You must have read a plethora of tips about how to writing answers, I thought of sharing few from our side. Here are quick 20 tips on answer writing for IAS Mains:
1. Write in simple, grammatically correct English. No literary prose is needed.
2. Try to give the context of the answer if you can in your opening remarks. End it with a something concrete and do not leave it hanging in air with an abrupt end which mostly happens due to paucity of time.
3. Write in points or paragraphs as you feel comfortable. There is just no restriction or stated rule for or against any of these ways of answering.
4. The thoughts should flow across the answer seamlessly with no hopping from one idea to another but in a systematic manner.
5. Try that you don’t left any questions unattempted as it forecloses any chance of getting any mark even if the examiner was in a jubilant mood. But that does not mean you should write just about anything. Just think of one-two relevant point and write it.
6. Come over this ‘Should ‘black’ or ‘blue’ pen be used?’. Use whichever of them you are carrying.
7. Avoid cuttings and over-writing (that college tactic to write an alphabet such that it can be interpreted as a ‘b’ or ‘d’ shall not work in UPSC). College examiners could be approached to make them interpret the word as we wanted them to interpret. No such liberty is available in UPSC.
8. In case you want to underline certain sentences, do it there and then. If you leave it for the fag end, it shall entail reading the answer all over again and you really might not be able to finish reading them all.
9. Do not write in the margins as is also instructed by the UPSC. And these fellows do take their instructions seriously. In any case if you had something really good to write you would have written it in the main portion. Anything written in margins shall only be superfluous in most cases.
10. Avoid using red ink for writing or underlining.
11. When you use diagrams/maps, give them a title, give them a number like fig1. or fig2. and give their reference at the relevant point in your answer.
12. Do not actually sit down to count words. Those who have been practicing answer writing shall have a fair idea of how many of their sentences/paragraphs make up 150-200 words. (Another benefit of answer writing). And this is how even the examiners will guess the number of words in your answer if they must. They shall never actually count them. (And of course you must also remember that content matters more than the length)
13. Some of us have this tendency that as we write on un-ruled sheets, our sentences tend to get tilted in a particular direction. It is annoying for the examiner to tilt his/her head at odd angles to read what you might have written. So avoid it.
14. Ensure your hand-writing is legible. If it is illegible, who can stop the examiner from just marking it with a zero or one or two and move on. No one is going to question him/her. So why give him/her this chance?
15. UPSC instructs that unwritten pages should be crossed. Please do it with a small diagonal line across the page. Avoid a big cross cutting across the length and breadth of the page which might also leave a mark on the back page.
16. When you are done with an answer,
draw a small horizontal line telling the examiner it is over.
17. Keep the booklet neat. You must have noticed that sometimes, when we write, our palm rests on the sheet. Ensure it is free of any ink marks (or is sweaty) which may leave smudges on the answer sheet.
18. Keep the water bottle that you may carry on the ground near your seat. I have heard cases where the bottle was kept on the table itself loosely capped in a hurry and an inadvertent push by an invigilator or a fellow candidate had the candidate’s hard work floating in water.
19. Carry enough number of pens/pencils and other stationery. And do carry a stencil of the geometrical figures.
20. Try to be calm during answer writing and think analytically.
Wish you lots of writing and lots of answers that you have already prepared!