Answer Writing Tips for Civil Services Mains Exam

The Civil Services is the most sought after career in the government sector in India. A career in Civil Services is highly prestigious and is liked by many due to the fulfilment, job satisfaction that it offers. It gives the civil servant an opportunity to serve the society, make an impact, plan and execute policies of the government. The UPSC exam is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission, the central recruitment agency of the government of India on an annual basis.

The UPSC Civil services exam is divided into three levels spread over a year. The process of selection begins with the Prelims followed by mains examination and the personal interview. Preliminary examination is conducted in order to eliminate the candidates. The candidates who make it through the preliminary examination by surpassing the cutoff are allowed to take up the civil services mains examination. The mains exam is of descriptive type and requires a lot of knowledge, skill, practice, articulation, and speed. The marks scored by a candidate in the mains exam and the personal interview are combined to arrive at the final rank list for selection of candidates to various services like the IAS, IPS, IFS, IFoS, IRS etc.

This article is an attempt to help you maximize your score in the civil services mains examination. Read through for some extremely useful tips on answer writing:


  • Read the question thoroughly:

Most of the candidates panic during the mains exam, as the time allotted for a paper is limited to only 3 hours. As there are 25 questions in each paper, a candidate would have to answer each question in about 9 minutes. One usually underestimates the importance of reading the question before penning down the answer. The importance of reading the question and understanding it, cannot be emphasized enough.


  • Follow the directive:

Each question has a directive attached to it, such as “critically examine”, “explain”, “elucidate” etc. Make sure that the answer you write is in line with the directives. For example, you need not weigh the pros and cons when you are merely asked to “explain”. While “critically examine” would expect your answer to be structured in such a way that you analyze both the pros and cons and reach a balanced conclusion.


  • Answer to the point:

Aspirants generally try to complicate the answers by writing irrelevant facts and points. It is very important to understand what the question demands, and answer in such a way that it is to the point and precise. Do not try to fool the examiner by writing the same point over and over again in different ways to fill in the answer sheet. This would create a bad impression and could affect the marks of other questions too.


  • Make use of maps, flow charts and diagrams:
    One’s attempt while answering the General Studies and optional papers must be to make his answer stand out. This is possible only with the use of diagrams, flow charts and maps wherever necessary. Such a presentation will not only save time but also show the conceptual clarity of the candidate. This could fetch more marks while saving some precious time while writing answers.
  • Complete the paper:
    Answer writing practice must start on the day you begin your IAS preparation. Only with practice will a candidate be able to attempt all the questions in the paper within the given time frame. Every mark counts and every missed question could push you down the rank list exponentially. Therefore make sure that none of the questions are left unattempted.


It is certainly not a cakewalk to clear the mains examination but neither is it impossible in the first attempt. All an aspirant has to do is practice, be faithful to his preparation strategy and be consistent.


For tips and tricks on how to crack the UPSC Civil Services Examination and guidance on current affairs preparation, subscribe to our Byju’s Channel.


Updated: December 21, 2017 — 3:23 pm

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