CSE 2018 : ForumIAS Offline Initiative – Important

ForumIAS announcing GS Foundation Program for UPSC CSE 2025-26 from 26th June. Click Here for more information.

Dear Friends, a lot of you have been inquiring  about the MGP for 2018.

We will be releasing the plan in the coming days.

But before you all hurry to join MGP or any other initiative by us, we want you to read this carefully.

First the facts.

Most of the people who join us are people who have been preparing for Civil Services for quite sometime.

And most of those who joined us had done well at Prelims and Mains, and it was very shocking to meet people in the heart of Delhi – the hub of IAS preparation – being very mis-oriented and misguided – studying random things and taking random classes.

We are very keen on ensuring that those who choose to join us must get optimum results. They must get the best results they can get.

We have been able to do very well compared to typical coaching standards, but we are honestly not satisfied with what we have been able to achieve and not achieve.

This is because when we do a program, a lot of people, and some very old ForumIAS Members , they all contribute to ensure that people who trust us , get adequate guidance and support.

The selected candidates help us, because they got help from us before.

This is the reason why , old ForumIAS members who are even selected in IAS and other services come down and try to help students enrolled with us.

Now coming to our 2018 plan, we are very very keen that less number of people join us , but

  • we are more effective in handling each and every student
  • our contribution to their success is high. I mean, the candidate getting selected should not be our accidental student.

Our experience of Mains Guidance Program ( MGP )

We started with almost a secret initiative in 2016.

The Mains Guidance Program.

And out of the five lakh odd users of ForumIAS, 86 people decided to join us, most of them who knew us personally, as individuals.

In 2016, our goal was clear, we wanted to solve the problem of those who were consistently stuck in a loop of low Mains Score, and were unable to get an Interview call or a good rank should get an Interview call and some service.  At least.

And even those who did not have good content, should have adequate structure to their answer so that their GS Marks should be within safe limits to make it to the final list.

( Since we did not have a physical infrastructure in place, we were unable to provide any further support for the Interview.)

( Though we did try to do some one –on-one’s and did an session on Interview Preparation too. A lot of people joined us including this , this this this this this this this this this this this this …… )

Except 13 candidates, every single candidate from MGP 2016 got an Interview call.

And 43 out of 86, were those who had never gotten an interview call before. They were all deserving candidates, who had messed up / disrupted preparation over the years, and just needed little guidance.


We were able to help them.

Consequently the lowest marks in GS for MGP Candidates was 390 , ( with one exception ) , and the highest marks was 464*. The average was around 438, which is a little higher than the average marks of Mains 2016 – which we believe is around 400. Anything less than 400 is poor marks, as far as 2016 is concerned.

The MGP – What it did, and what it did not.

The MGP helped students do these things

  • Improve answer writing structure and content orientation to improve score in General Studies.
  • Take care of preparation lacuna / dilemmas by active Mentor Support.

However, we believe, blindly joining MGP or any Test Series does not help.

Even with MGP, those students benefitted the most, who wrote Tests on time, and actively worked on the feedback, and  had done some basic studies. 

Also, we are more keen on solving problems for which no option is available, like improving Rank , or clearing the exam for someone who has never cleared Prelims or Mains before.


Now the big question

Why people fail to clear Prelims and Mains despite hard work, and guidance?

There are several reasons for it. There are four kinds of students whom we met, and who were unable to perform despite writing Tests.

  1. The Self Study people, who had no structure or plan in their preparation and only study what was asked in Test Series/ Answer Writing Initiatives.
  2. The ones who had attended coaching like half a decade ago, and have antiquated notes that are bulky and not worth revising.
  3. The ones who joined a bad coaching and ruined their first year.
  4. The ones who joined a good coaching, but did not make notes or lacked the maturity to take classes with all sincerity.

Self-study has been the best way to prepare for the Civil Services Examination.

We built ForumIAS as a community on the idea that people should collaborate, cooperate and prepare. It worked as every year more than 500+ selected aspirants are ForumIAS Members.

( Actuallly every single selected guy uses it. Just that they dont share their username 😉 )


However, with the onslaught of answer writing websites, including our own initiatives, it became a fashion, to just practice questions and answers.

And not study as per the syllabus.

This leads to the next set of problem.

# 1 The problem of Fragmented Preparation

A large number of candidates we meet today, are hard-working, and very capable.

But very mis-guided, and dis-oriented.

They have done fragmented studies.

They followed online website and ONLY know what is a ) on the website and or / b) questions asked on website. They have never taken the syllabus, studied it bare bone and prepared every topic, making notes on them.

#2 The frog in the well syndrome

Self-study works best when you have

  • a good peer group ( not friends! ), or
  • a human or non-human mentor, and
  • rock solid faith in the mentor and your plan, and
  • Ability to stick to a plan for long.

There are two problems with being a frog in the well.

First, you are a frog.

And second, you have no idea of the level of competition outside the well.

#3 Gaping Holes in Knowledge Base

For example, a self-study candidate, who has not taken any coaching , knows Citizen Charter, because

  • It was term mentioned in the syllabus
  • ForumIAS or any other website they asked a question on it
  • There was an article on it, or

But they do not know “Sevottam Model” because

  • The term was not mentioned in the syllabus
  • The website/ test series they followed did not ask a question on it
  • They did not know that they should know it.

Similarly, while studying Post Independence History, they know Integration of Tribal States, but do not know Tribal Panchsheel because

  • It was not mentioned in syllabus
  • The website they followed did not cover it
  • They did not know that it should ne known.

Take concepts like Seven Sins by Gandhi, Gujaral Doctrine, Ambedkar-Gandhi Controversy, or Tagore Gandhi Controversy. These are concepts that UPSC has asked questions on (except the last one, which is on the expected list ).

But most candidates are

  • Not aware of these topics they have to study.
  • Not aware of the fact they need to know these things.
The biggest problem with fragmented preparation is that are large gaping holes in your preparation, you are unaware of.

Some people try to solve this problem by writing 3-4 Mains over the years, and adding content each year.

This is however, not the best way to do it.


#4 The more success eludes you, the more chances of false notions and beliefs you are likely to have.

The more success eludes you, the more chances of false notions and beliefs you are likely to have. Seriously.

The No-Notes-No-Study-Plan-No-Peer-Group and did-not-clear-prelims syndrome.

The phenomenon of candidates who have not been able to clear prelims in their second, third, fourth attempt happens because not clearing Prelims is a self-perpetuating phenomenon.

You may not clear Prelims 2018, because you did not clear it in 2017.Here is how it works.

STEP 1: You did not clear prelims. Immediately you lose all friends that cleared Prelims and are writing Mains. Thus a good peer is lost. ( We know the pain )

STEP 2: You immediate promise yourself that you will not only crack Prelims next year, but also top the exam.

STEP 3: You do not exactly plan what you will do round the year, thus have passion, but no plan.

STEP 4 : You study religiously for Prelims immediately after the Prelims Results and exhaust and peak in the three months of September-Oct-Nov.

STEP 5: You are bored and tired, and by December-January, you start studying Optionals, which goes on till Feb

STEP 6: You realize Prelims is close, and you have only two months. You do your best ( or give up ) , but you have already missed the bus.

STEP 7 : You repeat STEP 1, with more promises, and lesser enthusiasm. And you change the calendar on the wall.

#5 Breaking the vicious cycle.

To break this vicious cycle, you need to know when to prepare for Mains, and when to prepare for Prelims.

You also need to ensure that you peak at the right time. For example, answer writing for Mains should not peak before the Mains exam.

Similarly, the habit of solving MCQs also should not peak this year itself. You must peak at the right time.

We are coming up with a plan to break this vicious cycle, provided you are determined enough to work hard.

Or at least be sincere in whatever you do.
#6 Building the Knowledge Base

Since Prajit was practising Mains Marathon in 2016 and secured a rank 87, you must not repeat what he did.

You need to build an adequate knowledge base first.

And much like building Rome, It does not happen in a day. It takes time, but if you work hard enough, with some consistency, you will get there.

#7 But I know everything

“I have been preparing for UPSC for past 3 years, and I know everything. I have made my own notes, read every book, and have taken so many classes.”

First, None of us can claim to know everything.

Second, you do not need to know everything.

Third, you have no way of knowing what you do not know, unless you write the exam.

Because if you knew what you do not know, you would study that topic and know it.

#8 But isn’t the UPSC syllabus infinite? How am I supposed to know everything?

Again we have two things to tell you.

First, there is a locus to the UPSC Syllabus. By which we mean there is a minimum outer boundary to the syllabus.

Second, the UPSC syllabus is not infinite. It is merely porous. There is a difference.

And you must prepare for it according to the syllabus.

You need not know everything, but you do need to have a solid knowledge base. We’ll help you build that for 2018 that will help sale through both prelims and mains.

#9 Why it becomes difficult to break the vicious cycle as your number of attempts increase?

We at ForumIAS Offline,  had almost every single student who had faced some failure in their previous attempts.

The problem with failure is that, it reinforces wrong notions more deeply in your mind.

For example,

  • I only solved 2000 questions this year. I must solve 10,000 MCQs this year.
  • There is no use studying, you must only practice.
  • No one can teach you anything.
  • Luck , and not hard work is how you crack CSE.

Candidates with high number of attempts( 2+), usually face the below problems.

  • They no longer have the same level of energy, motivation, or peer group to study.
  • They have studied something of everything, but full of nothing, so reading the same books/ taking same classes irritates them.
  • They do not make new notes at all, and are stuck with notes which are 2-3 years old when they first stated preparation.
  • They have reached a knowledge plateau – with each passing day, they learn nothing new.

What we plan to do for 2018  to solve this problem ?

There are two components of Civil Services preparation

  • A minimum Knowledge Base for preparation
  • Problem Solving Skills and Answer Writing Practice

While the MGP provides the near-perfect solution for developing answer writing Skills ; and the Prelims Test Series helps develop problem solving skills, we plan to expand the scope of our Guidance Program to do develope the Knowledge Base too.

We have spoken to a lot of our former and existing students, and we will come up with the full plan in the next 2-3 days.

Rest assured that the plan will be aimed to ensure more predictable results and will be a gold standard in IAS preparation.

( We will soon release some casual videos of our Students / Community members ) We did not release it after Prelims because then too many people would join MGP, – even those people who dont even need MGP, or those people whom we cannot really help.

Feel free to come up with suggestions  or you can always write to us ravi@forumias.com

We’ll get back to you with more details in the next 48 hours.

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