Tips for UPSC Mains Preparation 2019

The UPSC conducts the Civil Services Exam every year for recruitment of officers to the prestigious Civil Services of India. Candidates clearing this exam can become civil servants in various branches of the government such as the IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS and so on. With a dismal pass rate of under 1%, this exam is often called India’s toughest exam. Contrary to what people believe, it is possible to crack the IAS Exam in one attempt. Read on for tips on UPSC Mains preparation.

The UPSC Civil Services Examination consists of three stages:

  1. UPSC Prelims
  2. UPSC Mains
  3. UPSC Interview

Important Dates for UPSC 2019

Date of Civil Services Prelims Examination 02 June 2019
Date of Civil Services Mains (Written) Examination 20 September 2019

Details related to the UPSC Prelims can be found in the linked article.

UPSC Mains Subjects

The written part of the UPSC Civil Service Mains Examination consists of nine papers which are descriptive in nature:

The UPSC Mains subjects which are covered by the General Studies Papers in Mains Exam are:

General Studies I General Studies II General Studies III General Studies IV
Indian Heritage and Culture Governance Technology Ethics
History and Geography of the World Constitution Economic Development Integrity
Society Polity Bio-diversity Aptitude
Social Justice Environment
International relations Security and Disaster Management

Optional subjects for Paper VI and VII are to be selected from a list of subjects declared in the notification. UPSC sets and evaluates optional papers at a level slightly higher than an undergraduate learning level but below the learning level required for a masters degree.

UPSC Essay Paper

  • Never take the Mains Essay paper lightly. Treat it with equal importance as the other GS subjects
  • Choosing UPSC Essay Topic plays a vital role. Click on the link for detailed discussion on UPSC Essay selection.
  • Avoid controversial topics and provocative content.
  • Try to use Quotes and Phrases within the essay to make an impact.

A good knowledge of overlapping and non-overlapping areas in the IAS Syllabus of General Studies for Prelims and Mains certainly fetches you more score than others.

Most of the candidates spend less time in their preparation for the GS IV paper and don’t give much importance, so for such candidates, here’s an advice: it is the Ethics (GS Paper IV), the Essay Paper and Optional papers that can fetch you more marks apart from the other GS papers (I, II, and III). 

For more on the UPSC mains syllabus, click on the linked article.

The UPSC mains written examinations carry the most weightage with 1750 marks. The total along with the interview test scores comes to 2025 marks which are counted towards the merit ranking.

UPSC Mains Preparation

In order to score maximum marks one needs to follow simple yet effective methods listed below. It is recommended that you start your UPSC mains preparation even before the IAS prelims and not wait until after the UPSC prelims results are announced for that would give you far less time than what is required.

#1 Best Books for UPSC Mains Exam

  • Studying from the correct reliable sources make a huge difference. 
  • With the right set of material, one doesn’t have to filter out unnecessary content that in turn, save time and energy. Right sources also provide reliable data. 
  • A book can have the best possible content and yet end up not being a good source for UPSC prep. It’s not just the matter that is important but also how it is explained.
  • Going through the same topic multiple times just in order to understand the topic doesn’t help much rather than revising the content multiple times which is well understood. 

You can download important NCERT books for UPSC exam here.

UPSC Book List for Mains

Category Subject UPSC Books
[GS Paper 1] History, Indian Heritage & Culture
  1. An Introduction to Indian Art Part 1: Textbook in Fine Arts for Class XI
  2. India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  3. India after Independence by Bipan Chandra
  4. History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra
  5. Ancient India by R.S Sharma
[GS Paper 1] Geography
  1. Geography of India by Majid Husain
  2. World Geography by Majid Husain
  3. World Atlas
  4. Certificate Physical and Human Geography – G C Leong
  5. Fundamentals of Physical Geography NCERT Class 11
[GS Paper 2] Polity & International Relations
  1. Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth
  2. Introduction to the Constitution of India by DD Basu
  3. India’s Foreign Policy by Rajiv Sikri
[GS Paper 3] Economy
  1. Indian Economy – Ramesh Singh
[GS Paper 4] Ethics
  1. Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude for Civil Services Main Examination by Subba Rao and P.N. Roy Chaudary

#2 UPSC Mains Test series 

  • Test series are an essential part of regular preparations for successful UPSC candidates.
  • By reviewing the attempted tests one gets a chance to figure out mistakes and the area where you lack knowledge and practice.
  • Writing mock tests not only helps you to revise your IAS Syllabus but also helps to increase your speed to solve the exam in time.
  • There is always a time crunch in IAS Exam, one needs to be swift in writing questions.
  • Mock test papers help in exercising the most complicated muscle that is the brain.
  • This results in maintaining your calm before and during the exam.

#3 Previous UPSC Question Papers

  • Previous years question papers for UPSC makes the aspirant more intuitive about the questions
  • Practice makes a man perfect. Similarly, any aspirant who has solved multiple question papers from UPSC will not be surprised during the exam.
  • Self-analysis for mains answer writing skills becomes more accurate when the tests are from the UPSC Board itself. 

#4 UPSC Current Affairs

  • When it comes to Dynamic syllabus, Current affairs can play a very important role in how you portray your answers in the mains exam.
  • The best bet to cover UPSC current affairs through credible sources like the ones mentioned below.

UPSC Current Affairs Sources

  • Understanding every topic which is relevant to UPSC can be done by following the 5Ws & 1H strategy wherein the topic needs to be understood at a level where one can answer all of the questions below.
    • Why the topic has occurred?
    • When did it occur?
    • What is the topic and what is its past, present and future?
    • Where did it occur/will it affect?
    • Which other topics could be related to the current topic?
    • How is it important for UPSC prep?

In order to attain this level of understanding, the aspirant needs to invest time only on reliable sources of information and not go through every piece of information he/she can gather.

#5 How to proceed after collecting all the right study material

The aspirant can now focus on working with the available content and managing time allotment for every topic. This is the most crucial part of the UPSC mains preparation.

The following steps could be taken to smoothen the IAS mains preparation:

Time left until Mains Examination Steps to keep in mind
2 months
  • Dedicate sufficient time for preparation (7-9 hours at least). 
  • Split the syllabus into Major and Minor topics. 
  • Never miss current affairs. Understand and analyze topics from current affairs.
  • No matter what, take time to revise.
1 month
  • Start testing your preparation 
  • Revise Static and Dynamic syllabus
  • Correlate dynamic syllabus with current affairs
2 weeks
  • Mock test papers should be solved daily
  • Work on the mistakes
  • Improve language skills for answer writing 
1 week
  • Keep your calm
  • Focus on the structural representation of the answer
1 day
  • Do not read anything new
  • Give your brain and body some rest 
  • Keep calm and stay confident

#6 Points to Remember for UPSC Mains Preparation

  • Optionals: Choose the subject very carefully considering that it will play a vital role in your total score.
  • Ethics: Conceptual clarity is key. Implement relevant vocabulary. Knowledge of philosophy helps.
  • Practice: Treat your brain as a muscle. The more you exercise, the stronger it gets.
  • Revise: Revision is literally the most important key to opening the door for your UPSC Exam.Test Series: Testing helps the aspirant realize where they lack or make mistakes and work on them. Test Series also help in habituating the student with the exam environment and time management. 

Kick start your UPSC 2020 preparations with the help of BYJU’S  IAS Coaching. 

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