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Evaluation of Mains Answers

Examiners manually evaluated mains sheets by one Head Examiner and many Additional Examiners. Sheets are coded with fictitious numbers before the evaluation starts. Head Examiner evaluates randomly sheets before the Examiner’s meeting. In meeting all the examiners discuss the papers and agree on standards and yardsticks to assess and evaluate the papers. Now, each additional examiner is handed a random answer booklet (that was already evaluated by the Head Examiner) for evaluation. Tentative marks are also awarded by the additional examiner. Then, the papers are scrutinized for totalling errors or other errors like missed portion for evaluation, etc., by the scrutiny staff. After this, the Head Examiner meets with each of the additional examiners and compares the evaluation with his own. Reconciliation of marks is done wherever necessary and the final marks are decided and awarded.

The evaluation should ideally be uniform after the above steps. Practically, personal feel for answers is there resulting in some examiners being strict and some being liberal. The Head Examiner re-examines a few UPSC Mains answer sheets that each additional examiner had examined, to guarantee uniformity . If an additional examiner’s evaluation is deemed too erratic, all sheets allocated to that examiner are re-examined by the Head Examiner or allocated to another examiner whose evaluation standards match the Head’s. Moderation is applied to each candidate based on the above steps. The scrutiny staff constantly checks for totalling errors, etc. Inter-examiner moderation is done to reduce subjectivity in the evaluation because of different examiners. Moderation is also done to reduce subjectivity due to the difference in the optional subjects. It is only after this step that the final marks are awarded to the candidates. In no stage of the evaluation process, the identity of the candidates is revealed.

Officially marking paramters are not provided to students. But from conjectures and experiences of those who have appeared in the mains and toppers, following can be said to be the parameters to evaluate mains answers.

  1. Precise answer - completing the demand of the question. Generally any question in mains consists of 2–3 parts. If you attempt each and every part of question then you can expect more than 50% of marks in that particular question.
  2. Highlighting what is important. Ex- while answering sub parts of the question, one may use some creativity like tree-diagrams, flow charts ,etc ( it saves valuable time ).
  3. Keywords - keywords play important role. I have heard it in some ex-IAS lecture that upsc provides list of keywords to invigilators. So it’s important that one should highlight whatever he/she feels might be a keyword.
  4. Answering the question within prescribed word limits.
  5. Positive conclusions to open ended questions. ( open ended questions are quite a trend which UPSC has been following in recent years)
  6. It’s important that you attempt maximum number of questions. I can’t suggest to attempt all the questions as I for one was not able to attempt all in previous two mains.

Deciding parameters is work of UPSC so let them worry about it . Through creative answer writing we can set the new parameters which UPSC will adopt eventually.


Learn the art and craft of Mains Writing with practical examples in exclusive Mains Answer writing lectures by bansal Sir .. Start your Journey



Do’s and Don'ts

  1. Do understand the question fully and correctly before contemplating an answer for it. Questions in the Mains examination come with certain directives like ‘discuss/ critically discuss’ etc and you should be able to grasp clearly what that particular directive is asking you to do. You should consult the accompanying table on various directives and their meanings for a proper appreciation of what the examiner is expecting from you in the answer. This is also the most basic and yet a very important skill that you should have for effective answer writing.
  2. Do develop a basic mental framework of the answer before actually committing anything to paper. This is a very crucial skill that you need to develop on a war footing. It should be that the moment you have read and understood a given question, you immediately start forming the structure for the answer in your mind. With practice, it becomes easier and easier to do this and if required, jot down (with a pencil) whatever you remember as and when you remember it. The last point is important because sometimes we tend to forget or we simply are unable to recall from memory at the very last minute (or while writing) which can drastically affect the quality of our answer.
  3. Don’t wait for the answer to come to you, instead force it out. It is important that you learn how to force an answer out of you. This is not something very hard to achieve. Think of it in this way. You are a serious aspirant and you have prepared considerably for the Mains examination and as a result you are in the possession of a considerable amount of information, facts, ideas etc. If time were not an issue you could contemplate generously before each and every sentence you write but within a given time limit you do not have such luxuries of time. For example, suppose you can recall only two points (fully) for an answer and you think you need at least four points for a complete answer. In such a case you should not waste time trying to recall all the points before attempting to answer and instead force yourself to write the answer with whatever information you’ve got. That way, without wasting time you give your best shot to the question.
  4. Don’t overstretch your imagination. UPSC requires that you have a good understanding of a given issue and that the same should be readily understandable when expressed. Thus, one should not slip into thoughts, ideas or arguments that are not absolutely necessary for writing a particular answer. Overbrooding and philosophizing may lead to confusion and as such it should be left out of Mains answer writing. Moreover, this can save you time and effort which can be used in answering other questions efficiently.


You need to have in your mind

  • The UPSC asks questions or establish tasks that will require the student to demonstrate command of essential knowledge in the subjective paper of its Main Examinations.  This means the UPSC is not looking at students to merely to reproduce material heard in a lecture or read in a textbook. To “demonstrate command” requires that the question be somewhat novel or new. The substance of the question should be essential knowledge rather than trivia that might be a good board game question.
  • They ask questions that are determinate, in the sense that experts (colleagues in the field) could agree that one answer is better than another. Questions that contain phrases such as “What do you think…” or “What is your opinion about…” are indeterminate, They can be used as a medium for assessing skill in written expression, but because they have no clearly right or wrong answer, they are useless for measuring other aspects or achievement. So, there are more chances that in the UPSC test you will find questions statement studded with world like Clarify, Classify, Compare and contrast,….Evaluate, Explain, Illustrate etc.
  • The UPSC want to define the your task as completely and specifically as possible without interfering with the measurement process itself. It is possible to word a subjective question so precisely that there is one and only one very brief answer to it. The imposition of such rigid bounds on the response is more limiting than it is helpful. It makes things a bit complicated for you as you have to judge how extensive the response must be to be considered complete and accurate.
  • The UPSC will generally give preference to specific questions that can be answered briefly. The more number of questions asked in the paper, the better the examiner can sample the domain of knowledge covered by the subjective paper. And the more responses available for scoring, the more accurate the total test scores are likely to be. Therefore, you may find some questions asking for responses as short as 100-word, whereas most of the questions would require 200-worlds responses. There are questions where you will have to write responses for 4-5 sub-questions in such a way that total world-limit to questions in 250 words only. This further limits the word-limit per sub-questions to 50-60 words only. In addition, brief responses can be scored more quickly and more accurately than long, extended responses, even when there are fewer of the latter type.
  • The UPSC Mains questions paper has enough subjective questions to sample the relevant content domain adequately, but not so many that students do not have sufficient time to plan, develop, and review their responses.
  • The UPSC avoid giving examinees a choice among optional questions unless special circumstances make such options necessary. The use of optional items destroys the strict comparability between student scores because not all students actually take the same test. Student A may have answered items 1-3 and Student B may have answered 3-5. In these circumstances the variability of scores is likely to be quite small because students were able to respond to items they knew more about and ignore items with which they were unfamiliar. This reduced variability contributes to reduced test score reliability. That is, we are less able to identify individual differences in achievement when the test scores form a very homogeneous distribution. In sum, optional items restrict score comparability between students and contribute to low score reliability due to reduced test score variability.
  • The UPSC generally tests the question by writing an ideal answer to it. An ideal response is needed eventually by the UPSC to score the responses of the test takers. It is generally prepared early, as it permits them a check on the wording of the questions, the level of completeness required for an ideal response, and the amount of time required furnishing a suitable response. It even allows the examiner to determine if there is any “correct” response to the question.
  • The UPSC specifies the time allotment for each item and/or specify the maximum number of points to be awarded for the “best” answer to the question. Both pieces of information provide guidance to the examinee about the depth of response expected by the item writer. They also represent legitimate pieces of information a student can use to decide which of several items should be omitted when time begins to run out. Often the number of points attached to the item reflects the number of essential parts to the ideal response. Of course if a definite number of essential parts can be determined, that number should be indicated as part of the question.
  • Wherever it can, the UPSC generally, divides a question into separate components when there are obvious multiple questions or pieces to the intended responses. The use of parts helps you organizationally and, hence, makes the process more efficient. It also makes the grading process easier because it encourages organization in the responses. Finally, if multiple questions are not identified, some students may inadvertently omit some parts, especially when time constraints are great.


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