How to prepare for UPSC MAINS EXAMINATION ?

Before discussing – "How to prepare Mains Examination?", one must understand two things. What is the mains examination? And, what is its purpose? 

  • The Mains Examination stage under UPSC CSE consists of two language papers and seven descriptive papers. 
  • The two language papers are easy and qualifying and its purpose is to make sure that the candidate has a grip on general languages like English and Hindi/Kannada or any other language. 

Coming to descriptive papers, the general purpose of a descriptive paper is to understand a person’s thinking pattern, personal opinion on various social and general issues, attitudes, skills, emotional quotient, social quotient and last but not the least, application of current affairs.  

UPSC Mains preparation: Dynamics of IAS Mains exam 

  • Mains examination is not about your knowledge, unlike Prelims. In mains not only your knowledge of the subject will be tested but the way of approaching the answer, articulation of the problem and providing an effective solution on a positive note within the prescribed word limit also counts. 
  • In mains examination, the answer copy evaluator will not judge a candidate based upon his/her educational background and merits, It will be your art of writing to the point and skill of linking the answer with an interdisciplinary approach and concluding it with a positive solution will define your marks in mains examination.
  • With the changing pattern of the UPSC and way of asking the question is also changing. Unlike earlier examination of mains in which the majority of the questions were asked directly from some of the reputed books and if a hard-working candidate has command on that book, there were utmost chances of his/her clearing this examination. At present, if you have seen the mains question of the last 5 years there is the heavyweight of the current affair portion in paper 1 and paper 2.  However, these questions can’t be answered solely on the current base, these questions require linking with the static portion to write an effective answer.

Paper wise Approach for UPSC Mains Exam: 

General Studies Paper I 

  • On one hand Paper I require a candidate to know about the history and geography of India and world, on the other hand, it requires you to be updated with current events happenings in and around us especially for art and culture, Geography portion and society.
  • The most appropriate way to approach Paper I of the GS mains Paper is to understand the topic more broadly. e.g. Why Gupta Age is considered a golden era and why Magadha was the most powerful Mahajanpada of that time.
  • In Art and Culture portion, questions asked by UPSC nowadays are more analytical which requires both the factual content and good analysis to answer the why and how. You can answer such questions well only when you understand the historical background in which such art was produced. This is why you must read NCERT XI Ancient India for it gives you that historical context.
  • You should be well-versed with all the key geographical phenomena, concepts and their applications and repercussions.
  • Again, social justice is also all about current affairs .so, keep an eye on the current events to prepare for the social justice, you need to prepare well for all the schemes and policies that government is implementing for various section of society. 

General Studies Paper-II 

  • Looking at the trend in last five years of paper II of GS, you can easily understand that this paper is not about static portion anymore; a majority of questions is from current affairs and even that question that looks like of static one is linked to current events of recent times.
  • Let's understand this with an example; suppose a question is being asked about the power tussle between Lt Governor and CM of Delhi. So here you need to highlight the problem at present but at the same time, you have to state the significance of the post of Lt Governor post and CM briefly.
  • International relation is all about current events .so, you have to prepare it from Newspaper and any standard magazine, whatever suits you.

General studies Paper III 

  • Preparation of Paper III can be prepared by current affairs provided your basic knowledge of each topic is clear. So, finish basic books first and make your foundation strong to erect a giant building of knowledge on that foundation. 
  • For science and technology, whatever comes in news make good notes of it. 
  • For example if there is a news about Crispr cas9; So, here you not only need to know about the CRISPR cas9 but you have to know about :
  • What is Gene Editing?
  • Benefits associated with gene editing
  • Impact of gene editing.
  • Another method of gene editing and these kinds of stuff.
  • For internal security and Indian economy read any standard books to understand the basic concept of these subjects.

General studies Paper IV 

  • Paper IV is 25 per cent of basic book knowledge and 75 per cent of your understanding of the situation based on the basic books you have read and clarity of syllabus you have. 
  • For the first portion of this paper, you have to read some moral thinkers and their contribution and when you will solve case study, you have to utilise that information for not only writing the good answer of that case study but you have to also develop your knowledge and understanding of values. 
  • The most appropriate way to develop for this paper is to first understand each terminology given in the syllabus e.g.
  • What is Empathy?
  • What is sympathy?
  • Difference between Attitude and Aptitude.
  • Knowing of these terminologies is not enough and you have to think of utilising it in your day to day life. If you have clarity on these terminologies you are most likely to answer well.

Essay Paper: 

  • Essay paper is not about your knowledge and disseminating that information on your copy. It is about the representation of your approach of the skill of pinning down your information in sequence manner supported by some facts and figures.

In essay Paper facts and figures play very less role as compare to your art of representation and art of writing it. 

You can develop this art of representation and writing a good answer only by practising it. So, make a good habit of writing one essay in a fortnight. 

Optional Paper: 

  • The optional paper approach is different from mains answer writing. Inhumanity subject optional questions comes directly and which requires a bit exhaustive studies.
  • For those who are choosing optional subjects other than human subjects to go for the last 5 years question paper to understand the dynamics of question asking pattern and prepare accordingly. 

Compulsory Paper: 

  • As the compulsory paper is qualifying in nature so before the examination just practice some of the things like grammar and basic things like ways of answering and approach of writing. 

These little things will shell you through the mains examination. 

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