How to Prepare for UPSC Mains exam

UPSC mains exam preparing for General Studies-

The mains GS paper require thoughtful preparation because a number of skill are tested though a vast range of subjects specified in the syllabus and even beyond it. to begin with one must keep in mind that the syllabus of GS paper are not, and cannot be self-explanatory. What is implied by this is that the syllabus only provides broad contours of topics and not their entire scope . in other words, the UPSC syllabus is only indicative and not self-contained. One must develop an insight on the given syllabus and make a detailed syllabus on the basis of contours provided by UPSC. Only this can put the syllabus within a defined boundary or else, one can always hit the syllabus only tangentially and not directly. To do this, the most scientific method is to go through last 10 years GS questions. This way, you will know what are the areas from where questions are being set. For example look at all the questions asked in previous years on environment. this will help you to know as to which topics on this issue must be prepared. Of course, you will have to factor in new developments on environment also, apart from what has already been asked. The GS Syllabus, set out in four papers, combine 2-3 disciplines in each paper. For example GS paper I is a combination of History, Geography and Social Issues. One must know the ratio in which questions are asked from each section or else one can devote more time on minor parts of the syllabus and less on major topics. Secondly, one must note that the GS syllabus has static, dynamic and deliberative aspects. The static aspects are history, culture, geographical concepts etc. the dynamic aspects are social issues, polity, international relations, science/technology etc. the deliberative aspects are mostly in the ethics paper where you have to deliberate on issues relating to ethics, value, morality, conduct etc. these GS aspects can be prepared by applying the following approach.

Static Part - static parts can be best approached by reading standard text books. The Foundational books are NCERT Publications on history, geography, economics etc. But you need to graduate to higher text books after mastering NCERT books. For each static area a suggestive list is provided at the end in this article.

Dynamic Part – Dynamic part is all about current issues which keeps evolving on day to day basis. The dynamic aspects constitute a very large part of GS and require very careful preparation. One should locate every import topic in the news and ponder over the kind of question that can be set on that issue.

GS paper I – this paper is the lengthiest of all the four papers and carries a vast static syllabus. UPSC has only given brief outline of the syllabus and there is a need to broaden the syllabus by self-efforts. For modern India one must cover the national movement, which shaped up after 1885, its various phases, gandhian era, socialist and revolutionary approaches to the movement etc.
as regards post modern India, all the major development in agriculture .

Are and Culture-  its true significance if often not realized by candidates. It is narrowly understood only in terms of art forms. Art forms like dance, painting, sculpture etc. do come under its scope, but there is much more to be studied on what is known as India’s rich culture. According to Romila Thapar a great historian, every society has its culture. Culture includes environment, technology, political economics, religious mythology and social structures.

World History- Though the syllabus of world history is exhaustive, one can afford to go for a selective preparation of this area because only one oe two questions will be asked from this section.

GS Paper II - This paper all about the main constitutional provisions, the issues arising in our political system and governance issues. Secondly India’s foreign policy engagements with its neighbors, great powers and multilateral organizations will form party of what is known as international relations.

How to improve writing style for UPSC mains exam –

Given the hugs syllabus and deserve areas of topics, the main examination is truly the “mother of UPSC examination” it requires a well strategised, advance preparation spanning months before the real commencement of the UPSC exam. Among the three level of exam viz; prelims, mains and the interview, it is the mains exam that hold the clue to your real rank, cadre allotment and choice of service because it accounts for the bulk of marks 1750 marks out of a total of 2025 marks which combines both mains and interview marks.

Cognitive Skills- cognitive skill is a process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and sense. It is not important just to acquire knowledge but also to make sense of it in trha given context. The first step to gain cognitive skill is to access knowledge through a variety of sources comprising text books, reference books, journals, newspaper etc.

How to Develop Cognitive Skills- an aspirant is usually advised to depend on few popular books on each subject which are easily available in the market. No doubt these books are necessary as they contain the basic information. But just confining yourself to just these few books will put you in the narrow lanes of preparation. What you really need to do is to access a wider path, a highway of preparations.  For this , you need many more sources ,to be consulted.

Linguistic Skills-   this skill has two aspects. One good command over language and two an attractive writing ability. In other words , the main components of linguistic skills are crisp, lucid writing, simple, original style, well connected paragraphs, command over short answer writing (150-160 words).

Speed writing is the name of the game- in the present mains format you are required to write  20 answer in GS papers and 28 answer in the optional papers . in three hour , it is almost an impossible task. Many candidates report after exam including the top rankers , that they could not answer all the questions for paucity of time , though they knew  the answer. This is a real challenge and one must develop a speed writing ability.

Don’t write long answer- though usually an answer should be 150 words, the word limit in not given much importance. It is the quality of the answer that matters. So try to write your answer in just 120 130 words without fearing that it would penalize you.  

Don’t write on irrelevant aspects – just answer the question. Every question requires specific answer. So don’t try to put information not asked in the question though the information mat relate to that question. It would unnecessarily make your answer longer.

Write in a Flow and Maintain It Till Last- in exam situation you are not going to have the liberty to think, ponder over each question comfortably and then craft your answer. You have to write in a flow till you have gone to the last question.

Save Time on Well-Known Answers- some of the questions asked will be well known to you and you can write faster answers to those questions. Attempt them first to so that you can save time for little known answers which would require time to think over the answer before writing them. You can use thin method to your advantage.

Presentation of Charts, Diagrams- in order to save time, there is a growing practice among the aspirants to put their answers through presentation of diagrams, charts etc.

Point Wise Answer Writing- Again many aspirants are addicted tpo presenting their answer pointwise. They do this for two apparent reasons, one to attract the attention of the examiner and two to save on time.

Underlining Your Answer- A large number of candidates likes to underline their sentences so that they are highlighted be3fore the examiner. One need s caution in this respect also. I have observed that in many cases. The highlighted sentences are not something extraordinary but just some4 piece of information.

Giving Captions to your Answers- Yes, captions do serve a purpose. They highlight the various aspects of your answer. But each question may not lend itself to caption based answer. So you have to be mature enough to decide, where captions will fit in and where not.

Introduction And Conclusion- Each answer has an introduction paragraph the main body and a conclusion. in the introduction, you must encapsulate the answer so that the examiner gets a feel of what you are going to write in the answer .
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