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TIMETABLE: 2015 Civil Services Mains – General Studies, Essay and Optional Integrated Strategy

2015 IAS Mains Preparation Self Study Guide

Caution:Basically this is a Test Series for you to practice from home. The schedule which we are about to post in this article is NOT a ‘one size fits all’ solution to your UPSC Mains strategy. This timetable assumes that you have studied all NCERTs, Standard Books for General Studies and Optional books at least 1-2 times. Having said that, if you are determined, even if you haven’t read them at least once, you can push yourself to achieve targets given in timetable (How? Read on)


Because you have only 100 days to write Mains exam, we can not adopt a very relaxed approach as adopted in Test Series for Prelims which was a one year process. What we mean is, we can not ask you to read specific chapters or books in this approach. At this stage it is assumed that you are familiar with all the sources and you are in a position to revise even bulky sources within less time. For example, if you completed reading India’s Struggle for Independence & NCERT History books before prelims itself, it hardly takes 2 – 3 days to revise them again.

What to read? Sources?

Giving a long list of sources is not a difficult job. But, is it required now?

May be or may be not. But we believe that giving a detailed long list of sources will only add more pressure to you (You might not have read the sources we provide not even once too, so reading them or the thought of not reading them might tense you)

For example, standard sources for General Studies Paper – 1 include the following List:

  1. NCERT Class VI – History – Our Past
  2. NCERT Class VII – Our Past -I
  3. NCERT  Class VIII – Our Past II and III
  4. NCERT Class XII – Themes In Indian History I
  5. NCERT Class-XII – Themes in Indian History – II
  6. NCERT Class XII – Themes In Indian History III
  7. Class XI NCERT  An Introduction to Indian Art.
  8. CCRT Website
  9. Struggle for India’s Independence – Bipan Chandra
  10. India Since Independence – Bipan Chandra
  11. India After Gandhi – Ramchandra Guha
  12. Indian Society – Class XII
  13. Class IX to XII All Geography Books

The above list might have been followed by you or you might have followed other list. Therefore, it is better to read what you have been reading all along (no serious aspirant will be reading non-standard books anyway)

You know that these are static sources and you must be well versed in current events to answer many of Paper-1 questions (for example – questions on urbanization, poverty etc)

Therefore, at this point of time, under our timetable, you will be asked to complete the syllabus by reading the sources which you are already familiar with. You can read Bipan Chandra/ Spectrum/Sekhar Bandyopadhyay for Modern History but read ONLY ONE source out of these after reading NCERT books.

We will be posting compilations of Secure – 2015 Questions and Answers within 2 days, which will help you cover all current events related Q&A related to all Four General Studies Papers.

For each test you should read standard sources + Secure compilation + your notes (if you have made any).

Last year when we conducted offline tests based on this Timetable, few were apprehensive: How to cover half syllabus in 2-3 days? 

You need not cover whole syllabus in the beginning itself. Timetable is designed in such a way that you will do four revisions before Mains. With each revision, you should complete as much as possible (details are shared below).

Because of rigorous writing practice, 14 out of 20 from offline class went to interview last year. Their average GS score is 350+  and Essay Score is 135+. Many keep saying that we took experienced guys and now boasting and all. It is a lie. Of the 14 who went for interview, only two had given interview before. Rest all had given one Mains or they were freshers.

It is also a fact that despite writing multiple Mains, many do not get interview call.

Because Mains is extremely important in deciding your rank, you must not take chances. If this timetable worked for 70% of the class, it will work for you too.

As cautioned in the first paragraph, you should modify it as per your needs. You don’t have to follow it as it is.

You may skip one or two GS papers if you think you need to focus more on Optional. But, this you must write at least 25 tests from this timetable so as to revise syllabus at least 3 times.

Four Revisions of Entire General Studies Syllabus:

By following the below timetable, you will be doing four revisions of entire General Studies Papers.

First Revision:

In the first Round there will be total Ten Tests –  Eight General Studies Exams – two exams for Each Paper, comprising 15 Questions in each paper with a time duration of 1.5 Hours. You will also write Two full length essay exams too.

For example, GS-1 will have two exams. For each paper one has to prepare half the syllabus of entire GS-1 paper. This sounds overwhelming – How can we study half syllabus in 2-3 days??!

We are giving a gap of 3-4 days between these tests. During this gap, you should study for the tests, go through secure compilations and daily current event questions too.

But, in the first round itself you need not study 100%. Say, if you can complete 60% of the syllabus for the first test (Art & Culture, Modern Indian History, Post Independence Consolidation), that is more than sufficient!


You can complete the rest in the Second Round or in the Third Round for which you will get ample gap between each test.

But to even complete 60%, you must push yourself hard. Stick to minimal sources. Adhere to the books that you have been reading all along. Repeatedly read the same.

While writing tests in this round, your aim should be to answer at least 12 questions in 1.5 hours. If you can answer all the questions in 1.5 hours, then you will be answering a question in 6 minutes (200 Word answer). In real exam you should be able to answer one question in 7 minutes.

While improving speed, never compromise on quality. You must be conscious of this while writing each and every answer.

Second Revision

In this round, again there will be Seven GS exams and Three Essay Tests But tests in this round will comprise 20 questions and two hours duration for each GS paper.

We do not expect you to answer all questions in this round. Main aim is to inculcate a sense of urgency while answering. Under pressure you will improve speed. After writing many tests in this manner, speed will become a natural part while answering in mains.

In this round you can study skipped topics from the first round. Once read, you can go back and answer left out questions from first round too.

Third Revision

This will sound bit outrageous. You will be asked to answer 30 questions in 3 hours.

After finishing first two rounds, you will be in a position to answer at least 22-24 questions out of thirty questions in this round. That too qualitatively. After third revision, your content will be good, so is the speed.

Fourth Revision

This round will be a conducted just like UPSC does – Two papers in a Day, 25 questions in each paper with three hours duration.

By the time you reach this stage, answering 25 questions will be a cakewalk provided you know the answers (of course youw ill know answers if you revise whole syllabus four times!)

Some of you might think that this hectic series might improve speed but not quality. This is wrong. If you study as per the timetable, with each round your content gets stronger and your answers go on improving. This we have witnessed here at offline classes.

This incremental increase in each round will help you gain confidence and complete the syllabus in a meaningful way.

Essay Tests

We have included around 7 Essay exams. Overall you will be practising 14 essays before Mains. You can also practise essays from our Weekly Essay Challenge.

It is good to write at least 15 essays before mains to score 140+ in Mains. We hope this timetable pushes you to do the same. Scoring 140+ in essay is crucial in getting good rank. If you practice well, you can score upto 165 in this paper (equal to combined score of Two GS papers!)

It is worth the efforts you put in.

Why Optional in Between?

If you want to score 270+ in any Optional subject, writing answers to at least Ten full length question papers from your subject is a MUST. If you do not write answers, but red very very well and go to exam, you might get 230-240. But this score at best can get you a rank between 400-600 (considering you have done decently good in GS+Essay+Interview).

Here we are talking about getting a rank within 200 or 100. For this you must practice either previous papers or papers from good test series to have an edge.

Therefore, at offline class we have made it compulsory to come and write optional test. Ultimately all you want is a good rank. This is one way of ensuring this.

We hope you too solve question papers sitting at home.


Ok Insights, now you have given Timetable, but what about Feedback on our answers?

Wish we had resources. We would have reviewed all your answers. But thankfully, for every problem there is a solution.

Please write your tests and after writing scan 2-3 answers and post them under the question. We will review 1-2 questions and give a detailed feedback and make it a featured comment. You can also type 1-2 answers for which you think review is needed.

As requested earlier, if fellow aspirants review each others answers, it will be even better.

We are also trying our best to bring IAS officer trainees to evaluate your answers. You know that experience is needed and not the expertise. Our students who excelled this year who had first hand experience of getting good GS scores will review 1-2 answers for each question. (Neha Dubey with 158 essay score, 116 in GS-1 and 132 in GS-4 will review few answers starting from Second or Third Test. She will be joined by Nitish K who has secured Rank – 8. He will review essays. He scored 142.)

At the same time, there are experienced people who are taking a break and preparing for 2016 exam. They can answer these questions on the website because they can spend some time on the site.

You can also form groups among yourself and write these exams at your place together and then review each other’s answers.

Ultimately we want you to succeed in this exam. This is least we can do owing to shortage of resources. We hope that you will use it to the maximum extent to maximise your marks in Mains.


Finally, it is not an easy task to write all tests sitting at your home. You need constant motivation. It is better to form a group (as said above) and write exams.

Of course, if your will is strong, you don’t need anyone. You can complete the tasks on your own.

Your ultimate goal at present is to get into services of your choice and dream.  Choose a strategy, whichever it is,  that you believe would help you achieve your goal. It is no time for experiments. Time is short.

These three months should be spent productively. Every hour spent should be aimed at maximising marks in Mains. Read few things repeatedly. Take tests regularly.

If you have joined a test series or following other strategies, if you have faith in them, please continue to follow them.

Ours might not be the best strategy too. We have put in front of you what worked for us with the faith that this will work for you too.

We request you to take this program as a proper Test Series and prepare accordingly. We are sure that if one writes all tests by preparing for them, he/she will have bright chances of being called for the Personality Test.

Let the journey begin.

Timings of Posting of Question Paper Online:

On the day of exam, we will post the question Paper at 6 pm on the website both in PDF and Secure – 2015 format where one can type or upload their answers in the comment box.

We hope 2016 aspirants too actively take part and try to answer the questions. (Yes, 2016 strategy is also coming!)

Download Timetable for Mains – 2015 Self Study Guide

Click the link below:



We welcome any other suggestions by you regarding this initiative. If you find any mistakes, please let us know in comment box. Thank you.