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Cleared UPSC Prelims – How to Prepare for Mains

The preparation for UPSC mains exam starts with prelims. This is because both exams share much common ground for study. The single most important thing that we should know about the UPSC Mains Examination is that we have no time to waste. As an aspirant of any exam, understanding of syllabus and exam pattern is the first step. The next step is to make a time-bound study plan. UPSC mains preparation is a big task and involves many steps to achieve a big goal.

Few Tips for the candidates planning and preparing for UPSC mains:-

Choice of subjects

Choosing the optional subject for UPSC mains matters a lot. The best way is to choose the subject of your interest; however, one should also look for the availability of study material. Subjects like history, sociology, anthropology, geography, political science and public administration are rich in study materials, which cover the entire syllabus. If you have a different subject then it is always better to build your own collection of study materials.

Also Read: How to select Optional Subjects in UPSC Mains Exam

Optional subjects

Once again an important decision to take; however it is always advisable not to pick a subject at beginning. Rather, start preparing for General Studies and this will enable you to select the right subject as per your intelligence and interest.

Studying for General Studies

For the UPSC mains examination, the study of GS should be done in more detail. General Studies has greater importance in UPSC mains examinations and scoring well is considered as a ticket to success. General Studies has four papers to prepare which are listed below for ref:-

Paper 1: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society

Paper 2: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations


Paper 3: Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Paper 4: Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude

Current Affairs Preparation

Current affairs have always played a vital role in the UPSC Mains preparation. Questions are usually correlated with history, geography, politics, social issues and international relations which every candidate must learn and be aware of.

Writing Skills

UPSC mains examinations require in-depth knowledge of all subjects and how you present your knowledge on the paper is crucial in determining the final selection and ranking. The answer must have facts to support your answers. It is also essential to write answers with correct grammar, spelling and with proper sentence structure.

Solve Previous Question Papers

Solving old and sample papers is a common practice to be followed during preparation of any exam. First, you must do in-depth study for different subjects and solve these papers for self-evaluation. This will also give you an idea about the complexity and the patterns being followed over the years.

Selecting the right books

The books published by the NCERT are the best source of study. However, reading these books won’t serve the purpose completely. One must refer books published by standard publications as well.

UPSC mains preparation is the toughest stage of the toughest examination in the country. Candidates need to study hard and be smart in their preparation. The syllabus of UPSC mains exam is vast and all topics must be covered to deliver the desired result.