The Last Minute Plan to Ace Mains ( And Motivate Yourself )

It is one of those 2 AM emails you badly want to write.

For friends.

Who are slogging each night. To ace the Civil Services Mains Examination with such a margin in the Mains score, that cracking the interviewis a child’s play.

As we walk into the exam zone, a territory which may not be new to many of us, here are a few things, I would really like you to do.

Life’s greatest paradox is that we always end up where we begin. Its called moving in circles. We all do.

So here is No. 1

#1 Get back to the syllabus, one last time.

Do what you did when you first began. Read the syllabus one last time. By now, most of you would be so deep in what we are doing – by which I mean – Current Affairs Revision of the  Handouts or Q& A Compilation, or writing 4 Tests a day etcetra, that it is likely to miss the bigger picture.

So, here is the secret . Take one final look at syllabus. And see what you know, and what you have missed out.

The latter is more important. And do this.

#2 Make Miscellaneous To Do Lists

Make a list of things you think you don’t know – taking words of the syllabus, do a basic google search, and read something on it.

Lets talk facts. You have 200 words to prove the depthof your knowledge . 200 words is not too deep. At this stage, a good idea would be to make sure that your cover words mentioned directly from the syllabus.

At least Ethics Paper. Because if a questions comes in Ethics Paper on What is Attitude?, a good answer is not “attitude defines altitude in life. It is basically our outlook of life”

It won’t fetch you marks either.It has to be technical.

Wikipedia has a good article on it. Go through it.

#3 Fight Anxiety. Randomize your Tasks

The big secret to doing last moment studies is to not be anxious.

Anxiety is the killer of productivity.

The question is , why are we anxious. Bear with me, and I shall tell you why.

When we begin with World History ( and decide to complete it / finish it off), we are likely to get jittery. Because three hours into world History, we realize  that Current Affairs is pending . And perhaps Paper 2 of optional is more incomplete than others.

And optional is the key to success.  Rest everything suddenlylooks like the lock.

And we quit one thing to do another. And then a third one. Failing at all three.

That is because we ( think that we ) do not have the time to finish one big thing at one go.

The best way then, to proceed is to decide to do the one weak topic of World History, instead of whole of it, and do one topic of Optional 2, and one topic of Ethics Paper.

These are called pieces. But in five days, you must make sure that these pieces put together, fill up at least a substantial picture of the jigsaw puzzle that UPSC syllabus is.

#4 Ask the right questions

Success in life is all about asking the right questions. So starting tonight, as I slog to write this article for you, make sure you learn to ask the right questions.

So instead of asking  – I have to complete Post Independence History today. How much time will it take to cover Nehru to Indira Era?

Ask – I have to complete Post-Independence-History – Nehru – Indira- era. What can I best do in 60 minutes? Once you time the work with a deadline of minutes, you will end up optimizing how you study. And I know, that if you had to do Post Independence ( half of it ) in 60 minutes, you are going to do a good job at it?

And if you miss the deadline, just don’t extent the timeline, just leave the book.


#5 Because Resource scarcity promotes efficiency

So you are likely to do Post Independence History once quickly in 60/120  minutes , for the same reason, why you sometimes score better in questions which you attempt in the last 30 minutes. ( I am talking the questions you know the answers to. In a Test Series. )

This is because of several reasons

  • Firstly, You are in the zone of high concentration and focus
  • Secondly, you don’t write anything beyond what is asked in the question
  • Thirdly, you make the most of whatever you have. You write your fastest, your throw in only the relevant arguments, and cut the crap

For the same reason, why resource constraint countries are often more prosperous than the ones which have better resources.  One Big Reason.

Make most of what you have.

#6 You are anxious. And a little scared too. Or Maybe jittery with bouts of Euphoria at the number of hours you are able to clock in.

And probably thinking – Damn you. Why didn’t I study so hard in July?

So is everyone.

Going through these sine curves is a normal before the Civil Services Examination. Notice the twisted letter “S” in service? πŸ˜›

My point is  – The people who shall stand on the podium tomorrow, must slog today.

There are no exceptions.

And while you slog , remember that it is a processyou have to go through. Its called the churning. To be the Sun, one must burn like the sun.

So not only bear with it, but find little joys in it.

I am telling you, they exist.

#7 Life will be good. Eventually.

I was once rushing, to  do a mock session with a female candidate ( sometime in April – May ) this year, who had supremely insisted on having a one on one session with me before her actual Interview.

( The truth was,  I had been exhausted, with mocks so bad – with a sore throat too, that I could not even have a session with  @drkingschultz , whilst he was in Delhi, who was  a ForumIAS Moderator;  and when he wrote MGP Tests, I had promised him an Interview call, if he wrote in a certain way. We both kept our words.)

So while rushing, I had to make sure that  I do not cross her in the staircase, because she would’t recognize me, only having “read” my articles. People are also sometimes rude, and rightly so ( Also, I don’t dress up too well ) If you hurry up and race ahead of them in a congested staircase ( And then when they see that I am the one taking the mock, they say sorry. But are mostly embarrassed. You know how it is, like they show in movies. )

When she walked into the room, for her mock interview, I realized, that she was visually challenged, and didnt see ME in the staircase. She had gotten a rank before, and it was the Interview that had not worked for her.

Her story was amazing. She had struggled her way, secured a rank , denied a job by the Railways in her past attempt, but she decided to write the exam once again , only for IAS. And she did get IAS ( 124 rank this year ) .  ( You can read her story here )

She was one of the remarkable candidates I remember from last year, apart from Manuj Jindal , rank 53  and Sandeep ( 2018 aspirants must watch his speech here , 2017 ones, get back to studies ). And let me tell you, that almost everyone I met, were in a similar frame of mind as you are right now,

So persevere. All of you.

Because the struggle is temporary. The rewards are for a lifetime.  This, I can promise.

#7 Allocate Time Wisely**

The big conundrum you may face right now is how much time to allocate to what. So have these ground rules

First, 60% of your time must be spent in revision in these days. Revision is defined as reading what you have already read before. Please don’t get me wrong, but some people have actually come up to me and tell me how they exactly did the opposite of what I told them. Hence the definition.

Second, 10-15% of your time in covering things you have not covered before

Third, only remaining time to  allocate to Test Series and all that.

The above allocation can be varied as per your requirement. If you are someone who is unable to study, you must write tests. But if you are able to study, you must revise as much as you can.

And no, don’t panic if your Test Series Tests are left. If you have written even 4-5 Tests, you are good to go. You will do well.

#8 Lastly, Plan your day in Minutes, not in hours.

Make the best use of the available time. It is one of the few things that is truly egalitarian – for we all have an equal amount of it.

So make plans in terms of 60 minutes, 90 minutes, 120 minutes.

And not just make plans, execute them. Planning should be done at least a day ahead. You can’t wake up in the morning without having an idea about what to do in the first half of the day.

That luxury is long gone.

Eat light, sleep right, study right–   and most importantly, stay happy.

Because that is one thing –  they won’t teach you in the Academy.

Until next time,



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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 ).