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Now that UPSC Prelims 2022 is done & dusted, we hope that you have headed back into the preparation mode with renewed vigor. Irrespective of the cut-offs, if you’re giving this or the next UPSC attempt, it’s time to prepare for Mains. Upsc prelims  was a means to filter out aspirants, the marks aren’t counted once one qualifies. The real game which determines your rank is the Mains stage with 1750 marks.

As per the 71st annual report released by UPSC, 574980 aspirants appeared for CS(P) including IFoS(P),11474 candidates appeared in CS Mains 2019,2302 made it to the interview & finally 922 were recommended. To be one among the 2000+ candidates, your answers must stand out. . How to ace the mains?


  1. Read the UPSC notification. Didn’t expect that, did you? They clearly mention the demand of the exam. “The main exam is intended to assess the overall intellectual traits and depth of understanding of candidates rather than merely the range of their information and memory.”
  2. Approach to Study? “The questions are likely to test the candidate’s basic understanding of all relevant issues, and ability to analyse.” Focus on understanding an issue in all its facets, the context behind it, & know how to interlink & analyse it from multiple dimensions.
  3. Do you need to be proficient in every topic? The answer is a resounding NO! “The questions will test general awareness which will have relevance for a career in Civil Services.” There’s no need to memorise lots of information about a topic with specialized study. Be a Generalist!
  4. Your next best guide? PYQs! Studying UPSC previous year questions enables one to better understand the demand, the prevalent trends, language used & intricacies involved. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”– Sun Tzu
  5. Your constant companion? The syllabus copy of-course! Take a print out, read & understand it thoroughly. This will guide you on how to interlink topics, give ready-made dimensions for answers & essays, ensures you know what is relevant & what deserves your focus while studying.
  6. Practice is key!  “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”-Aristotle

Start writing-write terribly, make mistakes, learn. You will only get better at it if you practice. Don’t wait to finish the syllabus to start- will never happen. Start now!


How to write a great answer?

  1. Read the question. Sounds basic? You’ll be surprised at how many misread the question, fail to read all parts of it or just don’t understand what is asked. Read it twice & keep circling back to it while writing your answer. Be relevant & answer what is asked. Not many do that.
  2. Your best guide, again? The UPSC syllabus copy! Write down a simple 3 line definition of every topic & add them to your notes. This will greatly help in giving an introduction quickly in any answer, rather than wasting time thinking during the exam. Time is scarce & precious.
  3. How to write a good introduction? You may include a definition, a fact, a quote: anything that is relevant, yet catches their attention & entices the reader to read further. Compile a list of quotes, facts in every sub-topic(have you’ll checked insta facts yet?)
  4. What to write in the body? Answer as per the sub-topics in the question, in the same order. Read the Q & derive your sub-headings from it. You don’t have to come up with great sub-headings; time is scarce. Stick to answering exactly what is asked. Ensure that you cover all facets.
  5.  Ingredients to add to a good answer? Include pie-charts, flow-charts, tables when asked to state differences or draw a comparison, draw graphs showing increase/decrease/growth in variables(especially useful in economics). But the trick? Relevance. Know when & where to include what.
  6. What to write in the conclusion? Keep it short & simple. Show optimism in your attitude while stating what is the way forward. Be balanced- don’t show a predilection towards extreme view points & don’t be impractical in giving solutions. The trick? Think like a civil servant.




Whenever you’re showing a chronology of events (Eg.: independence movements or the evolution of art in GS1 or how a doctrine evolved in GS2 or how technology progressed,etc.) draw a simple timeline- showing the progression of years & associated events. Simple?


Every point you write in the body of the answer needs to be substantiated with relevant examples. For every topic & sub-topic you study, collect relevant examples & learn them well. Highlight the examples in the answers  


Collect case studies from newspapers,reports, ministry websites & use them where necessary. For Eg.: how effective government schemes have been in a particular region or how environmental conservation has been adopted by a community successfully.


Whenever you’re answering about any issue, for Eg.: defamation, sedition, right to privacy, etc., use the various judgements & show an evolution of thought & reasoning. For this, make a list of judgements for each issue & learn them beforehand.


These were a few things to imbibe and remember, in order to ace the mains. We hope you’ll found it helpful. We will be back with another article on this soon! Comment below and tell us how your preparation is progressing! Do you have any cool tips to ace the mains? We’d love to hear them!

Until next time!