How to plan & prepare for UPSC Civil Services Mains examination

How to plan & prepare for UPSC Civil Services Mains examination

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How to plan & prepare for UPSC Civil Services Mains examination
Dilip Chaulagain

The UPSC CSE Prelims serves as the initial phase of the Civil Service Examination, acting as the first round of elimination. Once you successfully pass this crucial hurdle, you embark on the most critical phase of your preparation journey, which focuses on the UPSC Mains. It is worth noting that the score obtained in the UPSC CSE Prelims does not determine your final selection, as its purpose is solely to qualify you for the next stage. Instead, the score achieved in the IAS Mains exam holds immense significance in determining your selection and rank.

Therefore, developing a solid strategy for the UPSC Mains will boost your score and increase your chances of achieving a favourable rank. The first step towards accomplishing this is to adopt a suitable approach for preparing for the UPSC Mains.

While experienced aspirants generally understand what needs to be done after the prelims, beginners or fresh aspirants often find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Consequently, they seek reliable sources to answer their questions regarding the UPSC Mains strategy for beginners or how to prepare for it. In this article, we present a comprehensive UPSC Mains strategy that will undoubtedly assist you in efficiently planning your preparation.

Let us begin:

Start Your Preparation a Year Before


From the Previous Year till January of the current year

Prepare for both Prelims and Mains


February to May

Focus only on Prelims


Immediately after Prelims Exam

Start Answer Writing Practice for Mains

UPSC Mains Exam Preparation Strategy # 3: Mains Syllabus that overlaps with Prelims

Prepare for Mains along with Prelims: The UPSC Mains Exam has 9 papers, and they are as given below:

Sl. No.



Total Marks


Paper A

Indian Language



Paper B




Paper I




Paper II




Paper III




Paper IV




Paper V




Paper VI

Optional Subject Paper-I



Paper VII

Optional Subject Paper-II


Total Marks for Written Examination


Planning and Preparation Strategies for UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination:

Understand the Exam Pattern and Syllabus

To begin your preparation, it is essential to thoroughly understand the exam pattern and syllabus of the UPSC Civil Services Mains examination. Familiarise yourself with the different subjects, topics, and the weightage assigned to each. This will help you prioritise your study areas and allocate time accordingly.

Create a Realistic Study Schedule

Creating a realistic and well-structured study schedule is crucial for adequate preparation. Divide your time efficiently among the different subjects and topics based on their importance and proficiency level. Set specific goals for each study session and track your progress regularly. Be consistent and disciplined in following your study schedule.

Master the Fundamentals and Current Affairs

A strong foundation in the fundamentals of various subjects is essential for the UPSC Mains examination. Invest time in understanding the concepts and theories thoroughly. Additionally, regularly stay updated with current affairs by reading newspapers, magazines, and online sources. Make notes of important events and issues for quick revision.

How to score good marks in exams?

Refer to Standard Study Materials and Resources

Utilise standard study materials and resources recommended for the UPSC Civil Services Mains examination. Refer to textbooks, reference books, and study guides comprehensively covering the entire syllabus. Use online platforms, video lectures, and e-books to supplement your learning. Maintain a collection of reliable and credible study materials.

Practice Answer Writing and Time Management

Answer writing is a crucial skill to develop for the UPSC Mains examination. Practice writing answers to previous years' question papers and sample papers within the allotted time frame. Pay attention to the structure, content, and presentation of your answers. Seek mentor feedback or join answer writing practice groups to improve your writing skills.

Join a Test Series and Mock Interviews

Enrolling in a test series designed explicitly for the UPSC Civil Services Mains examination can be immensely beneficial. These test series simulate the exam environment and allow you to assess your performance. Similarly, participating in mock interviews will help you enhance your communication skills and build confidence for the interview stage.

Focus on Multiple Revision Cycles

Revision is crucial to reinforce your learning and retain the vast information required for the exam. Plan multiple revision cycles throughout your preparation period. Allocate dedicated time for revisiting previously studied topics and reviewing your notes. Adopt effective revision techniques like making flashcards, mind maps, or summarising key points.

Stay Motivated and Take Care of Yourself

The UPSC Civil Services Mains examination demands consistent effort and perseverance. It is essential to stay motivated throughout the preparation journey. Set realistic goals, celebrate small achievements, and maintain a positive mindset. Take breaks, engage in hobbies, exercise, and maintain a healthy lifestyle to ensure your overall well-being during this intensive period.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How much time should I dedicate daily to preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Mains?

The amount of time to dedicate to UPSC Civil Services Mains preparation may vary depending on individual circumstances. However, it is generally recommended to dedicate a minimum of 6-8 hours daily for focused and practical preparation. Create a study schedule that suits your needs and commitments, balancing quality study time and personal well-being.

How can I effectively manage time during the examination?

Effective time management during the examination is crucial—practice solving previous years' question papers within the specified time limit to improve your speed and accuracy. Divide the available time among sections and questions based on their marks and difficulty level. Prioritise answering questions you are most confident about to maximise your score.

Is self-study sufficient for the UPSC Civil Services Mains examination?

Self-study can be highly practical for the UPSC Civil Services Mains examination. However, it is beneficial to supplement self-study with guidance from experienced mentors or coaching institutes. They can provide valuable insights, clarify doubts, and offer strategic approaches to tackle different subjects and answer writing techniques.

How can I improve my answer writing skills for the examination?

Improving answer writing skills requires regular practice and feedback. Write answers to previous years' question papers and sample questions within the prescribed time limit. Focus on developing a logical structure, presenting your thoughts coherently, and incorporating relevant facts and examples. Seek guidance from mentors or join answer writing practice groups for constructive feedback.

Is joining a coaching institute for UPSC Civil Services Mains preparation necessary?

Joining a coaching institute is not mandatory but can benefit some candidates. Coaching institutes provide structured guidance, study materials, and a competitive environment for learning. However, self-study and effectively utilising standard study materials and online resources can also lead to success in the UPSC Civil Services Mains examination.

What should I do if I feel demotivated during the preparation?

Feeling demotivated during the preparation is natural. To overcome it, remind yourself of your goals and the significance of the UPSC Civil Services Mains examination. Take short breaks, engage in enjoyable activities, and connect with peers or mentors for support and motivation. Maintain a positive mindset and focus on your progress so far.

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