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SACHIN GUPTA Rank – 3 UPSC CSE-2017 (Insights Offline Student): Preparation Strategy – UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Examination – Mains Strategy and Experience at Insights Offline Test Series (Mains)


Mains Strategy and Experience at Insights Offline Test Series (Mains)

SACHIN GUPTA Rank – 3 UPSC CSE-2017 (Insights Offline Student)


Hello friends,

This is my second article (First Article) regarding strategy for Civil services preparation. In this I have written all about GS-Mains Preparation and how I changed my strategy particularly in last one year. Although I don’t know about my marks right now, but hopefully it will be good only and my changed strategy would have been the key in this. (Update: UPSC has released Mains + Interview marks – 946 (Mains) + 176(interview) = 1122)


Mains Strategy:

I believe this is most important stage in terms of scoring maximum marks as personality test may go or not go the way we want it to be. Lots of external factor came into picture at that stage. But trust me if you work really hard especially at Mains Stage, one can score good marks. Here i would be sharing what i did and how i approached Mains Examination , that comes out to be game changer in my final year.

Before moving forward , i would like to highlight try to chalk out your own strategy as each one of us is unique, try to see your own strengths and weaknesses ,build your own study plan accordingly. Here, i would be sharing what worked with me and what i feel is important to do at Mains Stage.

This is the stage where you need both , to be persistent in your answer writing and also be smart to know how to study particular topic in the syllabus that i have learnt after going to bangalore last year. It changed my approach towards Mains tremendously.


Firstly we will talk about Art of Answer Writing

I believe everybody knows the importance of answer writing at Mains, at the end of a day, one would be evaluated not on how much he knows but on how good he/she wrote an answer and expressed himself/herself best in those 150-200 words.

This is the stage where hard work and to be persistent in answer writing matters. I know sometimes we get demotivated , don’t feel like writing answers or try to focus on reading more content. It happened with me also but here is what the role of peer group or study environment came into picture. I went to bangalore for this purpose only , fortunately at Insights I was able to get it that pushed me to write test in a disciplined manner. Slowly -Slowly after 8-10 tests, one is able to find what to do and what no to do, how to write an answer. I use to interact with Vinay Sir a lot to understand this. But actual struggle after that to internalize the answer writing pattern in your heart & soul and make it a natural way of answer writing. For that one should do intensive answer writing practice. Some of the key things that i learnt in Bangalore under the guidance of Insights and IASbaba:


  • Importance of Reading the Question: Most of the time what happens we use to write whatever we know about 2-3 keywords written in question but try to read question twice or thrice at least. Try to understand the what actually examiner wants to know and write that only. I also use to write whatever i knew about the question in my first two attempts that probably was the reason behind low marks in GS. Here i would like to express my gratitude towards Vinay Sir, who helped me alot, i use to show him my copies and i must appreciate the kind of personal attention he gave me. It was tremendous and probably made me where I am today! ,


  • Introduction: is one of the most crucial part of answer writing and i believe it left the first impression on the examiner, try to write in a proper manner. I use to follow mainly 4-5 ways to write it :
    • Definition: If i know the definition of crux of issue let’s say Food security i try to introduce my answer with definition of food security and interlink with the subparts being asked in question. It will not only give good flow to your answers but also structure your answer properly. This i have learnt from ForumIAS open video by Ayush Sir available on youtube as well. I would suggest everyone to do go through it.
    • Recent Events: Let’s say question was asked on simultaneous election. Then one can start with Prime Minister or President’s Speech where they have supported the idea. Then immediately try to connect with the issue being asked in the question
    • Facts/Figures: Third way was start a question with some important fact or figure. Let’s say question is about underemployment in India, one can give the reference of Niti Aayog’s Three Year Action plan and quote some facts or figures.
    • Location: It is generally helpful while writing history and geography question. For example question asked on decline of Indus Valley civilization , one can start with location of IVC and its timeline , then straight-forward to answering what is asked in question.
    • Interlinking: Fourth way could be to interlink all the subparts asked in a question and write about the crux of your answer in one line and straight forward jump to  subtopics


Break the Question into subparts:  Generally UPSC asks 2-3 questions in one question itself try to break it and address it properly.


Visibility: After breaking the question into subparts asked in the question, try to highlight it while writing. So that examiner will easily find out where and how you addressed different parts of the questions. It helps in two ways , first one would be answering all the subparts asked and ensure flow in the answers.


Point Format:  Try to write most of answers in point format especially in GS 1,2,3 and while answering any subparts, make subheading in front of every question, ,so that its easy to make out what one is going to write. And after writing argument/ statement try to substantiate your statement, lets say one gave argument in favour of strengthening of federal structure in recent past , then substantiate with financial independence ensured by 14th Finance Commission and so on!


Smart Answering: While answering a question, just try to think from where this question would have been asked, then answer it accordingly. In 2016 Mains, similar question was asked on Urban floods in GS1 and GS3, but try to think under which topic it would have been asked. In GS1 it relates more with problems of Urbanization, impact on various sections of societies so on. While in GS 3 , it could be from infrastructure or disaster management topic. Just try to include points accordingly. I have done the mistake and i don’t know this is the right way or not but i believe that questions are made out of syllabus and we should address it accordingly.


Importance of making flowchart/ Diagram / Map:  While writing answers just try to make flowchart in two or three questions, somewhere make diagrams or make map if required( especially in geography and location factors of industries).


Conclusion:  While writing conclusion , be very clear what you want to communicate and answering all the subparts in 1-2 lines. One may gave solutions just before concluding the answer but it depends upon the nature of question asked. One can link also DPSP’s if writing an answer of GS 2. But be very clear in your conclusion. I know the paucity of time in actual exam but try to conclude the question at the end. It gives an edge over others.

Here i would also like to caution you, i have seen many copies where sometimes aspirants try to make these things in every question. Please don’t over do it. It makes the answers too mechanical. Try to stick to the basics that is addressing the question properly and convincing examiner you know the things and your opinions are based upon facts.

I must thanks Insights again as well as my peer group that we formed there to discuss question that built a conducive environment and especially to Vinay Sir whose constant feedback improved my answer writing tremendously.


How to Study Particular Topic

  • UPSC Syllabus: First and foremost have the UPSC syllabus with you always and this should be the ultimate source around which our preparation should revolve. Read it as many as times you can , it helps you in internalize it and connect with topics while reading newspaper or current affair magazines
  • Strategy to prepare particular topic something that i learnt from Yeshwanth Sir from IASBABA:
    • Definitions: Make a seperate copy for each paper and find out important keywords like for GS 2: Constitution, Governance, Poverty, Hunger, Accountability, Citizen Charter and so on. And write good definition of each of it. Cram it by heart and understand crux of each of it. Generally question revolves around it only. For instance, question on Poverty was asked again and again in previous year so does is on Secularism. HAve clear idea and definition which will help you while writing answers
    • Mindmaps/Charts: Try to make mind map or charts on each of the topic and cover particularly various dimensions, important facts, figures, case studies in a concise manner. It will help you alot at the last moment for revision as well as gives you confidence after doing it.
    • Collect important Facts and Figures: It’s really important while reading a particular topic and make a note of it in a notebook or in a mind map so that you will be able to revise it and remember it exam
    • Notes of Important Historic Personalities: Helps you in covering history portions UPSC in recent past tend to ask comparison between personalities.
    • Important Judgments: Collect important judgments it will help you in writing GS 2 answers a lo like on Privacy, Misuse of Ordinance Power, Centre-State Relations, Basic Structure Doctrine, Environmental Justice, Electoral Reforms and so on..

Here again i would like to say again, don’t overburden yourself. I would be sharing my answer copies very soon, I have sent it for scanning, the moment I get I will share to all of you. It may help you in understanding the points that I wanted to talk about in this article more clearly. The purpose this article was not just to share my strategy but express the things that i feel are important for preparation in Mains. Before going through this understand your strengths and weakness, i did all these things because i felt my weakness in this part. And this journey has told me the recipe of any success stories lies in knowing thyself and working over one’s weakness & capitalizing the strengths.I would suggest all of you the same!

I has been a very long article, although many things still left like Essay & Ethics Strategy , Optional Subject Strategy and Personality test, I will try to cover that also very soon!

Till then, GoodBye, Wish all of you Good Luck!