What are some mistakes you made in your earlier Prelims ? - ForumIAS

What are some mistakes you made in your earlier Prelims ?

We all make mistakes . What mistake did you make in your previous attempt if any that you would like to warn people about ?

Integer,DMand22 otherslike this


Missing exam temperament. In 2020 attempt i could have aced some questions but I panicked seeing the paper. Thought i know nothing and it led to filling few wrong bubbles and some really silly mistakes. 
ssver2,Auroraand13 otherslike this

1. Attempting less questions because I was afraid of getting some wrong. Did barely 81 questions and scored 90 marks.

Know your sweet spot, based on your accuracy and confidence.

2. Didn't sleep too well before the big day, was very sleepy even after drinking 2 red bulls, and one snickers. Did not attempt 2 very easy questions, and did 2 incorrectly because my concentration level had dropped down by the end of the session. 

Sleep well before the exam. In fact make sure your schedule is perfected so that you hit your peak mental capacity at 9:30-11:30am. 

3. 2nd attempt, I was successful at clearing the prelims. The first 10-20 questions in my set were very factual, and difficult agriculture type questions. I almost gave up midway, but then decided to throw a hail mary and stopped worrying about the consequences. Ab jo bhi hoga, dekha jaayega, khul ke khelo.

Flipped around my paper, and started reading from q100. Thank the heavens, it was basically easy polity questions, which gave me enough momentum to attempt the other questions.

Don't lose confidence midway through the paper. If you feel overwhelmed, just go to the washroom, wash your face and get back. 

ssver2,Auroraand17 otherslike this
Focused more on solving questions and gave less emphasis on revising standard books.Went mad after current affairs revising from n number of sources.Strengthening static portion this time.Balancing between mcq solving and revision of standard books.Eat well sleep well and study well.Controllable must be controlled 🙂
ssver2,EiChanand10 otherslike this

1. Less practice of mocks. Thought reading more and having a lot of knowledge is better. But mind can only assimilate till a point, rest is utilization. Mind must be trained toanswer, and notassimiliate.This is probably the difference between a would-be professor/teacher and future administrator, I think. Practice as many mocks as you can, even till last day (second last to be exact, I prefer last day off.) It helps.Tremendously.

2.Discipline-Can't stress this enough. Get up early (thank god SFG ensures that). There's a reason most successful people today (read most, I dont claim ALL) get up before 5 or 6 am. Leaders, CEOs of companies, sportpersons etc. Human beings, since beginning of civilization, have collectively come to this conclusion that waking up early is going to benefit you. Believe that, avoid careless criticism of age old wisdom. Or, do that at your own peril. So, I repeat, get up early every single day till prelims. At least one month before.

3. Sleep issue-happens if you study/revise on last day. I keep last day off. Having less sleep does affect you negatively, but I have seen many clear it without much sleep also. So, not really sure with this one. Personally for me, I need it. 

4. Practice static more. No one, I repeat, no one is God in current affairs. Currents affairs is the achilles heel of everyone. Dont fret about it too much. You dont lose out in prelims because you didnt remember some random convention/bird name/factual policy. You lose out because you messed up that static fundamental question of polity, economics or geography.@Neyawn has given a funda....33% currents and 66% static. Stick to it. 

5. For repeaters-your arrogance/ego about your previous successful attempt is your biggest enemy. Its mine too. Its a personal battle, takes time to tackle. I havent been able to counter it completely, but practicing mocks keeps those thoughts at bay. Prelims of any year is a great leveller, while freshers are afraid that they may not have full knowledge, repeaters are afraid what if they forget a scheme they read 1 year earlier and it comes in the paper? Only answer to it-keep practicing, compare your performance (SFG or excel sheets) and practice more. 

6. Stay away from these 2 kinds of people-"tera toh ho jayega yar"and "UPSC kaise paper bana raha hai, kya kya puchne lag gaye, aise thodi na test hoti hai knowledge".Both these are counter-productive. The first one produces laziness, the second demotivates you. We must not be these. We need to be active and motivated. If you yourself indulge in it (like i used to), please stop. It has opposite effect. 

7. Lastly, and this one will be controversial, but I will say it.Have faith in mocks.Not the questions as such, but in the process. Giving tests/practicing mocks daily brings real physical changes in your body and you start getting into the exam mode. Thats THE MOST CRUCIAL ASPECT. All the coaching institutes are trying to make things easier for you, they try very hard to produce quality content/tests/solutions. Sure there are discrepancies here and there but by and large this model of coaching institutes is working fine as it is producing toppers since 20 years at least. Have faith that the people sitting and making those papers and content for you do that with a lot of dedication and commitment, and you can take a lot of benefit from it, but only if you have a proper mindset. They are not sitting there just to make the big bucks, they have their own targets and goals which go much, much beyond mere money. So, please, drop that critical attitude atleast during this time till prelim, and solve questions as much as you can. Because let me tell you, the toppers are already doing it, quietly but consistently. Every single criticism/negative energy takes you away from the path of success. You dont want that.

And lastly, since I believe in God, I pray to him every day. If you do too, please continue. If you dont, have faith on something else. Its a competition at the end of the day, and like every competition it will always mean each one for themselves. No uniform strategy will work because all of us are different and unique. Do whatever will make you fetch the best marks. Thats all that matters, till 10 Oct, 2021. 

Neyawn,Auroraand22 otherslike this

Attempted less num of questions in 1st attempt. Was scared of getting negative. Though in mocks used to attempt 90+ Qs. But in UPSC panicked and solved some 60-70, thinking I will get 120 marks. Takeaways- attempt same num of questions as done in mocks (more or less)

EiChan,Jhumpa21Mewatiand3 otherslike this

Mistakes yearwise

1. In 2016 gave attempt thinking ki mai badshah hun aur 2 mahine mein sabkuc padh liya hai.... upsc ne bahut jor ki thappad maari got around 88 marks

2. In 2017... was fully prepared did around 70 mocks but 4..5 questions static se galat kar diye aur prev year analysis pe thoda less focus kar paaya... 2 marks se reh gaya.

3. In 2018... mai january se pagal ho gaya tha ki mujhe chahiye kisi bhi keemat par 150 marks in prelims... gave SFG and did vision 30 tests, also dipin sir classes helped. And meri 2 ghante exam k sirf exam k liye hi the... I knew somehow after attempting the paper ki ho jaayega....qki last 5 mnths mein utna mehnat kisi ne sirf prelims k liye nahi kiya hoga

4. 2019... centre bahut dur tha...i decided to stay at a different place. This ruined evrything. I was not able to sleep properly. Moreover 2..4 questions dekh k panic ho gaya. Upar se invigilators poore 2 ghante badbadate rahe. In exam time i started thinking about future, career, 4 saal ho gaye ye bhi nahi aa raha and all... and failed in prelims... moreover mocks mein bhi utne ache marks nahi aa rahe the. Ek aur baat i started preparing for prelims in feb jo ki ek galti hai....ab 5 mahine k aaspaas chahiye agar surety chahiye prelims mein toh

5. In 2020... revised evrything in lockdown... better marks in mocks and abhyaas. Quesn isme bhi predictable nahi the... Infact i saw 1st ques as fertigation and saw 5 more quesn...Mai samajh gaya UPSC nahi badli hai.. I dont know why but i started laughing ki padhai mein se pata nhi kuc aayega bhi ki nahi....but i will give mu best fight... gave my complete two hours to the paper...and towards the end i knew i would clear...cleared prelims.


1. Statics ko mat ignore karo...upsc prelims hone k chances kam ho jayenge.

2. Last m koi bhi kitaab mat kharido...10 sawaal kisi ek chiz se aajtak nahi aaye naa hi ayenge.

3. Confidence aisa rakkho ki aapne mehnat ki hai, mocks lagaye hain toh aapko fal milega.

4. Tukke maarne padte hain aur aapko bhi maarne padenge...aap bas socho ki mehnat jyada aapne kiya hai toh better tukke aap hi maaroge.

5. Ladai jhagda ka mahaul exam waale din naa banayen....shaanti se raho thoda meditation karo... nirvana milegi.

6. Subjectivity hai....kabhi kabhi aapke haath m chizen nahi hoti... wait kro fal milega.

7. Prev year quesn ko agar aapne ignore kiya hai toh fal bhugatne k liye taiyaar rehna....qki upsc ko sirf uske kiye huye karmo se samjha jaa sakta hai

Neyawn,Auroraand26 otherslike this
@jassikamboj16303 Regarding point 1, If you continue to do mock till last date , how do you revise them ??

@Luffy Revision has to be side by side. I don't believe in keeping revision till end. That doesnt work because you need to be in "problem-solving mode" rather than "knowledge gaining mode" as days come nearer. So, revise test as soon as you give it on same day, and then next day once more.
When you revise, do the labourious work of copying pasting into an errorbook. It is labourious, boring, mundane in the moment, but it has tremendous benefits as days come nearer.
As you revise the errorbook everyday, your mind starts expanding and getting trained for a prelim oriented perspective-facts, data, policy. It keeps throwing this stuff at you gradually. Last 10 days mocks are more or less to get into the killer zone, there isnt much new stuff to be memorized, so practice easier ones or simple static one. Have faith and trust this process. 

EiChan,sjerngaland3 otherslike this
Performance during exam is as important as preparation for exam.
GaryVee,sjerngaland2 otherslike this
Taking CSAT lightly and then waiting for results.
Aurora,GaryVeeand4 otherslike this
@TsarBomba for your point 4 about invigilators, it almost cost me my csat last time. They were constantly talking and I had to read and re read paragraphs and wasted too much time. This time I have decided to shut them up immediately politely or otherwise if needed, If anyone faces this issue just stand up and ask them to stop talking because it’s in their instructions and you have all the right to complain if they don’t follow.

ssver2,TsarBombaand5 otherslike this
@Asmita_101 i would say do that politely or it will create issues with your own peace of mind.... my invigilator created ruckus when i asked them to keep quiet and no aspirants stood in my favour....
I would say give 1..2 csat in same situation where evry1 is talking like park or some playground.... I understand howmuch bad luck it is to have those invigilators in ur room.... but I dont think there is a perfect way out.. may be they wont argue much but sometimes it acts contradictory...

GaryVee,sstarrrand3 otherslike this
@TsarBomba thanks for the advice appreciate it but I tried not saying anything last time and I had to waste 10 days after prelims because I was on edge in csat. So I discussed it with my mother who is in education sector and oversees exams regularly in her college. She told me that invigilators are instructed to keep quiet and if they still don’t it’s in your best interest to ask them to keep quiet and if they don’t comply you can always complain with a superior in the break before csat. And asking politely is of course my plan A rest everything only comes when I feel like it’s the only way out. 

Neyawn,TsarBombaand4 otherslike this
@TsarBomba thanks for the advice appreciate it but I tried not saying anything last time and I had to waste 10 days after prelims because I was on edge in csat. So I discussed it with my mother who is in education sector and oversees exams regularly in her college. She told me that invigilators are instructed to keep quiet and if they still don’t it’s in your best interest to ask them to keep quiet and if they don’t comply you can always complain with a superior in the break before csat. And asking politely is of course my plan A rest everything only comes when I feel like it’s the only way out. 

This was much needed , thanks!



1. Attempting subject wise tests mostly. Those do not improve your guessing game much, in my experience.

2.Not attempting FLTs seriously, with a 2 hour time period in an uncomfortable environment. I use to always attempt mocks on my study table with my door closed. When i encountered teachers chatting, invigilators asking me to change my seat in between the exam during my prelims, i was thrown off by the situation. 

3. Not focusing onstrengthening basics. I mugged up a lot of information. Not realising that understanding and strong foundation will ultimately help you sail through.

4.  Panicking and not sleeping well before the exam.

5. Attempting to revise all Current affairs a day before the exam. 


1. Rushing through the 1st reading. Missed few points in the question like “not” correct and “in the Constitution”

2. Not relying on my common sense and making blind guesses.

3. Low confidence 

4. Not knowing the 1st few questions and panicking. 

5. Not having a clear strategy about when to bubble, how to pick questions I should be guessing how many questions to leave etc.

I was trying to fight the exam. Instead, I should ave prepared myself to conquer the battle. 

GaryVee,crikeymateand8 otherslike this
@Asmita_101 thank you for this. During my UPSC prelims exam, an invigilator sat right behind me and starting counting aloud and talking to the teachers in the room. I politely asked him to stop talking after which he started whispering. But i could hear everything since he was sitting right behind me. I was also asked to change my seat 10 mins after the exam started. Can you tell me who do I report this to? 

Regardless of that, this seems to be a common problem for a lot of people.Sadly, complaining is not going to get you to write the exam again. I’ve realised its best to acclimatise yourself to such an environment.


I cleared PT 2018 [exact 98 marks], did not clear in 2019 and cleared in 2020 [score should be around 108-112]. My take on the exam is: 

1. I cleared in 2018 because I got lucky. I did work hard but it wasn't aligned the way it should have been, it was all haphazard, the only thing I did right was that I revised basic books several times and eventually it paid off.

2. In 2019 I failed because I took my luck for granted. I thought 2018 strategy would work but it didn't. I did make a few tweaks but that was at the cost of basic books and PYQs. Of course I paid a heavy price for it. Lesson - Current affairs can help you only when you have support of basic books.

3. 2020: Rectified mistakes from the past. Numerous revisions of basic books + PYQ. Solved several mocks but did not revise them or solved them at the cost of revision of basic books and PYQs. 

4. UPSC has certain low hanging fruits and they should be prepared well: National Parks/sanctuaries, Buddhism and Jainism, Acts by Britishers prior to 1947, certain species [tigers, lions etc.], economic trends related to GDP etc. If someone does these properly with basic books, chances of getting selected increase. 

5. It was in my 2020 attempt that I decided not to take mock scores at heart. I mean there is little you can do about them, just learn the relevant stuff and move on. I had cried over mock scores in 2018, 2019 attempt, wasted a day crying over it. In 2020 I attempted the mock and every time I got a bad score, I went back to PYQs. It was not only uplifting but also helped me eliminate options in UPSC paper. 

6.  In 2019, I couldn't sleep a night before exam and was upset about it in the morning. In 2020, I couldn't sleep a night before exam but I was okay with it. I just told myself how this is natural and a sleep's night should not be allowed to mess with my head. 

7. In 2019, half an hour with the question paper and I had told myself how I will not clear the prelims. And of course I did not. In 2020, my set had polity question in the end, in the first 50 questions I only knew 11 questions with surety and they were almost all related to science and random ambiguous questions. But in 2020, I told myself if this paper is difficult for me, it will be difficult for everyone because I did everything that had to be done. I had said something similar to my father while on our way to exam center and he replied "bas yehi toh chahiye na, iss baar tu khush hai jo last time nahi thi. Your confidence will help you this year". A deep breath and a few seconds of self-talk helped me ace 2020 prelims. 

I truly believe that a day before exam is meant for hard work and one should slog as much as possible. However, on the day of prelims be the boss and just tell yourself how you can and will ace it. Trust me, it works. I have personally seen it work. 

All the best to everyone appearing for prelims this year.!

ssver2,Itachiand34 otherslike this

As a suggestion... I would add one thing that often we become KHOJI person with use of mobile,tab,laptop during end of exam. It must be avoided at all cost. If you are able to sit with ur books and study without any digital distraction,say for 10 hours ... aaj ke time mein aap waise hi kai logon se aage nikal jaoge jo dinbhar digital sources k through downloading and saving kar rahe hain till last date.... ab samay aa gaya hai not to take more fruits but digest it and use it to ur advantage

Oasis,EiChanand6 otherslike this

Handle your Hall ticket carefully !!!

I have put 2 copies of hallticket, some ENV facts sheet and csat formulae sheet in a PYQ book in library  at 10 pm i realised that book was missing  and panicked (some one took it by mistake as many have same pyq book)  

You cannot call your friends at that time because everyone has paper next day

Finally i got a Prinout at midnight and all this drama disturbed my sleep and managed 94 marks (7 silly mistakes)-failed

pack your exam bag 2 days before and keep it in your room.. 

Aurora,EiChanand7 otherslike this
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