The new pattern, which has been introduced from this year by the UPSC for civil service examinations, has six papers – Four General Studies, One Essay and One optional paper. They altogether carry a total of 1750 Marks.
Add to this 275 Marks allotted for the Personality Test. So, a total of 2025 Marks will decide the fate of a candidate whether he would be in the Final List or not.
Improving writing skills will drastically change the fortunes of a candidate for the good in this exam. Good writing not only helps in Mains, but will also enable him to form opinions on various issues which would help him during the Personality Test.
UPSC doesn’t expect a candidate to acquire extraordinary writing skills in English; It just wants candidates who are able to communicate their knowledge in a simple way so that everybody understands the message clearly.
One doesn’t require vast vocabulary, or ornamental style to write answers – marks are allotted to the answer which is clear, simple and straightforward.
If you go through NCERT books, you will understand why these books are popular – they explain concepts in a very simple manner using less difficult words.
Here are some tips to improve your writing skills:
- Shoot A Letter To The Editor Of The Hindu – Every Day. Even on Sunday!
Yes. Reading The Hindu is just not enough. After reading an opinion piece or an editorial, form an opinion of your own. Write it in 100 words. Don’t hesitate, just mail it to this id: firstname.lastname@example.org
The next day when you don’t see your letter published, don’t lose heart. Shoot another mail. One day it will appear neatly edited with your proud name below.
This process will help you in forming a strong opinion on an issue, it will give you the confidence, and it will also help improve your English – when standards demanded are high, you are ought to raise your own bar. The thing is – just don’t give up.
- Solve previous year questions
Take up a question bank and start answering every question. Stick to the word limit. For model answers, instead of looking at a guide, refer NCERT text books. Their explanation of concepts is simple and clear.
Before entering the examination hall, you must have solved at least 10 years questions. This practice helps in time management and improves answer writing ability.
- Start a blog. At WordPress! It is awesome here.
Writing on your own terms helps a lot. When you start a blog, you are the editor and the publisher. If the Hindu rejects your letter, you can put the same on your blog. If the content is good, readers will read your blog and leave back valuable comments.
These days laptops are cheap, so buy Buy a laptop or a netbook and blog your views to the world.
IAS aspirants must be careful here. If you are starting a blog then stick to issues which would help you in the examination. Later when you crack the exam, you can diversify your posts. You can guide future aspirants too!
- Read a lot. Especially good stuff.
- Increase your Word Power!
Though the vocabulary doesn’t matter much in increasing your score in the mains, it does help in thinking fast. We think by connecting words. If we know more words, the more we will be able to connect our thoughts and think better and faster.
I suggest the book by Norman Lewis – Word Power made Easy which is very good if one reads it completely and solves all the exercises in it.
- Own a good dictionary.
Hands down, Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is the best choice for any serious reader and writer to have it with them all the time. This dictionary is said to be ‘the biggest English language dictionary’ and is so cheap! Grab it.
- Finally, visit good blogs, or news sites and comment on important articles.
Try BBC, New York Times or The Hindu sites.
I am sure most of you knew these tips and are already good in English. I am still hopeful these tips are useful to many.
Mains exam demands speed, clarity of thought and consistency. These can be acquired only through writing practice.
Below, in the comment box, you can add your own tips. Any informed discussion is welcome.
For Specific Info on GS answering (old pattern) From IAS Topper: Clcik Here