Writing UPSC Mains for the first time is like playing your debut Test Match for the country – you either score century and make your position safe, or you score zero and wait for few more years to be picked again.
There are two types of candidates who write their first Mains exam: one, they take it extremely serious, they were sure of cracking prelims and have a solid preparation plan in place; second, this category of candidates sit on the fence and wait for the Preliminary exam result and once it is declared and if they pass it, they start frantically searching for materials, coaching institutes, guidance and what not.
And there are instances where some candidates got through even when they belonged to the second category. Not just hard work; to get a rank, attitude, luck, knowledge and confidence matters too.
But on the D-Day, in the exam hall, only those three hours matter most. If you screw up those three hours, you might have to wait for another grueling year.
If you are going to write Mains, irrespective of the above categories you belong to, you may have to follow below mentioned few steps to maximize your chance of getting good score:
- Take every exam, including compulsory languages papers very seriously. Don’t leave any questions unanswered in the compulsory papers even if you are cent percent sure of getting pass marks.
- During those Three hours, take every second very seriously. Try to answer every question till the end. Try to answer ‘unknown’ questions using common sense and logic. Don’t leave them blank thinking examiner would be intimidated by your stupid answer. Even a lack of Single Mark can keep you out of the list.
- While answering, don’t strive for perfection. Go with the flow of your thoughts. Your aim should be to ‘answer the question.’ In the exam hall, you can’t afford to think about structuring your answer etc. Write relevant content to every question asked.
- Don’t look at other aspirants now and then. Your entire focus and energy should be spent on writing and writing.
- Some candidates have the tendency to write early and then show-off: ‘see guys, I finished the damn paper so soon. It was Lallu Panju or whatever.’ Even if the questions are boring or silly, spend time on them. If you have extra minutes, use them to read your answers and underline important points – you never know, you might get extra points to write too! or try to answer questions which you might have left blank. But never ever take your eyes off the answer script until the last bell is rang.
- Love what you write. Enjoy each and every question. Instead of taking pressure, take pleasure in answering them. It is a rule that if one loves what they do, success is guaranteed. If one has loved whole phase of exam preparation, then it’s crucial to love more those three crucial hours.
- On the day of Optional Paper exam, shortlist twenty most important questions/topics and keep answers ready. Read them till last minute before you enter exam hall. If by luck, any questions comes from what you have read, answer them first. Short-term memory helps here. So, during the break after first session, instead of chatting, repeat the above activity. Because every Mark counts.
- Eat well and sleep well. Health is most important. If you try to do something extraordinary at the cost of health, it will definitely screw you up.
- Enjoy the whole process. You are a lucky one selected out of lakhs of aspirants, make use of this opportunity. Lack of preparation is not an excuse to take this exam lightly. Go there with a confidence and with a child like curiosity – to enjoy the process of answering challenging questions.
All the best. 🙂