UPSC Civil Service Mains: Follow these 7 techniques to score better in GS papers

UPSC CSE Mains 2022: The main exams of UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE) 2022 will begin on September 16. No matter how many hours you have spent with study materials till now, scoring high marks in the main examination will depend on how smartly you can express your absorbed learnings on paper.

The official notification of CSE says the main exam intends to ‘assess the overall intellectual traits and depth of understanding of candidates.’ However, reflecting the depth of understanding of a given topic in answer sheets could be tricky, especially in General Studies (GS) papers that include many topics. Aspirants are also constrained by time and word limits.


Given the significance of GS marks in CSE, you should incorporate innovations in your writing to ensure that answers are smartly conveying the depth of understanding of a given issue. Here are seven tricks that you can use to increase GS mains marks.

Draw diagrams only in the non-core part of the question: Directives like discuss, explain and examine form the core part of a question, which you can address through pointers. You should use diagrams only for the non-core part of the question. For example, despite the issues faced by investors, India witnessed the fastest growth in the FDI inflows among all the major economies amid the pandemic. In light of this, examine the factors driving the FDI in India.

In the above question, the directive "examine" is the core part of the question, while the first statement is the non-core part.


Use the PESTLE approach: For certain types of questions, you can use the PESTLE approach. It means analyzing an issue through various angles such as Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal, and Environmental (PESTLE). You can use this approach in questions having specific keywords like reasons, implications, importance, significance, effects, impact, and consequences.

Take a middle ground: Neutrality and objectivity are critical intellectual traits for bureaucrats. You should always reflect it in answers by taking the middle ground. For instance, if a question demands an analysis of a certain government scheme, you can’t write against it or go overboard in its praise because no policy is a magic bullet. There are always some positive and negative aspects of a scheme. Therefore, you should always conclude by saying, " While this policy is a step in the right direction, it needs to be further supplemented by reforms."

Write shorter points, cover maximum dimensions


As mentioned earlier, the CSE Main exam intends to test the depth of your understanding. You can display this by covering the maximum dimensions of a topic. Simultaneously, it is also essential to keep your answers crisp and clear. For example, if a question wants you to discuss a particular issue, you will always fetch more marks by writing six small points instead of three lengthy points in the form of long paragraphs.

Use the box to highlight innovative points or phrases

While explaining a topic, you can draw a box highlighting important points or phrases like stigmatized capitalism, premature deindustrialization, race to the bottom, debt trap diplomacy, wolf warrior diplomacy, and advancing prosperity and influence. Drawing a box and explaining make your content more readable and easier to understand by the checker.

Add case studies and real-life examples

Adding case studies or real-life examples gives more depth to an answer while conveying to the

examiner that you have a comprehensive understanding of the topic. Real-life examples also reflect that your intellectual trait transcends information and memory, a vital judgment criterion in

UPSC CSE Mains. Therefore, wherever possible, you should start an answer with an important report, survey, data, or index.

Ensure sub-headings align with the key demand of the question

Subheadings should reflect the key demands of the question. For instance, the model of direct cash transfers to farmers may be more popular and politically rewarding, but it is unlikely to solve the crisis in agriculture. Examine. In the question mentioned above, many aspirants will mention the pros and cons of the direct cash transfer scheme. However, this will fetch average marks. Instead, two relevant sub-headings in this question can be stated as follows:

– Why is the model of direct cash transfer to farmers more popular and politically rewarding?

– Why is it unlikely to solve the crisis in agriculture?

UPSC CSE mains are designed to assess your mental and intellectual abilities, which would define your decision-making strength as a potential bureaucrat in the future. A step towards making your understanding manifest on paper rather than basic knowledge will always give you an edge and fetch you relatively higher marks.