[Tips] Nine Types of Questions in UPSC Mains Exam: How to write answers?

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Mrunal's Economy Course

This article was originally written by Sivaharimani on ioforum way back in 2007.

  1. 9 types of Questions in Mains Exam
  2. Break the Question in 3 parts
  3. 7 steps answer writing

9 types of Questions in Mains Exam

In UPSC Civil service Mains exam, by and large you’ll face these nine types of descriptive questions:

Question is instructing you to What should you do?
Discuss Give both the positive and negative points(prelution and conclusion are must)
Describe focuss should be only on that particular subject matter(for ex: e-governance only)(prelution is must but conclusion is your optional)
Explain the answer should be based on answering in detail Why, How, for what, of that subject of the question.ie., we have to give all the important points.(prelution and conclusion are must)
Distinguish answer should be based on How the suject of question differs from otherthings.(only prelution is must)
Differentiate there should be detailed comparision and distinguishing(as said above) the subject of question with others.(only prelution is must)
Examine the answer should consist of the how good, what disadvantages, what impact of the subject of question.
Enumerate first list out the all the relevant points, then explain one by one.(prelution and conclusion are must)
Reason Find out what is the correct reason for the subject and explain one by one without side heading but highlighting the point with dots or numbers.(only prelution)
Analyse try to give your view with future impact and goods and bads.(both prelution and conclusion are must)

Break the Question in 3 parts

First step is break the question into its configuration parts.
For example, consider this question asked in General Studies (Mains) exam of 2004
“Discuss the e-governance in Indian context”
Let’s start the process of breaking this question.

  1. Focus on  topic on e-governance (subject of question)
  2. How to do in the cotext of india(base of question)
  3. What to do  dicussing the positive and negative points of view(tool of question)

7 steps answer writing

  1. Find out the conclusive theme, when you read the question at first.
  2. Write shortly what is meant by e-governance(should be ideal/neutral)
  3. Directly go to the discussion neutrally.
  4. Try to begin with the positive points
  5. Give a negative point only after a positive point. This shows you to the evaluator that you are on the correct way of the answering the question and understood the question perfectly.
  6. Carefully keep the word limit
  7. At the end, give a finishing touch with the positive points. Why because, the evaluator provide marks only at the end of the answer, if you do so, it will make a good impression in the minds of the evaluator. Then we will get more and plus marks.
  8. Draw a conclusion in accordance with your answer. Do not give your suggestion but give the existing fact with currant context of India. Worth noting when handling a question(what you are asked to do)
Indian History Freedom Struggle Pratik Nayak

58 Comments on “[Tips] Nine Types of Questions in UPSC Mains Exam: How to write answers?”

  1. Amazing…. Thanks….

  2. Good Job…! I am looking for this clarification from many days.
    Lage raho…!!

    1. thanks bro

  3. sir what is CRITICALLY ANALYSE??

    1. dear shailesh patel, allow me to CRITICALLY ANALYSE your question:

      critical analysis is an oxymoron. the examiner expects one to do three, mutually exclusive things with the answer-
      step 1)to highlight the problems with the value-judgement/event/statement in the Q.
      step 2)to evaluate on-the-other hand scenario and counterfactually reconstruct the v/e/s/ in the Q.
      step 3) to synthesize, (to the extent that we desynthesized in step 1) and to try to put together that coherent whole that we destructed with the world, with a few loose-ends hanging one way or the other (NEVER WRITE AN ABSOLUTELY VALUE-NEUTRAL SYNTHESIS AS IT MAKES YOU COME OFF AS A COLD, HEARTLESS, BITCH!) and let the popular opinion/”junta ki objectivity” type notions decide which way the loose-ends sway.

      its called pulling a dialectical and this is what i’m doing to you earthlings all the time!

      have a nice day.

      1. Amazing God, loved your reply :), u r immensely talented

      2. thank you God! can u give some example. I cant get it properly

      3. Please answer this question or provide general structure-

        The issue of tourism in core areas of tiger reserve forests in the country is subject matter of debate. CRITICALLY EXAMINE various aspects of this issue keeping in view relevant recent judicial pronouncements.

      4. Hello god ,
        your answer for “critically examine” went over my head. Please explain in more simple words.
        You are way more talented than us.

  4. well explained the minute things playing big role in the exam..
    thanks sir.

  5. thaks sir……
    It usefull for new students

  6. Thanks a lot..
    very Useful indeed..

  7. Sir, what is the meaning of PRELUTION?

    1. Sir prelution ka meaning kya hai

    2. Prelude – Google this

  8. Sir what is the meaning of prelution

  9. Murnal Sir,

    Thanks for the update.A very important article will play a major role in the mains.

  10. Thank you sir for giving valuable points about mains.


  12. Good job Mrunal..
    Keep up good work………

  13. thank u sir

  14. suppose if there is a question of 35 marks… the what should be the word limit for an ideal answer? please reply as soon as possible..

    1. multiply with 10.
      35 marks =around 350 words.

  15. i have nothing to say other then wishing mrunal all the best for his future endeavours…and i m done with the UPSC…..I QUIT…

    1. Hi Vikas,

      You are an Ant(Laborious) and you were rounding off the body of an Elephant(UPSC)but didn’t find his nose yet. The thing i am telling you is,have patience, search the way to reach elephant(UPSC) nose, never Quit. One day you will control this Elephant(UPSC), believe yourself once, belief is more than anything in this Universe, it converts the Stone into God..

      In only one condition you get defeated when you decide to be defeated… so its completely your choice,what you want to be…

      and for UPSC, 95%(your preparation) and definite rest 5% (God +parent Blessings+ Mrunal Sir Guidance)..total 100%. and UPSC only need your 60 – 70 % from your preparation to recemend you.

      One more thing, Never advertise your weakness all over to collect sympathy of others, it reflects your poor mentality and in Interview these types of things thoroughly checked.

      Take Care..

      1. I am extremely fascinated with your reply/suggestion given.. I am a new aspirant to face the UPSC Prelms this coming year 2017. Such suggestions really inspire me a lot.. Thanks…

  16. sir, may i know the when upsc will declare the apfc result?

  17. Besides the noble art of getting things done,master the noble art of leaving things undone.The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.
    Dear Mrunal,i’m appearing this year and it’s my first attemt.i want to know(in mains) whether it is compulsory to answer all the questions or there is substantial choice of questions that one can attempt according to one’s knowledge about the question.


  19. excellent job brother.. and thanks for taking so much efforts. your inputs are vary valuable.:)


  21. Sir plz provide info on gs paper 4 on ethics…….

  22. i really feel sorry for myself that i wasn’t known about your website/blog. i had many questions in my mind when i started preparation, i had spent large chunk of my valuable time to get those question answered. But all of a sudden its one click away. Thank you.

  23. sir what about comments type questions?..

  24. Sir are there any negative marks in mains? I mean if we write irrelevant ans or if we cross word limit , is it that we would lose some marks from our Secured marks? And while writing any ans if we reach the word limit and we are still to write some imp point or conclusion then should we write further or is it wise to stick to the word limit and thus avoid any further points or conclusion?

  25. Thank you so much Sir for this great great & so helpful information. I was so much worried about the answer writing because I am facing this problem a lot.

    Sir, I appeared for Civil Services 2009, but did not make it due to lack of guidance & defects in my preparation. After that I joined a private job in Animation & Films. But I want to be an IAS, anyhow, so I left my job now and started may preparation again. But during the period of my job I didn’t open a single book, now I am getting lots of problem specially in concentrating on the topics that I have to cover. Plz give me tips & advice how can I get my pace back.


  26. Sir What abouT Comment type of questions?

  27. mrunal, plz also explain “comment” type of question…:-)

  28. Sir, plz explain critically analyse or critically discuss..

  29. Sir i am a beginner..
    and a student of B.A. 2nd..with Public ad as my major,and will also be my mains subject.
    Iam from a rular background and want to give my exams in English..have started reading Thw Hindu…
    Suggest me more sir…and as iam not that much fluent in English speaking, so shuld i opt Hindi in Interview…?
    And suggest other tips ,u think important for beginners…
    and +ve aspect is am a bright student(as i can conclude from my marks in various exams,have scored 88% to 94% in major exams) and have a good taste in governance and polity….

    So sir please suggest….

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