Uncategorized UPSC Preparation Strategy

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,






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