Today we will talk about how to practice answer writing for GS. Again I would like to caution you that this was completely my style, according to my conditions and availability of time. Other candidates have prepared it differently also resulting in good score. So, analyse and adopt strategies which suit you.
I rate answer writing as the most important part of the Mains examination. Don’t think that since we have been writing subjective exams from our childhood days, it will not be difficult to manage during examination.
Remember and practice the following points:
First – Many aspirants, from the very first day, start asking teachers for questions. Have patience, let your preparation reach upto a level where you feel confident with some topics, then start with answer writing practice. (I started GS coaching in July 2013 and I started answer writing practice in February 2014, when the GS classes were about to get over).
Second – Start giving time to writing practice daily for around 30-60 minutes.
Third – Pick random questions from websites (I preferred www.insightsonindia.com) and try to tackle the questions. (I am using the word ‘tackle’ because during examination you will experience questions which were not a part of your preparation. So, you cannot ‘answer’ them, you can only ‘tackle’ them to the best of your capabilities)
Fourth – My belief is that it is difficult for a teacher to check 100 copies and read 25 answers per copy every day. So, try to write the answer from a teacher’s perspective. He/she would want to see answers written neatly, with headings, important points underlined and all parts of a question addressed specifically. No examiner will try to find whether the aspirant has written a certain point in the answer. You must make important points visible for the examiner.
Fifth – Your answers must be well structured.
Don’t write the body straight away. I prefer to begin the answer with definition of the core idea mentioned in the question. Please refrain from using flowery language and avoid redundant words and sentences.
For example –
Infrastructure is the capital asset of a nation. They help in providing employment and income to the population. Infrastructure is a must for any nation’s economic growth. They can be classified into soft and hard infrastructure. (This is good but)
Infrastructure is the capital asset of a nation which helps in its economic growth by providing employment to the population and helps in provision of various amenities such as waste management, transport and communication, tourism, education, health and sports which can be further classified into soft and hard infrastructure. (Here I have tried to squeeze in whatever I have studied in the chapter ‘Infrastructure’ into one sentence with the help of connectors – which, by, and etc) – It reduces redundant sentence/words and keeps the reader engaged.
It is the most important part of any answer. While reading a question derive the number of parts that it contains, i.e., what all has the examiner asked from you.
After writing the Introduction straightaway address the first part of the question in form of a heading and write the relevant points below it (in form of a paragraph or in form of bullets – that’s your personal choice – idea is to keep the answer neat, visible and to write fast). I prefer bullets and numbers for all the subjects except for ethics and social issues.
Similarly, address all the parts of the question separately.
End with your own view. I prefer writing a balanced view after analyzing all the angles, with a futuristic view. Don’t conclude with false assumptions and impractical suggestions. Simply write what you consider right and appropriate.
Sixth – For answer writing take your tests seriously. Again, joining a test series for Mains is entirely up to you. Many candidates clear this exam without writing even a single mock test. But if you doubt yourself then I would suggest you to join one. Take the tests in exam conditions – no institute keeps a check on if you are returning the test paper within the time limit or not. Its your duty to practice time management. When you get back your corrected answer sheets, analyse the comments made by examiner. Observe where you lack and eliminate those mistakes for your next test. It doesn’t matter which test series you join. Take any and sincerely utilise it.
Seventh- Time Management while writing answers
I tried to write all the answers with an average of 7 minutes per answer. Now the method I am going to tell you is very mechanical. (I used to face a lot of problem in completing all 25 questions and I knew that somehow I have to attempt all. So, during mock tests I devised this method).
I used to make a chart after entering into the exam hall – example –
1st – 9:00 to 9:07
2nd – 9:07 to 9:14
Till 25th – 11:51 to 11:58
After completing each question I used to strike off the question number in the chart. This chart gave me an idea if I am running late or not. By what time I should complete, lets say, the 10th question. A sense of loss of time makes you nervous at crucial moments. So, if you have this chart, you remain a bit relaxed and assured of the remaining time.
Eighth – Always underline important points. Just the phrase or the word but not the complete sentence.
For ethics I preffered writing in paragraphs, but for case studies I followed a different structure. The structure goes as follows –
First heading – Issue/Dilemma/ Problem
Second Heading – Stakeholders Involved
Third Heading – Options available
Fourth Heading – Evaluation of those options – which consists the effect of each option available on each of the stakeholder.
Fifth Heading – Conclusion or the most suitable step which can be adopted.
We all know the ethical and moral stand, but what makes your answer distinct is the treatment. While watching a singing reality shows sometimes we think – this singer is not able to catch the sur (note), so for each subject you must catch it’s sur. It must look like an answer for the ethics subject. Use the ethical principles like honesty, sympathy, compassion and constitutional principles like rule of law, right to equality etc to give that charm to your answer.
Answer writing is not as difficult as it sounds. It looks difficult only because we know that we are not devoting time for it. Practice it for a month continuously. You will definitely feel the change.
How I used to Practice?
I started answer writing practice in February 2014 when my GS classes were about to get over. Everyday I only used to practice writing the bullet points and frame a definition in my mind for introduction paragraph for 9-10 questions posted by www.insigtsonindia.com, but I never wrote complete answers at home. They post these questions daily from the day’s newspapers. My strategy was to frame at least 7-8 points for each question. If I used to fall short of points, I tried to consult my friends and teachers for some more points. I did this for two months religiously and left it when prelims were approaching. It was a 45-60 minutes daily exercise.
After prelims I joined Vision IAS test series for general studies and tried to apply my learning during the tests. I gave importance to the comments I got from the examiner and constantly tried to refine my answer writing skills.
For case studies (ethics) I consulted Lexicon book and devised the above mentioned structure after reading 8-9 examples.
I will deal with answer writing for Geography optional in a separate post.
(Ananya Mittal Rank-85 CSE, 2014)