You want to sit for the Indian Administrative Exams after your graduation. You still have about 3-4 years. Now is not the time for you to start studying. Because you might not remember all that you study now. Now is the time to hone some skills which will stand you in good stead and give you an edge when you sit for the exams.
A very important part of these exams is the way you write your answers. It has often proved to be the biggest differentiator between the selected candidates and those that fail to make it.
Importance of writing in UPSC exam
Writing the answers in the UPSC exam might look easy as the word limit for the questions is 150 / 250 words. But, believe me, it is not. Each of the questions in the CSE has many dimensions to it. Each question is about applying your knowledge and connecting many issues.
To draft an effective answer to such a question in the permitted word count takes some skill on part of the examinee. They are
- good command over language
- a good writing speed
- a legible handwriting
- presenting the answers well
So how much do you have to write in the UPSC exam?
There are 20 questions, all very subjective, to be attempted in 3 hours. That gives you 9 minutes to attempt each question. 9 minutes, during which you have to understand the question, structure your answer and write. About 1-1.5 minutes to think through and 7.5 minutes to write!! Each second has to be used extremely judiciously.
Developing good writing skills is also important from a competitive perspective.
Let me present a scenario.
Person A and Person B have the same level of preparation in terms of their knowledge, thinking and analytical abilities. In the Mains, Person A writes very analytical and cohesive answers adhering to the word and time limit. Person B writes answers which are all over the place and exceeds the word limit. Guess who scores higher. Person A. Because the answers make for readable copy and address the issues well. Person B lost out on the opportunity to become an officer as the answers were not well presented.
So your ability to write well can make or break your chances of clearing UPSC
Now that the importance of writing has been established, this brings us to the next question.
How can you develop these writing skills?
Understand that developing good writing skills doesn’t mean you have to be a Shakespeare to clear UPSC.
You just need to be able to present your thoughts in a well-structured and cohesive manner.
Let us now discuss how you can hone these skills from before you start earnest preparations.
1. Note Making On An Unruled Paper
You must read varied literary works, newspaper editorials, insightful books, watch videos on world affairs and then make notes about them.
Start penning down your thoughts, quite literally. Write them down using pen and paper. No typing here. Because that’s how the actual exam will be
Ensure you make those notes on an unruled paper, because that is what you will get in the exam. And without practice, writing in a single line is quite challenging.
2. Practice Writing Essays
You could also write essays on different topics. I am giving examples of some topics we share with our students who opt for our ‘Foundation Course’. This will give you an idea.
- Why do you want to be an IAS? What are the expectations from a Civil Servant in the modern world? (1000 words)
- What is your idea of development? Explain in 1000 words.
- Reading Introduction of ‘Development as Freedom’ and edit your answer to idea of the development in light of Sen’s views. (1000 words)
- What is Middle Class as per your experience? Talk to at least 10 people and list down the traits of the middle class.
- Research on at least 2 zones of Farm Crises in India and write a report on them, including what the government has been doing.
- Read the chapter on ‘Land Reforms’ from Bipan Chandra and answer questions based on it.
3. Focus on clarity
Practice trying to think clearly first and then writing. Since you are using pen and paper, the aim should be to reduce the number of corrections.
I am sure you will agree, no examiner would like to correct a shabby paper.
4. Time your writing
Last but not the least, keep a stopwatch ready with you and start timing every time you sit down to write.
Remember you have only 7.5 minutes to write a single answer and unless you get into the habit of writing a well-structured answer on time, it will be difficult in the actual exam.
So,I believe i have clearly emphasized on the importance of being able to write well-worded and effectively presented answers in the UPSC exam. It can and often does prove to be the making or breaking point for candidates.
Your time starts now.
Author: Akshay Palande
Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.