How to Succeed in IAS Mains After 3 Attempts

How to Succeed in IAS Mains After 3 Attempts


Continuously failing 3 times in the UPSC Main examination could be due to any, or a combination, of the following things:

  1. Lack of comprehensive preparation in terms of content.
  2. Poor comprehension of the questions' demand.
  3. Poor quality of answer writing.
  4. Poor time management in the exam.
  5. Average marks in the optional.

So let us address them one by one.

  1. Comprehensive Preparation: With the syllabus so vast, and competition so strong, you preparation must be comprehensive and smart. You are required to have complete understanding and control over the pattern of the examination. For instance, one should have a thorough understanding of the sub topics of the syllabus, type of the questions they are asking, current scenario etc. Please go through the syllabus again and again along with previous years' questions for better understanding. As part of your preparation strategy, make notes on each topic mentioned in the syllabus, and supplement them with the current affairs. You should be able to write one page or 150 words on each topic mentioned in the syllabus with an adequate emphasis on current affairs. For example, on topics like communalism, regionalism, secularism etc in GS-1, along with notes on the concepts, you may add small notes on contemporary developments as well.
  2. Understanding the questions: Pick up questions from previous year’s papers and read them again and again to see if you able to clearly identify the demands of the questions. Discuss with your friends and try to identify if there are any lapses in identifying the key aspects in a question. It is common for many students to misread 2-3 questions in any paper in a hurry to complete the paper. Practicing a lot of papers with fixed time will surely help you get better even in a tight situation.
  3. Answer Writing Practice: It is important that one should know how to present his/her answer- basic step is you should write your answer following a proper structure according to the demand of the question, keeping in mind the key words like (discuss, comment etc). Also, each part should be addressed under separate subheading to improve the physical appeal of your answer.
    1. Self-Practice:You can start by writing the summary of newspaper editorials in your own words. It which will help you assess your own abilities in presenting your ideas and improve continuously. You may also write answers to questions given by teachers, or previous UPSC papers or question from any online portal or mock tests. Vajiram's mains answer writing practice:We, at Vajiram & Ravi, conduct answer writing practice sessions for about 6 months for our classroom students. The students are given three questions to answer regularly to update their knowledge, improve presentation and understand the finer aspects of developing a habit of writing answers. The answers are evaluated our experts and valuable feedback is given to students to improve their answer writing skills. Model answers are also provided so that students can learn from the content and structure of the answers.
    2. Test Series:Once you are confident of writing answers to individual questions, you may join test series programme to get an expert feedback on your content and presentation. It will also help you in managing time so that you will get accustomed to completing the paper in the stipulated time. Vajiram's test series:Both online and offline main exam test series programmes are offered by Vajiram & Ravi. The test series programmes are conducted in two stages- Basic and Advanced Main exam Test Series. Basic Test Series carries question that are relatively easier and students are asked to answer 10 questions initially and gradually made to answer 20 question towards of the end of the session. The Advanced Test Series is for students who have attempted the Main exam earlier and are asked to answer 20 questions in the UPSC patter. Students opt to join the two programmes, depending on the level of confidence in writing answers.
  4. Time management: If your preparation is of very good quality, then you should have enough content to attempt at least 17-18 questions in any GS paper and almost all the questions in the optional paper. To attempt them well, time management is important so that you do not leave any questions for lack of time. This is one thing that can easily be improved by more and more practice.
  5. Marks in the optional: To excel in optional, one should develop a thorough understanding of the subject. Complete your optional preparation well ahead of the prelims exam. Here also, you should be have understanding and notes prepared on all the topics and sub-topics mentioned in the syllabus. You should also be prepared for some out of syllabus questions (teachers usually will be able to guide you on this and past papers will also help). After that, it is a question of practicing and revising regularly. Start with answering individual questions and then practice answering the full question paper (past years' papers or some test series papers). Joining a test series would really be helpful as each optional is unique in terms of what is expected in the answers. There is simply no other way but to study and practice till you are able to truly excel in your optional papers.
  6. Essay: You may prepare notes on few topics which recur many times like women empowerment, role of technology etc. One good way to see topics in trend is to see the essay questions of various test series in the market. Write essays and prepare notes on these topics - they will help you in structuring essays as well as time management, and if you are lucky, you might get a prepared topic in the essay paper. In the essay, try to maximize the coverage in various dimensions. For instance, students tend to ignore dimensions like environment, ethics etc in writing essays.

General advice: After repeated failures, the first thing you need to do is an honest analysis of where you went wrong in your previous attempts. Identifying shortcomings will help you to arrive at the most proper recourse. Do not be shy in taking advice from teachers, senior aspirants or if you know any, those who have actually cleared the exam. There are ample videos available on the internet for guidance - pick one or two rankers you associate most with and try to pick tips from them. Too much information from too many sources will only add to the confusion. Remember that there are many different ways to get a rank, so you need to carve out your individual path or strategy to reach there and others can only tell you their experiences and it’s not necessary that what works for them may works for you.

All The Best!