An Open Letter(s) to those who flunk(ed) Prelims - ForumIAS

An Open Letter(s) to those who flunk(ed) Prelims

As sir talks about two test series to be solved.

I am sure about forum test series, but I need help wrt other test series. Any suggestions?

Join any Top 3, that is usually the least important factor. Doing well whatever you do, is the most important factor.


@Neyawn sir i want to contact you for my doubts and preferably want to meet you personally. Can you you please share your mail id 

status : prelims failed 

current status : dipin sir's classes online  

@RAGNAROK Sir, Failed Prelims is not the relevant fact. The relevant facts are

  1. What is your estimated score in the past attempt(s)
  2. How many questions did you attempt in CSAT

Open Letter #2

Setting poor standards for yourself.

So, I met this young man, from an IIT last to last week. He was curious as to what mistake he had made as we was getting 90+ by almost all keys. he almost blamed the unofficial keys for the varaiation.

IMO 90+ is a safe score for this year. But he did not make it.

"How many questions did you attempt in CSAT?"

"Around 45-48 questions". Should qualify.

Now out of 80 questions, if you are setting the bar so low for yourself, and being a Maths background student , and that too from IIT, it is completely you to blame.

If you are writing the exam - allegedly one of the toughest and the most unpredictable, we do not play russian roulette with different parts of the exam. 

Why not attemp at least 55-60 questions. If you dont know how to solve that much, practice, solve, take coaching, whatever you need to do.

But trying to crack the exam with a razor thin margin by doing 45 questions and saying - "But I am God Like accurate in CSAT and I will clear the cut off" is not how people who top exams behave.

Even if you get 10 questions wrong, you are at 35, and then with negative marks you are at 32, andout of the game.

The said person, a brilliant student otherwise, did come back saying that he finally checked the CSAT, and it must be CSAT.

He is not alone. For those of you who cant do CSAT, try to finish it off in Dec-Jan-feb. If you are the genius who will pick up the CSAT paper in March April, you are signing up for a stupid avoidable failure. 

There is no point wasting your youth and your parents money if you have such study and preparation ethics.

If I am not able to carck an exam, what should I do?

Plain simple truth is, I should give it more time.

We are not created equal honestly. Some of us maths skills, some of us have good language skills, some of us are brilliang with self study, some of us are complete teacher taught , coaching fed students. 

Next week, I am going to meet an old friend, a District Collector now. We even did a small talk last year in an online webinar at IIT Kanpur, ( she was from IIT D, Electrical ). I still remember that while the smart people flunked prelims year after year, she was complete ghissu, doing her classes diligently, both at IIT and at CSE , and made it with an under 40 rank.

In the end we have to find what works for us, and what does not. We may have to try and see and sometimes , the utility of doing something is in knowing that it does not work.

I did tell Harsh the story of Lord Buddha when he came next day saying he didnt clear CSAT and it was pure stupidity.

The story goes that Prince Siddharth went to the jungle leaving behind his wife and child seeking peace. Many years later, his wife, who lived in the palace, heard a knock at the door. When she opened the door, she saw Gautam Buddha.

She asked him, why did you leave us?

"To seek peace", Buddha said.

"Did you find it in the jungle?"


"Then?" asks a bewildered Yasodhara." What was the point of it?"

"Knowing that I wont find peace even in the jungle".

In your civils journey, you will have to try out a few things. You must learn from whatever you try. You will find few things useful and other things less useful. You will have to learn to extract the best from many places, including this wonderful forum.

Things that has pros, will not be without cons.

That is a settled debate.

Do not afraid, take risks, and if you are putting in 8 hours of studies 6 days a week, you will not flunk prelims.

And do not ask stupid questions.

I often meet people who say - If I do laxmikant, will I be able to solve all Polity questions?"

The correct answer is - No, you will not. But you will probably know what to do, if you have done it that well.

Sometimes people ask if book X or Y could be done. A good way to find out, often is , by doing it.

And we are here to study. There is no harm in reading a new book or taking some class., if you feel your knowledge base is not improving with passing days.

Also, last but not the least, a little bit of madness to needed to achieve anything worthwhile. 


sir these were my score 
1) 94(2019) / 86.33 (2020) (all 4 s&T question with D option got wrong and 2 eliminated/ 94-102 (various coaching keys score forum,shankar,toppers, vision lowest was 94 from vision) 
2) csat was never my weak area this years expected score 97 ( through shankar and nextias keys ) 
csat i usually do maths and reasoning and few like only 15 verbal of which 7 was correct 

previous attempts were 97/89/ 92 

Please give yourself a break and try for IFos for one year.

The minute you do that, you will raise your bar for Prelims.

Many people do this, when they face issue in Civils.

This year at least 15+ candidates were there who focused only on forest and cleared it. I still remember this year a brilliant kid Nitesh from Bihar, who focused on IFoS and cracked with some rank in 40s. ( Brought some Haldiram sweets also :) ) And there was AFAICR, Dhivya , who has secured under Rank 10 in IFoS. Have not bee able to congratulate any of them personally, but these were the kids who have solved a problem. So open your eyes to the world around, and work on the strategy. Three attempts gone is not good, if in any attempt, you knew beforehand that you wont clear the exam.

Look, my point is, before the exam, we should have a fighting chance. before a war, we should have an army that has a fighting chance, or you are simply a general who is going to be responsible for the mass murder of his soldiers. 

In your case, you have good scores. If possible go for IFoS once, if you are eligible.

I still remember there was a very very old forum member ( not my student, I mean he may be a forum enrolled student in MGP and others, but I knew him from forum, the old forum.) All he wanted was IAS or IPS and he cleared IFoS and secured himself, then after working as DFO ( Divisional forest officer ) which is kinda big deal and equivalent to DM / DC and SP in the District , this year he managed some good rank.

So try to think on those lines. Raise the bar and reduce the risk.

Here is a Thank you note I had from him. Because he has Covid duties, we used to have mock sessions at 10-11PM this year, when we were supremely tired, and was like having drooping eyes. During the second wave, he would be interrupted by phone calls with some or the other casualties This person was someone I knew from discuss forum itself.

You will note that not once he has mentioned that he has been selected for IFoS.

He doggedly pursued what he wanted and got it.


Thank you so much for writing this@Neyawn 

2021 was my first attempt and I was scoring between 80-90 based on various keys. Couldn't clear and I have been struggling with the fear of failing again ever since. 

Your post has given me a new positivity which I hope to sustain for the next months .     

Please do not overestimate the size of the problem, to an extent that it looks unsolvable. Give it more time. Thats all. If 4 months is not enough, give it five months. Dedicated Months. People do that all the time.

I remember a kid from Pune, who has been writing to me for the last two years. I never met her. She was just 20 at the time she was writing letters.

She just started studying and when prelims came near, she was so scared, she only focussed on prelims . She cleared Prelims, then she cleared Mains also but because of Covid her college did not give her the Degree Certificate.

So, UPSC told her that since she does not have the degree certi, she cant give the Interview ( weird ). She approached the HC who directed the Commission to allow her to give the Interview.

After two years of preparation and letter writing - almost one every two months, when I finally got to e-meet her for the Interview, I was so happy to finally see her. She was only 21 at the time of application. 

I was expecting her to get a Top Rank. Anyway, for some reason, her interview scores were not the best, and she has 199 rank, and will be joining IPS / IRS

She was there to see me and got me coffee, keeping her promise over the email, which she said she would buy me if she cleared the exam. I am hoping to see her soon sometime when she drops by from the academy and comes down to Delhi.

I only know her through emails, and web calls, and have never met her, but know her story through umpteen emails we have written to each other. It was easy to respond to her because she was very specific with her questions. 

My point is our only job is to work, no matter how we feel. Our feelings often have no correlation to our real life condition.

We suffer more in imagination than in reality.


I feel so happy reading some of the comments(hopefully this isn’t time wasting) 

But tbh guys you all are wonderful. 

I don’t have any friends(wrt intellect/similarity). Here I feel you guys are my friends just by reading comments. 


1)Finish optional(Section A of Paper 1 and half of Section 2 paper 2) 

2) Finish ethics with revision 

3) Finish history and start geography by 16th or 18th Dec max 

4) At least 3 month CA magazine(pending since June) 

5) CSAT daily 1/2 an hour 

I hope to achieve these targets! And I’ll! 

None of us have too many friends here. We are a bunch of awkward nerds, mostly keyboard heores.

But we have good people here. 


@Mukzy You need to take some classes in CSAT or get a good friend circle and solve CSAT Papers in the winters of Delhi and finish off with CSAT. By Feb you should be brilliant at CSAT.

There was an old member of forum @greymatterrules on discuss, he is now a District Collector in Assam in some Chihang district ( not sure of the name ) . He shared something brilliant with me which I will share with you .

One day, when a student turned up ( greymatterrules was in information service that time, we did not have an offline center, but we decided to do prelims test series in offline mode , we had no staff, so those from forum, who wanted to catch up, i told them to volunteer and help out with prelims paper distribution at a center of another coaching , and he was there to help conduct the prelims exam ), s/he said that she was poor at modern history.

And he said - who on earth is poor in history. You could be bad at physics, or maths and may have low IQ and aptitude - even that is surmountable by hard work. But history is a matter or reading and reading. If I revise more than you I become better, if you revise more than me, you will be better.

So see if CSAT is a matter of practice or is the question high funda that you can never be good at it. If it is doable , do it fast.

If I were you, I would do it in Dec _ jan with a buch of friends having only CSAT agenda and problem solving. That way we would hangout as well as achieve something from exam point of view. If I dont have friends who can tell me how to solve, I would take some nearby coaching where I can at least ask how to solve PYQs.

That is all that is.

What I would not do, is exhaust attempts over CSAT. That is a sign of flimsy or non - seriousness, no matter how sincere you are. 

Let us not do this. 

My logic for clearing Prelims is not only because it is a step to becoming IAS. But also because if you dont clear Prelims, you think differently vs a person who who clear prelims ( writes mains and does not clear it ). You think UPSC ( and life ) is completely chance , and you move towards some sort of nihilism - that nothing works. 

Also, when you move ahead in a non-tech career, you will see that nearly everyone has been a UPSC aspirant. And there again the hierarchy will play out - the Inteview appeared guys at the top, the mains appeared below and prelims even below ( I am talking job scenario and not risky ventures such as politics, business, films, journalism etc. )



I just wanted an honest guidance. I wrote my last comment about prelims 2021 ... getting 84-88 in Gs and being terrible at Csat. My problem is I'm not prepared with my optional Sociology had taken classes for it in 2020 so I know generally about it but since then been too engrossed in finishing off the syllabus and Prelims that couldn't give a proper reading of the standard sources etc in it. 2 attempts are over for me and I'm keeping other exams as backup so I'm actively preparing for other exams and giving them like this month have 2 other exams to give so CSE preparation is not going full fledged as I should have. My query is if you say 5 months is required to clear prelims and I'm not fully prepared with my optional. What should I do then , should I try to get finish my optional somehow my January or should I not give the next attempt. Sincerely I request you to share some of your much required insights

Look, this exam requires a certain time to prepare. Give it that time. If you have not cleared prelims there are two ways to proceed 

(a) focus on prelims, give it 5 months and accept the fact that you may have suboptimal mains preparation and you may need another attempt ( which means studying afresh for mains after the mains - which I have seen that only people who have elder siblings or parents in Civil Services or some very good guidance do ; the rest waste the post mains time ) . Accept that fact and stay away from people ( and coachings including forum )  who tell you what will you do "even if you clear prelims, you wont crack Mains." 


(b) Take a planned drop ( rather than flunking the exam and taking an unplanned drop with a weakened psyche ) and give 5-6 months to GS Mains ( GS and essay ) and 5 months to prelims.

My point is that when we write an exam - "not clearing it should not be foregone conclusion" - that is you know beforehand itself that you wont clear it because you could not prepare because of time / calendar contraints ) . Your preparation should be such that you have a fighting chance?

hi. I gave my first pre in 2021 with almost 8 months of prep (pre oriented , didnt touch mains). If I start focusing on pre from jan (for 5 months) again then mains prep will be left behind and I might fall into that vicious cycle that you had mentioned in one of your posts. I am falling in the 2nd category (60s range). What would you sug  

@DEVI1997 YOu are 1997 born. You have age on your side ( most prolly ) the vicious cycle isn't flunking the Mains. Its flunking the prelims, which I am more worried about.

With 60 marks, you have not revised the basic books itself

With 80-90 marks, you have revised the basic books at least!

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