The Two Months to Mains – Planning Days Ahead

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Its the end of August. And the beginning of September.

The time of the year, when you are caught between the heat of summer, the wet of the monsoons, and the chill of the winter. ( Its coming ).

It feels much like the adolescence – the unknown vacuum between childhood, and adulthood, being neither, and yet being both. At the same time.

And it is also the time, when you are as close to giving up, as you are to success.

You just don’t know it yet.

So, as the Mains approaches, not the most hardworking, nor the man who made it to the list last year, but the fittest will survive.

And here is how to survive.

Or Perhaps win.

#1 Brace the chaos.

This is the time of the year, when your plate is full. You have your optional to cover – unless it is your third mains ( in which case, your optional should be covered ). You have GS Paper 4 almost untouched. Or GS 1 is still not rock solid. On top of it, you are missing the Test Series you paid for.

Worse still, you kept postponing joining a Test Series thinking you will do the whole syllabus, and then write the perfect Tests and top the Mock Tests.

It is also one of those times, when you feel like you are no longer in control of your life. The days end before they begin. Sometimes, today and tomorrow seem to run ( and get over ) in parallel!

So, if you are facing any of it ( alright, even  a part of it ), my advice to you – Brace the chaos.

Its egalitarian. Its classless. And Its happening to everyone.

I should  know. Some of the people I work with, serve in the IPS and IRS, and are writing the exam, and I know what they are going through. I often take 2AM calls.

( The last guy who called me at 2AM was worried about getting IFS, and not being able to write the exam again. See the irony ? )

So realize that the semi hell of chaos that you are going through is normal.

#2. But it isn’t normal. I am jittery. Confused. And feel like giving up.

Then you must draw a  new normal.

Lets face it. You have signed up for the Nation’s most competitive exams. Some of the people I work with ( a euphemism for student, and the term makes me feel a lot older than I am ) are former Investment Bankers, some sons of Anganwadi workers, and some do part time jobs to sustain their studies.

And I can tell you that the ability to withstand strain ( and stress ) will define who the winner is. Frankly, I do not know whowill win.

So unless you accept to live with the levels of stress you may be going through – and make peace with it, you will keep fighting your own biology.[1]

And you can’t win that way. So accept the current levels of your existence and keep going. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

#3. Do things tangible. Make own notes.

The bad things about good things is that they are difficult to begin. And form a part of habit. So in the next 20 days –

  • Pick up the static parts of the syllabus that you do not know
  • Get A4 size sheets, and google “term/topic + PDF”
  • Make your own damn notes. Not on evernote. Not on Onenote. On a white sheet of paper.

And fill pages.

Because when you write on paper, you write on your mind.

They also have a therapeutic effect. They give you a sense of accomplishment. Every day.

And accomplishing small things every single  day, is the key to achieving bigger things eventually.

Its like Mohhamad Ali practising at 3AM in private. To win a match, accolades ( and hearts ) the next day in public.

We are always rewarded in public for the work we put in private.

So there is glory at the end of the hell-hole. I can promise you that.

# 4. Make Groups of 3. The second secret ingredient.

We are the average of five people we most interact with. So you better have a good group. That is writing Mains 2017. And here are the three rules of group forming

Firstly, do not be the most intelligent or smartest in your group.

Secondly, make sure you do no live in the same flat. Flatmates are not the best people to do group studies with.

Thirdly, groups should not have friends. Strangers, with the same mission as you, work best.[2]

So every morning, set an agenda, or a set of Mains Marathon questions. Or Insights. And ask everyone to submit 1 page / 2 page notes answers by evening.

That way, for every topic.

And soon, you will have enough high quality notes that will see you through the Mains 2017.

#5 Have faith in yourself.

And that, my dear, is the most important secret ingredient.  The difference between the man who will make it and the man who will not is a lot about faith.

The same books, same effort, same number of hours. And even same coaching classes/library/whatever. But different levels of faith.

Trust your mentor – who can be a human, or a non -human ( such as a strategy, or study plan that you plan to abide by )

The thing about UPSC aspirants, when they write the exam is that on the surface, it looks as if nothing is happening inside of us, even though we are going through a lot of turmoil.

Its only when someone has gone through the grind, that one can figure out the churning inside. Others will never understand.

So don’t expect anyone at home, friends or family to understand your emotions right now.

So, have faith, you only have two months – which is time enough to change the world. Change your future, and your destiny.

Do whatever it takes. Work on Ethics, Post Independent History or even Second ARC Reports. Take handwriting classes if you are slow, or ugly.

But more importantly, be patient with the outcomes.

At the end of the Mains examination, you should meet me and tell me – I did the best I could. And I will perhaps buy you coffee.

Leave no stone unturned.

And success will be yours.

Until Next time,


Atul Vats, Tanai Sultania and Saumya Pandey‘s mother once told me that they took print out of my articles/ saved it in evernote. To save you the pain, I am attaching the PDF of this article.

Download below :

60 Days to Mains 2017

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By Neyawn

Neyawn is an anonymous member the founder of ForumIAS. He is a coder Mentor & Teacher by profession, and often writes for ForumIAS. You can buy him coffee , if you really really like his work. He has built ForumIAS - the community - twice. You can say Hi to him or ask him a question on ForumIAS, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn . You can also write to him at RxAxVxI@FOxRUMxIAS.COM ( remove the small "x" from the email ).