Abhijeet Yadav who has spent five years of his life preparing and appearing for the Union Public Service Commission’s (UPSC) Civil Service Examination (CSE) says there are a few common mistakes that aspirants make while attempting the mains.
In this video, he points out six common mistakes that UPSC CSE aspirants make and offers constructive suggestions on ways to improve on them.
1. Lack of content:
If an aspirant pens a very generic response to a question, it will not carry much weight and the marks awarded to such content will also be average, at best. Abhijeet says, “Giving a generic answer will only earn you generic marks, and in some cases even below average marks. Every answer in your mains should be supported with relevant examples to make the answer better.”
Examples help in adding value to the answers. It also helps the examiner understand your grasp on the subject and showcases your clarity of thought. “Work on building your own content to be used while writing your answers,” he adds. Abhijeet also urges aspirants to spend time doing the following – read, understand, organise and then make notes.
2. Lack of writing practice:
Having knowledge about a particular topic and being able to put it down in the form of an answer are two very different skills. Abhijeet says, “In order to be able to write a good answer you must have enough writing practice. It is a skill that needs to be worked on, no matter how strong your hold on a particular topic.” Attempting the same question multiple times will also help improve your answer writing skills. It will also allow the aspirant a chance to explore various ways to present the answer.
He adds, “Aspirants must ensure that the context that they have in mind is captured in their answer well and that will only happen with constant writing practice. Use various ways to present the answer – tabular form, pros and cons, and even using mind maps when needed.”
3. Lack of perspectives:
As mentioned by several UPSC CSE toppers, the examination tests the breadth of your knowledge and not the depth of it. Given the limitation on the number of words you can use for an answer, aspirants need to showcase their understanding of that subject and are not required to do a deep dive on the topic. Abhijeet says, “When writing your answer, always include multiple perspectives. An answer is bound to have both positives and negatives and it is imperative that you mention both.”
Presenting the examiner with multiple points of view is sure to fetch you more marks. Citing an example, Abhijeet says, “If the question is about Indo-US relations, make sure you present as many facets of the question as possible. Also, bring in some of the negatives, way forward and possible solutions to problems into your answer.”
4. Not answering the question:
In one’s rush to answer the question, aspirants sometimes completely miss the question that is asked. Abhijeet says, “There are times when aspirants pick on a key word mentioned in the question and base their entire answer on that. That is not the right way to approach the question at all. Ensure you read and understand the question asked before you start writing the answer.”
Given the time constraint while attempting the question paper it becomes even more important for aspirants to find exactly what is being asked of them before writing the answer. “Work at directly answering the question asked of you,” he says. He continues, “Your answer must have a clear introduction followed by answering the how in the question, interlinking with other topics and then the way forward.” Mentioning the way forward points to the aspirant being a solution-oriented candidate.
5. Lack of structure:
Aspirants while writing the answer may sometimes forget the importance of a good structure. It is not just important to mention all the relevant points in an answer but how you structure your answer also plays a significant role. Abhijeet says, “You must begin your answer with the most important point. Doing this creates a good impression in the examiner’s mind as well. Deciding on what constitutes the most important point is also important and must be done before you attempt the answer during the mains.”
To be able to write a good structured answer one must get into the habit of making good notes. Prioritising important points will become a habit with practice. Your thinking must be sorted out before you attempt the paper and not during the examination. This goes back to your note-making skills and therefore it is important to pay attention to it.
6. Lack of introspection:
Do not focus only on attempting mock papers but also spend time analysing your answers and mistakes. It is important for aspirants to keep learning from mistakes. Abhijeet says, “Organising information, adding value to the answer by making diagrams, including data points, etc. will also help, and finally writing your answer in a concise manner are points to remember.” These pointers must be incorporated into your study plan from the very beginning to ensure that they become a habit.
“Introspection is a key element to your success in the UPSC CSE, so spend time on it,” he concludes.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)