First and foremost, it is the — content. What you write in the answer, your words, the information you put down, and the analysis you build around it (when needed), matters the most.
Nothing but good content makes for a perfect answer for UPSC. Even if you don’t have the diagrams, the drawings, the underlines or anything. If the answer is made up of really good content, it is going to get marks. Because UPSC evaluates the quality of your content and not much else.
Presentation — Diagrams, underlining, tables etc. have a minor role to play
Of course, using diagrams, underlining etc. helps to present your answer in a better way. They might also help you get 1-2 marks extra in the answers. But only if your answer has good content first.
The presentation helps in improving how the examiner is able to swift through your answers. However, if the presentation is really good but the content is sub-optimal, you will not get the marks. If the content is good but the presentation is sub-optimal, you will still get good marks.
Therefore, if you are trying to put in too much time into presentation instead of content, you are not on the right path. You should focus first on mastering various topics of the syllabus so that you can write good content in the answers. Later, you can learn from this book how to present your answer to get those extra marks in your answers.
The question arises, what is good content? What all points should we cover to make our answer such that it gets good marks?
Here are a few things that make the answer good (content wise):
- Your answer must showcase your understanding of the question asked by UPSC: (in short: answer what has been asked, don’t beat around the bush)
The first most important thing is about answering what has been asked in the question. Aspirants who might not be aware of the topic asked, might not be able to write well on it. Therefore, it is important that you first cover the static and current affairs topics and then work on your answer writing to master it.
For example, 2021 paper had this question in GS 3:
Distinguish between Capital Budget and Revenue Budget. Explain the components of both these budgets. (150 words) 10 marks
In the question, the examiner is asking you two straight-forward questions:
(1) the difference between Capital Budget and Revenue Budget, you must know the basic difference between these two in order to get marks.
(2) Components of these two.
You cannot possibly expect to just write ‘anything’ when it comes to this very specific concepts like ‘capital budget’ and ‘revenue budget’ and get marks. It is simply not going to happen.
Therefore, have your basic concepts clear first. When the question is asked about these concepts, answer them clearly, in a crisp and simple manner. Get straight to the point without much circling around.
Here is how I would answer this question. Note, that I will be to the point, not beating around the bush. I will use simple language, easy to understand words, and also use some keywords.
Budget can be defined as a financial statement which provides for yearly estimated receipts and expenditures of the government.
Following are the components and differences between revenue and capital budget:
|Capital Budget||Revenue Budget|
|1. Capital budget can be defined as budget that accounts for expenditures that are fixed and one time in nature.||1. Revenue budget can be defined as budget that accounts for expenditures that are recurring or regular in nature.|
|2. This accounts for government’s estimated capital receipts and capital expenditure.||2. This accounts for estimated revenue receipts and revenue expenditure.|
|3. Two components of Capital budget are capital receipts and capital expenditures.||4. Two components of Revenue budget are revenue receipts and revenue expenditures.|
|5. Capital receipts include market borrowing of debt etc. 6. Capital expenditure is the expenditure of the government which creates assets· For example: it includes spending on defence equipment, roads, school builds etc.||6. Revenue receipts include tax revenues such as income tax, GST and non-tax revenue like interest etc.– Taxes are the highest portion of revenue receipts7. Revenue expenditures include regular expenses of government. · For example: spending on salaries of officers, repairs of buildings etc.|
Note: No conclusion is really needed here.
Here, note that presentation in a table format makes it much easier for the examiner to quickly check this question.
However, if I had not written the points I have given in this answer, would I still have got marks? Definitely not!
Because, capital and revenue budget have a very specific definition and components and you should know them. Then only can you answer the question. On the other hand, if you had not written this question in table format but still provided the same content as above, you would still get good marks for knowing the content and the topics asked by the question.
Not all questions in UPSC are created equal!
The above is a simple example, however UPSC often asks difficult questions where knowing exactly what has been asked also becomes a challenge.
This question will need you to give it a couple of readings, understand all the components it is asking and then attempt it. Hence, not all questions are straight forward, and you will need good reading skill to interpret these kinds of questions.
I will discuss the above kind of question and how to understand and solve it in the future post in the second chapter.