UPSC Strategy for Mains

Jul 19, 2021
5 min read
UPSC Strategy for Mains

UPSC CSE aspirants who clear the Preliminary examination become eligible to sit for UPSC Mains Examination. After years of preparation, students clear the first hurdle; it's a morale boost for them. However, the marks of Prelims don't account during the preparation of the final merit list. Therefore, it is the Mains examination whose performance will be valued while determining your rank.

The UPSC Mains strategy should be rock solid as the exam takes around 10 days of testing student's grit and preparation. Since this is a descriptive examination, UPSC Mains preparation requires a different plan and process altogether to get through.

How to prepare for UPSC Mains

The ultimate strategy that always makes the scoresheet of aspirant's sore high have been mentioned below:

  • Conceptual Clarity: While preparing for the Mains examination, students will encounter descriptive questions that would thoroughly test their level of understanding. With the inclusion of case studies in the questionnaire, aspirants would be required to make appropriate references on their answer sheets to secure their marks. UPSC Mains preparation requires students to retain loads of information and convey the same during the exam. Therefore students must have a clear understanding of whatever they are preparing.
  • Selection of Optional Subject: While competing amongst thousands of students in the Mains Examination, your focus should be to secure maximum marks from your strengths. There are optional paper exams where students should always pick subjects of their level of comfort and interest. The decision to pick up a topic should depend upon your level of understanding that can build and your capability to score maximum marks in that paper.
  • Answer Writing Practice: One of the critical elements on which students would be evaluated is their answer writing skills and the level of preciseness they showcase while answering the questions. Aspirants should regularly enhance their skills of writing answers to avoid the deduction of small bits of marks.
  • Prioritizing Important and Frequently Occurring Topics: Since preparing for the UPSC Mains examination will be a race against time, to conserve and utilize the maximum amount of time, students should create a list of priorities for each paper ensuring coverage of maximum marks.
  • Mock tests: Mock tests and self-assessment have been vital components for every competitive examination that has ever existed and stand the same for this coveted exam. Diligently appearing for mock tests and working on the feedback received will minimize the errors you make while appearing for the real examination and help maximize your marks on D-Day.

How to prepare for UPSC Mains after Prelims

  • Take a short break: Since preparation for the Prelims and Mains examination is done in tandem, students dedicate around a year or more to make it to the merit list; it becomes vital that they take some time off and make peace with the things they love. Furthermore, students should avoid taking unnecessary stress as this period would help them rejuvenate their zeal to crack the ultimate exam.
  • Precise Strategy: After a brief spell of refreshment, students should be able to sketch out a master plan that they can follow for the upcoming months and study for Mains Examination. Devising UPSC Mains strategy can be divided amongst 3 broad categories that are read, revise and write. Aspirants should make proper allocation of their time to every paper while reading current affairs regularly.
  • Strengthen Answer writing skills: As mentioned above, the UPSC Mains examination requires students to thoroughly provide inputs relevant to the questions. Therefore, aspirants should regularly devote some time to revise and write the summary of the concepts they learn. However, practising questions from Previous Year Papers would also suffice your needs.
  • Appear for Mocks: Mock test helps you boost your preparation and helps you get acquainted with exam day scenarios. Therefore, every mock test should be considered the actual exams, and the opportunity to upskill their preparation by amending their mistakes should be taken up on priority.

Paper wise Strategy for UPSC Mains

The primary motive behind the UPSC Mains Examination is to test your knowledge of the subjects. The descriptive answers you write create an impression on the evaluator about your mindset and approach towards articulating a problem. Every year, the exam trend and pattern dynamically change and require candidates to clarify whatever they are preparing.

Therefore, the paper wise strategy for UPSC Mains Examination would be:

  • General Studies Paper-I: The syllabus has been broadly categorized into Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World, and Society. GS Paper-I has a vast and dense syllabus; therefore, students must have a broader perspective towards this subject to gain proper dominance. Since most of the content is factual and descriptive, students must memorize specific facts whose interpretation and usage would earn them good marks. Therefore, it is crucial that aspirants continuously prepare their notes and revise them regularly to produce good results. With NCERT being the eminent resource to prepare this subject, subscribing to other IAS preparation services and courses will help boost your preparation.
  • General Studies Paper-II: General Studies Paper-II involves subjects like Governance, Polity, Social Justice, and international relations. GS Paper-II includes most of the questions from dynamic current affairs, while the static questions are nowadays linked with the dynamic portion. The majority of the part can be covered just by regularly reading newspapers, covering relevant magazines, and referring to books, especially Polity.
  • General Studies Paper-III: This paper includes Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security, and Disaster Management; all these subjects require conceptual understanding to answer the questions. Along with NCERTs, students should use suggested reference books to enhance their knowledge. This paper would require students to the application of technology in modern society. For Economic development, students should diligently follow the financial budget and retrieve crucial information.
  • General Studies Paper-IV: GS Paper-IV includes subjects like Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. Candidates should make sure to write ethical and positive answers. Most of the questions will be based on case studies and require students to efficiently showcase their problem-solving ability with appropriate solutions. GS paper IV analyses the candidate's level of understanding values and integrity in public life. 
  • Essay Paper: This paper focuses on the ability of students to represent their ideas and skill to structure their thoughts with relevant facts and information. Answer writing practise comes into play in such papers as correctness in the language would improve your scores. Candidates should follow the guidelines about the UPSC Mains answer writing strategy to display quality work throughout the Mains examination.
  • Optional Paper: Making the right decisions is the key to extract good marks from this paper. Candidates get the choice to select their optional subject, which would carry a total weightage of 500 marks in the Mains examination. Therefore, it is believed that students should analyze their strengths and interest to select suitable optional. Furthermore, to prepare these subjects' students should follow previous year papers and read the reference material they are thoroughly acquainted with.
  • Compulsory Paper: This paper is a screening test and requires proper command over the language while maintaining sound basics while writing your answers. Being complacent in such papers would directly lead to a waste of efforts and non-disclosure of scores in other papers.

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