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How to Prepare for Compulsory Indian Language Paper for UPSC Mains?

Aug 01, 2022

How to Prepare for Compulsory Indian Language Paper for UPSC Mains?

If preparing for the Compulsory Indian Langauge papers for UPSC Mains makes you nervous, then you need to read this blog post.

We have outlined a detailed preparation strategy for you to ace the language papers in the UPSC Mains exam.

According to the UPSC syllabus for the Mains exam, there are a total of 9 papers, out of which two are language papers. One is the Indian Language Paper or Paper A. The other is the English Language Paper or Paper B. 

For both these papers, which are qualifying in nature, the duration and total marks are the same:

Total Marks: 300

Exam Duration: 3 hours

We are going to take you through the best preparation strategy to attempt both these papers successfully. Let us first start with Paper B or the English Language Paper, and in the next half, we will go through a similar strategy for the Indian Language Paper or Paper B. 

Let’s begin. 

Preparation Strategy for UPSC Mains English Language Paper - Paper B

To clear this paper, you do not need to worry about writing top-notch English. The primary objective of the English language paper is to 

  • Assess your ability to read and understand serious descriptive prose. 
  • Assess your ability to express your ideas correctly. 

Moreover, as per the official UPSC notification, the standard of English asked in this paper is quite basic and simple. You only need to know the matriculation level of English, and you will easily pass this paper. 

Since it’s a qualifying paper, you only need to score 25% or 75 marks out of 300. This means its marks will not contribute to your final rank. 

Does that make you feel better? Great! 

You don’t need to dedicate a lot of time to this paper. However, you must work hard enough to pass without any problems. And that is where the preparation strategy comes in. 

We shall go through a detailed preparation strategy in this blog post. However, before that, let us look at the English Language Paper exam pattern according to the UPSC syllabus.

English Language Paper Exam Pattern

Comprehension of given passages75 Marks
Precis Writing75 Marks
Usage and Vocabulary 50 Marks
Short Essays 100 Marks

Now that we are done with the exam pattern, let us start with the preparation strategy to help you ace your English Language Paper.

Also, read Importance of Note-making in UPSC preparation

Preparation Strategy for UPSC Mains Compulsory English Langauge Paper -  Paper B

While you don’t have to be an English language expert to pass this paper, you will still need to work hard enough to understand the fundamentals of the English language. Only then will you be able to secure a passing mark and sail through the UPSC Mains exam. 

On the basis of the official UPSC syllabus, below is the strategy you will need to ace each section of the paper. 

Let’s start.

Comprehension of Given Passages Section (75 marks)

In the Reading Comprehension section, you will get five subjective questions along with one passage. To ace this section, you must take care of the following:

  • First, read the passage carefully and try to understand what it is about. 
  • Next, go through the questions given and then re-read the passage. Doing this will give you better clarity about how you can answer.
  • Mark the points or sentences you think are important, and then try to write the answers in your own words.
  • Do not use the same sentence from the passage under any circumstance. That will undermine your capability in the eyes of the examiner and create a negative impression. 
  • To get a better idea of how to attempt these questions, go through the Previous Year Questions (PYQs) and try to practice your reading comprehension from there. 

 Essay-Writing Section (100 marks)

This is what UPSC says about Essay Writing Section, 

Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will be expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay, to arrange their ideas in orderly fashion, and write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.

The best preparation strategy for essay writing is to practice. To polish your writing, read as many articles and essays as you can. 

First, structure your essay with a compelling introduction, main body, and a proper conclusion. You need to focus on having a flow and presenting a balanced view. Never criticize the government for the sake of it, and try to be neutral in your approach.

Since essay questions are often asked about current affairs, it is imperative to read newspapers daily (The Hindu/The Indian Express). Newspaper reading can be a daunting task. It requires an effective approach as mentioned in detail in this article, How to Read Newspaper for UPSC Civil Services Preparation?

For best results, try to approach your essay from different perspectives such as social, political, historical, ethical, environmental, etc. 

Precis Writing Section (75 marks)

Precis writing is summary writing of a given passage; this is a tough section for most aspirants. 

In this section, you have to summarise an essay of almost 1000 words into 1/3rd of its original size, which is generally the prescribed word limit. 

Compressing that many words, including all the essential points in your answer, and finishing it all within a given timeframe is a tough job indeed.

While writing Precis, you have to focus on the formula - Less is More! 

This is why you need a specific strategy to tackle this section of the paper. Below is a simple but effective strategy to attempt the Precis Section.

  • First, read the passage carefully to understand all the core ideas mentioned. 
  • Then, list out those core ideas in the form of single sentences. 
  • Next, prepare a rough draft with all the core ideas.
  • The last step is to refine it and check your answer before moving on to the next question.

To make the best use of the word limit, limit the use of articles such as a, an the, and the use of prepositions like on, at, and in. 

Usage and Vocabulary Section (50 Marks)

To attempt this section successfully, you will need to improve your conceptual understanding of the English language. 

In this section, you will find questions like

  • Fill in the blanks
  • Rewriting sentences
  • Writing sentences using phrases
  • Using the correct form of verbs
  • Correcting wrong sentences
  • Writing sentences as instructed
  • Synonyms/Antonyms

To improve conceptual understanding, you can refer to standard books like Wren and Martin and practice grammar-based questions in test series, Previous Year Questions (PYQs), and QBanks. 

However, the best method is a combination of reading books and practicing grammar-based questions regularly. 

And of course, reading the newspaper will also help. Pay special attention to the language used in the papers along with the news. 

That is all you need to know about how to tackle the Compulsory English Language Paper in your UPSC Mains exam. 

Follow the tips given above for the best results. 

Since we are done with Paper B, let us move on to Paper A or the Indian Language Paper. 

Also read: How to Write Good Quality Answers for UPSC Mains? 

Preparation Strategy for UPSC Mains Compulsory Indian Langauge Paper - Paper A

In the paragraphs below, we shall go through the current exam pattern and the best preparation strategy that shall help you ace the UPSC Mains exam. 

Let’s proceed. 

According to the UPSC syllabus, in Paper A, you will be tested on your reading, writing, and comprehension skills with regard to any one of the official languages listed under the 8th Schedule of the constitution of India. 

Before we move on to the preparation strategy, let us quickly go over the exam pattern of Paper A and the list of Indian languages allowed by the UPSC for this paper.   

Indian Language Paper Exam Pattern

Comprehension of given passages60 
Precis Writing60
Usage and Vocabulary40
Short Essays100
Translation from English to the Indian Language and vice versa40

The translation section can be divided into two parts:

Part Marks
Translating English to the chosen compulsory language20
Translating the chosen compulsory Indian language to English20

The eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution lists the country's official languages. Although there are hundreds of different languages spoken, the list recognizes only 22 languages as official. 

The UPSC allows all candidates to write the UPSC Mains exam Paper A in any of these listed languages as per their choice. 

But before we move on to the list, here is something you might be interested in watching.

Check out this video of our Legends of LBSNAA series, where India’s top bureaucrats share useful tips on cracking the UPSC CSE exam and insights on what life looks like after becoming a Civil Servant.

Did you watch the video? Are you feeling motivated? Great! Let’s keep going. 

List of Indian Languages Allowed for UPSC Mains exam

As mentioned in the UPSC syllabus, given below is the list of languages you can choose from and the corresponding scripts in which you have to write your answers. 

Please note that Indian Language Paper is not compulsory for you if you are a candidate from Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram,  Nagaland, or Sikkim.

1.  AssameseAssamese
2.  BengaliBengali
3.  GujaratiGujarati
4.  HindiDevanagari
5.  KannadaKannada
6.  KashmiriPersian
7.  KonkaniDevanagari
8.  MalayalamMalayalam
9.  ManipuriBengali
10.  MarathiDevanagari
11.  NepaliDevanagari
12.  OdiyaOdiya
13.  PunjabiGurumukhi
14.  SanskritDevanagari
15.  SindhiDevanagari or Arabic
16.  TamilTamil
17.  TeluguTelugu
18.  UrduPersian
19.  BodoDevanagari
20.  DogriDevanagari
21.  MaithiliDevanagari
22.  SanthaliDevanagari or Olchiki

For the Santhali language, the question paper will be in the Devanagari script, but you are free to write your answers in either Devanagari or Olchiki script. 

As per the UPSC syllabus, you can choose any of these languages to write your paper. And that brings us to the preparation strategy part for Paper A. 

Here is what your strategy for the Indian Language Paper should look like. 

Indian Language Paper Strategy for UPSC Mains 

The Indian Language Paper for UPSC Mains or Paper A is almost similar to English Language Paper except for the translation and the vocabulary-based sections. 

Given below are a few tips to help you tackle the Indian Language Paper, no matter which language you choose. 

Practice to Qualify 

This is not advice to study less for the language paper but to keep in mind that this paper is only qualifying in nature. Therefore, you should not compromise on your core subject preparation while studying for the language paper.

Select a Comfortable Language

The questions asked in this paper are of the matriculation standard or equivalent. So choose the language you are most comfortable in, preferably one you have studied in school. 

According to the UPSC syllabus, CBSE-level books up to Class X standard will suffice while preparing for this paper. 

Read Vernacular Newspapers

Read a vernacular newspaper of your chosen language and add this to your daily newspaper routine.

This will enhance your Indian language paper preparation and help you better understand the language. You can also try writing a small essay immediately after reading the paper for writing practice. 

Avoid Literal Translations

In the translation section, you will be required to translate from your chosen language to English and vice versa. 

While doing this, avoid literal translations. By that, we mean word-by-word translations as they can destroy the original meaning of the sentence or the essay and cost you precious marks. 

Practice Writing

If you choose your native language, chances are you are out of touch with it as everything is taught in English these days.

To get back in touch, practice writing every day in your chosen language. Writing is your best chance to ace this paper and avoid spelling mistakes. 

And with that, we have come to the end of this blog post. 

If you have noticed, writing practice is the most important tip to ace both Paper A and B. For this, you need access to high-quality study material and awesome test series. 

The UPSC Mains 2022 exam is just days away, and during this time, your prime focus should be on regular writing practice is you truly want to master the USPC syllabus before the Mains exam.

Download the PrepLadder App now, if you have not already, and access high-quality, industry-leading test series and mock tests. These will take your preparation to the next level. 

In addition, you will find everything you need to crack the IAS exam in the UPSC-GS Dream Pack. It includes concise, effective, and well-planned video lectures by the Dream Team comprising India’s top UPSC faculties, NCERT Summary,  high-yield QBank, highly competitive PrepTests based on the latest exam pattern, and PYQs in the form of tests, and much more. 

Keep following our articles and Telegram channelto keep yourself updated with the latest information about the exam.  

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Arindam Goswami

Arindam is a Content Marketer who looks after the Medical Super Specialty segment, specifically the NEET SS category, at PrepLadder. He aims to help aspirants crack exams and realize their dreams through his work.