Check list for Civil Services Mains exam

AK Mishra gives you tips to prepare for the Civil Services Mains

After coming out with flying colors in Civil Services Examination (CSE) — Prelims, students indeed do not have enough time to celebrate the triumph, as the bigger challenge stands out of the examination hall waiting for them, i.e., the Main Exam. This examination ultimately takes aspirants to the next level, nearer to their dream job. Where the final stage and interviews are unpredictable, Mains Exam is still predictable as students have a fair idea about the syllabus and examination pattern.

Here is how students should move ahead and prepare well for the Mains Exam:


UPSC is looking for the leaders, the future officers of our nation. UPSC needs candidates with the following traits:

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  • The one who is empathetic and loves the nation
  • The one who has the knowledge about the culture and society he/she is going to serve
  • The one who has the knowledge about the issues our country is facing currently and the relationship our nation has with other countries
  • The one who has a non-biased opinion in the society and knows how to put his/her opinion forward to bring a positive change
  • The one who knows how to manage emotions well, who has the problem-solving ability and right decision-making ability in different situations
  • The one who is honest, non-biased and most importantly has administrative traits
  • The one who has good command over the language
  • The one who can think rationally and practically within certain constraints

UPSC checks these traits majorly through Mains Exam which carries total 1750 marks and is completely subjective in nature.


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This is for all the students going to appear for the UPSC Mains, 2017 and also aspirants for 2018. The preparation must follow an integrated approach, which means, while preparing for the Prelims, aspirants should also prepare for Mains alongside. The syllabus for both is more or less same; the difference is, Mains is way more detailed than Prelims due to its subjective nature. Those who have appeared in Prelims must be well aware of the fact that, most of the General Studies papers are covered while preparing for the Prelims itself.

The preparation process must begin with thorough knowledge of the syllabus. Take a print out of the syllabus and paste on your room’s wall. Download few previous year question paper and get familiar with the examination pattern and the questions.

Although the ones who have cleared Prelims must have read the NCERT books, but see if revision is required and start reading once again. Make a habit of reading Newspaper every day and most importantly make precise notes. See the syllabus and read only what is required in Newspaper. Read editorials most importantly, read at least five editorials in a week and make pointers.


Undoubtedly, NCERT is the first step and best source to study. Take up the textbooks for Class IX to Class XII and start reading. Only NCERT books will not suffice the purpose though, hence standard books must be taken up after completion of NCERT books.

Previous year question papers are another important factor. Download it and begin your writing practice. Answer writing practice is very important to match up the level of time limit UPSC gives during the exam. Many students make this common mistake of studying for hours but do not give enough time to answer writing practice, which further becomes a major cause of failure. Aspirants need to acquire the skills of presenting the answer in a coherent way.

Another important aspect which students must keep in mind is that UPSC does not ask merely for the information as an answer, but seek different perspective of the candidate over the topic. It is important for a candidate to read the question well before answering it, make a basic flow of the answer; followed by an introduction and then the most important aspect to less important ones and then the final conclusion. And this is why solving previous years question paper and enrolling for Mains Test Series is significant.


While preparing for the optional subject, make sure you cover each and every topic thoroughly. It is important to remember that the level of questions asked for optional paper is from Class X to graduation level. Hence, while selecting an optional subject, make sure you have the basic knowledge and academic background of the subject. Get previous year question paper and see the kind of questions asked and prepare accordingly

It is imperative to have a good hold over the two languages, both English and Hindi regardless of the medium you choose to write your exam in. To enhance this aptitude, get a general studies book and translate it into the language you are weak in. Also, try and read as much as you can.


Some suggested readings for the general studies paper are NCERT, National Book Trust (NBT) and IGNOU booklets which are quite helpful. Read Economic survey, Yojana and India yearbook to enhance your knowledge.


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