Did not clear Prelims – What next?

This is for those of you who did not make it through the Prelims Examination. Others can safely ignore this write up.

So the bitter truth is, you did not clear the Prelims examination. Now, depending on factors such as your preparation levels, your expectations and your luck, there can be three – four responses to this :-

  • I am shattered. I was sure to make it through. I had 110+ via every key on the planet, but my roll number is not there in the list.
  • I was doubtful. Had a score in so called cut off range, so it was dicey since the beginning.
  • It was my first attempt, and I did not / could not prepare much, so I am not particularly affected.
  • I am a veteran. No idea how I didn’t clear Prelims, when I reached the Interview last year!

So here is decoding the result for you, and we hope some of you may be able to connect to it. The goal of this delayed article is to show you some light, in case you are still groping in the dark about what to do next.

Its not the end of the world.

You probably know it, and this is merely a re-iteration, but its not the end of the world. A large number of people are simply bad at MCQs but amazingly good at Mains and clear Prelims only by a margin, but get glowing ranks in the final examination. So in case the results have been negative, this is not a general report card of your overall all labour at CS.

Having said that, if this is the case with you, you just need to find out the missing link in your preparation and work on it. Find a mentor, and maybe he / she will be able to spot what you have missed.

 Secondly, Get out of the Mental Prison. That is, if you are devastated.

A difficult advice to follow, since if you haven’t cleared the prelims, you would be in a mental prison , and no matter how much I told you to walk out of it, you wouldn’t. Something like the protagonist of the image below:-

If you are devastated, I would strongly ask you NOT to be HIM. What you need right now is – taking a break, a vacation, a trip to Mcleodganj or to family. Forget everything for a while. Go some place where you do not have co-aspirants preparing or not preparing for a while.

( If you are taking classes, well you have to attend them, even if you aren’t writing the Mains , but if you are not, take a break. Kitkat doesn’t count as one. A real break. A ten day will do. A fifteen day will be awesome )

For those who are looking for answers, and asking why me,  God? Read on.

If you are asking why me, perhaps you were very well prepared and scored very well in mock tests and the result was a surprise in itself.

The Civil Services Examination is a competition. Some people will make it, some people wont. The most hard working and most intelligent may not make it. The truth is, at least in the Civil Services those who persevere win!

But I have been writing the exam for like 4 years. 🙁 Haven’t I persevered?

Perseverance does not mean simply writing the exam every year. Perseverance means, putting an equal amount of effort in every endeavour. Putting an equal or more amount of fight in every battle.

Every year You are fighting young blood that has twice as much energy as you and is writing the exam the first time. They beat your experience with their energy, so unless you bring back your energy, its difficult to win late in preparation.

I would say  it is perseverance if you have been reading the Hindu with the same vigour today with which you had started.

It isn’t perseverance if you are not clocking good number of hours for studies, and merely banking of previous years labour.

Perseverance would mean doing the right thing, no matter how much you hate the right thing. I would know in double digits – a number of people, who do not like to read Hindu, or even study at all, and probably have never studied in their yet lived life, but read the newspaper, study eight hours a day against their will, making it through the top 100 ranks, just because they studied once for Civil services, very well. And they improved every single year.

If you have writing Civils for more than one year, you would have noticed how your ability to work hard diminishes every year.

The truth is, you have to clear the exam before your energy runs out. This can be explained from the analogy below:-

The analogy of the Cheetah & the Deer

Have you seen a Cheetah hunt a deer?

A cheetah, can run faster than a deer. By that logic, it should make a successful kill every time it decided to hunt a deer. But it doesn’t.

Do you know why?

Because though the deer cannot run as  fast as a cheetah, but it can run for a longer time.

The cheetah, knows this, and it knows that if it doesn’t catch the deer in that duration, it won’t be able to pursue the hunt and the deer would escape.

In fact the deer escapes a cheetah 80% of the time.  The cheetah’s body is too heated up to run at that pace for a very long time.

In human parlance, we would call it winning the race. Although the deer was not in any race, it was running for its life.

Lessons from this story

The point of this story was – we all burn out. If you have been in the ring for long, or even if this was your first attempt, and you have given your 110%, you may already have some fatigue.

Hence, take a break and then come back.

The way ahead for 2016

The next Prelims Exam in August 2016. That is about 10 month from now. You need to work hard for that and NOT burn out too soon.

Your possible strategy for the next 10 months :-

Focus on preparing from the Mains Point of view. The next 6 weeks, act as if you are writing the Mains. Join a library, clock eight hours a day, and study as if this Mains is for you. Then, also write the Mains Paper at home as and when it comes. Actually write, do not comment that the paper was easy or tough. Just attempt the paper and then evaluate yourself.

If you do this, you are as good as someone who cleared the Prelims, but did not make it to the final list. Because this way, you have lost the attempt, but yet gained the experience.

Finish your classes and Mains Test Series for Mains 2015. Do not sell off your tests. Finish the agenda. If you prepare as if you have to write the Mains this year itself you will have the advantage of having a years experience of Mains, which is going to be very very useful for your next attempt, which I have stated earlier.

If you do not do this, imagine next year you competitive with someone who has written the Mains and studied for a year, vs you who has to start from zero again.

Only in March or so, start preparing for the Prelims Examination exclusively. When we say that, we expect that you cover your General Studies so well for Mains 2015, that you know 60-70% of GS Mains syllabus already.

Prepare your optionals very well this year. Do not be that guy who took a drop from work  planning to prepare full time and did not study anything after not clearing Prelims. That is just naive.

If it has been very tough on you , and life has been very difficult, try meditation. It helps.


The Civil Services is a gamble Competition. It doesn’t merely depend on how hard you have worked, but also on how hard others have worked. Rest assured you are indeed writing one of the World’s toughest examinations. To be on the safe side, study well, preserve and and give it your best.

Conserve your energy, make a plan and stick to the plan. For those of your writing Mains, I would share some roadmap soon, if you let me know.



The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author and do not represent the views of ForumIAS.com

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