Exam prep Education

The Mains challenge

A tough and gruelling exam   | Photo Credit: M.A. Sriram

Every year, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts the Civil Services Examination to recruit officers for various branches of the government. This exam has three stages — the Preliminary (known as Prelims), the Mains, and the Personality Test — and the final list is prepared by combining the marks obtained in the Mains and the Personality Test. However, the marks of the Mains exam takes the lion’s share of 1750 out of a total 2025 marks.

Why it’s vital

There are three reasons why the Mains exam is considered vital. One, the weightage of marks for the final list. Second, the massive syllabus of the General Studies paper and variety of optional subjects. Third is the competition among the candidates who have cleared the gruelling Preliminary stage. Therefore, a Civil Services aspirant requires a calculated strategy to crack the second stage.

Many tend to worry about what they call “a good answer”. There is no single definition but broad guidelines are clarity of thought and expression and good presentation. One can write the answers as essays or as points or even a combination of the two. This will depend on the question. Remember, the Mains exam can be extremely unpredictable given the vast scope of the syllabus. So the candidate needs to be ready for surprises. When preparing, try to cover the syllabus as comprehensively as possible. While shoring up your strong points, do not neglect areas of weakness. If well prepared, you will be ready to connect all the dots as demanded by the question.

During your preparation, split the syllabus so that you can deal with it from different perspectives. The two optional subjects will comprise 500 marks; the essay is a separate paper of 250 marks. The remaining 1000 marks are split as General Studies and cover a wide range of subjects. Make sure your optional subjects are well-prepared. For the General Studies papers, quite a bit would have been covered during preparation for the Preliminary stage. Use a multi-pronged strategy to cover the syllabus. Focus on content enrichment rather than looking for new resources. Candidates will need to expand their thinking and analytical abilities in order to integrate multiple perspectives. For example, you can find links between the Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations and Ethics and Integrity papers. A study of past papers will also suggest similar connections.

There are plenty of ways to climb the mountain that the Civil Services Examination represents. While some strategies may be common to all, it is best to figure out which path will lead you to the peak.

The writer is the Director, GS Score

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 9:16:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/how-to-prepare-for-the-second-stage-of-the-civil-services-exam/article33094906.ece

Next Story