Mains Answer Writing Practice
As you know, Mains is a descriptive type of examination – which does not have a strict pattern of writing. However, we can focus on certain key areas which are really necessary for a good answer.
- When do you start mains answer writing practice?
- There is no fixed time to begin this exercise. Once you are familiar with static subjects and current affairs you may start answer writing practice at regular intervals.
- To be more precise, you should be able to begin the exercise from 3 – 4 months of your preparation for Prelims.
- For daily writing practice, where do you pick questions from?
- There are numerous online sources that provide mains questions on daily basis, so choosing one or two from them should not be a problem.
- However, you can also use previous year question papers as a standard question bank for answer writing. This may also help you in analyzing the trend of questions asked by the Commission.
- How do you begin answer writing?
- Comprehend the question
- Mental Mapping of Relevant Information
- Structuring your answer
Comprehending the Question
- Figure out the demand of question. Notice the key words such as Discuss, Explain, Elucidate, Comment, Analyze, etc to know what is being asked in the question.
- Now let us understand, what these key words mean:
- Explain – You are supposed to give the reasons for a particular event/scenario/process etc. You should focus primarily on the “Why” part of the topic. Clarify a topic by giving a detailed account.
- Analyze – Segregate the answers into different dimensions and start giving explanation on each one of the dimension with necessary facts and figures. Your writing should have clarity so that complex procedures or sequences of events can be understood; defining key terms where appropriate, and be substantiated with relevant research.
- Comment – Pick out the main points on a subject and give your opinion, reinforcing your point of view using logic and reference to relevant evidence. Give two views for a situation (pros and cons) – and take a side based on your opinion and justify your stand. Your viewpoint is important and hence the conclusion is important.
- Evaluate – It means to assess a topic which includes both positive and negative. Here you will present both sides of the topic (generally the positive side and negative side without any bias). Then you would suggest the best course of action among the two view points.
- Discuss – Present as many dimensions as possible to get the maximum view putting across the strengths and weaknesses of each of them or make a case for and against an argument, or point out the advantages and disadvantages of a given context. Remember to arrive at a conclusion
- Elucidate – Get an accurate idea of a vague statement/controversial event etc. Here the question demands you to give more clarity on the topic by adding examples, facts and figures. The main idea of this kind of question is to test the precision of information (that are authentic) on vague topics
- Describe – Provide a detailed explanation as to how and why something happens
- Examine – Look in close detail and establish the key facts and important issues surrounding a topic. Try and offer reasons as to why the facts and issues you have identified are the most important, as well as explain the different ways they could be construed.
Mental Mapping of Relevant Information
- Now that you have understood the demand of the question, you have to recollect the information such as events, situations, data from reports and indices, relevant famous sayings, etc. to quote in the answer.
- This is the most important stage of your answer writing as this ensures the quality of your answer.
- For this stage, you have to develop the practice of making short notes and synopsis so that you can quickly recollect at the time of writing an answer.
Structuring the Answer
- As a general rule, you have a three stepped approach that is,
- Introduction: Give a brief idea as to what you are going to write in your answer. Keep the introduction short and attractive so that the examiner is interested to read ahead.
- Body: This part is your actual answer. Here you write the dimensions/opinions/pros and cons/analysis/arguments along with examples, facts and figures, diagrammatic representation, etc to support your answer.
- Conclusion: Don’t forget to write the conclusion as it leaves an answer incomplete without the conclusion. Do not end the answer abruptly. So reaffirm the idea of your answer in a couple of sentences to give a fine finish.
- For an answer there are three parts, and you know what you have to write as it is discussed above.
- But how do you write is the last and most significant component of an answer writing. Here there are certain things you can follow as a thumb rule:
- Decide to write in paragraphs or points – for opinion based questions where there are only arguments, which cannot be reduced to short sentences choose to write in paragraphs.
- While questions directly ask you to list some factors/ causes/ advantages and disadvantages, etc choose to write in points.
- This will save time in structuring your answer in the exam as you already have an idea about presenting.
- Draw the diagrams in a box in the right top corner of your answer without consuming much of space. Title the diagram – without which it is just a random figure with no relevance shown.
- Highlight the important points/words by underlining them.
- Write legibly so that the evaluators don’t have to spend time in comprehending your handwriting.
- Use simple language to reduce complexities.
ALL THAT SAID AND DONE THERE ARE CERTAIN Do’s and Don’ts IN ANSWER WRITING. AS WE HAVE DISCUSSED THE Do’s in how to write a good answer, let’s focus on the Don’ts of it:
- Don’t exceed the word limit mentioned in question paper.
- Don’t over-write as it creates confusion.
- Don’t express biased political views in your answer. Maintain neutral stands in controversy based questions.
- Try avoiding your personal opinions unless you are asked to give one.