Mains Practice Questions


Total Questions: 8

Write an Essay on the following topic not less than 1000-1200 words
Thinking is like a game, it does not begin unless there is an opposite team (UPSC CSE Mains ESSAY 2023)
*Note: These are model answers only, to give you an idea on how to approach the topic
You can have the following Introduction in your answer with a probable Quote of a famous Personality which would be relevant 
"Change your thoughts and you change your world." - Norman Vincent Peale
Thinking is a fundamental human activity that shapes our perceptions, decisions, and actions. It is a process that encompasses a wide range of cognitive activities, from problem-solving and critical analysis to creative ideation and introspection. Like a game, thinking thrives on opposition, contention, and the interplay of contrasting ideas. This essay explores the idea that thinking, much like a game, is most fruitful when it involves opposing perspectives, conflicting viewpoints, and intellectual challenges. We will delve into the dynamics of this mental game, the importance of opposing teams in shaping our thoughts, and how this concept is reflected in various aspects of human life.
You may incorporate the following into your Essay
"The mind is everything. What you think you become." - Buddha

I. The Nature of Thinking :

Thinking is an intricate cognitive process that involves the manipulation of information, concepts, and ideas within the mind. It is a dynamic activity that serves various purposes, such as problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, and learning. At its core, thinking is a game played within the confines of our own minds, but it gains depth and richness when it encounters opposition.

  1. Intrapersonal Thinking: Before we delve into the role of opposition in thinking, it is important to recognize that thinking often begins as an intrapersonal activity. We ponder our experiences, emotions, memories, and beliefs in solitude. This form of thinking is like practicing alone before joining a team.

  2. Interpersonal Thinking: However, thinking does not remain confined within individual minds. It evolves when we engage in discussions, debates, and dialogues with others. This interpersonal thinking is where opposing teams come into play.

II. The Role of Opposition in Thinking :

Thinking is not a solitary endeavor; it thrives when it encounters opposing ideas, viewpoints, and perspectives. Opposition serves as a catalyst for critical thinking, forcing us to question assumptions, refine our arguments, and consider alternative viewpoints. Here are some key aspects of the role of opposition in thinking:

  1. Critical Thinking: Opposing viewpoints challenge us to engage in critical thinking. When we encounter opposing arguments, we are compelled to evaluate the validity and reliability of our own ideas. This critical examination leads to a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

  2. Divergent Thinking: Divergent thinking, an essential aspect of creativity, flourishes in the presence of opposing ideas. When we encounter opposing viewpoints, it prompts us to think beyond conventional boundaries, fostering creative and innovative solutions.

  3. Conflict and Resolution: Thinking as a game often involves conflict, but this conflict can lead to resolution and progress. Through debate and discussion, opposing teams aim to arrive at a consensus or find a middle ground, which is often a more robust and nuanced perspective.

  4. Broadening Perspectives: Engaging with opposing teams broadens our perspectives. It allows us to see issues from multiple angles, fostering empathy and a deeper appreciation of the complexity of human thought and experience.

III. Thinking and Opposing Teams in Society :

The concept of opposing teams in thinking is not limited to individual cognition; it extends to various aspects of society, where diverse perspectives and ideologies interact and shape collective thought and action.

  1. Democracy: Democracy is a prime example of how opposing teams play a crucial role in shaping governance and policy. Political parties with differing ideologies provide voters with choices, and the ensuing debate and competition lead to well-informed decisions.

  2. Science and Innovation: Scientific progress relies on the clash of opposing hypotheses and theories. The scientific community thrives on peer review, where scientists challenge each other's findings and ideas, leading to more accurate and reliable knowledge.

  3. Education: Education systems that encourage critical thinking and debate create environments where young minds learn to appreciate opposing viewpoints. This prepares students to navigate the complexities of the real world.

  4. Media and Journalism: In the realm of media and journalism, opposing teams represent different perspectives and editorial stances. A diversity of voices allows the public to access a broader spectrum of information and make informed judgments.

IV. Challenges and Benefits of Opposition in Thinking :

While opposing teams are vital for fruitful thinking, they also pose challenges and potential pitfalls. It is essential to strike a balance between constructive opposition and unproductive conflict.

  1. Confirmation Bias: One challenge is confirmation bias, where individuals tend to favor information that supports their existing beliefs. Opposition can sometimes reinforce these biases if not approached with an open mind.

  2. Polarization: In some cases, opposing teams can lead to polarization and extremism, where individuals become entrenched in their positions and unwilling to consider alternative viewpoints.

  3. Constructive Dialogue: Encouraging constructive dialogue and respectful disagreement is key to reaping the benefits of opposition in thinking. It requires effective communication skills, empathy, and a willingness to listen.

  4. Critical Thinking Education: Promoting critical thinking education can help individuals navigate the complexities of opposing teams in thinking. Schools and institutions can teach the art of critical analysis and open-mindedness.

Conclusion has to be balanced which would give a nice impression

Thinking, as the essence of human cognition, is indeed like a game, and it thrives when there is an opposite team. Opposition in thinking challenges our intellect, fosters creativity, and leads to more informed decisions. It is a dynamic interplay of ideas and perspectives that shapes not only our individual thoughts but also the collective consciousness of society.

However, for this intellectual game to be productive, it requires a commitment to open-mindedness, constructive dialogue, and the willingness to entertain opposing viewpoints. As we engage in this mental game of thinking, we must remember that the true victory lies not in defeating the opposing team but in arriving at a deeper understanding of the complex world in which we live.

In the grand theater of human thought, opposing teams are the actors that bring depth and dimension to the drama of our intellectual pursuits. In embracing this concept, we can unlock the full potential of our minds and, collectively, build a more enlightened and progressive society.

"Thinking is difficult, that's why most people judge." - Carl Jung

(essay - general-studies-4 ) 17-Sep 2023

Charu, a mother of a five-year-old daughter, was desperately struggling to cope with the unimaginable and most unwelcome crisis of the pandemic. She is a spiritual lady but the virus has shattered all the defense that created for herself to cope. Even after the pandemic situation has eased down, Charu has not been able to come out of the trauma. She locks herself with the child on the terrace of her house. Her family and friends are worried.

The family gives you a call. You have been Charu’s role model since the very beginning. In all her hardships, she has followed your path of advice. Even when she doesn’t ask for help it is expected of you to reach out to her.

(a) What will the basis of your line of explanation be to her?

(b) What can be the ways taken to take care of one’s mental and emotional well-being?



There can be many ways to start a case study. One of the ways that a candidate may choose is by putting forward general statement revolving around the issue. For example:


In a situation, such as mentioned in the case study, in which there may not be a significant threat, a person can still experience anxiety and apprehension about contracting COVID-19 again.

An illness-related anxiety can significantly impact the life of any individual. If a person’s quality of life and functionality are getting affected, seeking help at the earliest is important. The support of those who surround you is critical in such situations.

(a) What will the basis of your line of explanation be to her?

You may focus on three points.

1. Spirituality

2. Philosophy

3. Being a mother, her responsibilities

(You are is limited to immediately pacify, before a necessary mental help counselling.)

There is something about psychology and spirituality; where one ends, the other loops in, like an infinity band, dynamic, rotating swiftly showing you the meaning you choose to see. The union of a spiritual attitude and rational perception can be a very powerful tool in dealing with this crisis or any that comes our way.

Basis of explanationWhy
Be cautiousBut not anxious. What is the difference? Where anxiety paralyses us, caution prepares us and makes us functional. Treasure the former, as “thinking caution” is connected with functionality and helps us focus on achievable action.


To do something productive, to act and contribute is the ultimate therapy for a restless mind. Caution during a challenge is a strength. So act with caution. A watched pot never boils!

Be courageousStart with a deep breath in and a strong breath out that means business. Pull your shoulders back, chin up and eyes focussed on how to face the challenge in front of you.


Win or lose, you know this will be over soon and you will have given it a fair shot. Courage is not just being brave to fight, it also means having the humility to recognise my mistakes. To say I was wrong needs courage. To be hopeful and keep trying means courage. To make small changes and adapt needs courage. To make sacrifices needs courage.

Through the coronavirus pandemic, what nature is really asking of us, is to be courageous enough to change our ways, to respect resources and the gift of human kind and to stop taking it for granted.

Be consciousBeing conscious means being aware. Be quick to respond to the needs of the environment. Listen, adapt and adjust!


Being conscious in our thought, emotions and actions is a very difficult feat to achieve.

Being conscious also means listening. Truly listen to yourself and your loved ones around you.

Be rationalIt is so natural and normal for us to be taken over by despair during a crisis. A voice that chatters within us non-stop, talks “Doomsday” and the fight or flight response makes us anxious one moment, our hearts full of sorrow the next and angry the very next, taking us on an emotional roller coaster!


It’s a talk within us that just refuses to quieten down. Believe me, you are not the only one who struggles with this.

One of the ways to beat this is with rationality. The voices you have are yours and you can exercise control over these thoughts. You can ask if what I’m thinking is fact or fiction, is it an exaggeration, how can I really be sure of what I’m assuming, etc.

Have faithSee faith as a belief, a conviction, a devotion and a love for that which is stronger than us. That which resides in each one us, causes the crisis, sustains it, manages it, cures it, or makes us succumb to it.


That which is the only permanent companion of yours, in sickness or in health, in yesterday’s grey, today’s darkness and tomorrow’s sunshine is faith.


(b) What ways can be taken to take care of one’s mental and emotional well-being?

This is a general question that requires basic points in your answer. Such as,

(1) Build a good support system: Surround yourself with those who share accurate information, are calm and considerate in the ways in which they respond to your experiences.

(2) Actively relook at and reframe negative thoughts: It is important to move away from your tunnel vision where the focus is only on those aspects which confirm your beliefs.

(3) Try to ensure that the avoidance of feared situations is averted. Avoidance tends to increase anxiousness.

(4) Focus on maintaining routines and encourage yourself to engage in daily tasks and chores and steadily build on the same over time.

(5) Talk to experts to get the right information, gain an understanding of what is happening, actively work towards modifying your thoughts and beliefs and taking care of your well-being. Break down anxiety-provoking activities into smaller steps like stepping out into social spaces.


You may concluded by quoting something on ‘crisis management’ or why you need to act responsibly.


Suggestion1:  Do not miss to highlight that eventually a mental health counselor will be required

Suggestion 2:  You can have different methods, ways, and styles to answer a case study. 


(mains - general-studies-4 ) 01-Jul 2023
It is often believed that in India faith rules, and rationalism is a western stereotype. Do you agree?
For starters, you may begin simply by defining rationalism or you may start with a quote and directly bring it to the Indian context. For example:

Immanuel Kant wrote in Critique of Pure Reason: “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.” 

According to, “It is the quality of being based on clear thought and reason, or of making decisions based on clear thought and reason.”

Even in the Indian tradition, rationalists and sceptics have held out for scientific ideas since at least the 6th century BC.



Your body must contain examples to support your stand which you have made clear in the introduction. The best way will be to base it on Indian Philosophy and various schools of thought. You may pick some of the following examples:


Ajita Kesakambalin, a contemporary of the Buddha, was the earliest known teacher of complete materialism. He is considered the forerunner of the philosophical tradition of the Charvakas, who privileged direct perception, empiricism and scepticism over Vedic ritualism.

The original texts of the Charvakas have not survived, but references to their rationalist tradition is found in Buddhist and Jain works. The Buddha himself cautioned against accepting “what has been acquired by repeated hearing”, and encouraged contemplation and independent thinking.

Within the wider Brahminical tradition, shades of opinion prevailed between the Brahmanas and the Shramanas, and many found their beliefs in the middle. The relationship between the two extremes was characterised as that between the “snake and the mongoose”, suggesting frequent philosophical debates and struggles.

Debiprasad Chattopadhyay, who has chronicled the history of philosophy and science in India, has mentioned one Uddalaka Aruni in the Chhandogya Upanishad, who speaks of the importance observing phenomena that take place before the eyes, and not supernatural phenomena — the very essence of rationalism.

Let’s take Maharashtra as an example. The region that is now Maharashtra has a long history of radical thought that challenged several ideas embedded in the caste hierarchies of the Brahminical Hindu religion. It was here that Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism, and the Republican parties carry forward his legacy in their own ways. Jyotiba Phule and Savitri Phule rejected caste and gender inequalities. The first recorded reservation in educational institutes for backward castes was instituted in Maharashtra by Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur (1894-1922).

But Maharashtra was not the only state which saw vibrant social reform. Narayana Guru in Kerala and E V Ramasamy Naicker ‘Periyar’ in Tamil Nadu were early advocates of progress. The Self-Respect movement in Tamil Nadu, and the Left movements in Kerala and West Bengal made a strong case for rationalism and egalitarianism, and rejected blind faith. In the early modern period in Bengal, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and the Brahmo Samaj led the charge against regressive tradition.

Article 51A(H) of the Constitution of India gives a call “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform”.

The leaders of the national movement hoped that the lofty ideals of the emerging Indian state would encourage a modern and progressive outlook. Privileging a civic idea of the nation over blood or faith, caste or creed, would be vital to keep a diverse and unequal country together, they believed.



Your conclusion can be a general statement in the present day context. For example

Covid times: It was natural and normal for us to be taken over by despair during covid crisis. A voice that chattered within us non-stop, talked “Doomsday” and the fight or flight response made us anxious one moment, our hearts full of sorrow the next and angry the very next, taking us on an emotional rollercoaster! It was talk within us that just refused to quieten down. One of the ways to beat it was ‘rationality’ rooted in our Indian tradition and practices, not any western stereotype




(mains - general-studies-4 ) 01-Jul 2023
Swami Vivekananda’s thought is as relevant to India’s future as it was in its past. Discuss.
You may either begin with a general historical fact or with a philosophical line. You may also connect it to youth (future) by the following fact:

Swami Vivekananda is the inspiration behind National Youth Day. In just 39 years, 14 of which were in public life, he filled the country with a thought whose energy is still felt today. Generations to come will continue to feel this energy.
This is an open-ended question but it is expected for you to have some historical and philosophical information. You may incorporate some of the following points in the body of your answer: 
One of India’s most important resources is the youth. Every fifth young person in the world is an Indian. It is due to this segment of the population that India’s growth rate has been the third-highest among the 13 major economies in the last five years. After the COVID-19 pandemic, India has emerged as a country that is full of possibilities in the race for development. Those among the youth who are associated with Swami Vivekananda’s ideas are preparing India for a leadership role on the world stage.

“Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached.” This mantra of Vivekananda is as effective, relevant, and inspiring today as it was in the days of colonialism. Now, India is ready to be a global leader. With the power of yoga and the energy that comes from spirituality, the youth of the country are impatient about giving direction to the world.

Swami Vivekananda’s lessons still inspire the youth: “Make a life’s aim and incorporate that idea into your life…. Think that thought over and over again. Dream it, Live it… that is the secret to being successful.” His mantra for the youth is evergreen: “Until you can trust yourself, you cannot trust Allah or God.” If we are not able to see God in other humans and ourselves, then where can we go to find divinity? 
Vivekananda caught the world’s attention with his ideas in Chicago in 1893. A speech like the one he made then could not be made today. The themes in that speech included “Vishwabandhutva”, tolerance, cooperativeness, participation, religion, culture, nation, nationalism, and the collective India-Indianness.

At the Parliament of World Religions, Vivekananda said he is “from that Hindustan, which gives shelter to persecuted people from all religions and countries”. 

He addressed the Parliament of World Religions as: “American brothers and sisters”. The eternal message of universal brotherhood was clear in his speech. The New York Herald wrote: “Hearing him (Swami Vivekananda) seems that sending a Christian missionary to a knowledgeable nation like India is foolish. Even if he only passes through the stage, the applause starts.”

Swami Vivekananda taught the world that it is our duty to encourage all those doing good so that they can make their dreams come true. His vision also gave rise to the idea of Antyodaya. Until the upliftment of the last poor person in the country is ensured, development is meaningless, he said.

Swami Vivekananda’s belief in God is tied to every religion. His idea of charity is at the root of Sanatan Dharma. The Charity was a way of life for him. For Vivekananda, it was important to connect everyone with this way of life. He said, “The more we come to help and help others, the more pure our heart becomes. Such people are like God.”
Vivekananda’s legacy

Through his speeches and lectures, Vivekananda worked to disseminate his religious thought. He preached ‘neo-Vedanta’, an interpretation of Hinduism through a Western lens, and believed in combining spirituality with material progress.

‘Raja Yoga’, ‘Jnana Yoga’, ‘Karma Yoga’ are some of the books he wrote.
Before his death in 1902, Vivekananda wrote to a Western follower: “It may be that I shall find it good to get outside my body, to cast it off like a worn out garment. 
But I shall not cease to work. I shall inspire men everywhere until the whole world shall know that it is one with God.”


Connect back to the question. For example:

Swami Vivekananda combined thinking of different religions, communities, and traditions. His thoughts inspire liberation from inertia. His ideas remain fresh and relevant for the present and for the future. 
(mains - general-studies-4 ) 15-Jun 2023
Rashmi is assigned to teach Environmental Science in a Government High School in an industrial town. This is her first job. Rashmi believes in helping students to understand the syllabus of Science but also making them learn how these issues of Science are connected to Science in their society and community.
While teaching the topic related to human effects on climate change, Rashmi reached a point of discussing the impacts of industrialization on the Environment and Climate change stressing negative pointers. It wasn’t directly mentioned in the syllabus. Many of the students belonged to the families of workers in the industries and factories of that town. Rashmi felt some unease from the side of the students while discussing the topic. This was confirmed when many of the parents complained about her to the Principal for disrespecting the industries which get bread and butter for them. The Principal calls for an explanation from Rashmi.
(a) What is the issue being addressed in the case?
(b) What should be highlighted in the explanation by Rashmi?
(c) If you were the Principal what would be your action? Justify. 
There can be many ways to start a case study. You may begin with a general statement that the case study highlights and then you may list down some of the stakeholders. Make sure the introduction should not be the same as the answer to part (a). For example:

The case explores the tensions a teacher, in her first job, faces in teaching a topic of impacts of industrialization on the Environment and Climate change to students belonging to the community who work in the industries of that town.
(a) This part allows you to list down issues that may be between the lines. You may consider writing the following points:
This case directly highlights the consequences that can be faced while dealing with an issue sensitive to the communities.
How should the values of the local community guide one’s actions and decisions? And you may then briefly explain some key pointers from the case study which support your answer.
(b) While answering this part, use point format. You may ponder on some of the following points:
1. The role of a true teacher.
2. Duty without bias.
3. The teacher’s challenges with modern problems. Why are efforts to impart the reality of climate change important whether or not it is in the syllabus?
(Add your points.)
(c) As a Principal, you are not only in charge of the school but also a leader for teachers and a guardian at school for students. It is a test of your (Principal’s) leadership qualities. Some of the following statements can help you in deciding your questions. 
This is her first job. 
How important is this fact for the
Many of the students belonged to the families of workers in the industries and factories of that town.  Should teaching be affected by this
Rashmi reached a point of discussing the impacts of industrialization on the Environment and Climate change stressing negative pointers. It wasn’t directly mentioned in the syllabus.   Is she right in taking up this topic?
Should the Principal talk to her about
dealing with sensitive topics? 
It was confirmed when many of the parents
complained about her to the Principal for
disrespecting the industries which get bread and butter for them. 
How should this fact affect the action
of the Principal?
The above questions will act as a blueprint for your answer. Think about the course of action considering all dimensions and stakeholders.
You may conclude by stating a line on teaching ethics and the Principal’s role as a leader. 
(mains - general-studies-4 ) 15-Jun 2023
What is the Code of Conduct for the Civil Servants? Discuss the role of the code of conduct for the Civil Servants in India. (250 Words)
Start your answer by explaining what is Code of Conduct
The Code of Conduct for Civil Servants in India is a set of rules and regulations that govern the behaviour of civil servants in the country. It was first introduced in 1964 and has been amended several times since then. The code of conduct is designed to ensure that civil servants uphold the highest standards of ethics and morality in their work. It also seeks to prevent corruption and ensure that civil servants are accountable for their actions.
Start writing about the role of the Code of Conduct for the Civil Servants in India

The code of conduct covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • Integrity and honesty: Civil servants are expected to be honest and trustworthy in their dealings with the public. They are also prohibited from accepting gifts or favors from individuals or organizations that could influence their official duties.
  • Political neutrality: Civil servants are not allowed to participate in political activities or express their political views while on duty. They are also prohibited from using their position to influence the outcome of elections.
  • Merit, fairness, and impartiality: Civil servants are expected to treat all citizens fairly and impartially, regardless of their race, religion, caste, or social status. They are also prohibited from discriminating against anyone in the performance of their duties.
  • Accountability and transparency: Civil servants are accountable for their actions and are required to keep accurate records of their work. They are also required to be transparent in their dealings with the public and to disclose any potential conflicts of interest.
  • Courtesy and good behavior: Civil servants are expected to be courteous and respectful in their dealings with the public. They are also prohibited from using abusive or offensive language.

The code of conduct plays an important role in ensuring that civil servants in India are able to perform their duties in a fair, impartial, and transparent manner. It also helps to prevent corruption and ensure that civil servants are held accountable for their actions.

The code of conduct is not without its critics, however. Some argue that it is too restrictive and that it stifles creativity and innovation. Others argue that it is not enforced effectively and that civil servants often get away with breaking the rules.



Make your conclusions simple and looks balanced 

Despite these criticisms, the code of conduct remains an important part of the Indian civil service. It is a valuable tool for promoting good governance and ensuring that civil servants uphold the highest standards of ethics and morality.

(mains - general-studies-4 ) 26-May 2023