1. Prologue
  2. The Art of Mains answer Writing
    1. Introduction of the answer
    2. Body of the answer
    3. Directive Words in a Question
    4. How to write conclusion?
  3. Direct Word#1: “ANALYSE”
  4. Sample Question: Energy Policy Cooperation
    1. Theme#1 & 2: Energy security = economic progress
    2. Theme#3: Energy security = economic progress = W.Asia HOW?
    3. Giving specific examples
    4. Pros of reliance on W.Asia
    5. Cons of reliance on W.Asia
    6. Conclusion about Energy security & W.Asia
  5. About the author: Pavneet Singh


  • Yes dear students, this is Pavneet Singh. In the last two parts, I had discussed about the Syllabus and Preparation sources for the IR/Diplomacy in UPSC Mains Exam.
  • Now in this 3rd part, I shall explain the art of answer writing and a sample question from UPSC Mains.

The Art of Mains answer Writing

  • To explain this art, I will give you 3 examples from the 3 UPSC questions of the past years of 2017, 2015 and 2013.
  • I’ll explain you that what was the question, how do you write an answer and what is the exact answer that was expected from the UPSC.

Introduction of the answer

Pavneet Singh Vajiram Faculty International Relation Lecture

  • First thing is that you know in any answer introduction is very important. Now, whether it is a GS answer or whether it is an optional answer, we are not debating the fact. Please understand one thing. Introduction has to be there.
  • Lot of people say specifically the ones who say get selected and all that they say “there is no need to write introduction. I never wrote an introduction (and that में तो बिना पढ़े ही पास हो गयी थी). See, something that clicked for somebody is not necessary that it will click for you. You have to keep that in mind.
  • When you write an answer, you are writing an answer in the form of a report. That you will write as a civil servant which you will present to your political boss or your administrative boss.
  • So, that answer that you write in the UPSC mains should be kept in mind that it is actually a report or a file noting that you are writing for a prospective boss of yours.
  • So, anything that you will write for a boss of yours as a bureaucrat, as a civil servant as a diplomat or whatever will always have a structure in place. Right! It is not going to be haphazard that okay thisthis thing happened. There is a structure. This is what UPSC wants from you.
  • So, first thing is what is an introduction. Introduction is basically explaining the examiner about primarily about what you are going to write. So, you see there are 2 things to be kept in mind. First thing what are the key aspects to be remembered when you write an introduction.
  • Introduction has to be glimpse of your entire answer. You have to understand it has to be a glimpse of your entire answer.
  • Now, second thing is introductions should never be very long. Maximum 2 lines or 3 lines. Not more than that. Two lines or 3 lines means maximum around 20 to 25 words or 30 words.
  • You see the challenge in the UPSC is the questions are of 150 to 250 words, so 20 to 30 words is the max you can devote for an introduction. But, those 20 to 30 words should be very power packed words.

Body of the answer

  • When we come to the structure of the answer after the introduction is over, the major part of the answer is basically your body.
  • It contains the core idea. But the core idea should be as per the directive word which is given at the end of the question.

Directive Words in a Question

  • I will give you one example: If UPSC gives you a statement saying that India and Japan at the systemic level are coming closer. Discuss. Then this particular question has a particular answer.
  • Whereas if the UPSC asks India and Japan at the systemic level are coming closer. Examine. The same statement will have a different answer.
  • Remember, that in both the cases introductions is always going to be the same. What is going to be different in both the cases is body
  • So, body has to be structured as per the key word. I will discuss 3 major keywords which are used by the UPSC today in the subsequent part of the webinar and I will tell you that these 3 words are most frequently used by the UPSC for the IR related questions.


Sample Question from UPSC Paper


Analyze India’s policy cooperation energy policy cooperation with West Asian countries. (Mains-2017)


Discuss the impediments India is facing in its pursuit of a permanent seat in the UN security council. (Mains-2015)


The proposed withdrawal of international security assistance force from Afghanistan in 2014 is fraught with major security implications for the countries of the region. Examine in the light of the fact that India is faced with a plethora of challenges and needs to safeguard its own strategic interests.  (Mains-2013)

I’ll be explaining the answer writing approach for all of the above question in this series. But, before that let me explain

How to write conclusion?

  • After you’re done with the introduction, and body, the last part is conclusion.
  • Please always remember: Never ever abruptly end your answer. Never! Because whenever you present something to somebody, you always conclude.
  • Conclusion means ending your answer on a futuristic note. Giving a futuristic suggestion.
  • So, whenever you end an answer on a futuristic suggestion, you concluded holistically. Now, remember again conclusion should be maximum again 20 to 30 words. So, introduction plus conclusion 20 to 30 words: 50 words are here. 100 words or maybe 150 words depending upon whatever is the requirement in the exam 50 to 50 words is the body.
  • That is where your game lies. Now, let’s try to proceed further you’ll understand more.

Direct Word#1: “ANALYSE”

  • As I explained earlier, UPSC usually asks three directive words: 1) Analyse 2) Discuss 3) Examine.
  • The first directive word is called analyze. This is one of the most frequently used words by the UPSC. So, whenever the word analyze comes what do you do?
  • The first step is to identify the issue of the question which is there.
  • Then you break that issue into multiple parts. Are you understanding? You please remember, any question that will come with a directive word called analyze, will be a question where the UPSC will ask you to basically talk about multiple parts, multiple themes. So, questions are designed that way.
  • So, you have to first identify: what are the multiple themes. You have to break down the multiple themes. Use evidences, facts and arguments to explain those themes. Mention pros and cons and finally conclude. Conclusion is always on a futuristic note. Keep this in mind. Now, let me give you an example.

Sample Question: Energy Policy Cooperation

Analyze India’s energy policy cooperation with West Asian countries. (250 words, 15 marks, UPSC Mains-2017)

Pavneet Singh Vajiram Faculty International Relation Lecture

  • This is a statement.. First thing is that the directive word is called analyze. First, underline that in the question paper. Because now you have to think that because the directive  word is ANALYZE. Your answer has to be structure as per the directive word called ANALYZE.
  • Please remember UPSC is looking for answers for the questions that they have asked based on the directive words that they have given. 95% people in the mains exam fail because they don’t understand the directive words, they don’t structure their answers as per the directive words.
  • That is why 12,000 people every year give the mains, only, 2,000 of them get a call for the interview.  10,000 answer sheets are worth crap. Only for the simple reason the directive word, structure of the body as per the directive word is not there.
  • Now, let’s take the example of this question. In the analyze part as I told you previously: What do you do? You read the question. Identify different themes then break down the question into different themes. So, you read the question carefully.

There are 3 themes here.

  1. First theme is energy security.
  2. Second theme is economic progress: the two words which are mentioned in the first part of the statement.
  3. Third part of the statement basically of the question says: West Asia and India.

So, you have to understand now before you begin your answer that I have to discuss these 3 themes. Use my facts, arguments and information that I have, mention pros and cons to basically explain these 3 themes.

Theme#1 & 2: Energy security = economic progress

  • Now, how does your answer begin? First explain what is energy economic progress.
  • So, your answer actually begins in this manner that economic progress or economic development is basically a strategy to enlarge the options and choices for the people. And when you expand or enlarge the choices available for the people.
  • You now try to link it to energy security. That enlargement of the choices of the people depends upon adequate availability of energy to the people. Then you try to explain in one single 2 to 34 terms what is energy security.
  • Energy security basically means ensuring adequate availability reliable availability of energy to all the people.
  • Energy security is directly linked to economic progress. Because if you want to enlarge the choices of the people then you have to make energy available to the people. Energy available to the people in the form of energy in the like say for example it could be solar energy. It could be for that matter fuel that can drive the economic growth. So, you explain that linkage No.1. Then you try to bring the third element.

Theme#3: Energy security = economic progress = W.Asia HOW?

  • So far we talked about energy security = economic progress. But, how does West Asia fits into this?
  • West Asian states are the states through which we basically import oil. So, basically this question here is asking you more about energy security through the prism of oil and how does oil from West Asia help India to basically provide energy to its people and thereby ensure economic progress.
  • So, first step in your answer is to break down the question. Explain the key 3 themes: energy security, economic progress, relevance of West Asia.
  • Then you talk about in the 2nd part of your answer which is basically now the body of your answer. You talk about the states of West Asia and the energy relationships that we have with them, with specific examples

Giving specific examples

  • Now, you discuss the India’s relationship with Qatar, India’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, India’s relationship with Iran and you explain that how Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iran are crucial states to India’s energy security and they provide oil to India, and what are its pros and cons?

Pros of reliance on W.Asia

Here, explain that how these agreements have helped us to access and get more energy from the west Asian states.

West Asian States

How relevant to India’s energy security?


Gas deal which is there between India and Qatar, which we signed in 2003 which is still 2028 or 25 year LNG (liquified natural gas ) between the Petronet and RasGas of Qatar.

Saudi Arabia

Riyadh declaration and the New Delhi declaration. Both declarations basically mention our hydrocarbon partnership


oil that India purchases from Iran.

Cons of reliance on W.Asia

when you are inching towards ending your answer. Your answer has to basically bring about the cons- what are the fallouts of buying oil from W.Asia?

West Asian States

Cons / challenges to India’s energy security?


  • That is the reason why this question came also because you Qatar was actually expelled by the Saudi Arabians from the GCC for the fact that Qatar was perceived to be more pro Iran.
  • So, Saudi Arabia thought that Qatar is trying to be anti sunni and pro- shia muslim.
  • As a result of Qatar there was an economic blockade, Qatar was basically cut off from the entire mainland. The 6 lacks Indian people living in Qatar were also affected.
  • So, that is why now talk about that if Qatar is isolated how does India basically interact with Qatar and if India continues to buy oil from Qatar what is the impact?

Saudi Arabia

  • It’s covered within above part involving Qatar.


  • U.S. president Donald Trump has unilaterally withdrawn from Iran. AND, he has given an ultimatum to all the allies and friends of U.S. that all countries dealing with Iran after the fallout of the Iran nuclear deal should reduce engagement with Iran basically by November 2018.
  • So, explain that this is a time ticking bomb for India how decides to reduce it’s imports from Iran.

Conclusion about Energy security & W.Asia

  • As I told you before, never abruptly end your answer. Answer has to be ended with a conclusion.
  • Conclusion is basically that considering that middle east is a very volatile area. India over a period of time has decided to diversify relationship of energy. So, today India buys oil not only from the middle east.
  • 20% of the oil that we buy comes from Africa. We buy a lot of oil even for that matter from Cuba, Venezuela, South East Asian countries like Brunei and Vietnam. So, you are concluding your answer on a futuristic note by mentioning that India is not only interested to buy oil from the middle east which remains very crucial for our energy security.
  • But we have adopted a policy of diversification to look at other players also who are interested to give us oil.

So, in this particular manner, you are able to answer this question very effectively.

In the next article, I’ll be covering sample questions with Direct words “DISCUSS” and “EXAMINE”.

About the author: Pavneet Singh

Book on International Relation Pavneet Singh

  • Pavneet Singh graduated with Honors in Political Science from Delhi University. He then followed it with an MBA from IMI, Belgium. Following the completion of his formal education, Pavneet sought to make a mark for himself in the field of the teaching for the UPSC Civil Services exam.
  • He has taught various subjects, including Political Science and Current Affairs for almost a decade now.  It is this expertise, earned through years of voracious reading and enriched through interactions with thousands of aspirants, that he brings to this textbook.
  • Since 2013, he has been associated with Vajiram & Ravi, India's premier institute for the civil services exam, at New Delhi. His area of expertise here has been International Relations.
  • Pavneet Singh has written a book titled ‘International Relation’. International Relations for Civil Services Examinations is an allencompassing manual on world politics, foreign policy and international relations that is a must-read for all UPSC candidates. The Book is available at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format.