8 Rules to Follow During the UPSC Mains Examination

Even after thoroughly learning for the exam, the candidates might still feel anxious and restless during the Mains exams. Here are a few tips which IAS Aspirants preparing for the UPSC Mains Exam should follow while attempting questions of each paper to boost their score.  These steps would also be useful for the IAS Aspirants who dream to become a part of the civil services. 

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Tips for UPSC Mains – In the Exam Hall

1: Scan the questions and identify the keyword in the given questions

Candidates should scan the question thoroughly, as just taking a glance at the question is not going to be of any help. While going through the question, candidates’ should determine at least a single keyword in the question that they are familiar with, and each question will have at least two or three keywords. Once they identify the keyword then they can go full throttle centering their answer on that single keyword.

To know more about the UPSC Mains Syllabus, visit the linked article

2: Understand the demand of the question

Candidates should read the question at least twice and understand the demand of the question. Here’s some advice on how to attempt a question, first read the question thoroughly and then break the question into two parts

Here’s an example below, given is a question asked in the UPSC 2013 Mains Exam.

Several foreigners made India their homeland and participated in various movements. Analyse their role in the Indian struggle for freedom. (200 words)

This question can be broken into two parts, one is foreigners who participated in India’s freedom struggle and their role in the Indian struggle for freedom.

This is the best way to attempt the questions and meet its demand.

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3: Do not panic if the question is tough

Often, candidates tend to panic when they come across questions that look tough. All we advise the candidates’ is not to lose their calm and always keep in mind if the question looks tough to them, it will be tough to many others as well. Candidates’ should always remember that success in the mains exam depends not on answering the most obscure and unique questions, but not on missing the easiest and most general questions. So, always keep in mind that a candidate’s success is in answering the simplest and most straight ward questions.

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 4: Draw diagrams, flowcharts, charts

It is always advised to candidates to include diagrams or charts wherever necessary. Candidates’ should not think that adding diagrams may look stupid, or their drawing skill is not up to the mark as the marks offered in the exam is not for the drawing but for the presentation of the facts in their diagram.  It is always an added advantage also a trick to scoring better by adding diagrams, as chances are there the examiner may just award marks just by seeing the diagram while not even reading the answer written.

Also, a note to candidates’ not to overdo by just giving diagrams as diagrams are just an addition in the answer and not an alternative to their answer.

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 5: Do not go beyond the word limit or time limit

Candidates should always ensure that they take approximately 7-8 minutes to answer a 10 marks question, and approximately they should have answered 4 questions in 30 minutes. And, if not, they should pull up their socks and start writing fast and faster. Keeping this calculation in mind, candidates should answer 9 questions in an hour and 17-18 questions in 2 hours, and should complete answering all the 25 questions in three hours.

 6: If all the questions in a row seem difficult

This may happen when candidates would have left a portion of the syllabus and that has been asked consecutively. If candidates encounter any such situation in the main examination, all we advise is not to fret, instead go through questions from the last i.e. from question number 25 and start attempting in the reverse order. Even if they are able to answer questions in a row, then it is recommended to attempt answering in descending order. We bet this strategy will work and make candidates feel confident and also ensure that they have not left any questions unattended.

 7: Follow the Seven-Five-Three Rule to answer questions

This is the one rule that candidates’ should follow even while answering writing practice during main exam preparation. The rule is very simple and here’s how it works.

  • SEVEN – Candidates’ should aim to answer questions within 7 minutes per question.
  • FIVE – Write 5 points in their answers related to the keyword. It would be better to break down the answer into bulleted points.
  • THREE – Elaborate each point in 3 dimensions as per the requirements listed in the question. The following are useful pointers:
    • Social, Economic, Political and Geographical perspective
    • For, against, and conclusion
    • What/Why/How

For more information about the UPSC Exams, aspirants can click on the links given in the table below:

Related Links

UPSC Books UPSC 2021
UPSC Calendar 2022 Current Affairs
Success Rate Of Different Optional Subjects In UPSC Mains Best Magazines For UPSC Preparation
UPSC Eligibility IAS Toppers
IAS Interview Questions IAS Salary


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