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Did not clear Prelims – What next?

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Did not clear Prelims – What next?

ForumIAS Programs Uncategorized

Moderator 2015 Elections Over : Results Over Here

The Moderator Polls 2015 were very hotly contested this year with more than a total of 6000 votes polled.

The Polling Started on Friday and closed at 1PM , Sunday, September 20, 2015

Here are the results for the same:-

The Top 15 people receiving the maximum number of votes would be :-

















Note: Some very deserving candidates did not get elected popularly. We will have nominations by @root for the same.


Please leave comments if you have anything to share on this.


Test Series – To Do Or Not To Do?

Test Series for UPSC Mains

Benjamin Franklin once said – Never leave that until tomorrow, which you can do today. The man discovered electricity. We ought to pay more attention to what he said a few hundred years ago.

The third week of September has begun and if you haven’t risen yet, this is well, a wake up call for you.

So this week when @Aks and @Gator asked me – about joining a Test Series for Mains 2015, I said – Take it as priority No. 1 ( @Gator has secured a position in the IPS this year and I have seen him grow from pathetically low score with no Interview call, to a position in IFoS and IPS, and hopefully IAS this year.)

There are two things I want to tell you :-

1) If you don’t have a plan for completing syllabus yet – join a Test Series, any Test Series and follow their plan, and you will sail along. At least you will complete syllabus on time.

2) If you stay in the Study Hubs in Delhi (Old Rajinder Nagar, Mukherji Nagar) and are not clocking eight hours a day, by all means join a Library.

The Test Series Conundrum: To do or Not To

Should I join a Test Series? Well, The Union Public Service Commission is not going to test how good you are at studying. They will test you on how good you write answers. And if you have been studying very hard, UPSC isnt gonna know that unless they read what you have read. So do join a Test Series for GS & Optionals, by all means. Write at least 1-2 tests on every Paper and you will know the difference.

But I haven’t done my syllabus yet ? Is joining a Test Series too premature? The Syllabus is designed in a manner where you could do it in 20 days or a whole year. So the truth is, you will only compete the syllabus one day after the exam.

Let that one-day-after-exam feeling happen after you have written your first mock test, and not after writing real UPSC Mains Paper 1 Test on 19th December ( and trust me, if you don’t start writing tests, you will be feeling like that on the exam day )

So my advice is – you do not have to wait for the syllabus to complete. You complete some part of the syllabus every time you spend three days and three nights preparing for the next test ( and yes do it, that trying to cover whole-syllabus-in-last-three-days – before the Test, because those three days are like sprints in this long 100 day Marathon, one fourth which is almost over. ) After every test that you write with half preparation, you evolve into a wiser, more productive person, who knows himself very well. And that is, I dont know much 🙁

Which Test Series is good? 

Join any. As long as you have some standardised paper checking. You could join Vision or if you are looking for an alternative you could join GS Score, they are both good for Test Series, and have produced good results. @Aks and @Gator joined the later.

All that matters is – tests are conducted on time, discussions take place on time and copies evaluated on time. If you do not want to pay for the Test, you could take a look at Insights or this thread. @Rattlesnake writes brilliant answers there and I have not seen any place elsewhere where people write such brilliant answers. This also has to do with the fact that more serious and experienced aspirants participate there. Plus,  They are Free and offer only peer-to-peer evaluation, ( which on ForumIAS is damn good ) but you could just practise.

The Whys – over why a test series for Mains will help you

First, when you enter a class full of people jostling for space to write tests, you will realise how real the competition is. You will be proud if you score well, and that will be a good motivation. You will be ashamed, if you have missed the last test, whereas hundreds of people wrote it , and you were too lazy or too confused. That too, when you quit your job to pursue preparation full time, and you have been too lazy to accomplish two basic things – Reading the Newspaper Everyday, and showing up for the classes/tests you have already paid for.

Second, you actually learn to answer questions that you do not know. Its very likely that you will be half prepared if you are writing the first test within 15 days of the Prelims Exam.  Half prepared on the mock test is good. Half prepared on the Mains Day in December is not good.  So with your half preparedness , you are going to write a creative answer, and learn how to handle questions which are either open ended , or which you do not know. This helps, because Mains Exam is going to have 10 -12/25 such questions.

Third, you will miss a few topics when you write your first test tomorrow. But you will at least know what you have not prepared , and you are more likely to revise what you already know + read on what you have already missed when you write a test on the same paper once again , and most test series do have 2 tests on every paper. This, I call, iterative preparation.

Fourth, and this one is a blanket rule – you always have a few exceptions who won’t study much, make notes, nor write tests and get under 50 too! You cant beat them, TBH. And you may or may not be that lucky, but if you aren’t, you better plan. Exceptions aren’t the rule. Exceptions merely prove the rule. The rule is working hard + smart.

Almost every person I have known has written a few tests, if not in their clearing attempt, then in the attempt before.

Coming to the library part

Here is a checklist for you :-

  • I am NOT clocking eight hours a day yet.
  • I start from Wikipedia and find myself on certain youtube/variant everyday after sometime
  • I haven’t touched done one third of my optional first paper yet – thats less than 1/6th of the syllabus*
  • I have noisy flatmates who aren’t writing Mains this year.
  • I talk on the phone for more than two hours a day – during the day
  • My flatmate doesn’t study, and this hampers my prep too.

If you three or more apply to you, by all means join a library. A library is a great place to gauge the competition, focus on what is really important, an excuse for not talking on the phone, because you don’t carry your phone there, and doing distraction free studies, and even finding a life partner.

But I can’t live without the Internet, or worse, I can’t study so much 

Good news is, you don’t have to. If you like to study less, this means you are less efficient in terms of daily productivity in number of hours. So what you need is effective study – You study only five hours a day, but make the most of it – no phone calls, whatsapp, ForumIAS or talking to chicks or dudes.

I know people who would study from 7AM in the library to 2 PM , eat chhole bahuture from Students Corner and sleep for the rest of the day intoxicated by the tons of saturated fat in it. But Then , the evening would be for doing Current Affairs and newspaper only – or the Internet. But 7Am – 2 PM would be seven hours – or six effective hours. Its a good number, to begin with.

And yes, as the exam nears, increase this to eight to ten hours a day, and maybe more if you can.

The moment immediately after @valkyrie724 got Rank 81, I asked him the secret to his success. I knew it was the perfect moment, because he had become an IAS barely 3 minutes back and his answer would be an honest and true one. And he said the secret is – hold on –  I studied for three hours at one single stretch, even if my arse was on fire.

So wake up the sleeping genius in you, join that test series, or that library and stop procrastinating, start working. @Gator already is.

If you don’t believe me, go to your nearest library someday at 8AM and you will know what I am talking about.

Hope this helps some of you, and do leave comments if it does.

Until Next time,


UPSC Preparation Strategy

100 Days: How to Plan Ahead and Crack Mains 2015

The Mains Examination 2015 is scheduled on 18th December. That would be about 100 odd days from now. Today. This moment itself.

Folks, the time for celebrating How-Awesome-My-Prelims-Went and I am scoring 120+ by CL-Key is over. Or the mourning period over scoring only 77 in Gen category should also end. Get up and no matter how you feel, show up.

The next 100 odd days are going to be the most crucial days in the yet lived part of your Civil Services Preparation. Because no matter how much you have studied before, how much you scored last year, and no matter how much Synergy test series says you will score – the truth is – you won’t unless you have a rock solid plan.

And you will have to make that plan for yourself. Why would you need this article then?

This post will tell you the biggest mistakes that you should NOT make under any circumstance – it doesn’t matter if you have scored rank in 280s in CSE 2014 or you have just started off and this was your first Prelims. We’ll show you how to make that plan for yourself.

This year is a totally new game, and new winners will emerge, some will rise and shine, and some old players will fall into the oblivion. The truth is – you have to run fast, and catch up with all those who are ahead of you, and then a little faster, so that you can move ahead.

In the popular movie, Life in a Metro, the ambitious protagonist, when questioned by his boss, as to why he was in such a hurry to succeed, the protagonist says – Sir, yeh Race hai, koi Morning Walk thode hi. ( This is a race, not a morning walk.)

You have signed up for India’s most competitive examination, not the Unit Test of your engineering college , where you can make it even if you start late at midnight just a day before.

Here is the basic plan you ought to follow, if you would like to have a good shot at Interview 2015 – the sign that tells you that you did well in Mains 2015.

Capture September- October

The truth is, September & October will be your most crucial months? Why? Because there are going to three types of people:-

a) The Confused ones – still looking for which classes to join, and where to study from

b) The rock solid determined ones – Who already have a plan. They will tell you – Do I look like a guy with a plan? Don’t believe them, they have a plan.

c) The Seniors- ‘x’ times Interview appeared, perhaps selected in an allied service. They will eat up say 15% of the seats, but others still have 85% of the seats to themselves.

By now you would know which category you are in. The good news is, there is high mobility between categories ‘a’ and ‘b’. A large number of you will  move from being with a solid plan to getting misdirected and misoriented on your way. And a large number of confused ones will move to the ones with a solid plan. This isn’t very difficult. If you don’t have a plan yet, try following someone else’s plan.

What you should do in September & October

Finish off your Optional first. Then the essay (yes, essay !!) and Ethics. These papers are the three most neglected papers (everyone neglects at least one paper of the optional, except say – Ira Singhal or Suharsha Bhagat or Anunaya Jha). And I can tell you with some accuracy that early time invested here will give you that edge.

These subjects have to be done now and gotten over with – finished up. At least 50%, if you have never touched them before. The other 50% could be done in the next iteration, yes.

A lot of people score very good marks in Essay, Ethics and Optional 2, without tremendous preparation. But let me tell you that all these three papers are not all luck. I have worked hard one some of them, and I have had commensurate success ever time I have put effort – like scoring 50-60% in Essay consistently when I have a) practised a few papers and b) implemented my hacks and strategies for Essay in those practise papers and c) Repeated the strategies in the Examination Hall.

Its a wishful thinking that you would implement your hacks and started directly in the Examination hall. You cannot, unless you are very very lucky. (click)

What you Should Not Do in September & October

The list is easy

  • Do not wait for Prelims Result. Thats is what more than 4,00,000 people are doing. And waiting doesn’t cook rice.
  • Do not spend the next two months doing World History & Indian Culture – the big abyss in IAS preparation.
  • Do not wait till October end to finish the syllabus and finish all the 12 Mains Test which you have signed up for in the last 1 month before the exam, and be super awesome. That ain’t happening.

Follow an Iterative Approach – Don’t be overambitious

I met this girl who asked me – How can I complete the syllabus yesterday?

Everyone wants to complete the syllabus yesterday, isn’t it? I would say , try to do as much as you can today and this week. And a time will come for the leftovers, perhaps the next iteration or revision you make before appearing for the next test.

You have to finish as much as you can today and this week, but no more. You simply cannot and shouldn’t. Ridiculously ambitious goals are okay, but don’t be disappointed if you dont.

Don’t worry, you will finish a large part of your syllabus in the coming days, cumulatively. Its okay if you don’t make progress on some days despite your best efforts.

Get done with writing a few Essays this month, develop your strategy, tricks and hacks. Implement them in the test series or test that you write. Remember one thing – you cannot, cannot cannot implement an awesome strategy unless you have rehearsed it at home first.

You see those guys winning medals and creating World records in the Olympics in athletics ? Chances are, they have done better records in their practice , breaking the World Record many times over. Only then are they able to break records in the Olympics. So is the case with UPSC Mains.

Neglect is the Silent Killer.

If there is one thing you shouldn’t do, it is neglect any of the papers.

Neglect #1 If you are a fresher, you are most likely to do World History first, and Indian Culture – and all of this for about 30-40 days and remaining 80% in the remaining 33% of the time.  This is because that is the only thing about which you have very little or no idea about. And in this process you will end up hurting other papers.

Neglect #2 If you are again a newbie, you are more likely to wait till syllabus completion and then join a test series or begin answer writing practise. Most likely you will have covered 100% of the syllabus by December 31 this year. UPSC will also have conducted the Mains 2015 by that time. Do not wait for syllabus completion. Just sign up and start writing tests.

Neglect #3 If you have appeared for Mains before and even gotten an Interview call and even converted to some rank , here is what you will do. 

“I have scored 128 in Philosophy Paper 1 and only 68 in Paper 2. Let me focus on Paper 2 this time. And then most likely, you will pay little attention to Paper 1, and in the end you will probably end up reversing the score. The sum total of both shall remains the same unfortunately.

Do not neglect the paper in which you have scored well last year. Your goal should be to be good enough to retain that score and increase your score in the less scoring paper.

Covering General Studies Paper 1

GS 1 is static – well almost. And as ForumIAS moderator Neanderthal says – creativity paid for him ( He has a 400+ score in GS, and you gotta listen to him ). GS 1 is also very factual.

If you  begin GS 1 now, and if this is your first attempt, you will be doing GS 1 for next two months, and even half of November and you wont be anywhere close to completing the syllabus. GS 1 has to be read once, maybe, notes made – very briefly and can be safely relegated to October or so.

You will be very scared given that everyone in the planet knows about Napoleon and you don’t (until October ), but trust me, GS 1 will take almost 50% of most people’s time- especially first timers – And its weightage will hardly be – 250/1750! And that too, most people would be stuck with World History and Culture Part . Don’t be Most People.

Covering General Studies  Paper 2

This has been a bit of my forte, having scored 90+ in every attempt that I have made. GS 2 is largely current affairs, barring a few static portions last year. So the current Affairs will go as usual, try reading the Newspaper, not spending more than 90 minutes on The Hindu under any circumstance and maximum of 120 minutes if you are doing 2-3 newspapers.

But no more. If you are able to wind up The Hindu in under 60 minutes, you are a smart-ass. Note down issues, and maybe read them later.

For example, the European Refugee issue -You do not need to read on it everyday. At the end of the whole crisis, you can read and understand the whole thing through a single document. But yes, do make sure that you make a note of the issue and cover it later. By later, I mean no later than end of October.

When you read an issue on Current Affairs, I could tell you the questions that may come from it. On the EU refugee Crisis, the possible questions could be on:-

  • The Causes of Refugee Problem – being rooted in both War and EU policies.
  • The Refugee problem – a blemish on EU – since they have better tasted internal refugees during WW2.
  • The Refugee problem – a failure of UNO  (Most Likely Question).
  • Connection of the Refugee Problem with Issue of Refugees on our Eastern Border (Rohingyas included, don’t just think Bangladesh).

The Current Affairs Part can be done by several ways such as the Newspaper or reading on topics of your choice. The static part has already been done by you for Prelims – almost. You just need to revise that.

For those of you who are bad at International relations, I recommend giving one full day to Rajiv Sikri – this will set up the basics of India’s Relations with most common countries.

Covering GS Paper 3

The GS paper 3 has five kinds of Topics –

1) Economic Development  

2) Technology

3) Environment 

4) Disaster Management

5) Security Issues

Out of these for 1) You will need to do the Economic Survey + Hindu Newspaper (or compilation) well.

For 2) Be ready for two kinds of questions in technology:

  • Public Health – which is the most asked Question category in UPSC since times immemorial. Question could be on Ebola, Tuberculosis (MDR-TB, TDR-TB angles) and other related issues.
  • Technology that is of or is capable of mass application. In last two years questions have been on (Digital Signature – used by IT department, 3D Printer – which was a big news etc. )Include rural technology also under this.

For 3) Environment , current notes + last ten years papers will suffice.

For 4) Do it from any standard source, and prepare questions on Nepal, Uttarakhand and any other tragedies that have happened or may happen between today and December 18. Please note that when you study Disaster management, do not restrict yourself to Natural Disasters alone, but also retain focus on man-made disasters , which expand the scope of this part of the syllabus 10x. A  careful reading of the Hindu will keep you prepared for this.

Covering General Studies Paper 4

I will come up with detailed strategy on this part. Let me tell you Ethics is again a matter of clear mind – and you know this if you have appeared for Mains last year – where questions were sensitive, focussing on real world issues, and even political and casteist ones – something that UPSc had avoided all these years since Independence!

Ethics Paper will again be a matter of practise and having a sorted mind before the paper. Its easy to get tricked and score low therein.

I hope you make good use of the time at hand. Wish you all the best.

Additional Gyan

There are three things about time that you should know and appreciate:-

  1. Time is more precious than money. Because you can always earn more money, but you can never earn more time
  2. Everyone has an equal amount of it. Everyone.
  3. You will again have 24 hours when you wake up again tomorrow. You cannot waste tomorrow’s 24 hours today in advance. You can only waste today’s time. So the choice of redeeming yourself is always there 🙂

Cheers 🙂

Motivation TopperSpeak

The inspiring story of Suharsha Bhagat – 5th Attempt and 5th Rank

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Run Up to Prelims 2015 – The Last Seven Days Strategy

This article is for those of you who will be appearing for the Prelims Examination 2015 on August 23. Next Sunday.

I want you to know, that the next 7 days is not about studying. Or preparing for the exam, clocking hours.

The next 7 days is all about battle of nerves. A lot of you maybe first timers – who are writing the exam for the first time. A lot of you may not be first timers. But both may have spent sleepless nights over the coming Sunday.

I want you to know that its normal. All of us, who have cleared the Prelims exam, or the Mains, have spent sleepless nights. Countless sleepless night.

I for one, have spent close to hundreds of sleepless nights over the Prelims, Mains and Interview – the night(s) before.

And I can assure you, that this is true for everyone. Even the successful ones – like ForumIAS member @bikerGuy, a former flatmate, who secured under Rank 40, this year. He screwed up his first Prelims because he moved out of our flat, to sleep in the comfort of his home. Couldn’t sleep all night long, because of change of location and bed, and well, screwed his first Prelims. ( His story did not end there, he got IRS the very next year and IAS this year, and I will get him to share his story soon )

So this is normal. You are normal. Being anxious, worried, tense or even being carefree and chilled out is normal.

You are quite capable of clearing the Prelims very much with your current knowledge level. But the difference between you and me is that you do not know it yet.

And I can assure you – that the Civil Services Examination is designed in a manner where things you have learnt over a period of time will be tested.

If you have not been able to study as much as you wanted, thats okay. If you have studied hard, even better.

What I want you to know is – you need to buckle up and gear up for the last 7 days. You may be fatigued, disinterested or too anxious or would be over studying – you could be doing any of those. But don’t give up.

The last seven days are crucial for you. By crucial I do not mean to say that you need to be clocking ten hours + a day.

By crucial, I mean, that you must do things that increase your confidence.

By crucial, I mean that what you do, or how you react will decide a lot about the next one year – whether you will be writing the Mains, the Interview and so on. It won’t change your life, however, no matter how much people tell you. ( Events like marriage etc are life changing, not an exam )

The last seven days should be all about revision. Revising , in particular subjects like Modern Indian History – especially the part after 1905 and events closer to Independence – by which I mean the period between 1919-1947

In Art & Culture, as @doodlebean would say, you can only do so much. You cannot master all of it, but you should know the basics, beyond which you can easily skip the question without worrying about its impact on your score.

Always always always remember that your success or failure in Prelims doesn’t depend on your answering or not answering the tough questions. It will rather depend on you answering or not answering the simple questions, which everyone else is answering.

Remember, there is no study material that is absolutely essential to be read to pass the exam. So you may not have done Culture well, because you are bad at memorising, but may have been a good student all throughout and will be able to answer questions quite decently and will see yourself through the exam.

Tons of people Crack IAS without ever having touched Culture , or even totally skipping environment section ( but not skipping History, Polity , Culture AND environment, so dont be too evasive )

So what should you do in the next 5-6 days?

0. Go through previous years paper one more time. Why? So that you can realign your preparation as per the demand of the examination.

Just like on the Internet, where we flock from one website to a totally unrelated and useless one, the same happens with our preparation. We start with something useful and important, but after a while, we are studying something totally off the mark. To restore and realign, going through previous years questions is the best way.

1. Keep Calm and maintain your focus. Do not, and I repeat do not make B plans or think about what after the exam. No post exam plans for now.

2. Revise subjects where memorising is rewarding – like Modern Indian History and basic Ancient History etc in the end. This will pay you rich dividends. Trust me.

3. If writing tests helps you, by all means write a few tests. Small Mini Tests – and DO NOT, I repeat – do not just sign up for any test which has been newly launched and is not of verified authenticity. That is a sure shot way to kill confidence.

4. Meditate. If you are having too many ideas flowing into your mind, mediatation will help keep calm and keep control.

5. As cliched as it may sound, and as redundant this statement may seem – be positive and be confident. A lot of people screw up the Prelims exam because of lack of confidence or fear taking over. This is especially true for those people who have failed in Prelims once.

The fear takes over. Let not that person be you.

So be confident, be positive, revise stuff that you have missed, tie up the lose ends, and once more go through the previous years exam papers, and even if you dont know something little or substantial , its okay.

Lastly, in the examination hall, and this is again important for those of you havent had cracked Prelims before take care of this.

Time Management.

You will have usually ample time  in both the papers. However, if you are one of those who attempts each question cautiously, reading the questions twice – which I recommend ( but you may choose to go your way ), time management may become an issue in the exam hall.

Now that brings us to the question, how do you manage time in the Prelims Examination, so that you can safely read all questions and make a rational choice among the ones you want to attempt.

In the GS Paper , you have 120 minutes and 100 questions. This means, you must solve 10 questions every 12 minutes. or 6 questions every 5 minutes.

To be on the safer side, let us allocate 1 minutes for every ten questions. This will help you save time even if you exceed time limits. So at the end of every thirty minutes, do take a cursory look at how many questions you have done and speed up before it is too late. ( DO not start counting, or else that will also take up a lot of time )

After one hour do a fair assessment of where you are headed towards and make amends, by which I mean speedup if you haven’t done half the paper.

The same will apply to the CSAT Paper.

Lastly, do not get stuck at one question. If you are wasting more than 2 minutes at a certain question, you are using up the time you should have given to another question, which may have been easier.

The UPSC question comes in 4 Sets – A,B,C,D – where each set had 1 block of questions in a different order in another set.

If at first , while attempting the paper, you feel that you do not know the first 5-8 questions at all, do not despair at all. This often happens, and this has happened to me ( and I am  like, a good scorer in GS Prelims )

You need to understand that you have gotten the first stack of questions from an area which you may not be very good. at. Immediately leave 15-20 questions and start from the middle of the paper. I, for example, start solving the paper backwards – that is, from No. 100.

This has happened to me, where I did not know the first 8 questions of my set. I immediately started solving from the last page and got 10 east questions – solving all of them , boosting my confidence! I was saved ( and got some 120/200 in GS )

Thats all folks. Enough of Gyan!

Best of Luck for Prelims 2015. I hope to see you through with flying colors!

See you after the Exam.