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 ❤ ,


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