How to Maximise your score on the Mains Day + Some Motivation

The truth

The next few days are important. This is a fact and not an opinion. How you should behave in these last few hours totally depends on  the type of person you are.

  • If you are a last moment type of person, by all means study . study on all days until the last hour.
  • If you are the type who panics and doesn’t do last minute studies, by all means watch a movie, relax and sit back.

What I mean to say is – do what suits you. Do what boosts your performance in the next few days. Don’t do what I tell you or your roommate is doing right now.

When I first reluctantly started my preparation,  I studied hard. Also because I hadn’t studied in four years of college, so I kinda liked studying. I had to study harder than other because my friends like Shaleen ( who later secured Rank 81 ) were doctors – and were habituated to study as most doctors have to.  The engineer friends like Aravindan , ( who cracked and chose IPS at 21 or 22 years of age and made a good IPS officer ) were also from colleges like BITS Pilani where people actually have to study (I think so). I came from a college that was only later glorified by Satya Nadela as a famous alumni.

But this articles isn’t about me. Its about you , and what you can do do improve your score in the coming days. And hence , I would put in the collective wisdom of a lot of people , in writing this to you -and those lot of people include Shaleen, Devranjan, Tejawani, Lingraj and Prem Ranjan – all of them who scored very good marks and secured dream positions in the service. Things mentioned here contain tips from my interactions with ForumIAS members like neanderthal and shalimar who also secured under 50 ranks, and India bhai, who has helped almost all the names above in some way – with his notes or guidance or by being a patient roommate .

So here are a few things to keep in mind.

1.When the game is on, all bets are off.

When the exam starts, no one knows who is going to win and who is going to lose. Olympic record holders break the record multiple times in private rehearsals before they breaks such records in public eye. But they are never sure if they will be able to do so in the real exam.

So if you are confident and cool, congratulations – because confidence is half the game. If you are underconfident or nervous, remember that no one – absolutely no one knows where they are going to land up.

The newbie thinks a guy who is in service or has appeared for the Interview has better chances. Guess what ? Guys with Interview experience think quite the opposite. I know this because half a dozen servicemen friends tell me so.

ForumIAS member @crazyphoton did publish some of his model answers after Mains last to last year , and on seeing his answers , some people had commented that if you write such answers, bhai , you will get rank 1. He did . But he did not know back then that he was going to be the IAS topper that year.   He got Rank 1. Most of you know him as Gaurav Aggrawal – An active ForumIAS alumni.

@shalimar too neither knew where he is going to be three- four month later if you see this:

Few months later , he secured Rank 34. So, all I am saying is, its okay to be shivery and scared. Its normal to feel that way and still win. Most people feel the same and still make it. Even those ones who get a single digit rank. Keep calm and do you best.

2. Do not screw up GS Paper 1

By which I mean complete the paper. On day 1 of GS, you are most likely to have a slow handwriting, while you will be writing like a cheetah by the time optionals come because of the practise over 3-4 days. Try being a cheetah on Day 1 itself. Write first – even in the English paper before GS Paper 1 as a practice for GS Paper 1 & 2.

And by completing the paper I mean just one thing – do not  miss questions that you knew because of lack of time . Its okay to miss questions that you don’t know because of lack of time. But its not okay to miss questions you know. Now how do we ensure this? Read on.

3. Be even. Spread time as evenly as possible.

Half of you will take 20-30 minutes to complete your first questions. And in the last ten minutes , you will write three questions. Don’t be odd, be even. 7-8 questions should be targeted every hour- depending on the number of questions. Keep this evenly spread. Do not do 3 questions in first hour and 10 questions in the last hour.

Keep your watch close by. I recommend a digital watch, even for ladies. After every thirty minutes, see that if you have already  spent more than 7 minutes on that question – quickly wind up under 1 minute on that question – even at the cost of leaving the question abruptly and move to the next question.

4.  Break the numerical sequence to prevent missing out easy questions/ your strong areas.

After every one hour, break the numerical sequence of questions, and start from a different number. Like if you have begun from Q1 and have only done upto Q4 in the first hour, do not pursue Q5 in hour two, because you are most likely to reach only upto Q10 at the end of the second hour . Instead start from question 20 ( or 25 ).

Say if you are doing Paper 2 and you are not so fluent with Polity, you will not do too many questions soon. What is more, if you are weak on a topic, you end up writing more on that topic to fill pages, to hide inadequacy of knowledge. So you end up on time for IR questions in the end – in which you may be better. Hence, I recommend, breaking the sequence and doing questions at the end after first hour – and aiming at doing 10 questions in the second hour.

5. Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you

The examiner is a human too. We often tend to write more in questions where we know less so that somehow the examiner doesn’t realise that this kid doesn’t know the answer – because you have filled up all the 2 or three pages. Bravo! But the trick doesn’t work! At least it didn’t work last time in 2014.

So as mentioned inline above, do not try to make up with gibberish ( wink ) just to fill pages and cover up for inadequacy of knowledge. Prem Ranjan, who secured IPS every single year , and IAS ultimately, recommends writing even two- three points, but no more, if you don’t know any more. That rewarded him pretty well.

 6.  Draw diagrams

Especially in GS Paper 2, even if there is any country name mentioned – its largely going to be Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh , Sri Lanka, China, Maldives – at least two- three questions on any of the aforementioned – try to draw an indicative diagram , no matter what the question is. Yes , I repeat no matter what the question is. And if there is anything that can be added pertaining to the question in that diagram, by all means do it. For example, show the chicken’s neck, if Bhutan & security words are mentioned in the question. Draw something, draw anything. It helps.

7. Lastly, remember the 70 minutes

Without panicking , taking stress or anything, do your best in those minutes, hours and seconds during the exam. That, my dear friends, is going to be the single most useful piece of advice I could give you. The examiner doesn’t know if your are under prepared or unprepared or super prepared. The examiner doesn’t know if you have a PHD in Economics or with a GPA of 4.9 in college, preparing for UPSC is your only option. What you do in those hours and minutes, is the only thing that the examiner knows, sees and evaluates. He doesn’t need to know anything else.

So pack your biggest punch in those hours. Put your life in those hours and give it your supreme best. This is especially important , if this is your fifth attempt and you have given up all hopes, or if this is your highly underprepared attempt and you have given up all hopes.

I wish you all the best in the days to come. Do your best, write your best paper ever. People are rewarded in public for the fight and hard work they put in private. This is your private battle only you will have to fight.

Be your best.


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By Neyawn

Neyawn is an anonymous member the founder of ForumIAS. He is a coder Mentor & Teacher by profession, and often writes for ForumIAS. You can buy him coffee , if you really really like his work. He has built ForumIAS - the community - twice. You can say Hi to him or ask him a question on ForumIAS, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn . You can also write to him at RxAxVxI@FOxRUMxIAS.COM ( remove the small "x" from the email ).