IAS Mains


Please remember that mains is very much important in deciding your rank, hence you should not take any chance. Remember that this exam needs constant hard work and consistent preperation over a period of time. So be a hardworking and a consistently smart-working candidate. Be honest to your inner conscience and always remind yourself that you are doing all this hard work for the benefit of the people of our country.

Mains preparation is an integrated preparation and a cyclical preparation of preliminary to mains to interview is needed.
Here is the comprehensive strategy for mains.
First know the nature, scope and general trend of mains exam.
(i) In the GS papers, ensuring highest score is comparatively a little bit of difficult task.
(ii) Scoring good marks in essay paper is achievable even though little bit of difficult is involved.
(iii)Scoring high marks in the optional subjects is one of the deciding factors in getting below 100th rank in the mains exam.
That doesn’t mean, you should rely on only on optional subject, and ignore the GS and essay.


The UPSC has revised the pattern of Civil Services Main examination from 2016.
Now there are 7 + 2 = 9 papers to be answered in the main examination. All of them are of descriptive type. There are two qualifying papers 1) any modern Indian language of 300 marks 2) The English Language paper of 300 marks. The marks of these two papers will not be counted in the merit list of the main examination.
The aspirant is allowed to pick any one language from the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution or English as the medium for writing the mains examination.
According to the new pattern in the UPSC syllabus, there are “FOUR” General Studies papers- each comprising of 250 Marks with a total of 1000 Marks which are common to all and compulsory. The standard of the syllabus of General Studies papers are of degree level.

There is only “ONE” optional subject to choose from the list of subjects. It comprises of two papers each of 250 marks. So the optional paper has total 500 marks. Candidate is allowed to take up literature as an optional subject “without the condition of having the same at graduation level.” The scope of the syllabus of optional paper is higher than the bachelor’s degree but lower than the master’s level.
Interview/Personality Test is of 275 Marks. Candidate can give preference of the language in which they may like to be interviewed. UPSC will make arrangement for the translators / interpreters.
The total marks of the written examination is 1750 Marks.
The Interview/Personality Test will be of 275 marks.

The Grand Total 2025 Marks

Summary of the Latest Pattern of Civil Services (Mains) Examination

Paper – A
Language -300 Marks
Candidate can take any Modern Indian language but this paper is of qualifying nature
Paper – B
English -300 Marks
This paper is of qualifying nature
Paper – I
Essay – 250 Marks
Can be written in the medium or language of the candidate’s choice
Paper – II
General Studies-I 250 Marks
(Indian Heritage and Culture,
History and Geography of the World and Society)
Paper – III
General Studies -II: 250 Marks
(Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)
Paper – IV
General Studies -III 250 Marks
(Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
Paper – V
General Studies -IV 250 Marks
(Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)
Marks carried by General Studies papers are 4X 250=1000
Paper – VI
Optional Subject – Paper 1 -250 Marks
Paper – VII
Optional Subject – Paper II -250 Marks
Candidate is allowed to take up literature as an optional subject “without the condition of having it at the graduation level.”
Sub Total (Written test) 1750 Marks
Marks of English and Language will not be counted in the total tally of marks for the written exam. So the total of the Mains exam will be 1750 Marks Only.
Interview/Personality Test – 275 marks
Candidate can give preference of the language in which they may like to be interviewed. UPSC will make arrangement for the translators.
Grand Total 2025 Marks
A candidate is allowed to use any one language from the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution or English as the medium of writing the examination.

Civil Services Mains Exam Syllabus

The written examination will consist of the following papers:

Paper A :- Modern Indian language 300 Marks – Qualifying nature – Marks not counted – Passing mandatory-
(i) Comprehension of given passages.
(ii) Precis Writing
(iii) Usage and Vocabulary.
(iv) Short Essay
(v) Translation from English to the Indian language and vice-versa.
Note 1: The Papers on Indian Languages and English will be of High School level and will be of qualifying nature only. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for final ranking.
Note 2 : The candidates will have to answer the English and Indian Languages papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where translation is involved).
Paper B – English – 300 marks – Qualifying nature – Marks not counted- Passing mandatory
The aim of the paper is to test the candidates’ ability to read and understand serious discursive prose, and to express his ideas clearly and correctly, in English and Indian Language concerned.
The pattern of questions would be broadly as follows:-
(i) Comprehension of given passages
(ii) Precis Writing
(iii) Usage and Vocabulary
(iv) Short Essay.

Essay – 250 Marks – To be written in the medium or language of the candidate’s choice. Candidate is required to write an essay on a specific topic. The choice of subjects will be given. They are expected to keep their thoughts closely to the subject and arrange their ideas in orderly fashion and be concise. Credit will be given to effective and coherent expression.
General Studies-I 250 Marks (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society)
Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues
The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.
Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawing of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.
Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
Effects of globalization on Indian society
Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

Salient features of world’s physical geography.
Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India)
Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

General Studies -II: 250 Marks (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)
Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.
Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
Role of civil services in a democracy.
India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

General Studies -III 250 Marks (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
Government Budgeting.
Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers
Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
Land reforms in India.
Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Investment models.
Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology.
indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
Disaster and disaster management.
Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention
Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism
Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

General Studies -IV 250 Marks (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)
This paper will include questions to test the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society. Questions may utilise the case study approach to determine these aspects. The following broad areas will be covered.
Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships.
Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.
Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.

Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service , integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker-sections.
Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance.
Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world.
Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance; accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance; ethical issues in international relations and funding; corporate governance.
Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information, Codes of Ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen’s
Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption.
Case Studies on above issues.

Optional Subject – Paper I -250 Marks
Optional Subject – Paper II -250 Marks
Candidates may choose any ONE optional subject from amongst the list of subjects given below
Interview/Personality Test – 275 Marks
Candidate can give preference of the language in which they may like to be interviewed. UPSC will make arrangement for the translators.

Marks obtained by the candidates for all papers EXCEPT PAPER A & B will be counted for merit ranking. However, the Commission will have the discretion to fix qualifying marks in any or all papers of the examination. Aspirants can log on to UPSC’s official website (www.upsc.gov.in) to see the detailed notification.

Reference books

GS Paper I

Art and Culture

  • NCERT Class VI – History – Our Past
  • NCERT Class VII – Our Past -I
  • NCERT Class VIII – Our Past II and III
  • NCERT Class XII – Themes In Indian History I
  • NCERT Class-XII – Themes in Indian History – II
  • NCERT Class XII – Themes In Indian History III
  • Facets of Indian Culture – Spectrum Publications

Modern History

1. Comprehensive History of Modern India – Spectrum
2. Bipan Chandra ( if time permits)

Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.

  • India Since Independence – Bipan Chandra
  • India After Gandhi: The History Of The World’s Largest Democracy

World History

1. Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe
2. Arjun Dev – History of the World from the Late Nineteenth to the Early Twenty First Century

3. Old NCERT Class-X World History

Indian Society

1. NCERT – Class xii Indian Society
2. Indian Society – Ram Ahuja

World’s physical geography

1. Certificate Physical and Human Geography 1st Edition
2. NCERT Class-XI – Fundamentals of Physical

GS Paper II

  • NCERT Class XI – India Constitution At Work
  • NCERT Class XII – Political Science II
  • NCERT Class X – Democratic Politics
  • Report of the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission,
  • Chand – Select Constitutions of the world
  • Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations – Laxmikanth

International Relations

1. India and its neighbours – MEA Website
2. Rajiv Sikri – Challenge and Strategy – Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy

GS Paper III


1. NCERT Class X – Understanding Economic Development
2. NCERT Class XI – Indian Economic Development
3. NCERT Class XII – Macroeconomics
4. Indian Economy for Civil Services Examinations – Ramesh Singh

Science and Technology

Spectrum publications – Developments in Science and Technology


Shankar IAS Academy book

GS Paper IV

1. IGNOU Ethics material
2. 12thNCERT Psychology
3. 2ndARC’s

Like this, there are innumerable reference books and online resources to give inputs. But be careful. Do not get confused. Before you read anything first identify whether it is relevant to your preparation or not, then you start reading and note down important points. Remember just writing down is no use, unless you revise things. And it is very difficult to revise unless you categorize things well.

It is wise to select limited books, of course, relevant books and to read them again and again. Remember all the materials are complementary to each other and no single book / material is sufficient to cover the topic you needed.
Select the relevant magazine and add the inputs from the magazine to your running notes, Yojana is the one of the best useful resources. Go through all the articles of it and segregate wherever necessary and prepare hand written notes. It is not advisable to cut, tear and paste the articles from the yojana.
The other relevant magazines could be Economics and political weekly, science reporter and so on.Choose the relevant articles, read them thoroughly and write down important points in the notebook.
Please use your resources efficiently. As online resources are very much useful nowadays, it is a good idea to use the internet for your preparation. Also note that in the changed UPSC pattern, today an aspirant can prepare wholly by referring online sources.

Please use your resources efficiently. online resources are very much useful nowadays.

Use the Internet for your Preparation. In the changed UPSC pattern, today an aspirant can prepare wholly by referring sources from the Internet.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 1

GS1 comprises 3 parts – History, Art and culture & Geography


Art & Culture can be done from Nitin Singhania book on culture and CCRT (Center for Cultural Resources and Training) printouts. Please read nitin singhania book first and then CCRT, not the other way round. Please do not try to memorize everything in first reading itself.

For History

Modern History (including freedom struggle) should be read from NCERT and Spectrum. For Mains, one should be thorough with the last chapters of spectrum, like the economic impact, the evolution of freedom of press etc.

NCERTs, have had a enough content for this subject, so have an extensive reading on it,

For Geography

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 2

The portion of GS2 can be divided into 5 parts.

Part 1: It pertains to all the topics that are satisfactorily covered in the book – Indian Polity by Laxmikanth. In addition, one has to go through newspapers thoroughly here, read and analyze topics and most importantly, relate them with the syllabus.
Part 2: RPA (Representation of Peoples Act) Act and Constitution comparison: One can again go through online-ias booklets here, they are helpful.
Part 3: Development process, welfare schemes for vulnerable sections, social sector, poverty and hunger etc: For this newspaper is very important. Read, if you can, all 3 newspapers extensively – The Hindu (main), Indian Express and Business Standard (editorials and economy & public affairs section).
Part 4: Governance related, role of civil services: for this Lexicon helps.
Part 5: International Relations: read newspapers and make notes

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 3

GS3 is having four parts.

Part1: Basic Indian economy: for this one can refer to any study material to get an understanding of basics. Economy is a bit academic and analytical and therefore, it is a crucial part. Once you have done with basics, applying the info of newspaper comes into play, investopedia.com is also a good reference.

Part2: “Applied” economy like farmer subsidies, minimum support price, liberalization, industrial policy, inflation, monetary policy changes, infrastructure etc.: This portion is very dynamic and also very interesting. For this, NEWSPAPER will form the foundation of one’s preparation. Here, one needs to connect the dots, relating what is happening outside as perceived through newspaper reading and what should be the way to go forward. Kindly make your own notes of this part and revise them regularly.

Part3: Science and Technology: the syllabus of science and technology is vast and here the aspirant feels pressure. But don’t worry. Here one needs to be a little innovative too,
Part4:Disaster Management and Internal Security: Here online resources and newspapers are useful. For Internal Security, one can get a good idea by reading a book named Internal Security Challenges which is written by an IPS officer, Ashok Kumar. One should try to solve the questions, at least mentally, which are given at the end of the chapters. Apart from that, newspaper is again very helpful.
Like GS2, do an extensive writing practice (around 3-4 months) for this paper too. Please do economic survey fully, not summaries, and in fact, summarize them yourself. Make notes out of it, and shorten them to only 3 pages. Why the shortest possible content is being emphasized here. Because one has to revise, re-revise, re-re-revise these things, so that they get etched in memory. So, please focus on your summary, notes, short-hands prepared by your own effort.

GENERAL STUDIES PAPER 2 AND PAPER 3 –are much more related to CURRENT AFFAIRS when comparing with the paper 1
The aspirant is needed to have an ability to connect the conventional subjects with the current affairs and must be able to recognize the current affairs topics which are interlinked with the general studies subjects.
THE HINDU news paper can be considered the main source for these two papers.
Read THE HINDU and any other English news paper regularly and prepare notes. Of course it seems to be not possible and practicable especially for the first timers since they have already enough headache with the conventional subjects to cover. And one more problem for the beginners is that they don’t have the FUNDAMENTALS. Without basic knowledge of history, econonomy, polity , geography etc, no one can follow the news paper clearly. But mastering the fundamentals while following the newspapers is the required skill.
Some times the regional language medium background students face difficulty in understanding the English language in the newspaper and also identifying the relevant articles is difficult task for them. But no other way, please. One has to cope up with the situation practice and prepare regularly to overcome this hurdle.


For 3-4 days, randomly go through the fundamentals and newspaper reading Don’t expect any short cuts here.
Rely on the first hand reading of newspapers

  • Don’t expect any short cuts here.
  • Rely on the first hand reading of newspapers
  • Please try to get clarity over current Affairs.
  • Read at least two newspapers, one should be the Hindu.
  • Read any one regional newspaper too, to know the domestic state affairs.
  • Read the editorial and other relevant articles very carefully.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of GS 4

  • Don’t expect any short cuts here.
  • Rely on the first hand reading of newspapers
  • Please try to get clarity over current Affairs.
  • Read at least two newspapers, one should be the Hindu.
  • Read any one regional newspaper too, to know the domestic state affairs.
  • Read the editorial and other relevant articles very carefully.

“Ethics was my stronghold, and again, marks were disappointing. It may be due to the fact that I started paper from last question (i.e. case studies first) and then rest of the questions, and therefore the quality may have declined. So, if I had to attempt again, I’d’ve begun from the 1st question itself.”


For ethics, please take a printout of syllabus and paste it in front of your study table
Writing practice is very important in ethics. We repeat – very very important. There is a proper vocabulary of an ethics answer, which differentiates it from a normal philosophical/altruist remark. While attempting ethics’ question, one’s answer must contain words like integrity, compassion, dedication, empathy, attitude, tolerance, objectivity etc. Initially, one has to force-feed these words, but with time, one starts using them appropritately. The quality improves exponentially with examples and diagrams, which may be simple.

Full Preparation: The Conquering of Optional Subject

While choosing one’s optional, one needs to be careful. keeping in mind the availability of study material, consistent performance, relevance with the career , and YOUR own internal inclination.

Notes making:

Habituate to prepare your notes. But be wise while preparing the notes. You should become a swan which can separate milk from water.
As already emphasized, the notes you make about a particular issue should not be fragmented. It should be brought at one place. The notes making should be a multi disciplinary and multi dimensionally.
Don’t repeat the sentences in your notes since you are taking from various sources .

Your notes should be concise, comprehensive, clear and content loaded. Don’t be verbose in the notes making. Don’t just copy and paste from the newspaper or reference book in to your notes. Dumping is not your duty. Your notes should have few important key words which are highlighted in either box or with a colored pen. This helps in recollecting the entire notes by a glance . its just a bird’s eye view.Have subheadings in the notebook. Try to identify and frame new questions and write them at the edges of the book.

Sample text book, video

First read the chapter totally and underline the necessary, relevant and important points while reading
the chapter and note down then on the note book.
Have separate 5-subject notebooks for GS – 1,2,3 and international relations and ethics.


  • Prepare an index with topics like judicial Reforms, Police Reforms, Internet Reforms, etc. Even have one more index for country wise for International relations.
  • Devote more time either in googling or with reference books to get grip over the background of the current issues.
  • If you know the history of the countries and their relations, their uprisings and cause – effect relations, you can understand cleanly the present current issues of the relevant country.
  • Do not worry in the beginning. It takes much time to read newspaper completly , But gradually your speed will be enhanced, you will be get accustomed to the style of reporting of the newspaper you have chosen, and nuances they made and as your knowledge on topics build up you breeze through the article.
  • While reading newspaper please underline the important lines. At the end, write them down in the notebook.

But do not try to cut and staple the newspaper article which is mere waste of time.

Answer writing techniques

The crucial part of the preparation of mains exam is ”writing practice”.
During preparation, one needs to focus on writing a good answer.
Because of rigorous writing practice, many of the old students went to interview and secured highest ranks even though they scored less in the interview. The average score of GS could be 350+ (out of 500) and essay could be 135+ even though you are fresher and writing mains for the first time. You will get rank with just the weapon named “writing practice”

Discussion on the Tail-Words of the questions

Every tail-word has a specific meaning and its understanding is quite essential for a candidate to make his answer perfect. Here I am describing some important tail-words to resolve your problem related with the understanding of the question.

  • Explain: To simplify the given statement. To write about the statement (may be based on theory) in such a way that its meaning becomes clear and unequivocal.
  • Describe: It means general writing about the subject, is, giving straight forward discussion on different aspects of the given subject. In a simple language it can be said that whatever your know about the subject, write it systematically. No special ‘approach’ is needed.
  • Discuss: Like ‘Describe’
  • Elaborate: To ‘describe’ elaborately.
  • Analyse: First break the statement in different parts, then describe them separately and then give a systhesis.
  • Examine: Highlight different aspects of the given subject and then throw light on relevancy and fruitfullnes of each aspect.
  • Criticise : Here both positive and negative aspects should be taken into account but still the emphasis should be on negative aspect.
  • Review: Like ‘criticise’
  • Evaluate: Writing a conclusion after discussing different aspects of the statement. Here, conclusion has special importance.
  • Elucidate: Describing with appropriate examples.
  • Critically Evaluate: Criticism in the approach of evaluation.
  • Critically Review: Criticism in the approach of review i.e., after giving criticism of the theory, criticise the critiques.
  • Critically examine: First ‘describe’ – Its positive + negative then ‘criticise’ – Its positive + negative. Now make a balance between the two.

Common mistakes to be avoided while writing in answer writing:

  • Try to address the question in the introduction rather than giving irrelevant answers
  • A balanced approach in answers is usually found to be missing, either it will be very critical or totally out of context.
  • Most of the times, aspirants are unable to fully understand the requirement of the question
  • Most of the times, only few of the required aspects/dimensions are answered.
  • Write in points so that you can score more marks rather than writing same point in big paragraph.

So what is a good answer? it is a million dollar question. Mains exam questions reveal many things about word limit, key words like analyse, critically comment etc.

  • Please start the answer with the meaning of the issue as crisp as possible.
  • Try to derive the meanings from the nomenclatures used in the exam paper.
  • While writing the answer, never forget the requirement of the question. Think out of the box. Analyze in multi- dimensional point of view. Habituate to analyze any issue in various approaches rather a single approach. The social, economical, cultural, historical, geographical, regional, scientific and other angles are there to analyzes any issue under the sun.
  • The very important point in the answer writing is substantiation (Assertion – Reason model). In simple terms, give all reasons for the assertions you made in the answer sheet. Try to justify with relevant statistics, research findings, data etc. without substantiation, no one can put forward his view.
  • In general studies, especially in the Economics part, you have to give facts or percentages.
  • Quote the sources wherever necessary.
  • The conclusion part of every answer is very crucial. In Essay, the conclusion part is of one or jtwo paras but in 10 markersor 15 markers the conclusion could be 2 – 3 sentences. Whatever It may be, be optimistic in the conclusion. But the optimism should not be a utopian or against new challenges.
  • Incorporate the articles of the constitution in the answer writing especially in the essay paper whenever necessary.
  • Remember that you can write the answers in the bullet points or in paragraphs in the mains exam. You can also draw any diagram, of course, relevant.
  • You quote examples in most of your answers. Also you can mention any points from reports like ARC, in your answers.
  • Attempt all the questions. This is the best and the simplest way to get high score.
  • In the changed UPSC pattern, today an aspirant can prepare by referring sources from the Internet. You should use online resources a lot and at every stage of preparation. But you can’t just depend wholly on it. Basic books are a must .
  • More time should be spent on thinking about the topic and making innovations, rather than on reading too many study materials available in market.
  • The previous papers should be thoroughly analyzed to understand the trends and the expectations of the examination.
  • The preparation should be focused and all the hard work should be channelized in the right direction.
  • One needs to organize one’s thinking properly before attempting any answer. You should take about a minute to make a mental rough draft and then start writing answers.

Few more tips for better answer writing:

The competition is highly relative, our answers in the mains examination should not only be correct but also different with a touch of creativity and relevant to the question that is asked. Basics with clarity will come when there is lot of questioning while studying. The topic has to be studied in a logical manner.

The creativity and innovation is not something that you will get in the textbooks. They have to be developed on your own. It requires lot of thinking and observation. By innovation in answers what is meant is

  • Introduction which addresses the question head-on
  • Diagrams- so that one can break a monotonous answers
  • Graphs- to better represent data.
  • Flow charts
  • Maps- draw India or world maps in geography/history papers
  • Contemporary touch and applicability -use current affairs to strengthen your argument
  • Using Facts- it is important to mention the facts, it is equally important to handle various dimensions of your answer and write something different which makes your answer unique.
  • Conclusion- giving solutions.

As your writing speed in slow initally, you can complete 7-8 questions in 1st hour and compensate that in last hour. Thus you can finish the paper.
Try to get incremental increase in the preparation. Believe strongly that – Rome was not built in a day.Gain confidence and complete the syllabus in a meaningful way.

Revision Time – Table Remarks
Level – 1
  • 15 questions in one and half hour.
  • Speed limit 6 minutes per question for 200 words
  • Half of the syllabus should be covered.
  • In the level – 1, you need not study 100%
  • If you can complete 60% at level – 1, that is more than enough.
Level – 2
  • 20 questions in two hours duration for each GS paper
  • In this level – 2, you can complete the skipped topics from the first round.
  • Once read, you can go back and answer left out questions from first round too
Level – 3
  • 30 questions in three hours.
  • After this third level, you can observe the improvement in your quality, your content will be marvelous, so is the speed.
  • After completing first two rounds, you can answer 24 questions out of 30 in this level.
Level – 4
  • It is ‘as it is’ the UPSC mains exam model.
  • Two papers in a day 25 questions in each paper with in the duration of three hours.
  • This level, makes you to be ready with both the quality and quantity.
  • If you follow these 4 levels with lot of dedication, and follow the time table, with each level, your answer writing gets improving
  • This is called incremental increase

Make sentences short , carefully use tenses and appropriate prepositions. Avoid unnecessary elongation of sentences which makes it hazy and equivocal rather use simple and straight forward presentations.

If you do not write answers, you are at risk.

  • Regarding prelims you have online test but in mains you have to write offline you can write the answers at your room, send it in the mail and get the feedback in detail.
  • Three months time should be spent productively.
  • Have a comprehensive, regular and proper UPSC oriented test series and prepare accordingly.
  • You have to first complete the preparation and then start answering previous question papers.
  • Revise the answers and get feedback on them – thus you will be very confident to focus on all GS and Essay strategy.

Short Notes Type Questions

1. Write your answer straight forward without any introduction.
2. Your word-limit should not cross 200.
3. Use an easy and free flow language to make your description easily understandable.
4. Try to ascertain the points on which more emphasis is given. Your answer should revolve around that point
5. If the topic so requires, you may finish the short notes abruptly is, without giving any conclusion.
6. Your knowledge of strong vocabulary is always appreciated. Writing more in limited words is an art. It can be achieved through continuous practice. It requires a continuous effort and a right feedback.
7. In short notes, your ‘accuracy’ and ‘exactness’ and not your wide knowledge is praised. Though knowledge of the subject is indispensable but the arrangement of elements at right place is the measurement of ‘exactness’.
8. You can not mention case studies in the short answers hence don’t be over strenuous to include the case studies.


Mains preparation includes essay preparation too. Please try to practice at least 16 essays before the mains examination in the time period of 4 months that is 16 weeks. Hence an essay – a week policy. This we term as ‘’ weekly essay competitions ‘’. Have such a time table which will push you to do this without fail.

  • Remember that scoring 140+ in essay paper is very essential to get lovely rank in UPSC exam, of course, which is not at all a difficult point.
  • If you practice well, you can score up to 155 in this Essay paper equal to combined score of two GS papers.


  • Mains preparation includes optional subject too.
  • Aim to score 270+ in your optional subject which is not impossible, might be difficult to possible Remember- No mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.

To reach this target, practice writing at least 12 full length question papers from your optional which are chapter wise and 4 full length tests each 2 for each paper.

Strategic tips:

  • Don’t waste time. Many aspirants waste their time till the prelims results are out and after that they start preparation hurly – Burly Again many aspirants waste their time after mains exams are over till the results are out for the interview. Please utilize this time. Winners did this.
  • Sometimes you may face out of box questions especially in GS. Be prepare for this unprecedented situation.
  • Do not lose your focus at any point of time in your journey of preparation.
  • Please revise the entire mains syllabus for four revisions.
  • Stick to minimal sources.
  • Adhere to the books which are comprehensive and relevant to the Mains exam.
  • Attend tests as much as possible. In the beginning your aim should be to answer at least 12 questions in one and half hours ‘’ I fear not the man who has practiced 10000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10000 times’’ – Burce lee
  • While improving speed, never compromise on quality. You must be conscious of this while attempting every answer. As you know that every brick in the building is important.
  • Do not expect to answer all the questions in the first spell only. Inculcate a sense of urgency while answering
  • Remember under pressure one can improve the speed.
  • After attending so many practice tests, speed will be a natural part in your answer – writing.
  • Have a sound Time Table. If you study as per the time table, your content gets sharper and also improves your answer writing style.
  • Start the mains preparation first with optional subject since optional has its own lion’s share in the total marks of mains.
  • Please try to write at least one question a day and gradually increase the number till 10 questions a day.
  • Count the days you have with you from the starting day of preparation to the mains exam.
  • Design a timetable, follow it honestly; select the relevant study material and practice the question.
  • Please start the preparation with NCERT – Books. If you have already covered NCERT in the prelims stage, then OK. Why everyone recommends NCERT? Since NCERT books are providing a huge amount of information in the simple language and clarity of the concept which enables you to get foundation for the entire preparation of civil services. Moreover, the NCERT – books are relevant for UPSC syllabus.
  • Read all 6th – 10th NCERTs and make topic wise notes on them in your own way.
  • Sample notes you can see here.
  • Why should you prepare your own notes? The information of the subjects are scattered among 6th – 10th,11th,12th NCERT books, for instance 1857 – revoit is in all the text books, hence you read all the books, gather the info, and write down all the notes at one book which will make the revision easier.
  • NCERT will enable you in a smooth transition to the humanities subjects.
  • Once you complete NCERT, then go to the traditional reference books.
  • But remember that always write down the points at one note book only. It is just like “ All rivers flow into the sea”
  • Segregate conventional and unconventional topics of the subjects.
  • Do not have a wayward preparation, instead establish a regular and consistent preparation.
  • Allot time in a day accordingly for example, 3 hours for newspapers, 8 hours for subject reading. Have breaks as and when.
  • Take two subjects a week and have daily and weekly schedule which should be practical. Prepare a time table two weeks in advance and get all the relevant text books like NCERT.
  • Everyone has his/ her own moods, attitudes, convenience etc. How do you plan your day, how many hours you study per day, how many subjects you cover a week are all up to you, and be honest at your heart, channelize your energy and always be focused.
  • Coaching is not compulsory, be out of the misconception that coaching will get you the success. Of course, it’s purely an individual’s choice to take coaching. Coaching institutions are just facilitators, and they do not guarantee for your success. You need to work a lot on your own, do a lot of self study, prepare your own notes or material. Don’t just depend on the coaching institutes.
  • Any one can succeed in this exam. Believe it strongly, you need not be from elite institute or have a super solid education background.
  • You do not need to go Delhi or Hyderabad or Bangalore or elsewhere for coaching to succeed in this exam. It is true that a competitive environment, availability of material, efficient peer group etc. are important in this journey, but without this also, you can succeed.
  • Please remember that every aspirant is having ‘sufficient’ memory, no one is here to have photo graphic memory; every aspirant has his/her own flaws, advantages and disadvantages. So instead of wasting your time to think about your low memory, worrying about flaws, please concentrate on the positive side of your personality. Nobody can remember and retain things after just one reading . Hence ‘’revision’’ is the savior.
  • Use the following techniques-
  • i. Meditation
  • ii. Switch off the mobile while you are at study table / books.
  • iii. Use synopsis
  • iv. Write down the points
  • v. Use mental maps / flow charts
  • vi. Have white board in your room
  • vii. Remember the keywords

“Its not who you are within, its what you do that defines you”. Remember why you started this journey, and why this is important. Give this exam its due respect and be positive. Feeling low, anxious is a part of the process. Those who clear it are not from Mars, they are from this planet only. Always wear a smile, be humble.

There will be times when you will doubt yourself. Remember this was your decision. It does not matter whether you having an extraordinary IQ. What matters is whether you have an extraordinary determination. It will take time, but it will happen and at the end of the day.

Never criticize your choices, never doubt your capabilities.
Respect yourself as you have the fortitude to participate in this process. Every year, around half of those who fill the form, don’t actually sit
Do talk to your parents, well wishers and gurus frequently. They help a lot in motivating you!