To prepare for the UPSC Mains examination one must understand its plan and syllabus first. The Civil Services (Main) Examination is a written examination and consists of 9 papers of conventional essay type, two of them are Qualifying Papers and the rest Papers are counted for merit.
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, Hindi or any regional languages listed in the Eighth Schedule. The papers which are counted for merit are seven in total and descriptive. 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 his application of current affairs in various social-economic aspects.
The crux of the Mains examination is not just about testing your knowledge on the subjects but your 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 evaluator doesn’t judge a candidate based on his/her educational background and merits, it will be based on his/her 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. Various parameters are taken into consideration while evaluating an answer, conceptual clarity, content relevance, objectivity, language proficiency, use of examples and illustrations are some of them.
With the changing trends in UPSC mains in recent years, the way of asking the question and its pattern is also changing. Earlier in mains question papers majority of the questions were asked directly from some of the reputed books and if a candidate had good command over those books, his/her chances of clearing that exam were maximum. However, things have changed now i.e at present, if you analyze the mains question papers of the last 5 years you can easily come across the domination of the current affair portion especially in papers 2 and 3. 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.
To prepare for the mains a candidate first needs to understand the nature of questions and an approach to prepare for important topics of the syllabus. All the question papers contain world and time limit, therefore, the focus should also be given to time management and learning the art of answer writing which is writing as much relevant content as possible, understanding the demand of the question before writing the answer is equally important as any content not related to the directive wouldn't fetch any valuable marks.
Always remember preparation for CSE MAINS should start with remembering all the topics of the syllabus so that whenever we come across a particular topic we can understand its importance for examination clearly, getting familiar with the topics is the most important part, one can achieve this by writing them down as many time as possible or by reading them at least once a day until we remember all the topics.
Four Important things to follow in one's preparation:
General Studies Paper I
General Studies Paper-II
General Studies Paper III
General Studies Paper IV
The syllabus includes: Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude
The questions asked in GS Paper IV are mainly to test candidates’ attitudes and approach towards problem-solving, on issues relating to integrity and probity in public life. The question paper consists of questions on theory and case studies to understand a candidate's approach to determine these aspects. The Focus areas: ethics, public service/ values, and integrity, attitude, aptitude for the civil services, emotional intelligence, the contribution of thinkers, honesty in public life, etc.
Paper IV is 25 percent of basic book knowledge and 75 percent 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 utilize 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. Empathy, sympathy and the difference between Attitude and Aptitude., etc.
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.
The use of flowcharts and diagrams enhances the quality of an answer, helps is explaining more in less time and is also an effective way to summarize the information contained in an answer.
Use easy to understand mind maps, diagrams, and flow charts are the things which will provide you an edge over other candidates as your answer will look more catchy and soothing to the examiner.
Many times when you run out of time in the examination hall and you still have a few questions to attempt you can move ahead by writing just a diagram of flow chart so that an examiner may have an insight that you know the question.
Can a candidate write different papers of Civil Service (Main) Examination in different languages?
No, Either in English or in any one of the Eighth Schedule languages except the Qualifying Language papers Paper-A and Paper-B, which they have indicated at the time of filling up of their online application form for the Civil Service (Preliminary) Examination.
What are the Cut-off Marks for the compulsory language Papers?
The minimum qualifying standards in each of the two Qualifying Papers i.e. English and Indian Languages is indicated in the Examination Rules, which is at present 25%.
Should I write an answer in Bullet Point or Paragraph?
Should I attempt all 20 questions or write 17 to 18 good answers?
Should I use Quotes in answer writing?
One of the most important things you should avoid is excessive criticism of government policies and also criticizing the person and its work.
You should also refrain from writing the answer in a biased manner, as you are preparing for an administrative post that has to work behind the curtain. SO, your vested interest should not hamper the working for people and making chaos in administrative functioning.
While quoting in mains answer writing don't quote in an altered manner. It means if know exactly the exact quotation then only you should use it, otherwise, these wrong quotes reflect a bad impression about a candidate. e.g. “The Earth has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed.”So, if you alter this quote and write like the Earth can serve everyone's need but not everyone's greed. These small mistakes are very drastic in marks marking schemes of things.
While preparing for GS Mains, you will be also preparing for History, Geography, Public Administration, Political Science, Sociology, etc. It will help you in deciding your interest in a particular optional subject properly.
Rather than selecting an optional without knowing other subjects or without knowing your writing and presentation styles and thinking patterns, it is better to delay this decision. It will prove a more informed and rational decision afterward.
Preparations for the Civil Services Mains Exam should start along with those of the Preliminary exam. This is because there is much common ground for study, and there is little time for the mains exam if one waits for the results of the Preliminaries. It is a long haul and preparations should be done with persistence, over nine months to a year.
As mentioned in each of our section on paper wise strategy the NCERT are the best source of study to clear your basic concepts. Take up the text-books for classes IX, X, XI, and XII. However, just reading these books will not serve the purpose. What is essential is that the person taking up self-study must pick up past question papers and write down the answers to questions asked therein. Practice in writing is what is required to attempt the paper. Many students make the mistake of studying for hours but have no practice in writing down the answers, which costs heavily during the exam. The skill required is that of organizing the arguments and making a coherent answer from the diverse material. One more thing that must be kept in mind is that the answers must be a little different from others and must have some extra bit that is missed out by others. This is not difficult if one has understood the issue in depth.
One important aspect of the Civil Services Mains Exam is that the questions do not ask for more information as a reply, but seek analysis backed with arguments from the candidates. Usually, one gets the impression that one knows everything but thoughts do not flow out naturally as one puts pen to paper. Hence, writing down the answers is an important aspect of the preparation. Another thing is that the candidate must carefully read the questions to make out what the examiner is asking. Having done that, it is important to organize one's thoughts before writing and the sequence of the answer should be from the most important/potent aspect to less important aspects.
If you do not have someone to show your answers, keep them away and after a gap of some time, read them again. You will discover many mistakes, which earlier you could not. Analyze the answers to improve them. This exercise of re-analysis of answers improves the ability to be precise. One of the important requirements of the Mains exam is that the answers should be crisp and to-the-point.
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