How To

How to Optimise Prelims Preparation – Making the most of last few days + Strategy For the Last 45 Days

In about a month and a half, we have the Prelims Examination. Unlike the Mains, examination, which some people love to write, and the Interview, which most people love to prepare and appear for – the Prelims is almost the most hated exam level amongst all the three.

Everyone hates it ( with the exception of the person who is writing it the first time ) – the people who have made it to the list, but again need to qualify it if they want to upgrade their ranks, the people who just appeared for the Interview, but did not make it to the final list, the people who cleared Prelims last time, but didn’t clear Mains and are faced with Prelims again.

Almost everyone wants to write Mains . But one wants to write Prelims again, though 😛

Because, it is also the exam, which makes us to go back to basics – read the same books again and again. And do the same current Affairs Magazine again and again.

Unlike the Mains, where everyone knows something about a question,  writes something and fills pages, and results take a really long time to come – the Prelims is a matter of you-either-know-it-or-don’t. There is no faking it.

Secondly, you almost know your results within a few hours of the exam, so if you are not scoring well, your comfort zone  ends just a few hours after the exam.

Again, unlike the Mains, where 100 out of 100 appearing candidates can claim that paper went fine, and yet only 20% will make it. But for the Prelims, you just know it. Right after writing a test. There are umpteen keys out there.

So here are a few things to keep in mind, which should make your journey for Prelims more productive, a little happier, stress-free and successful.

  1. Make the most of the Golden Hour. On a Daily basis.

And the golden hour starts ( and ends ) within the first hour of waking up. So the minute you wake up, do not get caught in the spiral of thoughts. Start studying within 30 minutes of getting up. A good idea would be to head to the washroom and come out having taken bath, all fresh and all ready to take the head on.

The point is, end procrastination before it takes over you. Nip it in the bud. And since Prelims exam does cause high stress ( compared to all other levels ) , its important to study – if not for the exam – for the confidence and for the need to feel good.

2. Do something tangible in the golden hour

The best thing to do when you wake up is to memorize things. You are fresh, the mind works best and you can quickly cover up a lot of things. And if you build a habit around it, you are all set for the Prelims Examination.

But if you are one of those who just open a book and stare at it until you sleep – try doing something tangible / measurable.

By which I mean, something that can be quantified. And seen. Having an end result. Like writing for an hour after waking up. ( How many pages did you write ? ) And seeing what you have written. The sweet smell of your cheap ball pen ink on fresh white paper. ( I use a 3 rupee pen ) Smells like heaven 🙂

At the end of the hour, you have a few pages written, and you feel good about it. Its good for a start. What’s well begun is half done. Half is good. For now.

3. Leave nothing for the end. This is the end.

A lot of times, we leave things thinking of doing them in the end. A typical case is leaving current affairs for the end ( with the misplaced goal that I-will-cover-June-News-also-and-will-know-more-than-anyone-else )

There are two truths I want to tell you

(a) First, You cannot leave Current Affairs for the end. Nor even Modern History for the end

(b) Second, This is the end.

The truth is these last odd 50 days are the end days. The last 5 days or 10 days or 15 days are NOT the end. This isn’t college exam anymore.

4. There is still time


If you clock in at least 10-12 hours a day. And if you already know what to do. While clocking 10 hours a day looks like lot of hard work, the Prelims does require this kind of studies at least once, so that you build you level. The same amount of hard work may not be required for the Mains. Or the Interview.

By hard work, I mean the intensity of effort put in per hour. Lets face it. The Mains requires you to remember few key points, and build logical opinions around it. You do not have to remember things. If you don’t remember Point A, which is factual, you can always write Point B in its place.

But for the Prelims, you have to know Point A. And Point B. And Point C , if there is any. There is no escape. You must either memorize the Wetlands under Ramsar Convention or at least go through them between 3 -5 times to be able to answer a question based on them. Your opinions don’t matter. Facts do.

5. The 3 Days – 15 Cycles Strategy

We are about 45 days away from the Prelim. So here is the plan that you could opt for in the past few days. This is also what ForumIAS Co-Founder Lingraj Panda did in his subsequent attempt when he couldn’t clear Prelims the first time – Lock yourself and just study ( This doesn’t apply to people who are doing well and are in a comfort zone ; this is for people who are close to the border, and just need to race ahead in the last few days ). Lingraj, did clear Prelims that year, got IRS and then IAS with a rank 38, in case you wanted to know.

Here is the pic.

And as ugly the room, the books, or us, may look, this is how it is, and should be, when the going gets tough – when you don’t feel like studying, or you feel under pressure.

So here is the thing. Keep a target of 3 Days – that makes up one cycle –  of finishing an entire subject – like Geography ( 2 books of NCERT ) , Environment ( Shankar IAS ), Polilty ( May take upto 2 cycles , since it’s a big book ) , Modern History ( Spectrum – 1 Cycle ) and try finishing it in three days.

And to beat the monotony, when you are bored of the static book, study current Affairs for 2-3 hours. Don’t be ambitious – just think of finishing maybe 20 pages of your current Affairs Magazine. So there you have a fair mix of Static and Current Affairs. And when you are tired and bored – solve 25 Questions of any coaching Test paper. If you are a little fresh, solve maybe 50 questions – but no more.

So here is the sum total. At all points of day, you aim to finish off 1 Static Book + 1 Current Affairs + 1 /4 to 1/2 Test paper every day. You can change the composition of the above mixture , say 1 Full Test Everyday – depending on your preparation level.

If you decide to finish one subject + 1 CA Magazine + 1 Test Paper in three days ( apart from the Test Series ), you should be able to have 15 such cycles of revisions.

And three days is a good time for a cycle. Even if you exceed, you will take maximum 5 days. On the other hand, if you keep a target of 5 days of 7 days for completing something, here is what happens

  • First, if you miss the target, you extend it to 7 days to 10 days – which is a lot of time .
  • Second, we all end tend to study in the end.  Parkinson’s Law. So if you make a target of 7 days, you are likely to waste the first three days and study only from the 4rth day.
  • Third, if you decide to finish something in 3 days and merely finish 60%, you still have another cycle to complete the remaining 40%. And meeting 60% of your target is a good number even at this stage.

6. The ground rules for Cracking Prelims

Coming to few final ground rules for Prelims, especially when you are under prepared. And they are :

A)When choosing between solving  a paper vs studying, choose studying  ( unless you have really done each of the books five times  and have nothing left.)

B)When choosing between solving a previous year paper vs a Test paper, solve the previous year paper ( if you have not done it already )

C)When choosing between  a FREE ONLINE QUIZ and a solving a test series hard copy, solve a hard copy.

You can do 500 question in each paper in Mains ( subject to weightage of Current Affairs ) , and still clear Mains, but not so with the Prelims.

If you can’t clear Prelims based on your book reading, you can’t clear it by solving free MCQs all over the Internet. You will miss it by a few marks, even if you reach close. Missing the mark is missing it still. There is no glory in it. And that applies to almost all things in life.

7. Lastly, All Adversity is Opportunity.

If there is one thing I could tell you from the lessons of my own life, and having seen the struggle of a lot of people, who shine in knights armors, it is this. All adversity is opportunity. This exam has a glory. And the glory is only because the exam tests your perseverance, patience and ability to work under stress. And the ability to develop a strong will power in your journey.

If there is one thing that cracking the Prelims exam will teach you, is how to grow through adversity. For life.

So work hard, and feel free to post your queries and doubts here if you need help.

There is no other way,

Until Next Time

With ❤


Interview Preparation UPSC Preparation Guide UPSC Preparation Strategy

Optimising your time after Mains – Preparing for the Interview & More

This Article has been shifted to our new blog.

Below is the link of the article:

Optimising your time after Mains – Preparing for the Interview & More

Motivation UPSC Preparation Strategy

Mains 2016 – Getting the Most out of You & Last Minute Tips

The one thing that separates us – the homo sapiens – from all other species is that while humans have a “history”, the history of all other species is merely read as evolutionary biology.

Which is why you do not have a history of trees. Or dogs. Or cats. All that we know is dogs evolved from wolves.

But humans ? We have departed far from what our biology destined us to be, to create a history for ourselves.

And history is created by individuals. Like you and me.

While the destiny of all other species is guided by its DNA, we have accomplished feats far greater than our biological destiny – which was to hunt, forage, and survive. Like other apes.

That brings us to the grand conclusion – we can drastically change the course of our lives with what we choose to do. If you don’t like things around you – like your address, or your current sitting position – you are uniquely positioned to change it. Imagine, what if a tree doesn’t like its address?

You could begin that, right now, right at this moment, by even a simple act like just cleaning your glasses  – and the world will suddenly look a little brighter.

Trust me, it works. 100% for all people who wear glasses 🙂

So while you embark on your most important mission starting this week, I would like to share some thoughts.

Be the sparkling light. Not the spent fuel.

This may not be helpful if this is your first Mains. Because then, you must already be brimming with energy. You should be.

But a lot of our friends are writing their not-first Mains this year. Some of them have secured an interview call more than once before – and some of them are in services too.

But both I and they know, that knowing is not enough. Translating knowledge into words in a limited time frame  and limited world limit is a different ballgame.

And I could tell you that the most important component of this act is – energy and ethusiasm, not knowledge – which is why all knowing people don’t make it.

But those who write a good paper with all their energy do.

Just like David beat Goliath.

Underdogs win.

So do not be like spent fuel. Or burnt coal –  ( which can burn again and again, but with much lesser calorific value each time ).

Be ignited instead. And write a good paper.

When you are in the examination hall, give your 110% to the paper in front of you – WITH.ALL.YOUR.ENERGY. And that will do half the job.

Remember that preparation levels won’t matter eventually. If you think you only prepared for 3 months, look at this guy. So what you have done is sufficient to write a good paper, if you really give it your best shot :

  • even when your hands are hurting
  • even when your shoulder is hurting
  • even when you feel, like last mains, this mains isn’t going to get you a top rank.
  • even when it is the second paper of the day and if you have lost all your energy and enthusiasm.

Don’t let the fatigue of having written earlier Mains or having written a dozen tests in past 2 weeks get you.

Write with all the energy of a million dreams you and your close ones have had for you getting into the IAS. Its worth it. You know it

Complete the Paper – a radical approach

You already know this. You just don’t know how to do it. So here are some practical tips. Do this only if completing paper is a problem with you. ( People with fast handwriting can choose to ignore this part. Really) This is how to do it.

( Also, watch this video on introducing the answer – will help save lot of time )

Tell your mind that the first few questions shouldn’t exceed 2 pages.

Or 15 minutes. Do not write 3 page answers to first 5 questions in 90 minutes and one page answers in the rest. That won’t cut it. Write uniform length answers – as far as possible. Let it not appear that you have only half attempted the last questions because of lack of time.

Its better to have 2 page answers in each question rather than to have 3 page answers in first 10 questions and half page answers in another 5 questions and leaving out 5 questions.

After every 30 minutes, leave the question you are currently on,

and move to the next question. Lets face it. If you are slow, and don’t want to leave 6+ questions, you may have to do this. for questions where you have competed one page, you wind it up after every 30 minutes in under 2-3 minutes, so that you don’t miss out on easy questions which may be at the end.

By winding up I mean, writing the exact points asked and forgoing pleasantries.

Don’t write more when you know less.

Its common to see candidates write more in questions they know less. To convince the examiner that they don’t know less.

For example, there is a question in culture you have no clue about.

Write what you know and move on. I could see in the ForumIAS Open Test, that brilliant candidates ended up writing longer answers in tough questions that they had no clue about. Don’t do that. Don’t be those brilliant candidate.

Write what is asked, not what you know

This is repeatative. And obvious. And probably wastes your time at this juncture. I mean you know this.

But this is the single biggest reason to explain the discrepancy between your awesome paper and poor marks – and best paper getting least marks.

UPSC marking has evolved from time to time. There was a time when long answers were rewarded. Then there came a time, when long answers were seen to be penalised. In last 2-3 years, it has been most rewarding to write point wise and not deviate form the topic. Relevance to the question asked is the most important criteria these years.

So focus on what is asked. Read again what the question asks. Read twice, maybe – but read well.

And if at all, you know something really well which is brilliant, and badly want to tell the examiner , but you know that this isnt what has been asked – here is what to do  – put that in a small diagram or a flow chart. Thats all.

Motivate yourself. Get into the zone.

No matter what I tell you, the coming week isn’t going to be just another day. Not because of the significance of the exam – but because of the whole schedule. You wake up at 6 AM and rush to the center, especially guys with Rohini / Noida Center. This isn’t what you had been doing for the last few weeks or  months.

Which is why I told you to do an Open Test and get used to it. At least once.

Keep yourself motivated and hydrated.

If you have written n number of Mains and think that “is saal bhi kuchh hona jana hai nahi“, try being afraid. Fear is the biggest motivator.

If you are already afraid ( which is different from anxious, there is a difference ), keep calm and focus.

And if you are anxious, read on.

Make List of Things to Do – Stop the flipping mind

The next few days – spread over the examination, cannot be days of random activities. They have to be a set of pre-defined activities. Especially if you are anxious. Make a list of To Do things – for the next day or even a week – and just follow along. Strike through when you have achieved something. I cannot emphasise more on the significance of this.

This is especially true if you have some parts of the syllabus left – especially the optional subjects. Keep a list of things to do – including last minute revisions,so that you do not forget the important things because of lack of time.

This helps in two ways

  • First, it helps you focus on the important things. Without a To Do List, you are likely to flip from one book to another- or one www to another
  • Second, you can really ensure covering small topics, which you may have left for last minute – especially some of those topics, that you think do need a last minute revision. Last minute revision helps especially in the Optionals. So don’t be misguided by someone who says don’t do last minute studies – at least for the Optionals.


When people said Civil Services tough, this was what they were talking about. Spending a week under pressure, trying not to feel the pressure and doing your best. Studying was the easier thing to do, perhaps. Living these days look much tougher.

Remember, this is the last leg of your journey. While I know this is the time, when you feel the need to sleep, rest and get distracted with  poker, TV series and what not – more than usual times – note that you will have plenty of time for all of this once the exam is over.

This exam will bring the best out in you, only if you are willing to give your best. I cannot emphasise more.

Most adversities are opportunities. It is just that we don’t know at that time.

So hold on – and run the last lap – as best as you can – and success will be yours.

And for those of our friends, for whom poetry is inspiration , here are a few lines

प्रासादों के कनकाभ शिखर,
होते कबूतरों के ही घर,
महलों में गरुड़ ना होता है,
कंचन पर कभी न सोता है.
रहता वह कहीं पहाड़ों में,
शैलों की फटी दरारों में.

अमृत क्लेश का पिए बिना,
आताप अंधड़ में जिए बिना,
वह पुरुष नही कहला सकता,
विघ्नों को नही हिला सकता.

“उड़ते जो झंझावतों में,
पीते सो वारी प्रपातो में,
सारा आकाश अयन जिनका,
विषधर भुजंग भोजन जिनका,
वे ही फानिबंध छुड़ाते हैं,
धरती का हृदय जुड़ाते हैं|

Here is wishing all our ForumIAS Friends who are writing Mains this year, the very best!

May this be your last Mains 🙂

Until Next time,

With ❤ ,


Mains Marathon

Video Answer Writing Tips for Mains: How to begin

It was wonderful to have ForumIAS members attempt the MainsOpen Mock last Saturday – Sunday, in Rajinder Nagar, New Delhi. Mango Dolly came. So did Yoga123. And Yo_Yo.

Yoga123 chose IRS over IPS last year, and it was good to see both IRS officers debate over the impact of GST on their respective career choices.

But that wasn’t the thing, why I wrote this last moment before the exam post on a Friday night. There were some key lessons , which we all can learn from last Sunday’s test.

I have pretty much covered it in THIS video below, where I have discussed most things. I had assumed everyone knew, so never shared it publicly.

That maybe because I have limited interaction with first timers, as most people I try to help out are in the advanced stage of their preparation.

However, I felt that even people writing Mains year on year, made the same mistakes. Probably every year. So what I am going to share with you is something that one figures out , by luck, naturally in the first attempt, or by experience – in the fourth attempt.

I think, if you have just begun, it should help you develop lot of clarity, especially , if you plan to begin writing for Mains Marathon 2017 or plan to join some Mains Test Series – or even if you are writing Mains this year. This year, Interviews are going to be early, so do connect soon after the Mains, to begin Interview prep as well – all of you who are writing Mains 2016.

Note : This was recorded after a session by Harsh ( 1st Attempt, 43 Rank, 413 marks in GS ) and Narendra Shah ( Already in IIS, 4rth Attempt, 390+ marks in GS ), so I keep referring to them. This happened in New Delhi, sometime in the month of August.

Please download this file, and go through it once, before you start to watch the video, so that it makes more sense.


Let me know if it helped. Sorry in advance if what I have said is already obvious to many. It should be.

Until next time,



UPSC Preparation Strategy

50 Days to Mains – Do your best

A year back, about 40 days from the Mains examination, @greymatterules sent me a PM, saying –  “Bhai, its normal to be a little depressed before Mains, na”?

I probably told him what I really think is the truth – Its okay to be slightly worried. You sign up for these things when you are required to write the Mains Examination. Especially when you have spent more than a year preparing for this exam. @greyamtterrules had spent three.

The key is acceptance, I told. You can either worry about being worried, or you can STFU and study.

The truth, as Christ said, will set you free. The exam is stressful, and don’t spend energies fighting the stress and anxiety. Just let it pass. And as I and @tejaswani often joke – This too shall pass.

So as we inch closer to the Mains Examination, I thought of writing for friends on the Forum and outside. So it is @yoga123, Navneet, @gloomydespair @kek @andysai  @drkingschultz ( who should study more )  and our other friends on the forum.

I wrote last year right before the Mains examination, and thankfully, it did work for @proust, @matrix_reloaded , @battletank and even @holymojito ( who secured IFS), who turned out to be my junior from School!

So here is the gyan

# 1 Your worst enemy right now is anxiety. Here is how to win.

The syllabus is your second worry. You will conquer the syllabus ( or half conquer it) anyway. But the one thing that you need to understand is that anxiety will make you flip from one book to another, perhaps from one site to another, and one subject to another.

So when you are studying Culture, your mind tells you it has low RoI and you should be doing Essay instead. If you are doing Ethics, you want to move to Current Affairs. Don’t do that.

Write down your goals, like Choti Singh does ( you are still doing it right? ) and stick to them. If you have written down to cover World History, don’t change plans. Stick to the plan. Finish World History.

In short I want to tell you two things

  • Minimize the time you take to make decisions and then rethinking on those decisions about what to do and what not to do
  • Once a decision has been made, stick to it. Indecision is worse than wrong decisions. At least as far as UPSC preparation is concerned. No flip flops.


# 2 Finish off your Test Series as soon as you can.

If you have done a Test Series from any decent place, you must finish off your Tests. Writing Tests  in itself has a therapeutic effect and gives a sense of accomplishment. Helps fight anxiety. And most importantly – realigns you to the need of the exam. Every time you write a test.

Everyone wants to get the syllabus done  two times yesterday.  And write all mock  Tests just the last week before exam – all 16 of them – two Tests a day.

Life doesn’t work that day. If you are one of those, who has been collecting things to do for the end, ( just  like  fat people who eat all the untasty things of meal  in the beginning , so that they can eat all the tasty things at one go – in the end ) you are not going to enjoy how things turn up at the end.

You won’t finish anything in the end. So write Tests even if you do not have an evaluation. Just do your part.

# 3. Your Success depends on doing your part right.

Your  success, like everyone else’s,  depends on doing your part. Not on your teacher doing his part. His success depends on doing his part

I am not aware of anyone who failed because someone else did not do their part. Usually. So live under no illusion. Do your part well, and thats all we can do.

So when RxIAS asked me he has been collecting all Test so that he will do them  in the end, I told him – This is the end. There is no other end

# 4. Follow any one source/site / blog.

In the movie adaptation of one of my favourite books – The Life of Pi by Yann Martel  (partly  because my father was assigned a name by his school headmaster, just like Piscine Pi’s name was, in the novel ) the conversation goes between Irfan Khan and Pi goes like this

Santosh Patel: Piscine, you cannot follow three different religions at the same time.
Pi Patel : Why not?
Santosh Patel: Because, believing in everything at once is the same thing as believing in nothing.

If you follow everyone, you end up following no one. So follow one and do things. And do not have this feeling of being left out at all.

So no matter how much some websites, forums or blogs make you feel you are missing out if you are not a part of them, follow one. ( or two ) depending on your attention spam. And be okay with letting go of things you cannot follow.

I asked @proust why he did not do answer writing practise elsewhere last year. He said, Sir, I knew my time was limited, so I decided to just solve questions posed on ForumIAS threads in my notebook. That gave him a 400+ score in GS and 43 rank. Thats a good rank.

# 5 Distribute time near equally  among your subjects

If you are a first timer, a great measure of time would have been spent on covering GS Paper 1 – doing the new things – like World History and Post Independence History

If you are NOT a first timer and have not joined a Test Series, a major part of your time would be spent probably NOT STUDYING.

And if you are one of those who joined a Test Series, your major time would and should be spent in doing just one Test Series right.

So, in the end it is scary if you have spent two months studying one single thing ( like an optional )


Because Its a slippery slope. You end up doing more of what you are doing. Do not fall for it. If you have spent two months doing only paper 1  of your optional , this should be a wake-up call for you.

I have invariably seen that in UPSC the dictum of “Savadhani Hati, Durghata Ghati‘ applies .

If you scored very well in Optional Paper 1 last year and did not do well in Paper 2 – you need to work hard on Paper 2, but at the same time maintain your score in Paper 1. Or else this year, you will reverse your score in Paper 1 and Paper 2 – and end up with the same marks. Back to square one.

#6 Identify your bottle necks and get it resolved.

Apart from male alopecia among IAS aspirants, there is perhaps no problem that Man has not been able to solve. So if you have a problem, find a solution. If you can’t, just ask someone who found a solution and copy it. And if yo have the solution, implement it. If you have implemented the solution, evaluate how it has worked for you.

So if you have a problem scoring marks in GS Paper 2, and static part is your bottleneck, I will tell you to – do M Puri Notes ( or Pub Ad Paper 2 Notes of Vajiram ) They are good for static part. Harsh did it in 5 days and I am not sure how much it helped in get a good score, but for sure GS Paper 2 was ticked off from his To Do List. That helps reduce your workload.

# 7.  Persevere.

I often tell this story. To myself.

A cheetah can always run faster than a deer.

By that logic, a cheetah should hunt a deer every time it goes for a kill.

But this does not happen, Why?

Because with such fast speed, a Cheetah can only sustain the run for a few minutes. The speed races blood through its heart and heats up the body. Beyond a point, the Cheetah cannot sustain the speed. Or it dies of body overheat. All the deer has to do is to persevere till the cheetah gives up.

Get the point?

My questions is, will you persevere? Just a little longer?

Because thats the key.

Your last days are the most important. So no matter how you have studied in the past, it is the coming 50 days that will matter the most. If you think this is your first Mains and you are a fresher and have no chance of making it this year, speak to those in the Allied services writing this exam. They are scared OF candidates like you. It is just that you do not know it.

# 8. Your problems are not as big as they look.

If you are stressed, a lot of lives problems look magnified right now. Mole hills will look like mountains. Some relative just asking you this question – “Aur Taiyari kaisi chal rahi hai” will make you want to declares war on all your relatives.

Thats normal.

So persevere with whatever you have been doing. You will have your moments of disillusionment with people, teachers, parents and friends – and argh – the writer of this article.

Sometimes half the world will look like your enemy. The other half? That  will look like relatives back home asking you for your result.

Dont fall for this.

If you have been doing a book or a course and found it useful, dont go for something new. Complete it first.

If you have joined Chokkalingham’s online classes and he is killing you with three hours of gyan everyday,  let me tell you he will cover 3 newspapers and possibly everything that you need for current affairs. And if you are a first timer, you will never know as much as he will teach you in three hours, unless you spend 2 years reading the newspaper every single day. So do not half finish things.

And you are better than you think. So get up and get things done. You are bigger than your problems.

# 9. Write every single day from now. Start today.

Unless this is your third attempt or more, and unless you have already clocked dozens of Test Papers, you must write. Every day from today.

Because the Commission does not know how much you have studied , or how much you have given up on sleep for this exam. They only test your writing skills and judge you on that basis.

So work more on writing – because that is what will be tested.

#10. Content is King. But Presentation is Queen.

And if you have ever played chess, you exactly know what I mean.

I am not talking gender here.

Having gone through a few hundred copies, largely of people who has appeared for Mains and / or Interview before ( hence a very filtered crowd ), I have realized that after 2-3 years of preparation ( unless you have squandered that time, which usually doesn’t happen, because Mains appearing candidates have to study ) you may not have much to add to content.

And probably content is not your bottleneck. Probably your presentation , structure and ease of reading answers is. If you don’t get what I mean, click here to see what I would call a neat presentation. (IRS Dude, IPS Dad)

So your answers have to be simple, easy to read and understand and must address the question.

If you are a first timer, this is especially for you – Do not write what you know. Write what is being asked. If you have some time. If you want to know what makes a simple, to the point, answer, take a look at this Answer Booklet of an MGP student. ( 400+ Marks in Mains, and a very  had working candidate, so much so that I feel proud sometimes! )

He/She is in service  and I will get him/ her to help the community once the Mains are over.

# 11. Make the most your time left

Because your next one year depends on what you do in these 50 days. And if you think you are having a tough time , ask those who are not writing Mains this year.

Men rise to occasions. These aren’t challenging times. This are times of opportunity disguised as hard work.  Make use of it.

Make a plan. And believe it’s impossible to fail. And you shall not fail.

And if you are wondering, what happened to the protagonist of this tale @greymatterrules, mentioned in the introduction – he secured a position in the IAS last year. He told me all he did was Persevere.

Wish you a very Happy (belated) Dussehra. May the good in you triumph over all thats negative.

( Apologies for this late article, be kind please )

Until Next Time,

With  ❤ Neyawn

( If you found this article useful, consider leaving a comment or sharing it on Facebook with someone who may need it . Views are strictly personal, and do not reflect the views of ForumIAS )

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First Attempt : IAS Rank 43: 413 Marks in General Studies, Harsh shares his GS Strategy

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The 30 Day Guide to Prelims Preparation

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The January Guide to IAS Interview Preparation

The January  Guide to IAS Interview  Preparation



What could be the worst things that can happen to you when you finally get an Interview call?

I mean not the really worst thing – like being hit by a car or something.

I mean the second worst thing.

Having a newspaper backlog before the Interview.

Getting an interview call is no mean deal. Even if you have been getting a call every year, you have to have met all the below four conditions

  • Written good answers
  • Been very lucky
  • Not messed up essay and ethics paper
  • Done well in at least one optional paper

Most people who get interview calls every year ( and there are hundreds of them ) may not realize the preciousness of the situation, or the self. But ask a first timer, and you shall know.

So its January ( or Feb ). You are still relaxing from having written Mains ( which is now only a week’s affair post 2013).

And Mains results are far way. Interview is still further away.

You are in absolutely no mood to study, read the newspaper or do any of the 22 things you did before Mains.

And you have appeared for the Interview last year too, so you are chilling.

But this mistake can be costly.

The Civil Services Interview requires preparation. Almost. You will be competing against some of the best as well as some of the luckiest people for the coveted IAS position when you prepare for the Interview. Not getting IAS in itself is a pain for two reasons:

  • well, you did not get IAS for one.
  • you have to appear for the exam again,which is a big torture in itself.

Why you need to prepare for this god-dam interview?

No matter how good communication skills you have, the Civil Services Interview will require some preparation

  • First, because this is no ordinary exam. And the job is no ordinary job
  • Second, you will be interviewed by , mostly bureaucrats, who have lived their lives judging people – into good or bad. If they like you, are in. Else out. And they do not like too many people.
  • Third, some boards are known to give very high and very low marks. Some boards are very opinionated.
  • Fifth, almost every question they ask can be prepared in advance. And you co-aspirant would have a very fine suited answer ready for ever possible question. If you plan to go impromptu and unprepared and unless you are a truly pleasing personality, you may miss out on getting a good score. True Story.

The six things you need to do in January

If its January, sleeping till 11 AM, because its cold in Delhi , may not be the best preparation strategy. We could tell you the second best strategy.

Act #1 Read the Newspaper. Daily.

If you managed to do well in Mains because you did Vision IAS notes, the same wont happen in the Interview. You will need to have to be a “well read”  and “generally aware”person. Interviews do get very current affairs oriented sometimes.

Especially, if you have not supplied good fodder with hobbies & extra-curricular activities in your DAF – prepare current affairs well.

The good news.

You don’t have to do Current Affairs The Hindu style. Indian Express will do. Nor do you have to do hidden stuff that you so minutely prepared for Mains.

But Why cant I do current Affairs later like in Mains at the end?

Firstly, because in Mains, each question has equal weight-age. If you get a question wrong , you just loose ten marks. But in the interview, if you get a very common question wrong, you cannot predict  how much it will cost you, especially if the question was asked by the Chairman.

Secondly, if you may miss the magnitude of an issue or event if you don’t do it from newspaper. A big issue will resurface multiple times in the newspaper, ( or the 9 PM Brief ) but will feature only once in a magazine or coaching notes.

Thirdly, once the mains results are out you will be wasting two days ( and upto 4-5 days for women ) deciding what to wear. Some people do. If you are some people, you would not want to have the newspaper backlog to clear once you get an Interview call.

Act #2 Get your hobbies together

You did mention some hobbies in your DAF, didnt you? There are two things you need to know here:-

  • Panelists, do ask deep questions with respect to your hobby
  • Some aspirants will prepare well and answer those deep questions.

You will only believe the above two statements when it will face such a panel, and meet such a candidate who has faced deep questions, and realize you are under-prepared. Don’t make those mistakes. Learn from the mistakes of others.

So if you haven’t yet done so. Make your to do list of how you are going to prepare for the interview.

Act #3 Get some data on you home state

If your home state is not Delhi, start collecting some data on your city & state. If you have spent college days in, say, Manipal, do basic reserach on Udupi as well. If you come from a state with a grand history like Bihar, do the history of your state very well. For states like Bihar, with a grand history and no-so-grand-present, the same questions have often been asked by different panels, year after year. This indicates two things:

  • One, there is something called preparing standard questions
  • Second, people can prepare better standard answers. Hence “preparation” for Interview is a reality

Act #4 Go through your college days. Literally.

If you are a civil engineer, or electrical engineer, do some basics on those subjects. There is usually an IES guy  Sir in the panel, who may ask you questions like

  • What happens when you add more cement ( or steel reinforcements  ) to a building . The correct answer is something on these lines – like concrete works best under compression but buckle under tension while steel reinforcements perform well under tension, but can’t take compression – I am not a Civils engineer and this may not be the exact answer , but this questions has been asked to more than one friend of mine
  • DC Motor questions for electrical students may be asked, do prepare well. Sir D K Dewan was asking these questions in 2014.
  • Doctors should also have basic questions like – What will be you diagnosis if you see a man with swollen legs ( The answer is not Filariasis )

Act #5 Form Study Groups

You need probably no study groups for Prelims. For Mains, study groups may help. But group studied does definitely help for Interview preparation. Try forming your close study groups – of at least 2 members, but nor more than 4-5 members based on:

  • Your common optional
  • Your home state
  • Your hobby

You can form multiple groups based on above criteria. The goal of the study groups should be to generate as many questions as possible. And as many answers as possible. A group of three people is ideal.

Act #6 Get fit

Though your belly isn’t a criterion for the marks you will be awarded, it is still a good idea to get fit before the Interview call.

Being fit is a slope – its either uphill or downhill. From now till the date of your interview, you will either get fitter, or fatter. You wont usually stay the same. Try being on the better side of the slope. This isn’t a must-do, but a should-do.

You don’t want to be caught in a situation where fitting in your pants is your biggest headache that day.

Don’t believe me? Try wearing formal pants today.

Until Next Time,


Disclaimer: This article reflects the personal views  of the author and does not represent the views of ForumIAS

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How to Maximise your score on the Mains Day + Some Motivation

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How to Use the last Days before Mains 2015

The next 25-30 days are going to be the most important days of your yet lived preparation phase life.

I did not say the next 45 days , or the days until December 18, when the Mains examination begins.

Do you know why?

The altar of Mains Examination hall, for many of you, would be hard won reward , if this is your first Mains. For others, the altar of Mains examination is a symbol of failing in the last attempt – to get what they really wanted.

But for all of you,  it is the battleground. And you pen is your sword.  Didn’t they say the pen is mightier than the sword?

The next 25-30 days, or the days before November 30  is a race. After that, everyone will be on fire and will be studying harder than ever. The trick is to study before everyone else starts doing it too.

You know what, it does not matter much you or your competitor studied last year, or if they missed the final selection by ‘x’ number of marks, there are two things I want to tell you:-

a) UPSC does not know yet who is a topper and who is a fresher

b) UPSC does not care.

c) It’s a new race which will have new winners and new losers.

Your answer copy will be your advertiser , talking to the checker. It will be your only way to sell yourself to the examiner. You have no other way of telling him you are a gold medalist, or quit your Microsoft job to pursue this goal – than the answers that your write and present before the examiner.

So be wise.

What you have before you is the next twenty – twenty five days – and everyone has equal number of hours , precisely twelve, in each of those days.

Your success or failure will largely depend upon the wise utilization of the time that you have,  the selective reading of the study material that floods markets annually at this time, your ability to clock in number of hours in these days and lastly the strategy that you adopt for writing the paper.

Wise utilization of time is important

When you run a marathon, you don’t run at a very high speed all throughout.  In case you plan to win ( and most people do ), you will need to sprint once. That is, run the fastest you can for a brief duration, so that you have an edge over others.

For Civil Services Mains, this time is now. The next twenty days – you will have to sprint, not just walk, jog or run. What does sprinting mean?

By sprinting, I mean clocking in more hours than before, revising everything that you have read so far very quickly in the next 20 days – including all GS papers and Optionals and covering ( or at least making rough notes ) on those topics you have so far left.

If you have not done answer writing practice or not appeared for the test series you enrolled for, you can decide to finish one test everyday for next 20 days, and I assure you , you will be as good as someone who have written Mains exam before.. Writing one test everyday means – preparing the syllabus for the test in 1 day – yes – one single day – 12-14 hours of GS 1, covering as much as you can and a little more – and then writing the test and getting it evaluated by someone – preferably your test series teacher.

All I am saying is do something today.  Sit for three straight hours and write a paper.

Fool your mind.

One of the best pieces of advice I could give you right now is to fool your mind. Tell yourself that the exam starts on 18th November. Prepare accordingly as much as you can. Even if you fail and complete/revise 60-80% of the syllabus, you have a month’s head-start.

And if you truly want to crack it, actually write 4 test papers starting November 18. That way, you will know what you have missed studying. And you will also have lessons learnt from writing the Mains exam once before the actual exam.

You now have one month’s time to rectify your mistakes and implement lessons learnt.


Selective Reading of Study Material

Being  selective with study material will be key to your success.  Reading and revising what you have already done, is the most basic thing to do. And revising doesn’t mean reading something the second time. It’s a competition and you will have to read – and re-read things 4 – 5 times to commit something to your memory meaningfully.

If you are weak at geography, at least prepare 10-12 topics that are likely to be asked ( river systems, earthquake, sea floor spreading, El Nino- La Nina and just read those two/ four NCERT Geography books – questions will come from there )

If you have not done Temple Architecture, you can quickly, under forty minutes finish it by going through Nitin Singhania’s Notes and redrawing it on a rough paper and revising and reading it. That should finish the topic. Never devote one full day to any topic, and if you are doing it, you gotta increase your efficiency. Use a pen and paper and make the briefest synoptic notes on whatever you deem important and keep it. Do not make elaborate notes.

You should also prepare , diagram (like easy flowcharts covering whole topic ) wise 30-40 topics for Paper 2 and 3 so that if they come, you are able to write a credible answer – this is called issue based preparation.

Clocking number of hours:

Life is a numbers game. If you do not know where you stand in life, studies , preparation, or career, try asking a question that has a numerical answer, and you will have a clearer picture of things.

One good question would – how many hours have you actually studied this week.

The amount of effort you have in preparing for writing Mains Test can be gauged from the question – How many Mains mock tests have you written till date?

Your preparedness for GS Paper 2 & 3 can be assessed from asking the question: How many issues you have identified as important for Paper 2 & 3 and already prepares 1-1.5 pager short notes on it?.

Similarly, if you want to really crack the exam, you will have to score at least 90+ in GS 1,2,3 and above 120+ in GS Paper IV – ( because people are getting marks in GS Paper 4 ).

Get the picture?

This would mean devoting some number of hours for each paper in quantifiable numbers.

Get the maximum out of the day.

How to get the maximum number of hours from the day would be a big issue right now as winters are coming, days are getting shorter and before you have even completed the newspaper, the day is lost.

The easiest way to get maximum number of hours has been suggested by Shaleen ( Rabk 81) somewhere on the forum. Sit with your phone off and keep one sitting for at least three hours – do nothing in these 3 hours apart from studying . Have three such sittings, and you will have clocked nine hours.

UPSC does require a certain number of man hours – and its your choice whether you accumulate them in 3 months , 1 year or 3 years.

Lastly, Planning is essential.

I would say Plan. Plan for every paper. Especially essay and ethics. In ethics , do write at least 50 case studies – and using pen and a paper solve last two years question paper as if you are appearing for UPSC exam – and get evaluated form somebody. For essay do write 5 essays before you write one in the UPSC hall.

Plan how you will manage time in GS paper 1 if it is lengthy – one trick being starting from Q25 after 1 hour and in fifteen minutes writing 3 questions to gain some time. ( Most people who don’t write test series and appear in their first Mains end up doing only 4 questions in the first hour, 7-8 in second hour and the remaining questions out of twenty five in the last hour. If you haven’t planned, you will write five questions in last fifteen minutes – three of them in the last ten minutes. Don’t do that.

All I am saying is plan the time you spend in each 7-8 questions you write as evenly as possible – maintaining the same quality in each answer. Those things are important.

Finally, finish the paper. You minimize your chances by 33%- 50%  for final selection if you have not finished the paper – by which I mean leaving the questions whose answers you knew  because of lack of time or management. Remember that in the final selection, even 1 marks will count.

Until next time,