Answer Writing Chapter 2: Understanding the Question

March 26, 2022

It is not uncommon to see that aspirants are not able to understand the questions. There can be a few reasons for this: 

  1. You are not aware about that particular topic.
    • Sometimes, you are a bit familiar but don’t know much about the topic asked in the question. Sometimes, you know where the question is from but you have not studied that portion from that part of the syllabus or missed that topic. Or maybe you are vaguely aware of it.
    • In these situations, try to understand the broader context of the question and answer from that broader perspective only. This is because you are not too familiar, therefore it is best to just write an average answer without much details.
  2. You are not able to understand what exactly is question asking.
    • Sometimes the question itself is framed in a statement form that it becomes difficult to decipher it entirely. This trend has reduced in recent years. In 2021, pretty much straight forward questions were asked.
    • However, I will still show you some questions along those lines.  

For understanding the question, you need to follow these steps: 

  1. First, look out for the keywords of the question first. These are the main concepts that are asked in the question. These will give you a hint about what you have to answer. 
  2. Second, underline these keywords in the question paper so as to focus on them while thinking about the answer. 
  3. Third, If the question is long, divide it into small parts and try to decipher these smaller parts. Then it will become easier to understand the entire question if you understand the smaller parts first. 
  4. Fourth, try to recall from which part of syllabus the question has been asked. Sometimes, you might draw a blank at the first reading of the question. But reading it quickly 3-4 times will help. 

Let’s decipher this with an example

In question number 11, it can be slightly confusing, what UPSC is asking. How will I read and understand this question in order to answer it to the point?

First, I will see the keywords. These are the main concepts that are asked in the question. These will give you a hint about what you have to answer. 

Here the keywords are CBI, its powers in states, and federal character of India. 

Therefore, it is clear from reading these keywords that UPSC is asking question about CBI and its powers in our federal structure. 

If you still don’t understand the question, further divide it into small parts and read and try to understand each part. Do it over and over again. Don’t give up in first two times. Try four five times and eventually you will start getting a hold of such questions. 

Now try this technique I just told you on the next question 12. 

In this question, it is not as confusing as the first one. If you read the question in parts, here, UPSC Is asking a question about Human Rights commission. UPSC has asked about practical and structural limitations of Human Rights Commission. That’s it. You just have to write about those two major points.

I have seen many aspirants trying to write something about the first two sentences given in the question. That’s not really needed. You can completely ignore that part and just focus on answering what are the practical and structural limitations of HRC. If you try to somehow provide a context from current affairs based on the first opening statement of this question, it will become almost impossible to answer it within the word limit and you won’t do justice to the body of the question.

So, why don’t you try answering the second question in the comments!