Hindu or The Indian Express but when you read your write-up you get disappointed as your write-ups are monotonous and boring. Remember that those interesting articles are a result of 100s of boring write-ups.
- I will read books and magazines first and after having gained knowledge I will start writing.
Reality: That day will never come. You may end up reading 100s of books but you’ll never feel like writing. So writing has to start today, howsoever bad but TODAY!
- Make a writing schedule. You should write two answers per day without fail for which the topics and subjects should be pre decided.
- The best way to start writing is to first read an article from the editorial section of either The Hindu or The Indian Express and then summarise it in your own words. This should be practised on a daily basis for at least 40 days before it becomes a habit.
- Each and every new word encountered must be noted down with usage and meaning. This will drastically improve your vocabulary and hence the quality of essays and answers.
- Getting your write-up critically analysed by seniors and experts. This will help you assess your level and find out the week areas to work on.
- One should be open to negative criticisms and should not get bogged down or give up writing.
You should know one thing that the examiner is paid to correct answer sheets on per copy basis. He would want to finish off with checking copies as fast as possible and get his job done, he neither knows your name nor does he care about your selection or rejection. After every answer that you write you should ask yourself if the examiner will take time to read your answers and give a sigh in admiration or will he just do his duty and give a sigh of relief after having finished checking your copy?
How it should be done? Writing a good answer.
There are different types of questions in the mains paper, some questions will have sub questions while others might have a statement followed by a key word such as ‘Justify’, ‘Elucidate’, ‘Comment’ etc. We should also keep in mind the marks allotted for each question and hence decide the number of words to be allocated to each part of the question. Lets understand through an example:
Q. What is Hyperloop? Discuss the socio economic impact it will have once it is launched in India. [15 marks]
We can see there are two parts to the question and the marks distribution should be ‘5 marks’ for the first part i.e. ‘What is hyperloop’ and the remaining ’10 marks’ should be for the 2nd part of the question.
The examiner wants to find out if you know what hyperloop is. So the 1st part of the answer should be very straight forward. You should give a clear definition followed by it’s historical background, its evolution and the current state.
The second part of the question expects you to know socio economic status of India and your opinion about adopting such a costly but advanced technology here and its implications. The question also expects you to know the current long and short distance transportation systems in the country and their problems and challenges. In the end the answer should have a conclusion where you have to sum up with your opinion about the entire thing as this the point the examiner would be awarding you marks.
Lastly, you should keep in mind that your answer should have a proper structure with headings and subheadings. Information being given should not be haphazard or random but should be like beads in a string. Factual information should be adequately provided as per the demand of the question. Beating around the bush might fill up the answer script but will not fetch you marks. Ample examples, use of diagrams and flowcharts if needed, bullet points or highlighting of points by underlining and a good handwriting can enhance the overall presentation of your answer and make your answer script stand out.